Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/12/2015 (501 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It must be disconcerting to the Winnipeg School Division board that Education Minister James Allum still isn’t ready to lift his threat to fire the nine trustees on New Year’s Eve over their dysfunctional governance.
Allum said he’s optimistic that WSD is cleaning up its act in the wake of the Wiens report — whoops, scathing Wiens report — that called the trustees out of control and guilty of shameful, reckless, dysfunction. But he won’t say they’ll be free and clear when Dec. 31 dawns.
Maybe it’s a complete coincidence that WSD secretary-treasurer Rene Appelmans, one of the real class acts in public education, is retiring.
Maybe coincidental, certainly curious about the timing.
As Appelmans told me recently in response to my queries about rumours that he had abruptly quit, "Yes, I am retiring. My last day of work will be Jan. 8. With my 25 years of service to school divisions, I am now eligible to retire.
"It has been my pleasure to work with you and the many people who support public education. Serving the public good is a privilege and an honour," said Appelmans.
I’ve written several times that Appelmans can explain in understandable lay language better than anyone else in education the complex, confusing, convoluted, and confounding provincial education funding formula.
Appelmans effectively is already gone, now using up his vacation entitlement prior to his retirement Jan. 8, which had been announced a few weeks ago. He won’t address the rumours that he left abruptly, and earlier than expected.
Both board chair Mark Wasyliw and finance chair Chris Broughton told me that there was absolutely nothing to those rumours.
But I’ve now heard essentially the same thing from two very senior superintendents in other divisions, one said to me directly, the other passed along to me, supposedly at the superintendent’s request. They both said that Appelmans left because he could not sign off on unspecified division business.
That may be entirely false — but it’s what’s going around among the top levels of the public school system.
Even someone who assured me that Appelmans didn’t abruptly quit shared my puzzlement at the timing of his departure.
If Appelmans left at the end of March, after trustees set the budget by the March 15 deadline, or June 30 at the end of the school year, nothing surprising about that.
He left effective Jan. 8, and in practical terms went out the door this month, when the board is wrestling with a mammoth budget whose spending this year is already being pegged at $387 million — the draft budget process in which the secretary-treasurer is by far the key staffer. Serious budget cuts and additions and projections of tax levels come once the level of provincial operating grants is known in January, but these are numbers and accounts and processes that Appelmans knows inside out. Why would a consummate professional choose to go now, amidst this annual gargantuan task?