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Are trustees leaving a loophole?

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One of the resolutions coming up Friday at the Manitoba School Board Association’s annual general meeting jumped out at me.

Well, more than one, of course, it’s a super exciting day each year when the trustees debate resolutions, but there was one in particular.

The trustees will be voting on updating their manual of policies and beliefs, areas of responsibility and authority they reckon they require in order to have more autonomy, and it was this one clause that got me all in a tizzy: "adapt or develop curricula that reflect community needs or values".

My first thought was, isn’t that clause proposing that local school boards be able to ignore Bill 18 or any part of it that a majority of trustees doesn’t like, such as, say, for instance, the part of Bill 18 that says that any student from a school receiving public money coming forward to request that he or she be able to establish a gay straight alliance within the school, must be supported?

Because I’m thinking, if that’s indeed a loophole, then Education Minister James Allum wouldn’t be too happy about it, and not altogether likely to be OK with trustees’ having that much autonomy.

Nothing of the sort, said MSBA executive director Carolyn Duhamel.

It was not the intent "to twist it and use it" to defy provincial legislation that MSBA enthusiastically endorsed when the Selinger government passed the legislation.

Silly me.

The purpose of the clause is to give schools more authority to develop school initiated courses, said Duhamel; as more and more provincially-mandated courses become requirements, it’s difficult to work timetables and to get provincial approval for a school initiated course that meets local needs.

Oh, OK.

Many of this year’s AGM resolutions deal with issues involving special needs students, or students now required to stay in high school until age 18, unless they’ve graduated earlier.

The trustees had debated the same old issues over and over again in recent years; not this year.

"We’re finding some issues emerge each year because they haven’t been resolved, or there hasn’t been government movement," Duhamel explained. "Government has been getting impatient and saying, ‘What part of no do you not understand?’"

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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