May 30, 2017 School Board Meeting

Trustee Responsibilities 

The last couple of School Board meetings have been to finalize the Board’s new policy manual and the new Administrative guidelines. This is viewed by some Trustees as a new world and a new way to approach leadership. But I think that it is a return to the old way of having one person in charge in a non-collaborative approach that we moved away from in New Westminster 30 years ago.

Recently a trustee asked me what it was that I wanted since I was so opposed to what was being proposed. What I want is very simply a more collaborative approach to governing and decision making. An approach where everyone is involved in the decision-making so that it really works for everyone and will be long lasting. Long term change is dependent on the people involved having all the available information and then buying into that change. To begin with it must make sense and there must be good, clear evidence presented of why the change is necessary.  When change is forced on people the change will be short lived, when the only reason given is basically “because I said so,” that change then lacks moral legitimacy. I brought forward over 40 amendments to change the direction of this policy, and I would guess that about 80% were defeated (although some like Duty to Document and Inform and having an Audit Committee) have simply been postponed until the fall.

When we were discussing the Administrative Procedures it was made clear to me that our job, as Trustees, is to approve the Policy, and the Admin guidelines are the responsibility of the Superintendent. We were not asked for, nor are we expected to give our input into how the district is run or how the Superintendent implements our new Board policy. Under this new direction that is considered to be “realm of operational issues” and trustees are to have no say on operational issues. Yet it is how those Board policies are implemented that reflects directly on the School Board and the School District; ultimately it is the Board who is responsible and answerable and therefore the Board must have the ability to engage in ongoing conversations about how our policies are being implemented.  A more collaborative approach would be to raise concerns and issues at a Board meeting, something that we have done many times over the past 30 years. The Board then gives it’s input and unless there is a specific motion directing the Superintendent, then the Superintendent is left with collective input of Trustees and can then proceed as he/she sees fit.

Under the School District’s new Admin procedures (Administrative Procedure 106 DECISION MAKING PROCESS) generally the administrators in this district will consult and listen to advice, but are not required to collaborate. I would like to see a requirement of collaboration, where the people who have to carry out the decisions are part of the decision making process. And yes that sometimes will mean that decisions will take longer, but good decison making cannot be rushed.

Under the new policy as a Trustee I am required to support the Superintendent, without any input or say.

4.Board/Superintendent Relations
The Board shall:
4.6 Respect the authority of the Superintendent to carry out executive action and support the Superintendent’s actions which are exercised within the delegated discretionary powers of the position.

And under,

A trustee must serve the community as an elected representative, but the trustee’s primary task is to act as a member of a corporate Board. School board trustees collectively and individually have a public duty to carry out their responsibilities and the work of the school board in good faith and with reasonable diligence. Trustees have one overarching responsibility – a shared public duty to advance the work of the school board.
Specific Responsibilities of Individual Trustees
The trustee shall:
2. Support a majority vote of the Board to advance the work of the board and monitor progress to ensure decisions are implemented.

Once this passes tomorrow night I feel I will no longer be supposed to represent the public first,

“the trustee’s primary task is to act as a member of a corporate Board. … [and my job as a trustee is to] Support a majority vote of the Board….”

I totally reject this concept as being anti-democratic. My job as an elected official, at any level, is to represent the public first, second and always. We must always keep that in mind.

I was reminded recently by the President of a teacher’s union that teachers settle contracts with School Boards, not administration. I will continue to oppose this “new direction” of the New Westminster School Board. As I said in an early posting I feel that this new policy directon is a abrogation of our responsibilities and our duties under the School Act. While the School Act allows School Board to delegate authority it nowhere requires us to give up our responsibility and I believe strongly that it is our responsibility to govern by monitoring our employees, particularly our administrative employees, as they carry out their duties on our behalf and on behalf of the citizens of New Westminster.

Author: Michael Ewen

Husband, Parent, Grandparent, Dog Owner, Public School Teacher, Public School Trustee

One thought on “May 30, 2017 School Board Meeting”

  1. Michael:

    Thank you for this. I would add one more concern to the list you have created, grievances. If Trustees must support the Superintendent what independent role do they play in resolving grievances? It is the history of this district that step three grievances involve at least one Trustee to serve as an independent participant to break any deadlock that has arisen between teaching staff and administration. This policy saves time and money as most grievances can be resolved before arbitration. I see a costly and antagonistic future if Trustees are cut out of their vital role in grievance resolution.

    Thanks once again.
    Pat Dyer,
    Teacher, NWTU Bargaining Chair and Teacher Rep. on New Westminster and District Labour Council


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