• Delegation at Board Meeting

    Proposed Changes to the WRDSB Delegation Process Expected Make it More Difficult to Voice Your Concerns

    The recent incident where some trustees tried to muzzle me and prevent me from speaking publicly before they ratified the 2014/2015 budget has brought their plan to make it much more difficult for parents to speak and voice their opinions at board meetings to the forefront of my mind.

    In January 2012 six trustees started hatching a plan to dramatically revise the delegation process. Months passed while they ‘fine-tuned’ their proposed amendments. On October 22, 2012, a final report came to the board of trustees with a recommendation that they approve the amendments to the Board’s Delegation Procedures (section 4.12 of the Board Bylaw Article 4).

    At that time, the majority of trustees decided to postpone their decision on these amendments until September 30, 2014. Trustees Marg Johnston, Kathi Smith, and Kathleen Woodcock objected to this postponement. This decision to postpone leaves open the ‘threat’ of trustees reducing the ability of stakeholders to voice their concerns, questions, and opinions in a timely manner.

    Current Delegation Process

    Currently, there is a deadline of Thursday Noon for preregistration to appear as a delegation at the following Monday evening meeting. The meeting agenda and reports to the board are made publicly available on Friday (usually early afternoon), and there is NO requirement to provide copies of your presentation until you show up Monday evening to present.

    What happens if something comes up in the agenda/reports that you wish to speak to? If there are less than 8 preregistered delegations, then you can show up on Monday evening and request the board’s approval to speak. This allows the opportunity for you to decide to appear as a  delegation AFTER you have had chance to review the agenda and board reports.

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    Proposed Delegation Process

    The proposed delegation process (to be considered on September 30, 2014, according to the Minutes) will require all delegations to be registered by Thursday Noon and registration is to INCLUDE a digital submission of their full presentation. This means you would have to prepare your presentation a full 100 hours before presenting it WITHOUT access to the relevant board reports (which are released on Friday).

    This proposed process would apply to both Committee of the Whole (COW) Meetings as well as regular Board Meetings. The only exception to the regular Board Meetings is that you can only appear as a delegation if you speak to something that is on the agenda.

    So what happens if something comes up in the agenda/reports that you wish to speak to? You would be out of luck. Last-minute delegations (i.e., arriving at the Monday meeting wishing to speak) would be eliminated. You would have to register as a delegation to appear at the next meeting. At this point, voicing  your opinion may be too late, if crucial decisions were already made.

    Proposed Delegation Timeline

    It is also interesting to note that the proposed changes would ultimately lead to elimination of all delegations at regular Board Meetings. Remember, at regular Board Meetings you can only speak to items on the agenda. But with the proposed process you have to register as a delegation (and write your presentation!) long BEFORE the agenda and board reports even become available on their website. So if you don’t have an ‘inside track’ on the agenda you will find yourself out of luck.

    Oh yes. One more critical proposed change. You won’t be able to appear as a delegation on the same topic more than once is a three month period – even if you are bringing new information.

    Things for Trustees to Consider

    Before making a decision on whether to support these proposed changes, trustees need to really consider what the purpose of changing the delegation process is really about. Media has suggested that the changes stem directly from the extended day debate where trustees were ‘inundated’ by parents wanting to have their say.

    My cursory research has not found a single school board in Ontario with such a restrictive delegation process.

    Taking away stakeholders’ ability to do relevant and timely presentations through the elimination of last minute delegations does not support the trustees’ advocacy role in helping bring parents’ and communities’ concerns forward.

    Hopefully this current Board of Trustees will, in fact, consider this decision very carefully when the time comes.

    “While democracy does not ensure that everyone will get exactly what they want, it does entitle everyone to a voice.”
    From page 33 of Good Governance: A Guide For Trustees, School Boards, Directors of Education and Communities

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