Mission trustees rescind contentious policy

A host of proposed policy changes came before Mission school trustees Tuesday night

A series of policy changes proposed last month made their way back to the board of school trustees  Tuesday night, with one of the most contentious being deleted entirely.

Policy 11 granted the superintendent, through the board of trustees, certain powers and responsibilities. Its existence became an election issue in November, with several candidates, including newly elected trustees Jim Taylor and Edie Heinrichs (who recently legally changed her last name from Lissimore), calling for its rescindment.

And by a vote of 3-2, with incumbent trustees Randy Cairns and Carol Hamilton against, policy 11 has now been erased.

The core of the debate was the perception of an erosion of trustee powers.

“I don’t know the rationale for this policy. We’re not taking away any of our authority. [The policy] is about delegating administrative authority to the superintendent,” said Cairns.

“This [rescindment] seems a bit premature without in-depth discussion. This changes how we do business,” said Hamilton, who also asked if a replacement policy will be generated.

The short timeline was also questioned by the incumbents. Most policy changes are debated and examined for about two months before a decision is made, noted Hamilton.

Vice-chair Taylor said “we’ve had lots of discussion since this issue came out during the election. We give all our authority away” with this policy, and the superintendent’s roles and responsibilities are already detailed in policy 16.

“The community wants it to go,” he finished.

“Not all the community,” Hamilton rebutted.

Board chair Heinrichs pointed out the policy didn’t exist before 2009 and the district ran fine.

The trustee code of ethics will continue to exist after its removal was voted down 3-2, with Shelley Carter, Cairns and Hamilton voting against. Taylor and Heinrichs said the policy was redundant given trustees’ responsibilities are defined in other policies.

A heavily reworded policy 16, which details recruitment, selection and termination of senior administration staff, was passed unanimously, while a bylaw reviewing policy eight, board organization and operation, was given the first two readings Tuesday night.

The changes proposed include removing the superintendent or secretary treasurer from calling a special meeting of the board, and nixing “medical matters of students or employees, other matters a board committee considers appropriate, and such matters as the board may determine” from the items that should be discussed in-camera.

As well, a rewording of how minutes are kept, and an addition detailing the passage and amendments of bylaws are included in the potential alteration to ensure the board operates in line with the School Act, which Taylor says has not happened for several years.

During question period, former trustee Karen Petty, who did not run in the November election, asked if the board has put effort into a strategic direction and noted she hasn’t heard much discussion about students so far.

Trustees are focusing their early efforts on governance, because “to be a board you have to establish how leadership will look. That’s how we focus on students success, by ensuring support is given to staff. Governance establishes a baseline for that support,” said Heinrichs. “The board doesn’t go into the classrooms.”

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