July 22, 2019

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Babinsky remains a rebellion of one

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/11/2014 (1718 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg School Division trustee Mike Babinsky was quick to spot the irony in the board’s meeting with Education Minister Peter Bjornson Thursday about transparency — meeting behind closed doors.

Babinsky, having been frozen out once again in his sixth term from any significant chair appointments, called me, as he is wont to do. And as he is also wont to do, Babinsky let the rest of the board know that he’ll be doing things his way, just as he’s followed a different drummer since he first took office last century.

Babinsky said that former education minister James Allum had asked before the Oct. 22 municipal election that the newly-elected board meet to talk about transparency, the lack of which had troubled the minister. However, after Monday’s cabinet shuffle, Selinger loyalist Allum became justice minister, and Selinger loyalist Bjornson was back for a second go-round as education minister.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/11/2014 (1718 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg School Division trustee Mike Babinsky was quick to spot the irony in the board’s meeting with Education Minister Peter Bjornson Thursday about transparency — meeting behind closed doors.

Babinsky, having been frozen out once again in his sixth term from any significant chair appointments, called me, as he is wont to do. And as he is also wont to do, Babinsky let the rest of the board know that he’ll be doing things his way, just as he’s followed a different drummer since he first took office last century.

Babinsky said that former education minister James Allum had asked before the Oct. 22 municipal election that the newly-elected board meet to talk about transparency, the lack of which had troubled the minister. However, after Monday’s cabinet shuffle, Selinger loyalist Allum became justice minister, and Selinger loyalist Bjornson was back for a second go-round as education minister.

Anyway, Babinsky, again as is his wont, said that Bjornson 2.0 just swung by for a meet and greet. Transparency, said Babinsky, may just be a smokescreen by the rest of the school board, which may give you some indication of why he does not play well with others around the board table.

Babinsky had been hoping that the meeting would discuss a letter he sent to Allum some time back, and which he shared in the pages of our paper, alleging secret salary deals with school bus drivers, and alleging that the previous board had inappropriately wiped out any public paper trail of his demand that the trustees take disciplinary action against anyone responsible for leaving kids waiting too long last winter at school bus stops in frigid conditions.

He raised that in Thursday’s session. "Multiple trustees asked, ‘What letter?’," said Babinsky. The administration had not acceded to his wishes to place his letter on the agenda, said Babinsky, whom you can consider as a rebel defying tyranny, or as someone who also doesn’t play well with the employees. By the way, though Babinsky talked at length about what the board secretary had done and not done, he said her most senior bosses were the ones against whom he has a gripe.

Babinsky said he was accused of hijacking the meeting, and that 20 minutes of bickering ensued.

Indeed.

Board chair Mark Wasyliw said Friday that Babinsky might get his way on some things and might have some board members ready to support him and work with him if he stopped picking fights long enough to work with the rest of the board.

"Mike tried to hijack the meeting — we only get an hour with the minister," said Wasyliw. "His view is distorted — he wanted to tell on the principal to the administration. He somehow seems to want the minister to do something. We’re trying to tell Mike it’s a new board with no preconceived notions of how things happen.

"He’s chasing headlines, he doesn’t seem to be in search of a solution. He’s too busy throwing rotten eggs at people, to get anything done," Wasyliw said.

Gosh, Mark, don’t be so subtle, tell us what you really think about Babinsky’s getting on everyone’s nerves.

Babinsky has been like this since day one, when he was first elected in 1995. Most school boards would look to someone with that type of experience to be a leader, especially when six of nine trustees are rookies. But once again, he’s not the board chair, he’s not chairing finance, or policy/program, or buildings and transportation, he’s frozen out of any significant responsibility, in favour of raw rookies who seem prepared to work collegially and non-confrontationally with the rest of the board.

Remember, this is the board that took office just this Monday, and that this was all behind closed doors.

Wasyliw said that the new board is serious about opening up its meetings and business to the public.

"School trustees are cut off from the public. If it weren’t for you and CBC radio, there’s no coverage of school boards in Manitoba," Wasyliw said. "There’s a bit of a culture of secrecy at WSD, partly as a reaction to Mike. The administration doesn’t want to be putting out fires every day."

Meanwhile, rookie trustee Lisa Naylor emailed everyone on the board Friday to warn against believing what they read in the newspaper — the first shot of the new board against me and probably just the first in a long series of shots — and to urge everyone to make nice while finding the balance between openness and the necessity for some privacy at times.

That Naylor only criticized print leaves one to wonder, does she recognize our dominant relevance, does Naylor believe newspapers are as vital today as we were in 1914 or 1814, or is she suggesting that one should mistrust us while believing everything else in the media, be it TV, radio, and on-line?

Anyway, here’s what Naylor had to say:

"I’m sure we are all concerned with the troubling accusations within the (Babinsky) email and the negative media coverage. I would like to remind the Board that newspaper articles, while interesting and having the potential to influence members of our community, are not fact and do not necessarily represent a balanced, objective view of events.

"As for Mr. Babinsky’s concerns about what does or doesn’t happen in camera — I hope that we can address these issues individually as we move forward as a new Board. I believe that many members of the current Board are committed to increasing transparency while also fulfilling our legal responsibilities under FIPPA and within the context of bargaining agreements etc. I expect that we will find ways to do this without compromising important negotiations or personal privacy of employees or students of the division.

"Regarding the transportation issues within the division, it may also be helpful for everyone to review the Information Bulletins that were released on June 18 and Sept 23 of this year. https://www.winnipegsd.ca/NEWS/Documents/Information%20Bulletin%20-%20Transportation.pdfhttps://www.winnipegsd.ca/NEWS/Documents/Information%20Bulletin.pdf," wrote Naylor.

No, I wasn’t on the mailing list and I won’t say how I got it.

Of course, I contacted Naylor, who emailed back: "At this point I am interested in establishing professional and collegial working relationships with the other trustees and administration, learning all I can about governance at this level and being effective in my role."

Can I call time out long enough to remind everyone that this is all about providing the best education possible to 34,000 or so students?

OK, play is back in....

Any fears that the election would make WSD any less interesting appear completely unfounded...now, as long as they do it all in public...

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