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WSD and its secrets

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Sometimes the stories are so bizarre that I couldn’t make up this stuff.

Winnipeg School Division treats personnel issues as top secret stuff. OK, we all knew that.

Then Tuesday, through trustee Mike Babinsky, I learned that the packages of news clippings that trustees receive before every regular meeting, the most recent packages, contained nary a syllable from the WFP about the scandal surrounding the two suspended teachers who performed a lap dance with simulated oral sex during a school spirit event in the Churchill High gym three weeks ago.

And further learned, after contacting WSD headquarters at Notre Dame and Wall, that the official secrets rules extend to the senior administration’s not providing trustees with clippings of newspaper stories about secret personnel matters.

Those trustees, of course, being nominally in charge of the $329-million-a-year school division, and nominally the bosses of the people deciding not to share publicly available information with their bosses about secret stuff...

The administration, we’re told by sources who get to go behind closed doors and whose identity WSD could never guess in a million years, has not officially told trustees the names of the two suspended teachers.

One supposes that staff could have taken a black marker and crossed out the names of the two teachers before photocopying the clippings, if no civil servant wished to be in violation of the secrecy policy.

The mind just boggles.

Meanwhile, I’ve been receiving heaps of negative reaction to my stories about the U of M engineering students’ Red Loin publication, and to my package of stories about public funding of private schools, universities and colleges. It had been a really long time since anyone had called me a communist...

And moving right along...

I see by my latest issue of Showcase that Prof. Davide Panagia of Trent University, a Canada Research Chair in cultural studies, is now the co-editor of Theory & Event, which the school describes as the world’s premier journal of cultural and political theory, and which will now be based out of the school.

Panagia is one of the six smartest Winnipegers at Trent University in Peterborough. He lived down the back lane from us when he was earning a Rhodes Scholarship at St. Paul’s High School.

Yes, Jim, your lad is one of those five and among the three from Grant Park High, the other two are chancellor Tom Jackson and child the younger’s long-time bud who went to Kelvin. If I’m missing anyone, let me know.

Losing my interest in that topic, I switch to...

I was giving my pre-game instructions this past weekend, asked the soccer players if everyone intends to behave in an appropriate manner, and instead of saying yes, which is the required answer, and which I tell the players requires unanimity and not just consensus, one 11-year-old boy says, "I thought that was only in school?"

Coach and I reply almost in unison, that I have more authority than a teacher.

And it’s probably true... if the kid doesn’t like my calls, his parents can’t make the principal’s life miserable and can’t phone the school trustees to complain. And if the parents call the education reporter at the Free Press to complain...

I got an email this morning from Mattel, telling me that someone is standing by to be interviewed about why Barbie inspires Canadian girls to be whatever they want to be... seriously...

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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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