As you may already know, On October 3rd Sheila Taylor resigned her seat as a Public School Trustee to run for MLA in a byelection. On October 7th, Chair Bowen Eyre said in a Metro newspaper account a by-election would be “extremely costly,” but didn’t rule it out. The cost was stated at $150,000.
The Board was quick to erase Taylor from the website. The original photo of the 7 member Board of Trustees has been edited.
7 Member Board of Trustees
edited 6 member board.
The main page for the Trustees shows 6 head shots now as opposed to the “team photo” as it was before.
Yet, on Tuesday, October 14th board meeting agenda, there is no mention of a decision on a by election. No mention of Taylor or her resignation. The agenda states item 6.1 Approval of Minutes
Special Meeting held October 3, 2014
(THAT the Board approves the minutes of the
Special Meeting held October 3, 2014, as
Page 6-31 does not exist on the public document as it sits currently. They will be added once the minutes are approved.
And who will represent the schools in Ward 11 and 13? The web profile of one school simply says “vacant”. It would be troubling if 1/7th (roughly 143,000 Calgarians) of our city goes without representation for an extended period, but perhaps just as troubling if a quick decission was made during 3 provincial by election campaigns currently going on in the city? The most pressing matter which should be up for discussion is who in the short term will represent Ward 11/13 schools? Once that is decided and the workload of the comittees that Taylor sat on is divided up, then a determination of whether and when a by-election will be called. The board is likely to take advice from many places including the Education Minister who is currently focused on a by-election. So don’t expect a quick decision nor expect that it will go one way or the other. Stay tuned, keep informed and share your thoughts with the current 6 trustees, especially if you live in Wards 11 and 13.
When George Lane, former CBE trustee was quoted in Metro News about the Board of Education shelling out $240,000 to Navigator, his response was, “Well, is there something wrong with that?”
So I thought we should answer Mr. Lane’s question. We must first keep in mind that the Calgary Board already pays 23 communications staff when it entered into business with a self professed High Stakes Communications firm. Also of note, the board’s tag line “learning as unique as every student”, which should show an organizational priority to getting all available dollars to maximize student success, not managing its image.
So in answering Mr. Lane’s question, I thought we might explore what the board might have spent $240,000 on. As a trustee, George Lane could have visited Palm Springs 136 times. Focusing on students, Beth Pudding posted on a parent Facebook group “That would have covered lunchroom supervision for 857 elementary students.” It would also cover the fees for 727 children to ride the bus to school. Alternatively, it would have covered the total school fees for 16,000 Kindergarten students, or 8000 grade 1-6 students, or 1752 Junior high students, or 1579 High School students.
It’s also a symptom of a deeper issue, where the CBE shows itself indifferent to wasting money. The recent news on the cost of the new Education centre and where the money was to come from shows a total cost of $285 Million of educational dollars. Another example is the traffic impact study and the site survey that were complete in Varsity before the community was consulted about building a new school in a well-used park. Or look at the former chief superintendent’s wasteful use of data roaming while at a conference (followed by personal travel) in New Zealand.
So is there something wrong with that? We think CBE Trustees should be more responsible when deciding how to spend our tax dollars.
Where has Chair Bowen-Eyre been?
On September 10, 2014, Calgary experienced a summer snowstorm with unexpected consequences: breaking tree-branches, power outages and no classes at some schools. There was confusion as to whether or not schools were accepting students, or sending them home. But the Chair of the Board made no appearance on media, social media or other communication.
Later in the day, the Calgary Board of Education held a press conference to provide an update on how the weather had affected schools. The Chair of the Board was not present.
On September 11, 2014, the Calgary Board of Education held a public open house to share and explain proposed updates to their capital ranking formula. But again, the Chair of the Board decided not to attend. Rather, she chose to go to her own child’s school, instead of representing the Board of Trustees or engaging the public.
Maybe she’s been busy updating her blog? Nice guess, but it hasn’t been touched since the election.
It’s hard to understand why Trustee Bowen-Eyre wanted to be chair of the board. A good board chair would provide a highly visible public face to a public organization; a clear point of contact for public questions and ideas; someone who takes responsibility for everything (good and bad) that occurs within the organization; and a force for internal progress.
We encourage Trustee Bowen-Eyre to commit to showing leadership during her tenure as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Calgary Board of Education.
I ask this simple question to all 7 of our Public School Trustees. When reports and motions are presented to you, do you focus on the merit of what is being proposed or do you focus on who brought it forward?
When you see many 5-2 votes in the last group of trustees and many 4-3 votes (4 of 7 trustees are the same) in this first year, it appears to be about choosing sides rather than about the merit of the proposal.
In other political realms, there are clear divisions: left, right, centre and parties vie for votes based on these principles. At city hall, you see Councillors who are more pro-business than others, but often you will see different Councillors voting together at different times, based on the merit of the argument. In contrast, the Calgary Board of Education Trustees primarily vote in blocks. What are these camps and what do they stand for? In many cases the argument boils down to sharing information with the public and giving the public input vs. keeping information to themselves and making decisions without the spotlight of that pesky media.
A couple examples of this can be found in these 2 stories:
A 22 minute phone call to a reporter with concerns over him knowing the information he wrote on:http://metronews.ca/news/calgary/963030/accusations-fly-during-impromptu-calgary-board-of-education-trustee-call-to-metro-reporter/
An e mail in which one trustee questions another over comments made in the newspaper: http://www.scribd.com/doc/235495619/Leaked-trustee-emails
If trustees honestly had the best interests of students and Calgarians at heart, they would be far less concerned with choosing sides and cultivating their image, and far more interested in evaluating the merits of proposals brought before them.
If you watch a board of trustee public meeting you have likely heard the phrase “we are focused on student success” or we have to look at “students first”.
When the curtain is lifted and you see inside the private meeting room and offices, a much different picture emerges. Thanks to Jeremy Nolais of Metro News, we have 2 large spotlights into the inner working of trustees and senior administration. In both cases, students are nowhere in the conversation. In fact, it seems the priority of the entire organization is to manage its reputation (and their efforts are inadvertently damaging it).
In the most recent case, a total of 41 people who are paid by the taxpayer were involved in answering 5 questions about spending public dollars on an outside communications firm. Read the e mails for yourself in this digital version of Metro’s FOIP request. Are these 41 people focused on student success when avoiding answering the questions asked? Does this affect morale amongst these 41 people and, by extension, the rest of the staff?
The other case that lifts the veil was instigated by 6 trustees (Then Chair Sheila Taylor had left the room) to call the same reporter to “correct” some things he had written in a story. I encourage you to read the transcript or listen to the audio yourself.
If these 2 examples show how the Calgary Board of Education spends its time, I wonder how much time they have left to focus on student success?