Diary of a Mad Trustee Open Board Meeting June 15th 2011

 

Principiis Obsta…Finem Respice

  Resist the Beginning…Consider the End

 

This was the last meeting of the school year and even trustees are getting time off for good (or bad) behaviour. No point in whinging now –  but this has been one brutal year for everyone yet I think we are becoming much too good at adapting to the increasing stress and disappointment of seriously trying to uphold the fragile premise of public education in this province ,this country ,this mad, mad world. Oddly enough, the last meeting had a cross purpose theme – one where the board submitted to the voice of community and yet decided to parade its inclination to thwart it in a most fundamental fashion.

This meeting our board decided whether we wished to proceed with a request to the Ministry of Education seeking a reduction in trustee numbers.

 We don’t …which is just as well since it is a requirement of the Trustee Variation Guidelines the  board must  submit its rationale and documentation arising from the required consultation with community to get the ball rolling.

(Trustee Variation Guidelines are found in the appendix of a doc called School Trustee Election Procedures In British Columbia produced by the Ministry of Education) http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/legislation/trustee_election/2008_school_trustee_election_procedures.pdf)

 With one or two very telling exceptions (DPAC and the Principals/Vice Principals Association) no one thought this was a good idea and we had letters from our other employee groups, aboriginal education partner organisation (HMEC), local elected people including CVRD directors, city counselors, a mayor, 2 MLA’s and our MP, Cowichan Tribes Chief and Council as well as several PACs and assorted regular folks. Had we sent this forward I can only imagine what our overseers in Victoria would have thought as they browsed through the heavily weighted views from Cowichan – bewildered any board would make such a request in light of response to the suggestion. 

 At the one and only opportunity for community to assemble and speak to us about this matter–we enjoyed a great moment when all of us realised our community seems to value its elected people despite all the vocal pressures which surely would encourage them to feel otherwise. I felt like Sally Fields after she got her second Oscar (You like me… you really like me!!)

So the positions stay and at the total cost for all nine of us of $93,000; this seems a very wise and prudent choice. It is now up to you and up to me to make sure the best candidates fill those positions in the fall with people who will fight for our schools.

The great battle over whether trustees should tolerate presentations from our community without resort to denial has been raging for most of this board’s duration. The source of the aggravation for some of the board members has been the delightfully elegant and spot on

Policy 1010 https://bcsd79.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=1009 

which has a distinctly welcoming tone and seems to suggest we are here to listen. I believe the offending word is ‘receptive’ which features in the first two lines of the doc (please see above link).

 According to the wording in the policy, the only real power granted to the agenda prep committee is along the lines of scheduling – in other words deciding how many delegations to allow in one meeting while postponing some until the next one.

So trustees have taken it upon themselves  to do the work of our Policy Committee (which has representatives from all our partner groups) right at the table  and evidently see no value in the recommendations that committee has brought forward repeatedly asking we simply align our practice with the words in the policy . Neatly gotten round of course by changing the policy to suit the practice the majority wishes to pursue. They have ‘made their will the law’ which contributes to a very corrosive trend in wishing to isolate trustees from anyone the admin views as inconsequential, or likely to be a bad influence like our employees. This device is usually disastrous for the credibility of our board but of course, the unelected have little regard for our credibility.

It can and should be an election issue this fall. Are trustees absolutely obliged to hear from those who ask to speak to us or will one or two of us apply careful censorship to the views of those who wish to present? And by the way – the revisions they rammed through at the board table now restrict those who may hang in for the end of the meeting to questions only as opposed to having the option of simply voicing a comment about school district matters.

So I will not be attending any board meetings until August 31st unless we have to call a special meeting due to a radiation leak or the ‘rapture’ (neither of which we will have any actual ability to solve). I look forward to a summer of having the windows open and enjoying a lethal level of oxygen which will be a treat. By the time we return some of us will be a bit occupied with the fall election and how we can convey to our neighbours our desire to serve again whether we deserve to be back at the table or not. I actually think I do deserve to be there but that may just be the result of a strong sense of self hatred and an underlying need for performing penance.

