Delaying tactics and public criticism of the work of senior VSB staff by some trustees has made Board meetings and planning sessions “an intolerable, toxic place to be”: NPA School Trustees
Vancouver, B.C., October 17, 2016 – The Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) School Trustees are calling on the Minister of Education to release a Special Advisor’s Report and take action to end the toxic dysfunction at the Vancouver School Board (VSB). The current School Board, they say, is “a Board of inaction” that has failed to create a positive, respectful work environment for the District’s senior staff.
The NPA School Trustees note that the Minister has granted several extensions to the latest Special Advisor assigned to investigate the VSB: “We want the Minister to act, and to act now. It’s time to release the Special Advisor’s Report and take action to end the dysfunction at the Vancouver School Board.”
Setting aside the recent allegations of bullying and harassment currently being investigated by WorkSafeBC, the NPA School Trustees point to several examples of VSB trustees who have publicly challenged the professional work and recommendations of senior staff, simply because the recommendations did not conform to the political agenda of those trustees. Examples include:
• Trustees attempting to delay action on the District’s longstanding enrolment realities by demanding that the Board wait for new census data to arrive, even though the historical evidence cited by senior staff clearly indicates that this data is not an effective tool for projecting student enrolment. This year, the District’s enrolment planning tools predicted student enrolment with a 99.95% accuracy.
• Trustees who have claimed that the consultations surrounding the school closure process were not robust enough, even though District staff went above and beyond in following the Board’s detailed School Closure Policy – a policy drafted and voted into effect by previous Vision-dominated boards.
• Trustees demanding a report on population projections from the City when every trustee knows full well that District staff already meet regularly with the City’s planning staff in order to gather information about future developments that may impact on school enrollment: Staff already have this information factored into their recommendations.
• Trustees who have publicly suggested that the removal of the 95% capacity requirement by the Ministry of Education has somehow changed everything despite correspondence the Board has received directly from the Ministry which states that the same school seismic approval process will be followed as before. The previous process did not rely on the 95% utilization target, and several Vancouver schools that were below 95% capacity were approved for seismic upgrading.
• Trustees who want to revisit the District’s Long Range Facilities Plan planning process despite that fact that none of the underlying fundamentals have changed.
“As trustees who respect the sound advice and well-considered recommendations provided by our senior staff, we (the NPA School Trustees) have found the delaying tactics of other trustees, and the public criticism of the work of senior staff, very difficult to watch. It has made our Board meetings and planning sessions an intolerable, toxic place to be. The current Board is a Board of inaction. The Board has not taken any meaningful steps in the past two years to address the pressing financial and seismic issues before it. Nor has the Board made any significant progress on many of the recommendations from last year’s Special Advisors report.
“Senior staff have found themselves having to deal with the disparate interests of the Board’s nine elected Trustees while also trying to deal with the interests of – and direction from – senior officials at the Ministry of Education. This has put our senior staff in an untenable, unworkable position for which there are few if any easy solutions. The senior staff we have lost were the education experts whose expertise and experience is essential to the proper functioning of the school district and to meeting the Board’s basic mandate, which is to facilitate the effective teaching and learning of students. The time for the Minister to act is now, for the good of our staff and our students.”
ICYMI – Listen to Stacy Robertson on this morning’s Jon McComb Show on CKNW: