“School board secrecy erodes public confidence” : Draft New Code of Ethics for LBPSB Commissioners


The following was presented to the Lester B. Pearson School Board Executive Committee Meeting on Sept. 8, 2014:

Since September 2008, I have addressed the Regular Council of Commissioners meetings, and written letters to the editors of several papers requesting the board webcast its Executive Committee Meetings. Not only has the board refused every time, but also refuses to move the Question Period to near the end of the meeting, when the public can ask something pertinent on what was just said.

(For several years, I have been the ‘public,’ moreover, The City of Montreal webcasts its Executive Committee meetings.)

The present situation lends itself to school board secrecy and a complete lack of transparency and accountability. No wonder there is a crisis of confidence concerning school board management of schools.

People are increasingly disillusioned with the performance of elected school boards. Trust needs to be rekindled, and true democrats should promote fairness.

Part of the problem is the present LBPSB Code of Ethics for Commissioners, which imposes a code of silence, seems to transfer power into the hands of a small clique of commissioners, that I believe, lends itself, to worrisome business practices.

Simply put: The Code is flawed and needs to be revamped to improve the situation.

The adoption of any code should not detrimentally affect the work of an individual commissioner and should not interfere with the dynamics of the group as a whole.

Decision-making, practices and policies must hinge on an unambiguously clear Code of Ethics . Here is one that includes a modified sampling of declarations borrowed mostly from the Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia School Board Associations.

As a school board commissioner:

I recognize that my fellow citizens have entrusted me, through the electoral process, with the educational development of the children and youth of the community.

I acknowledge that school commissioners are the children’s advocates and my first and greatest concern is the best interest of each one of these children without distinction as to who they are or what their background may be.

I realize the future welfare of the community and of the country depends in large measure upon the quality of education we provide in the public schools

I will encourage any initiatives and projects undertaken by citizens that are specifically designed toward the well-being of students.

I will remember not to withhold or conceal from my colleagues any information needed to make responsible decisions.

I will abide by the majority decisions of the board once they are made, but I shall be free to repeat the opinion that I upheld when the decision was made.

I will work with my fellow board members in a spirit of harmony and co-operation in spite of differences of opinion that arise during vigorous debate of points of issue.

I do understand that decision-making made via the internet, conference calls, video conferences, at retreats, and other meetings violate the spirit of openness of board meetings.

I will communicate, and conduct my relationship with the staff, the community, other school boards and the media in a manner that focuses on facts.

 

Chris Eustace

…….

 


Perhaps the basis of all these draft declarations are the following words of advice offered as a “PublicRelations” tip from the Association of Alaska School Boards (www.aasb.org) – “Tell the Truth.”
“Never lie to a reporter – or to your staff, or to the public, even, if it hurts. It will hurt worse if someone has to dig out the facts because you haven’t been honest. Intentionally providing inaccurate or misleading information will affect your credibility and possibly tarnish the reputation of your schools.”
Consider the quote from the article:  “Public education veteran returns to the fold” (WI Gazette,Sept. 3, 2014).
Marcus Tabachnick said:  “We have a right to be critical of our institutions and demand more.”  (link below)
Funny thing, I was doing that for years as a volunteer with no pay, travel expenses, or any other expense. Yet, at the April 2010 Council meeting, MT decided to bar me from speaking at meetings until he resigned in March 2011, to take up a job selling to school boards. Ended up signing up the LBPSB to a $5.4M contract. (That story is told further in this website).
Fortunately, reporter Sarah Leavitt of The Chronicle was there, and  snapped a picture of me holding a sign, which said: “Vive Parental Choice,” and later wrote the story: “Retired teacher denied chance to speak.”
It is the second link below; note, in particular, the comment of present LBPSB Chairperson, Suanne Stein Day.