If you want to chat; if you need to vent; if you have a gripe; if you need any help; if you have any help to offer please email or call. I am surgically connected to my cell phone (250-709-7975) and always available for a tea and a rant. And as the summer passes let’s hope our teachers can negotiate a collective agreement which will honour their efforts and needs – it is a source of sadness local boards of trustees have so little influence over the manner in which these talks proceed.

They are our employees and as even the BCSTA has noted in the tidy little Q&A supplied at this link – http://www.bcsta.org:8080/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-28215/teachersQA7.pdf 

The specific duties of Boards of Education are described in British Columbia’s School Act. They include:

• establishing conditions of employment for employees.

So why are most of us excluded from the discussion? I am sure many trustees if asked would have their own carefully considered view on how we should build these agreements in a just and productive manner. I hate to leave this delicate process in the hands of a bunch of carnivorous suits whose only standards for action rest with getting the most for the least and devil take the hindmost who are of course the students in our classrooms along with the people who care for their learning needs every single day.

I close this end of year report with some thoughts from others on dissent and its place. Long may it wave. Oh – and a quiz which is of course based on the antics of the last 6 months or so. If you have been paying attention you will find it a dawdle. And we don’t have to allow the Fraser Institute to analyse the results and rate anyone on a league table for which I am grateful.

 

Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.

                                                                                        -Howard Zinn

 In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

                                                                                        -George Orwell

 What you need is sustained outrage…there is far too much unthinking respect given to authority.

                                                                                         -Molly Ivins

 I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.

                                                                                        –John Diefenbaker

 No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

                                                                                        –Barbara Ehrenreich

 If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that’s something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can’t live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.

                                                                                        –Noam Chomsky

 

A bit of end of the year trivia which will allow you to self assess:

What is the best way to fund our public schools?

  • Taking our alumni hostage
  • Selling arms to Yemen
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Province passing on revenue collected from the population to support public education

Bussing our kids to school is:

  • An indefensible service we should abandon
  • An incentive for  children to be unlawfully assembled
  • An unrealistic pipe dream only communists support
  • The safest and most environmentally wise means to ensure full attendance for all our kids

 Class composition reports:

  • Should be as obscure and incomprehensible as it is humanly possible to make them
  • Should include a home pregnancy test
  • Are less relevant than MySpace
  • Would not be necessary if those conditions were part of the teachers’ collective agreement

I think the BC Liberals are a fraternity because:

  • They are entirely devoted to punking the population
  • They are devoid of social conscience
  • They wear flip-flops, cargo shorts, polo sweaters and Oakley fashion sunglasses when they are not wearing SS uniforms
  • Okay – I have no serious answer for this one
  • Finally – they festooned the Leg with graffiti while drunk

Our Strategic Plan is:

  • Featured on YouTube burning police vehicles after Game 7
  • Better than nothing
  • Part of a stand up act at the Montreal Comedy Festival
  • The meanest bare minimum imaginable but still unattainable

The work of administrators could be:

  • Raising the dead
  • Cloning mammoths
  • Designing and operating super colliders
  • Slavishly following Ministry dictate regardless of the outcome 

Appropriate topics for delegations:

  • Brazilian waxing
  • Morris dancing
  • Underwater welding
  • Whatever the members of our community wish to discuss with the board

 How should the board consult the community?

  • In a locked toilet between 2 and 2:15 pm next Tuesday
  • In their absence
  • During hockey finals
  • According to the exacting code of the International Association for Public Participation (http://www.iap2.org)

 Life is easier with BCeSIS:

  • Is a play on Broadway at the Wintergarden Theatre
  • Only if you are medicated
  • Relative to being held in a Burmese prison
  • Is the claim likely to be made by Pearson while laughing all the way to the bank

 Our small secondary schools are:

  •       Responsible for the destruction of western civilisation as we know it
  •       Only good as warehouses for old Atari computers
  •       Likely to be bulldozed to build box stores and golf courses
  •       Pillars of the communities in which they are located

Debate among trustees:

  • Should never get in the way of obeying our senior staff
  • Should be restricted to picking furniture or paint colours
  • Should be subjected to heckling
  • Is crucial to the democratic representation of all members of our community

 

 

Your Trustee Pal and have a lovely summer

Eden

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