Dale Hudjik gave a quick overview of the aims of ARTES and why they were hosting this gathering. He spoke a bit about governance and then turned the mic over to Ray Martin, who emphasized the importance of the Board of Trustees being distinct from its administration, rather than an extension of it. He spoke about his experience as a trustee with EPSB and fielded some questions. He emphasized that trustees are politicians.
It was a great evening, with lots of energy in the room and I enjoyed connecting with new trustee candidates: I have many coffee dates lined up to continue the conversation and provide some advice.
This article is quite helpful in understanding some of the duties and obligations of the trustee, to act in an ethical manner regarding confidentiality and conflict of interest:
One piece of advice I would extend to new candidates is familiarize yourself with the O'Malley case (see #2 in above article- Conflict of Interest). Mr. O'Malley was a trustee with the Calgary Separate Board who took the unusual step of initiating a lawsuit against his own Board and was subsequently removed from the Board. The case is of interest because of the court's ruling on the fiduciary duty of a trustee.
To quote from the judge who ruled on the O'Malley case:
..Mr. O’Malley had a misguided understanding of to whom his fiduciary duties are owed...Mr. O’Malley wrongly believes that his duties are owed only to the people that voted for him...the fiduciaryduties are owed to the corporate body (the Board) which is, in turn, accountable to the Catholic ownership.” [para 109 - 110] (emphasis mine)
Whenever I have seen this quote, the last 9 words have been deleted. Without the accountability phrase, you might assume that trustees' ONE and ONLY fiduciary duty is to the Board and that they therefore have NO or LITTLE duty (accountability) to the public. The idea of a duty of care to the Board (and District) may at times appear to be in direct conflict with the wishes of one's electorate and if the idea of accountability to the public is not fully understood, new trustees, in particular, may be confused. I think when you read the entire phrase (and also understand the extreme measures that Mr. O'Malley took in trying to stop his Board from passing its budget, etc.), you arrive at a more well-rounded perspective.
In my view, there is nothing in the O'Malley case that would indicate that trustees should not (a) represent the views of their electorate (b) debate vigourously (c) disagree with their colleagues or offer different points of view and (d) consider themselves to be politicians. (Minister Hancock- please correct me if I'm wrong.)
In fact, this article would seem to agree with me:
"However, do not assume from these cases that Trustees have no voice or right to object vigorously.
Courts have stated elected representatives can form views and opinions and declare themselves on issues of public interest. They have gone so far as to say:
“Elected officials are and should be entitled to maintain and forcefully to express their views without fear of disqualification or unwarranted interference by the courts. In this case, however, any reasonably well-informed person acquainted with the facts would inevitably conclude, as Justice McMahon did, that Mr. O’Malley, by attacking the validity of core governance policies through the courts, has a personal conflict of interest...that likely would preclude him from bringing an unbiased mind to the performance of his Board responsibilities.” (O’Malley decision, paragraph 104, page 23)
“Mr. O’Malley had a shared public duty to advance the work of the Board, which included deliberating on and passing a yearly budget. Yet he tried to halt the Board’s budget work, thus putting his private interest in conflict with his shared public duty to carry out the responsibilities and work of the Board...trustees collectively and individually owe a public duty to carry out their responsibilities and the work of the Board in good faith and with reasonable diligence. They are elected for that purpose. They need not be of like mind. They may hold strong conflicting views. They may debate with vigour, and occasionally with rancour. There is no rule requiring trustees to like each other. But they do have one overarching responsibility -- a shared public duty to advance the work of the Board to which they had the privilege of being elected. A trustee who chooses to personally engage his Board in litigation concerning the Board’s fundamental operations places a private interest ahead of a public duty...A trustee who cannot in good conscience continue to perform that duty has a choice. He can resign his position and regain the elector’s right to challenge the Board in court. What he cannot do is remain and abandon his public duty to advance his private interest. He is unable, in those circumstances, to bring an unbiased mind to the performance of his public duty.” (Emphasis added)
Perhaps you see it differently, but, as far as I'm concerned, there is nothing in the O'Malley case that should stop a trustee from representing their electorate in their decisions, while balancing the needs of the entire District and preserving public education as a public good.
I've highlighted the above passage about being "free to express their views without fear of disqualification or unwarranted interference" because another case is also of note for new trustees: the instance where the Calgary Public Board was disbanded by the Minister of Education for being 'dysfunctional'. In this case, the in-fighting between board members seemed to be getting in the way of getting the job done. What exactly defines "dysfunction" is open to individual interpretation and without clear guidelines, it can breed a sense of discomfort about any sign of public disagreement. It can be used to justify conducting a great deal of work behind closed doors, in order to "smooth out any rough edges" before things appear in public. Perhaps the new School Act will articulate some clear expectations or guidelines in this area. It would certainly help new trustees feel confident in their role, if they could understand what constitutes "dysfunction" and also how their fudiciary duty to the Board intersects with (or complements?) their duty to represent the public who have elected them.
