WSD’s fulsome dysfunction


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 It was cringeworthy.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/08/2015 (2852 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

 It was cringeworthy.

You could feel for Winnipeg School Division trustee Chris Broughton Friday as fellow school board member Cathy Collins humiliated him in front of the entire public meeting.

Do these people not understand irony, that one of their members would pull such a stunt just as they were trying to refute Prof. John Wiens’s contentious report — whoops, the word “scathing” always has to be used to describe it — that called the board out of control and guilty of reckless dysfunction?

The trustees had been doing a half-decent job up to that point of making the case that, as board chair Mark Wasyliw has put it a bunch of times, that Wiens was at times over-the-top in his attack on WSD’s governance, openness, and transparency.

Wiens had attended only one board meeting between being appointed in December and filing his report in June, and some of the most egregious behaviour and allegations he cited concerned events that happened before six of the nine trustees took office for the first time back in November. And, indeed, one infamous Mike Babinsky incident dates back to 1998.

One of the recommendations which trustees bounced back to Education Minister James Allum for clarification was Wiens’ notion that the chief superintendent should compile a public log each month of inappropriate and unacceptable trustee behaviour. The board indulged in much self-righteous indignation that trustees were absolutely dumbfounded about the Wiens report’s failure to define such bad behaviour, and had not a clue what Wiens had intended.

Kevin Freedman interpreted the directive as covering censure of a trustee by the rest of the board;Collins and Allan Beach thought anyone who felt he or she was the target of such behaviour could ask the chief superintendent to make a note of it.

And off to Allum it bounced.

That was all before Collins got to her feet later in the meeting.

I can’t say I know Broughton. He seems to be a friendly, thoughtful guy, who seems to get along with the rest of the board, at least in public session; I’ve heard nothing to suggest he behaves any differently in closed session. He and Collins are both members of the N-Dipper majority on the board, and I’m not aware of any acrimony between them.

And then, suddenly, up got Collins, digressing from the topic on the floor. She lectured Broughton in a rude and condescending tone that she’d had enough of his (allegedly) incorrect use of the word “fulsome.” Collins produced an enormous dictionary (ask your grandparents) and proceeded to read a lengthy definition of the word “fulsome,” while Broughton seethed and fumed; then, after Collins had finally finished and closed her dictionary and sat down with a smug smirk, he stormed out of the room.

A washroom break, it wasn’t the loss of a quorum, said a colleague. And Broughton did return a couple of minutes later, and I don’t recall that he said a word the rest of the day.

Why on Earth would you do something like that to someone with whom you are supposed to be working collaboratively? Why would you not wait and have a quiet, private word during the break or after the meeting, if it meant so much to you? Is that acceptable and appropriate behaviour by a trustee?

And no one said a word. Does WSD’s anti-bullying policy not call on bystanders to intervene?

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