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WSD says no to releasing agenda information

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An election, a new board at Winnipeg School Division, a new board chair, and the same old attitude about board agendas.

No, the school board won’t reconsider its policy of keeping agenda contents under wraps until 7 p.m. on Monday evenings, and new board chair Suzanne Hrynyk won’t talk to me about it.

I’ve blogged before about why I rarely attend board meetings anymore. It’s just not worth my time, or my employer’s time, when the public session so often ends at 7:20 p.m. and there’s nothing worth a story.

I don’t just go there on Monday nights on my own time, in hopes that something will happen — when I go, I adjust my shift and my starting time, to accommodate a real meeting with matters of substance, with real discussion, and writing time afterward. And if nothing happens, that part of my shift has been wasted.

I used to go all the time, but that’s when substance happened in public as well as behind closed doors.

Back in the late 90s, agendas were available for the public on Friday, and they contained all the background information and reports on business to be conducted in public session. There used to be a lot of it.

A couple of former board chairs — no, I won’t give up their names, lest their colleagues call in the favours that Tony Soprano owes them — who’d chat with me discreetly and quietly about the upcoming business, so I could decide whether I should go, with the understanding everything they told me was under embargo and that I wouldn’t write about it in advance.

No more. In fact, not for quite a long time.

Now I get an electronic ‘agenda’ sometime Monday that says there’ll be a report from finance, or from public policy, and that’s it. It’s like a court docket that doesn’t list the names of the accused, the lawyers, the judge, or the charges to be heard. But it does give the time and the address of the law courts.

Sigh.

Pretty much everybody has moved to electronic agendas these days, and about the best school board agendas posted online are Pembina Trails School Division. Lots of meat in them.

Maybe I’ll just pop in unexpectedly on WSD once in a while... you never know when they’ll think it’s safe to assume no ink-stained wretches will be in the public gallery, and have two or three hours of public business lined up.

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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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