Entire Vancouver School Board Fired – What can we learn?

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Vancouver School Board Fired – Lessons Learned

They “failed to pass a balanced budget” and were the subject of bullying allegations. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Of note however, is that in this case, families and union/labour organizations are behind the ousted trustees: this includes statements by family members claiming a balanced budget was already in effect.

Former Vancouver School Board chairman Mike Lombardi:

“The people of Vancouver elected trustees to stand up for public education, not to do the provincial government’s dirty work of closing schools, cutting programs and selling off public assets to address a budget shortfall of their own making. The Vancouver school board is now being run out of Premier Christy Clark’s office.”

B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier led the charge, terminating the entire Vancouver School Board. In his words, they “failed to follow the law”. Vancouver Sun

Back Story Highlights & Video link

  • The British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA) supports the firing of the board.
  • Peter Milburn was appointed Special Advisor in early 2016 after the Vancouver School Board (VSB) rejected a budget calling for $21.8 million in cuts, knowing this set the stage for possible firing.
  • Early fall 2016: six senior VSB staff members take medical leave.
  • Early fall 2016: the board called off a process to close 11 schools in 2017.
  • Parents have lost trust: Jennifer Stewart said “the timing of the firing, on the day the board was set to approve a balanced budget, makes it look like the decision was made for political reasons.” And…
  • Parent Carrie Bercic: “I wish I could say that I am hopeful that Dianne Turner will put the needs of students first in our district, but 15 years of inadequate funding and a total lack of concern for public education by a government that is now entirely pulling the puppet strings have shown me that there is little hope of that,” Bercic said in an email. “… This move will absolutely galvanize parents and advocates to work together to be certain there is a change in government in May.”
  • BCSTA president Teresa Rezansoff : “It is an unfortunate and rare situation whenever a board of education is fired, but we also understand Minister Bernier’s concerns over the current state of affairs in Vancouver,” said Rezansoff. “The general public must have confidence that every board of education is acting in the overall best interest of both students and taxpayers. When that confidence begins to fail, or is challenged by what seems to be an unending series of disputes, public support for the board falls rapidly.”
  • See the video here.

Lessons learned

  • Full Board firings by government and other interventions do happen – more frequently than most Boards realize (we have other examples). Any publicly funded Board must abide by detailed accountability agreements. Read the fine print.
  • The above applies to all publicly funded Boards, including democratically elected ones.
  • Single individuals are often appointed to take over the functions of Board, who in this case was a 9-person team.
  • Relationships and effective communications between Boards and funding bodies is essential.
  • When every other board in a jurisdiction is passing a balanced budget, being the outlier is not a good idea.

Next Client Centered Governance Board Ed. Seminar OCTOBER 21 (we can accommodate 2 more registrants) See details here.

Sources:  Vancouver Sun / Vancouver School Board / CBC



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