Although we have been known to criticize the lack of transparency within the Calgary Board of Education, we must praise them when they are responsive to their constituents. The last board meeting on May 17 was an example of what happens when citizens are engaged and Trustees are listening. You can view our video of the meeting at your leisure.
The process started with ARTICS releasing a copy of the proposed transportation fees report two weeks prior to the meeting. What followed was some media attention and engaged citizens voicing their opinion to their Trustees. The trustees listened and voted the proposal down, with Chair Cochrane saying that a 60% hike in a single year was too much. The others agreed.
This decision proved that citizens are willing to be involved in the process, if given enough time. I would like to call on the Trustees to have a look at the success of this process and release reports earlier than 30 hours before the meeting starts in order to generate an engaged public and a better decision-making process. Unfortunately, the public was not provided with what the consequences would be should the fee hike not be approved, which all involved would have benefited from in order to make a fully informed opinion. Administration might consider always providing this information in their reports, as a common question in board meetings is, “If we don’t approve this recommendation, what will happen?” It would be better for the public and trustees to know the answer to this question in advance. With a fully informed public, the trustees may hear some creative ideas on how to make proposals better before the meeting starts. They would also hear insights and questions from the public that they might not have thought of on their own, and the public at large would feel more engaged in the process and trust that the decisions of the board were the right ones for the right reasons. Thirty hours is simply not enough time to properly inform and engage citizens.
So what is going to happen to bus fees now? The Board of Trustees has asked administration to come back with different scenarios and their impacts for the next meeting. That’s plural, yes, scenarios! It is very uncommon to have more than one option on the table. These scenarios may not be popular, but the process could end up with a better result and that’s good for parents in the CBE. I encourage you all stay engaged and look at the agenda when it is posted on June 13th (or hopefully sooner!) for the June 14, 2011 meeting and let trustees know what you think of the scenarios presented by administration.