On November 1, 2011, I asked the following question at a Calgary Board of Education public board meeting. (The video clip can be found below.)
“Will you please provide the Resource Allocation Method (RAM) formula that was used for school budgets in elementary, junior high and senior high and unique setting schools for the 2011-2012 school year, with all categories and amounts?”
I asked this because ARTICS was concerned that Chief Superintendent Naomi Johnson had disregarded the Board of Trustee’s motion to distribute the additional $19.2 million from the province via RAM. You can read more about that in our public letter to the Board. I received the following response to my inquiry.
“Chair Cochrane and trustees, I would be prepared to comment tonight, and I just would like to show you that this is our document around resource allocation [holds it up]. And it is a complicated document and what I would say is we are pleased to provide the resource allocation method formula for all schools and all categories for the 2011-2012 school year to Ms. Hurdman. The information is exceptionally complicated, so we would propose to provide this information in person to Ms. Hurdman, with support from our finance leaders to explain the information.”
I wrote to the corporate secretary on November 7, asking if I needed to contact someone to arrange this meeting. I did not receive a response, so I wrote again on November 24, asking again. On November 28, I was informed that someone from the Finance department would arrange the meeting. On December 3, I contacted the Finance department and was told that it would be done in December. On December 19, the corporate secretary contacted me to say that CBE staff would be available the next day or the day after (Dec. 20 or 21).
So yesterday I went to my meeting expecting to leave with a clearer understanding of RAM and the RAM document. What actually happened is the stuff of nightmares for a mother of three children, ages 7, 5 and 2, who four days before Christmas, had to spend almost seven hours in a tiny room being supervised as I was forced to copy out the 56 page document by hand. To give credit where it is due, they did provide me with a pad of paper, a pen and a glass of water. However, the CBE refused to let me take the document with me, despite multiple requests, with no explanation given as to why I could not have it. They admitted that this document was in every principal’s office and it says in the document that it is accessible to thousands of CBE employees on their Intranet. But I could only read it, take notes, and under no circumstances take it with me.
Worse, the document was presented to me by someone in the Finance department, who then promptly left after two minutes, leaving me under the supervision of a Communications staff member. I was told I could e-mail in my questions after reading the document. At first it was even questioned whether I was allowed to take notes. I was not allowed to mark up the photocopied document in any way. I asked if I could photograph the pages. No. I made it clear that I was prepared to copy out the entire thing by hand if need be, but I was not leaving without the document. Go ahead, they said. I cannot even tell you who “they” are, as I had to go through the staff member in the room who would type something on her laptop and then relay the responses. When I asked to speak with whoever was refusing to give me the document, I was refused.
Whenever my “supervisor” left for a break, or lunch (I worked the full seven hours straight), she would be replaced by someone else who would stare at the wall. Is this really a good use of CBE employee time?
Sometime in the afternoon, my trustee, Joy Bowen-Eyre popped her head in. I expressed my concerns to her that this is not what Chief Superintendent Johnson had promised me as there was no one to answer my questions and I was unable to take the document with me. She said, “Consider this the CBE’s Christmas present to you.”
I know that I ask tough questions, especially regarding the CBE budget. I know that this does not make me popular at CBE headquarters, but is this any way to treat a mother who obviously cares very deeply about education? I know that I could have easily acquired the document by asking a CBE employee to leak it to me, or through making a FOIP request and paying $25 plus copying charges and waiting 90 days, but I kept hoping that they would do the right thing. I guess my hope was in vain.
**December 23 Update**
The RAM document is now publicly available on the CBE website.