The Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools (WRPS) board of trustees put a number of their policies in the hot seat as trustees discussed suggested changes to the policies that would make them more current.
The board sat down with Terry Gunderson, education consultant with Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA), during a special meeting called Jan. 31.
Gunderson started with Policy 2, The Role of the Board, saying the biggest changes being proposed for the policy was changes in titles. He also told the board he reconstructed part of the policy and worked to make it more in line with the Inspiring Education initiative.
“As well, it does include some items from Truth and Reconciliation,” said Gunderson; approximately 27 per cent of WRPS students are aboriginal.
Trustee Karen Becker questioned Gunderson on what implementation timeline the board should look at to bring the proposed changes to practice.
“I think you should be open to moving in this direction. I don’t think it would be premature at this point,” said Gunderson.
Trustee Dave Gursky asked if the policy would be considered a living document and changes in the future could be made as needed.
“I would think you’d always want your policies to be current,” said Gunderson.
The board approved the amendments to Policy 2.
In Policy 3, Role of the Trustee, Gunderson says he made revisions to enhance the clarity of the policy.
One change Gunderson spoke to was the mandatory attendance of all trustees to orientation. “I moved it from the front to the end of your policy so it was a separate section.”
“It seemed to me you were putting in only recently elected individuals,” he added. “Even if you have only one new member you have a new board.”
Board chair Barbara Johnson asked why Gunderson moved that section to the end of the policy, to which he explained he felt it would be more helpful to outline the role of the trustee first before speaking to its function.
Gunderson also removed the general duties of the trustee from the policy and replaced them with specific responsibilities, updating some of the terminology for clarity.
Trustee Lynn Ware was not keen on losing the general duties and asked if they could be offered in a different document.
Trustee Robbyn Erickson agreed with Ware. “I think there are some valid points in there. I don’t think they belong in a policy.”
The trustees voted in favour of moving general duties to the orientation manual and approved the policy as amended.
Regarding Policy 4, Trustee Code of Conduct, Gunderson informed the board it was probably the policy that saw the most changes.
“The rational is this policy was a code of ethics … it read as a code of ethics,” said Gunderson. A code of conduct ties in with the role of the trustee and follows an ASBA sample.
The code of conduct focuses on communications and judiciary responsibilities.
Becker says a few years ago administration developed a whistle blower procedure and asked if it applied to the policy.
Gunderson answered it’s a responsibility to bring forward and advocate local concerns and an administrative procedure should not dictate the role of a trustee.
He added there is nothing in the policy stating a trustee cannot bring an issue to the board as long as it is done respectfully. However, Becker voiced she supported a specific structure in place outlining how such events are to be handled.
Ware and Erickson felt part of the code of ethics could have been included in the code of conduct.
“They certainly fit when you talked code of ethics. I don’t know if they fit when you talk code of conduct, and you want to be really clear,” said Gunderson.
The board voted to have the information added to the orientation manual; Policy 4 was approved as amended.
Along with Policy 4, the board of trustees also approved a Policy 4 Appendix A: Code of Conduct Sanctions.
“This completely broadens what you had before. What you had before simply dealt with confidential matters,” said Gunderson.
Both the Appendix A and an Appendix B: Communications Protocol were approved.
Gunderson informed the board the general structure of Policy 7 board operations had not been changed but there were some amendments.
Under the special meetings section, Becker asked if trustees could be provided with more information on agenda items so they can come to the meetings armed with relevant knowledge, rather than walking in blind.
WRPS Superintendent of Schools Terry Pearson felt Becker’s request complicates the board’s ability to hold a special meeting on short notice. “If somebody comes up with a (large) issue there’s no way we can get all that agenda stuff done.”
“We’re not going to be able to call an emergency special meeting,” added Coun. George Ollenberger.
Becker says she was not referring to a complete agenda but would like as much information as possible if a minimum of two days notice is given before the meeting.
Policy 7 also calls for all votes the board makes to be recorded. “It seems like when boards start to record votes on some motions and not others it seems like you’re giving additional attention to some motions,” said Gunderson.
Along with recorded votes, a record should be kept of when trustees enter and exit the meeting room. Erickson felt that portion of the policy was “silly” and trustee Shauna Bruno says she thinks it would be “rude” for a councillor to interrupt a discussion to leave just so it can be recorded.
However, Gunderson told the board recorded votes and exit and entry times must go hand in hand.
Policy 7 was approved as amended.
During the board’s special meeting trustees engaged in a number of shorter discussions regarding other board policies. For coverage please see related story.