February 11, 2014 by realrenewal
Regina public school trustees are considering a series of policy changes to rein in dissenting trustees and limit public involvement in board meetings.
Changes to 15 policies are being recommended for approval at the board’s Feb. 11 meeting, including statements that trustees “owe a duty first and foremost to the board” and “must not inhibit the will of the board.” As well, trustees are threatened with removal for lacking “decorum” and “respect.”
“(This) stands democracy on its head. Canada is founded on the notion that elected representatives first and foremost serve and represent the electorate,” RealRenewal spokesperson Trish Elliott said in an email letter to trustees.
“Only voting citizens have the power to seek removal of a member for ‘unfit’ actions – and it’s the Court of Queen’s Bench that deliberates, not the board of education,” Elliott added.
The Education Act allows school boards themselves to remove trustees only for a few closely defined transgressions, such as non-attendance at meetings, she noted. “This principle is important to a functioning democracy, because it limits the ability of a governing body to purge duly elected representatives who the majority simply doesn’t get along with.”
As well, the recommendations include ending a policy that allows members of the public to ask permission to speak to an agenda item during a board meeting.
“In the years I’ve attended school board meetings, I’ve only once seen a member of the public raise a hand and ask to speak. To respond by striking down the policy that allows this is overkill.”
Another recommendation will require copies of formal public presentations seven days in advance of meetings, well before the agenda is published. If passed, the two changes will make it largely impossible for citizens to address a current agenda item before it is voted on, Elliott noted.
“It is not as if they are overwhelmed by citizens showing up and wanting to participate in their meetings. Why put up barriers?”
No notice of motion was given, meaning unless a board member moves to table the recommendations, they will be voted on without opportunity for public response.