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'Out of control' WSD board trustees refusing some demands made by harsh report

Members met behind closed doors ahead of Aug. 31 deadline for plan

Winnipeg School Division board chairman Mark Wasyliw says trustees may ask the education minister for more information, for clarification, or ask him to withdraw some of the recommendations.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg School Division board chairman Mark Wasyliw says trustees may ask the education minister for more information, for clarification, or ask him to withdraw some of the recommendations.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/8/2015 (1437 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Education Minister James Allum declared today that he expects Winnipeg School Division to hand him a plan by Aug. 31 on how it will implement the 22 recommendations that investigator Prof. John Wiens made in his scathing review of school board governance in Manitoba’s largest division.

In a terse statement Allum sent to the Winnipeg Free Press by email, the minister said: “We want Winnipeg School Division to be successful and parents want the division to work in the best interests of their children. We have offered departmental support to provide clarification on the expectations around the recommendations in the review.

“If the board requires any clarity on the recommendations, department officials remain ready to help. It remains our expectation that the board will present us with their implementation plan on the recommendations by the end of August.”

But WSD trustees are balking at some of the demands that University of Manitoba education professor and former public school superintendent Wiens placed upon them in his scathing review of the board's governance.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/8/2015 (1437 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Education Minister James Allum declared today that he expects Winnipeg School Division to hand him a plan by Aug. 31 on how it will implement the 22 recommendations that investigator Prof. John Wiens made in his scathing review of school board governance in Manitoba’s largest division.

In a terse statement Allum sent to the Winnipeg Free Press by email, the minister said: "We want Winnipeg School Division to be successful and parents want the division to work in the best interests of their children. We have offered departmental support to provide clarification on the expectations around the recommendations in the review.

"If the board requires any clarity on the recommendations, department officials remain ready to help. It remains our expectation that the board will present us with their implementation plan on the recommendations by the end of August."

But WSD trustees are balking at some of the demands that University of Manitoba education professor and former public school superintendent Wiens placed upon them in his scathing review of the board's governance.

Trustees met behind closed doors Monday evening to address the 22 recommendations from Wiens that Allum has ordered them to implement, and will resume Friday.

Wiens said by email today that he will consider commenting once he sees how the process plays out officially, but for now, it is the minister’s responsibility.

Board chair Mark Wasyliw said in an interview late Monday evening that trustees may well ask Allum for more information, for clarification, or ask him to withdraw some of the recommendations.

Wiens told Allum he should fire the "out of control" WSD school board Dec. 31 unless it cleans up its act of "shameful, reckless dysfunction." Allum has given WSD until Aug. 31 to tell him how it will implement the recommendations by year's end.

Wasyliw said that a huge problem is Wiens's demanding that trustees must log every contact they have on the job, including names and purpose.

"That could become a logistical nightmare," Wasyliw said. "I could go to a school picnic and talk to 200 people."

More critically, Wasyliw said, the public would be reluctant to speak to the board in confidence on sensitive matters if they knew their names and business would be logged on a public document.

"That could make us less responsive to the community, because people could be reluctant to talk to us."

Similarly, trustees have their backs up over a recommendation that they publicly document all inappropriate behaviour by trustees.

"There's no definition of inappropriate," said Wasyliw. "Who becomes the arbiter of who is being inappropriate?"

Wasyliw said that the board itself was already moving to greater openness and transparency long before the Wiens report. Live-streaming and archiving meetings were approved by the board before Wiens listed them among his 22 demands.

"It's going to be up and running in September."

While Monday's meeting was behind closed doors, Friday's may be open, at least to start, Wasyliw said.

Trustees had a lot to say behind closed doors about the criticism some received from Wiens, Wasyliw said.

"People were maligned by the allegations, and weren't given a chance to respond," Wasyliw said. Some of the criticism Wiens aimed at trustee Mike Babinsky went back 17 years, to incidents in 1998.

Allum only appointed Wiens in January, and he reported in June. Wiens urged Allum to fire the board if it doesn't comply, but his report covered many systemic problems and allegations which predated six of the nine trustees taking office for the first time this past November.

School boards normally do not sit in the summer, and WSD rules stipulate that all nine trustees must be present to have a quorum for emergency meetings, Wasyliw pointed out.

If even one trustee can't make it, or one leaves the meeting, that's the end of the meeting, he said.

"If it becomes impossible, we'll ask the minister for an extension," he said. While the board agrees with some of the 22 recommendations, and already had some of them under way before the report came out, it did not sign off on any of them yet, he said.

 

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

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History

Updated on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 1:08 PM CDT: Writethru and adds response from Education Minister James Allum.

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