PH-Press Release”Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?”(School closures)

We are sending this press release in response to the Infotel article, last evening in which Wendy Hyer has apparently already decided what to do with the funding from MLA Ashton… http://infotel.ca/newsitem/funding-inadequate-to-keep-schools-open-in-okanagan-skaha-school-district/it31202

Penticton Herald

Important Press Release

“Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?”

In a promising announcement on Tuesday morning, MLA Dan Ashton stated that the Ministry expected School District 67 to use funding provided to prevent the closures of local elementary schools. The message was loud and clear as Ashton spoke in front of the school board office building. He specifically referenced reversing the closure of Trout Creek School, due to strong neighborhood growth. He praised the work of parents and the multitude of financial alternatives to school closures presented by qualified citizens (CPAs, Auditors, Managers) during the consultation process. The Board did not implement a single suggestion. Ashton formally joined citizens requesting a third party review of the closure process and he wants that review done by a Special Adviser that the Ministry is willing to provide. The school board must agree to accept the offer before an appointment can be made.

With these pending decisions to rescind the closures, it is more important than ever to ask, “Who is running the School Board?”. It appears to be Superintendent Wendy Hyer. In a news article released less than 7 hours after the funding announcement, Hyer has already allocated the quarter million dollars to fit her own agenda, “this additional $266,000 allows us to balance our budget without adding to the structural deficit,” she said. Since she was seen conversing with Secretary Treasurer Roller-Routley during MLA Ashton’s speech, perhaps she missed a very important message. Due to the research and efforts of the citizens, the Ministry has listened and acknowledges the important role of the two neighborhood elementary schools, requesting they remain open to spare the impact on both students & their communities.  “I am very pleased to deliver more than $266,000 in funding to help the cause. It is now time for the school district to respond and reopen at least one of these schools, if not both,” said Ashton.

This is not the first time that Hyer has appeared to be the “Tail Wagging the Dog”. In emails accidentally cc’d to a parent, Hyer appears to give an administrative directive to the Trustees not to respond to questions and to seek legal advice after a failed attempt at rescinding an email. Hyer wrote,“Would not support this request. Please refer to our advice from legal counsel…in fact, Bonnie may want to seek advice from council”. The Ombudsmen has been asked to review this matter, since a School Board should be directing its administration, not the other way around.

It is fundamentally important that a Board of elected officials acts as a political entity responsive to the electorate, not an administrative body responsible to the Superintendent. The School Board is mandated to make decisions based on educational objectives that are in the best interests of the students, not the sole interest of Superintendent Hyer’s agenda. The BCSTA defines the role of school boards, “Trustees engage their communities in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. School trustees listen to their communities; boards are directly accountable to the people they serve.” 

The largest flaw in the decision making process by School District 67 has been the sham of public consultation. It obviously never truly existed. Since 2002, school boards have complete autonomy, operating free and clear of any checks and balances, or any financial oversight. If SD67 appears to be run solely by an administrator, it is in a precarious situation that can easily fall into “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. With no accountability, salary raises were given to the Trustees, administration, & Hyer herself ($17,000 – her total compensation now exceeds the salary of the Premier) …all during a year in which SD67 is the ONLY district in the province slated to close 3 schools.

In light of this, it seems likely that the abundance of meetings that were in-camera & closed to the public during the process were to deprive the public of it basic rights of observation & questioning, and move forward the decisions of the Superintendent…and perhaps the “Tail Wagging the Dog” is just another “Whoopsie” to add to the list??