The Folly that Started ARTICS

We encourage you to read the Calgary Herald story on the New Education Centre.

It really is a lesson in how not to govern a school board.

If you were buying a house, and the price goes up by 82 per cent before you take possession, you’d put things on hold – and probably find a way out because you can no longer afford it.

But the problem with the CBE deal was that it wasn’t even approved by trustees until 18 months AFTER the deal was signed. We don’t even know what trustees knew when, because no details have ever been made public – and all discussions about the new Education Centre continue to be done behind closed doors. Trustee Sheila Taylor brought forward a motion in January to assign an independent investigator to look into the deal so that the CBE could learn from the experience. Only Trustee Carol Bazinet supported the motion.

It was defeated. And this deal, described as “one of the worst real estate deals in Calgary’s history” by a local expert will hurt our children for the next 19 years by taking scarce education dollars out of classrooms. (And, after 19 years, and $286 million, the CBE will be homeless – unless they want to pay more to stay.)

That’s why ARTICS is working very hard to shine the light on the work of trustees. We are broadcasting every board meeting. We are on Twitter and Facebook, as well as blogging about CBE issues regarding transparency, accountability and representation on this website.  We want to hold trustees accountable for their actions.

This deal could never have been approved if it wasn’t all done completely in secret. The public outcry would have been much too loud.

In 2006, when the deal was made, the CBE was screaming about its maintenance backlog. It was at almost $600 million and climbing. One parent group organized a campaign called “Raise the Roof” to get the province to kick in more money for infrastructure. Meanwhile, in their private board room, the CBE was diverting 10 per cent of it’s meager $30 million maintenance budget to the renovation of their new office space and putting $11.5 million (which increases 2.5 per cent each year) into the lease.

When asked how they intend to pay for this, the board continues to say from the sale of buildings. But the sale of buildings is capital revenue and can’t be used for operating expenses. If they had just bought a building, then yes, this would work.

Trustees will hold their first public board meeting in the new building this Tuesday, September 6th at 5 p.m. . We encourage you to attend. Trustees need to know that their actions are not acceptable. And that by refusing to get to the bottom of the deal, you can bet it will happen again.

There is a very large public gallery. Feel free to sit near us. We will be the ones with the video camera, working to hold trustees to account.

Over the next few weeks, watch for more blog posts and news items as we get back into the swing of things with the new school year. If you are interested in joining us, please contact us. We are growing and looking for help in this important work.

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