On March 21st, 2017, the Edmonton Public School Board board unanimously passed the following motion:
Be it resolved that the Edmonton Public School Board advocate to the Government of Alberta to develop a framework to ensure Public schools get a fair and equitable share of schools, modernizations, portables, and capital project spending.
- All schools, portables modernizations, and capital funding to Public and Catholic schools are awarded by the provincial government (Education Minister).
- We lack transparent policy from the provincial government how schools are prioritized and awarded between different school districts.
- Public students and families across Alberta– especially in Edmonton– need their fair and equitable share of capital funding– especially for new schools
- Despite only 25% of Albertans being Catholic, the government appears to provide them an unfair and inequitable amount of school dollars, sometimes between 30-50%.
- Fairness and equity in transparent, defensible provincial decision-making would prevent unreasonably advantaging one group over another.
Depending on the years, the inequity might be worse. For example, looking at modernizations in 2006: 36% of the funding went to the Catholic District while 64% went to the Public District....Read more
The 2017 Edmonton municipal election is being held on Monday October 16th, 2017 from 9AM to 7PM. If you are unable to vote on the October 16th, there will be advanced voting held on Wednesday, October 4th. To find where to vote you can use the Where to vote tool available on the edmonton.ca/election website.Read more
As I started door knocking in May for my public trustee re-election campaign, one of the most frequent questions I received from teachers and parents (whether they had special needs students in their family or not) was: what do I think of changes to classroom composition?
When I decided to become a trustee candidate in 2010, I took the time to pen out my vision and values. Many of my beliefs and values surrounding public education were honed by researching for the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta and serving as the President of the Students’ Union at the University of Alberta. Both experiences grounded my vision and values in a belief in a strong public education system guided by the wishes of the community to ensure all voices are heard and every student can succeed....Read more
Southwest Edmonton Needs New Public Elementary, Junior and High Schools
Since I was first elected school trustee in 2010, advocating for the construction of new K-9 and High Schools— especially for the Southwest— has been a top priority. However, the responsibility for allocating new schools falls solely in the hands of the Provincial Government — not the school board or the city council. This has been the case since 1994, and it is important for you to know the board of trustees are exhausting every single opportunity advocate for new schools, and to make sure public school families get their fair share. Edmonton Public school families are competing for their fair share of school construction money against not only against Calgary and other rural Alberta communities but publicly-funded Catholic and Francophone schools as well. Your voice can help....Read more
When it comes to public education, Edmontonians speak with many voices. Over the past few months of door-knocking, I’ve had thousands of conversations about everything imaginable. Overwhelmingly, people have wanted to tell me about the important relationship between their school and their community, but I’ve also heard about school fees, the future of textbooks, and everything in between!Read more
As many readers know I’m a passionate supporter of EPL and a former 6 year Edmonton Public Library Trustee. So you can likely imagine my reaction to this exciting collaboration between EPL and EPSB!
I’m overjoyed by the fact that we are working together to improve early literacy and help even more kindergarten kids get free library cards!
The New City by John Lorinc: How the Crisis of Canada’s Cities is Reshaping Our Nation
I picked up THE NEW CITY by John Lorinc about two years ago and I still find myself referencing it once or twice a month. So many fantastic books on urban and city policy are American in scope, but this book examines everything through a uniquely Canadian lens. From aging populations to immigrants to crime to transportation issues to productivity– you name it– Lorinc touches on all of the pressure points affecting our communities and makes a convincing case that the future of our nation sinks or swims with our large urban centers.
I was immediately magnitized to his focus on LEARNING CITIES and the important role that public education plays in building strong cities. His LEARNING CITIES chapter gives an excellent synopsis of pressures facing public education– English language learners, school closures, growing urban aboriginal populations, lack of local control of funding, and much more.
His writing is as enjoyable to read as it is informative...Read more
Sadly, May 2015 concludes my service as a Trustee on the Edmonton Public Library Board. For the past six years (a two-year term renewed to a maximum of three consecutive terms) I have served as a community member in supporting policy governance for one undoubtedly one of the finest libraries in Alberta (Canada? The world? The cosmos?) and institutions in our city. You might say that it is the end of my renewals and it is time to lend the book to another trusted patron...