by J. F. Conway, Trustee, Subdivision 5, Regina Public Schools
4 February 2008
I would like to thank the Real Renewal Web Site for providing a “Trustees’ Corner” for postings from those elected Trustees who wish to do so.
A majority of the Board, by a vote of 6 to 1, refused to allow me to post materials on the Public School Board’s Renewal Web Site, thus preventing my voice from being easily accessed by the public. I believe that this decision violated my rights and privileges as an elected Trustee, and has tainted the renewal discussion process which was supposed to be open and transparent.
My options are to seek a legal remedy, requesting the court to order that my postings be allowed, or to write a formal letter of complaint to the Minister of Education. The legal remedy would be long and costly, though probably ultimately successful since the majority of the Board overstepped its authority by preventing a dissenting elected Trustee from having access to a web site designed for open public debate on the renewal plan.
It is not acceptable democratic practice for the majority of an elected body to abuse its majority power by issuing what amounts to a gag order against a dissenting minority. But since I have opposed the “renewal” plan from the beginning, the Board majority, in its wisdom, has decided to muzzle me. I will therefore not seek a legal remedy. But I will write a formal letter of complaint to the Minister of Education just so it is on the official public record. It might prove useful for any school community facing closure and seeking a court injunction against the implementation of a closure decision.
For your information, my defeated motion, and the rationale for it, is provided below.
RESOLVED that elected Trustees be invited to post material related to the renewal discussion/debate on the “Renewing Regina’s Public Schools” page of the division’s web site.Rationale
The renewal process has been billed as an open discussion/debate about the 10 year renewal plan. Two Trustees voted against approving the plan, and against the citing of schools for possible closure. Five Trustees voted in favour, indicating support for the plan while publicly stating that they remain open-minded about the final closure decisions on the cited schools. The public has been invited to use the web site to keep abreast of the discussion/debate, as well as to participate when they so desire.
Elected Trustees with firm opinions on the plan and the school closure proposals should have an opportunity to post the reasons for those opinions on the web site to inform the public. They should also have the opportunity to post supporting evidence and argument for those opinions in order to better inform the public and to make a positive contribution to the open debate.
For those who suggest that the division’s web site must only reflect the “corporate,” i.e., majority, opinion of the elected Board, the following points should be considered. First, the elected Board is not first and foremost a “corporation” but rather a legislative body democratically elected to reflect the community’s diversity. As such, when there is a division of opinion among the elected Trustees on important public policy matters, the dissenting as well as the majority opinion should be reflected on the web site. Second, the renewal page of the division’s web site has been designed to inform the public on matters of importance related to the ongoing renewal discussion/debate. As such, it should invite the expression of the full range of opinion on the matters at issue not only from the public, but also from elected Trustees. Third, the renewal page of the web site is not designed to reflect the final “corporate” opinion of the Board on the issues under debate since that final opinion, particularly with regards to school closures, has not yet been formulated.