TORONTO - Our newspaper has been following, and commenting on, the issues emerging from the affairs of school boards with attention and frequency unmatched by other publications. We are not being immodest. Political issues come and go but the ethical and skills context of our children’s future is at the base of any society. As parents, we never relinquish our obligations to our children and only grudgingly entrust their temporary care to those who espouse values like our own.
As a newspaper, we have paid particular attention to school administration and trustees whose stated goals and outcomes do not seem to match the expectations held by our readership. Admittedly, that is easier for us than for others.
The school boards where our children attend are governed not only by the Education Act and its Regulations but also by a Constitutional mandate designed to guarantee an educational environment “consistent with gospel values [and], the teachings of the Catholic Church…”
The latter quotation is cited from a 36-page Report prepared for the Halton Catholic District School Board following an Investigation into Conduct during Board Meetings and authored by a certain B. Bresner, from ADR Chambers Inc. The firm advertises itself as The world’s largest dispute resolution service provider.
ADR boasts three retired case management judges, six retired judges, one former Premier and one former Provincial Attorney General among its list of experts. Presumably, it has a corporate understanding of rules of procedure.
It is not a denominational organization with a religious bias given the background of some of the people listed. Its fee structure would be in the $700 to $1000+ per hour range. (Apologies if I underestimated its billing practice).
The “investigation”, a word laden with implications, had been commissioned (by the Director? by the Chair?) to examine the following: (1) the alleged bias of the Chair (questions of process and observance of rules of order in the conduct of meetings); (2) conduct of trustees, (3) allegations of unlawful activities by staff and (4) dilatory behaviour causing the business of the Board to be purposefully delayed.
The allegations and the Report, from a procedural and ethical basis, should never have seen the light of day, since they reference specific individuals, whose personal reputations are besmirched in the process.
A cynical first impression would suggest dishonorable intentions. Even if there were some substance to the allegations, the proper place to raise these issues would have been in camera.
Moreover, the “investigation” was undertaken, and its Report, delivered within a three-week period, at a cost of a “mere $24,000” – the emphasis is mine, given the high-priced personnel involved.
The author indicated he had reviewed some 50 hours of video tape, research relevant legislation, case law, relevant parliamentary procedure and precedents, deliberated the data and wrote the Report within the time frame indicated, three weeks.
Some colleagues in a weekly local newspaper were the immediate beneficiaries of a copy from unidentified source(s). At least Mr. Bresner spent the first part of the report writing what amount to disclaimers about what he did not intend and why the document he produced should not be construed as providing legal advice. Maybe, however, it has proven fodder for the “malice mill.”
ADR could simply have told the Halton Catholic District School Board that their mandate is quite clear under the Constitution: nurture the trilogy of Church, school and family by “staying in your own lane”. Not a single trustee has the competence or means to establish Catholic doctrine (which, by definition, extends beyond their geographic boundaries). As parents, they should nurture the values that attracted them to Catholic schools in the first place, even if some individuals in it may not appear to be icons superior to others.
Sadly, from our observation of live and video representations of Board debates, the culture of whining seems to be eroding the mainstays of an otherwise laudable institution.
The silence of prelates responsible for promoting the "gospel values [and], the teachings of the Catholic Church…", as noted by ADR in Catholic school boards, does not absolve lay trustees and Staff from their obligations under the Constitution.
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