There has been much discussion in the media and on social media about the phone call. For those not aware, 6 of 7 Calgary Public School Trustees made a 21 minute phone call to Metro Reporter Jeremy Nolais (full story, audio and transcript here). Much has been made of the call from Trustee Hehr asking a reporter who his sources are, the disdain towards other trustees “using the media” for their own agenda. Other media focused on Trustee King’s assertion that the public would have no impact or say on the CBE’s capital plan, which is what the call was all about. All issue’s are in ARTICS purview and all are valid concerns, but much has been said that we agree with.
There are a few other concerns ARTICS would like to bring forward here. Clearly with a 21 minute phone call, there is MUCH to discuss. By the letter and spirit of the law, when the majority of the board is together it constitutes an official meeting. As such, 6 of 7 Trustees in a room together is an official meeting. The chair of the board, Sheila Taylor had reportedly left the room prior to the phone call. So if it is an official meeting and the chair left the room, who is the leader? The Vice Chair would be the likely assumption. If you listen, or read the transcript, there was not one instance where the vice chair took any type of leadership role. In fact, quite the opposite, she was vocal in the background calling the reporter “the eight trustee”. I will admit that I can’t even hazard a guess as to what that means? It was stated several times by the Vice Chair of the Calgary Board of Education Trustees.
Some trustees obviously asked to make this call. Trustee Hurdman made the call. Was there a vote? Did the majority of the trustees agree the call was the right course of action? We can’t be sure. If the majority of the trustees in the room had agreed the call was to be made, should it not have been made by Vice Chair Bowen Eyre? Should she not have chaired it, controlled it as one voice at a time. If you listen to the call, you will hear quite clearly it is reporter Jeremy Nolais trying to being order the situation. And who was it who took control to end the call? Trustee Amber Stewart. Not the Vice Chair who was the ranking member in the room.
The point of the call? To discuss with the reporter issue’s with the story he reported on a motion to release the CBE capital plan early (story here). The point in a nutshell was that the trustees claim reporter said 4 trustees in particular voted down a motion, when in fact the 4 trustees had voted the motion out of order. So to the public, does it matter whether they voted the motion down, or voted the motion was out of order? The result is the same, the Capital Plan, which ranks new school priorities and has been the topic of much parent angst, will be released one day prior to it being approved by trustees, not one two weeks as the motion had asked.
Next, 2 trustees brought up past news stories as a reason to not speak with this reporter, one of which was not reported by him. The other, brought up by Trustee Hehr was first reported by the Calgary Herald in November, 2013 as an apparent “Gag order” (story here). The other story in September 2013 was reported by CBC and the Calgary Sun over a trustee wisdom sharing conference in Palm Springs (Story Here). So 2 publicly elected trustees are holding on to stories that ran 4-6 months prior.
Trustees Ferguson and King addressed the actual reasons for voting the motion out of order, Ferguson adding “The document is not ready to go. It’s in draft form.” King saying “Any feedback that we would get isn’t going to influence the actual decision of the capital plan.” If the document was “massaged” to be taken from draft form, and the public feedback would not have an impact, then why not release it early for public to understand it?
Last I would also like to address public comments on social media around the idea of the Education Minister disbanding the board or certain trustees resigning. ARTICS does NOT support this. We wish to encourage your locally elected representatives to be Accountable, Transparent and Responsive. That’s it. We do not wish the board to be disbanded, we wish of them to to their work in public and with the public to make the best possible decisions for our public school board. My public school board, your public school board and their public school board. We hope we can all draw a line in the sand here. We hope lessons were learned? We sincerely hope the public apology is sincere and we can move forward doing the Public school boards work in public.