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Babinsky proclaims, and we scribble

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I flashbacked to Coun. Harry Lazarenko as I was listening to WSD trustee Mike Babinsky after the closed-door huddle Monday night......

Babinsky was telling us how he'd been warned in the secret session that he could jeopardize the situation over the fate of two suspended lapdancing teachers by continuing to express his opinions publicly, and then proceeded to give us ever-more lurid speculation.

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Babinsky said the division could fire the teachers, or maybe had some way of not renewing their contracts, or maybe the two teachers would quit voluntarily. Babinsky got to the point of saying that maybe Education Minister Nancy Allan would consider cancelling the two suspended teachers' teaching certificates, and said that with the international media attention the case has drawn, that the mess would end up on the desk of Premier Greg Selinger.

Was that a sigh I heard, Greg? Did that make your morning, to read that over your breakfast, Nancy?

Anyway, what Coun. Lazarenko has to do with this....

Back in the mid-90s during the Save the Jets campaign, city council went behind closed doors pretty much daily to make spur-of-the-moment decisions without due diligence on incredibly expensive and complex matters about the Jets and a new arena -- sorry, slipping into being judgmental there -- and then Harry would walk out of the confidential meeting carrying all the secret documents council had been discussing, ask the assembled media jackals how many copies we needed, and then photocopy and hand out all the secret plans.

I suspect that one reason that WSD's human resources people haven't even officially told trustees the names of the suspended teachers, is that the other eight trustees know darned well that whatever the senior staff tell the school board, that Babinsky will tell us.

Meanwhile, Babinsky was telling reporters last night that he wants WSD board to shift its secret talks into public session, and spend a lot more time discussing issues in public.

He said that the board regularly spends 15 minutes in public session, then goes behind closed doors for three hours to discuss the important stuff.

Gosh, that sounds like what I've told Babinsky several times in explaining to him why I hardly ever waste my Monday evenings anymore covering school board. Glad you're using good sources, Mike.

So, Mike, does that mean that you're finally buying my explanation for skipping board meetings, or do you hold to your accusation that I've been intimidated and scared away by Kristine Barr's veiled threat a while back that the division would take legal action against me, for doing stories when you gave me the short list of candidates for the then-vacant chief superintendent's job?

Moving along....

Quite a story in The Washington Post, which you can read at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/education-secretary-duncan/why-not-fire-all-the-teachers.html, about a small city in Rhode Island's deciding to fire the entire high school faculty, 93 teachers, including principal, guidance teachers, counsellors, the works, as of June 30, over poor graduation rates and really low scores on standards tests.

The Post story raises issues about what kind of morale there'll be in the final four months of school. It talks sarcastically about the belief in that Rhode Island community that the 93 top teachers in the U.S. will beg to be hired for those vacancies in September, and it points out that the local school board obviously believes that the students' situation is entirely the fault of 93 adults and has nothing to do with the poverty in the community, the students' home lives and socioeconomic background, or with the education they received in elementary school and junior high.

The Washington Post also has stories about Obama's plans to provide significant funding to the public school system, which could be tied to innovative approaches to raising scores in standards tests, and which would involve replacing principals and teachers whose students don't post high enough scores.

And people in the 13 Colonies think this is liberalism?

Sigh.

And now for something completely different.....

I was checking our fax machine here Sunday evening and thought I'd come across a terrific story. It looked as though someone was leaking us documents suggesting that UM could be holding a fire sale of its art collection to stave off budget cuts.

At least, channelling Oliver Stone, that was my first thought as I looked at the documents.

The first was a bill of lading for a trucking company in Lachine, Quebec. The second and third were a certificate of origin for the Canadian Border Services Agency under the North American Free Trade Agreement, documenting that UM was shipping a piece of sculpture worth $15,000 to Temple University in Philadelphia.

Alas........

It turned out that the fax machine at UM had some programmed addresses, which included our fax number for sending us community events notices, and someone hit the wrong button.

And both UM and Temple told me that it's not a sale, it's art work that will be displayed at a spiffy exhibition in Philly.

Oh, well.....

And seguing again......

I don't know what this says about me or anything else, other than confirming that I'm old, but I'll just ramble on incoherently and you can make of it what you will.....

Watching the men's hockey, I realized that I had no clue what Shea Weber, Dan Boyle, Corey Perry, Drew Doughty, Patrick Marleau looked like. Sidney, Jarome, Roberto, sure, but most of the team, no clue.

Rick Nash is arguably our best left winger, yet I couldn't have picked out his mug shot. Yet when I was a kid, how many left wingers of Nash's calibre did I know by sight: Ted Lindsay, Dickie Moore, Bert Olmstead, Dick Duff, Frank Mahovlich, Bobby Hull, Dean Prentice, Johnny Bucyk....no, I'm not sure if I have a point, but there it is. And if you think Bert Olmstead wasn't in Nash's league and wouldn't command big bucks today, think of a nastier Bob Gainey with a better scoring touch......

And finally.....

I'm surprised that alarm bells didn't go off at Churchill High on Friday and that WSD didn't loose the dogs.

Yes, I was on the school property, without the consent of the chief superintendent.

We were test driving a set of wheels, and turns out that the dealership likes to use Churchill Drive as part of a test drive route. And the sales guy pulls over into Churchill's parking lot so we could switch drivers........

I felt so daring, like Tom Cruise hanging down from the roof while trying to avoid the laser beams in Mission Impossible.

Mike, I'll let you know if the division takes legal action.

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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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