Shutting down public conversation

On November 4, Trustee Taylor posted on her blog a report proposing that the Board direct administration to conduct a public survey on the issue of donor recognition. She had already sent this to her fellow trustees and she wanted to add it to the Novermber 6 public board meeting agenda. (If you recall, she had tried to bring forward a notice of motion at the previous board meeting on October 16 to add it to the November 6 agenda, but was shot down by Chair Cochrane). This issue has been widely reported in the media and even questioned in the legislature after it was discovered that the CBE administration had changed their regulations to allow for parts of schools being named for corporate donors. While many would think that a public discussion in the boardroom on the matter would seem entirely appropriate, most trustees did not agree.

At the beginning of the meeting, which you can watch online, Trustee Taylor brought forward a motion to amend the agenda to include item 7.2, “Public survey: Donor recognition.”

At the start of the debate on the motion, Chair Cochrane reminded trustees, “We are not debating the content of the report, we are simply debating whether or not to add this to the agenda.”

After Trustee Taylor’s opening remarks, only two trustees decided to participate in the debate. Here is what they said:

Trustee Ferguson, “So, I will not be supporting the motion. A survey would not be the initial tool that I would be comfortable using to inform the conversation on corporate sponsorship or donor recognition. Thank you.”

Trustee Bowen-Eyre, “So, Trustee Taylor, thanks for the time and effort that you put in bringing forward a report to us, however I believe it is a bit premature for the Board to approve a survey at this time. I need more information from administration before I will be in agreement with the motion.”

Chair Cochrane realized that these comments were not related to the motion at hand, but only said, “Let’s be careful that we’re not debating the contents of the report, just the motion whether or not we’re putting it on the agenda tonight.”

Perhaps this would have been more appropriate: “It seems as if you have a position on whether or not a survey should be done. If you want to express that position, the appropriate time to do so would be during a debate on the actual item after it has been added to the agenda. This is not the appropriate time to be bringing forward positions on the report itself.”

However, moving on…

Trustee Taylor then said the following: Just a point of information – Trustee Bowen-Eyre, in your comments, you mentioned that you wanted to get more information from administration before proceeding with any action and I wonder if we would expect a motion to come forward compelling administration to provide information on this matter for us.

Trustee Bowen-Eyre: Not that I’m aware of tonight, no.

No other trustees entered debate and the following are Trustee Taylor’s closing remarks:

“I haven’t heard from every trustee, but typically if people have a strong feeling of support, they will chime in on the debate. I will say that I would certainly be disappointed if trustees did not support having this type of debate. There have been a lot of comments made in the past that we feel that this is an important issue. I think that naming and donor recognition in schools is a Board matter – it is clearly in our Board policies. We did, in June 2010, ask the Chief Superintendent to bring forward reports to the Board on this matter on a quarterly basis. Those reports did not come to the Board, so as a result, we have not had information presented to us. I think it is important for the Board to be holding administration accountable and to be setting policies. The reason that I had wanted this item to be added to the agenda is because I think we need to have those conversations about this matter. We need to be setting the policy at the Board level, we need to be engaging our communities directly on matters like this. It disappoints me that it will not be on the agenda for a number of reasons, but also I do feel that it is important for trustees to have the right to bring forward motions and not to bring forward motions in this manner, through adding them to the agenda. The School Act talks about decisions being made through formal votes. It talks about this being the manner by which decisions are made and I feel that we should not be having debates like this about adding items to the agenda. We should be debating the issues. Trustees should be accountable for the decisions on the table and not simply recusing…”

At this point Chair Cochrane interrupts her by saying, “Trustee Taylor. To guide you back to the actual decision that we are debating, which is whether or not to put this item on the agenda. Right?”

Trustee Taylor: “Absolutely. I feel that is what I’m doing Chair Cochrane. I feel that we do need to be having these kinds of debates and not be jumping through two hoops; 1. To add an item to the agenda and; 2. To have the actual debate itself. Trustees should be accountable to their constituents and should be voting on the actual matters at hand and not simply voting to not add items to the agenda.”

The motion failed 5-2 with only Trustee Bazinet in support of having a public discussion on the matter.

2 thoughts on “Shutting down public conversation

  1. All elected officials have an ethical duty to be transparent – it is imperative for accountability to voters who pay their wages.

  2. I am watching the Nov. 6 board meeting, and notice that there was no mover/seconder to amend the motion regarding Donor Recognition. I noticed after that little debate that they did ask for a mover/seconder to approve the agenda. The chair seems a bit inconsistent in her application of the rules.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *