School Board Criticized for ‘Pattern of Behaviour’
Prince George, B.C. – The Prince George School Board is taking some heat for failing to consult with its partner groups.
The Prince George District Parent Advisory Council and three unions – CUPE 3742, CUPE 4991 and the Prince George and District Teachers’ Association – expressed their concerns in a letter they sent to school board chair Tim Bennett on Jan. 10, 2017.
The letter expressed regret at the Board’s decision to waive Policy 8310 twice at a public board meeting on Dec. 13, 2016 – one related to the role of the board, the other on the role of the superintendent.
They were also disappointed about a lack of notice regarding the motions pointing out they were not “provided to the partner groups before the board meeting.”
(Although they also acknowledged there is no parliamentary requirement to do so).
“Policy 8310 states that once a new policy has been approved for consideration, it must be distributed for a 60-day public consultation period prior to final approval by the Board,” it reads, adding “we do not believe that your bylaws provide you with authority to waive policies.”
Bennett replied in writing Jan. 23, 2017 thanking the groups for voicing their concerns yet adding both waived policies “have been carefully researched.”
“Specifically, you were concerned about whether or not the Board of Education had acted appropriately within its given mandate,” he wrote. “Legal counsel advises that in all matters questioned in your communication of Jan. 10, 20-17, the Board has acted properly.”
The matter came to a head at this week’s public board meeting when trustees Tony Cable and Bob Harris brought forth motions calling for amendments that would have allowed for 60-day consultation periods. Both motions were defeated in 4-3 votes (in both instances Trustees Bennett, Hooker, Warrington and Bella voted against while trustees Cable, Harris and Wiebe voted in favour).
“The big issue here is our partner groups have asked us why they didn’t get more lead time, why they didn’t have a chance to consult and that’s what we’re looking at giving them,” said Cable Tuesday, adding the failure to do so is a “slippery slope.”
“I think as a transparent, open board, we should allow our partner groups to help us with our work, to work as a team, and to consult with us for 60-days.”
But Bennett dismissed Cable’s concerns.
“We believe that these policies are the Board’s responsibility – the superintendent is the sole employee of the Board. And it is our job to make sure that she knows what her responsibility is,” he said.
“And we can’t do a role of superintendent policy without doing a role of the board policy.”
He added he doesn’t believe the waived policies set a dangerous precedent moving forward.
“It’s very common that all our policies go out for 60-days. But we as a Board felt these two are very different because they’re not policies that are going to be used on a day-to-day basis”