Trustees Hold Emotional Debate Over Student Presentations
Prince George, B.C. – Prince George School Board trustees voted to postpone a motion put forth by Trustee Trish Bella this week that would have provided a maximum of 15 minutes at the beginning of each regular public meeting for a presentation or performance by school district students.
The twenty-two-minute debate at the monthly public Board meeting in Mackenzie got testy at times, as trustees eventually decided to amend the motion and postpone it until a proper review of the structure of school board meetings be completed.
(The vote to postpone was supported by five trustees: Tim Bennett, Sharel Warrington, Tony Cable, Bob Harris and Bruce Wiebe. Trish Bella and Brenda Hooker were opposed).
Tony Cable had the most to say about the proposed motion, arguing public school board meetings are long enough already (for example the public board meeting Jan. 31, 2017 wrapped up at 12:08 a.m. The Feb. 28 meeting at 10:16 p.m., the April 4 meeting at 9:21 p.m. and the April 25 meeting at 9:50 p.m. All meetings start at 7 p.m.).
“We really need to review the structure of our meetings because we also have to think about our staff,” he said. “Some staff get to work at 7:30 in the morning and you may not think it, but 15 extra minutes is a lot.”
He added he’s not against the occasional student performance, but noted he would rather view those during school visits rather than at every board meeting.
“I think we need to study this a little bit more because we have a tremendous amount of work to do, we have a tremendous amount of issues and to be perfectly frank, I don’t think I was elected as a trustee to listen to performances. I was asked to do the work of the Board.”
“I think there’s a lot of things that need to be discussed at Board meetings,” added Trustee Bruce Wiebe. “From budgets, curriculum to staffing recruitment and retention, how are we going to address those needs. Not that it isn’t a good idea, but I’m just protective of the amount of time at our public board meetings for all of us and staff.”
Trustee Trish Bella – who brought the motion forward because she thought the presentations would “set a wonderful tone” for public meetings – was not pleased with the amendment.
“I’m speaking against this. I find it a little bit upsetting. It’s emotional for me to hear trustees says they don’t have time at a meeting to hear a presentation,” she said.
“That really bothers me and I don’t for a minute believe that any of our staff or partners would turn around and say we don’t have the time.”
While admitting the Board has long public meetings, she noted the postponement was ironic considering the Board voted against going any further with the work of Dr. Leroy Sloane earlier this year.
His report ‘Positive Path Forward,’ proposed looking at how public meetings are structured but trustees voted to end his contract – instead choosing to handle the matter internally.
Despite that point, Trustee Cable was undeterred in his opposition to the original motion.
“It’s difficult when motions brought forward look like they’re motherhood and apple pie, there’s no board member around this table who wouldn’t like to see students performing and we know it’s about the kids, but I’m going to vote against (this) because I’m worried about time for trustees, time for staff and getting the important business of the Board done.”