Ex-school board members pan South Shore reduction plan
BRIDGEWATER — Five members of the fired South Shore regional school board spoke at a Utility and Review Board hearing in Bridgewater on Monday into reducing the size of the school board.
All five were opposed to the proposed reduction, despite a 10 per cent decline in student enrolment.
Marg Forbes agreed the board does need to consider “going down a little bit,” particularly in light of an overall population decline, and she said there is a feeling that “we are somewhat over-governed.”
But she said cutting the board to six seats from 10 is going too far, and the other four former board members who spoke agreed. (The designated African-Nova Scotia elected seat and the First Nations appointed representative would be kept.)
The former board members also said such a recommendation should come from an elected board, not from Judith Sullivan-Corney, the one-person board Education Minister Ramona Jennex appointed after dissolving the former board last November for breaching the Education Act.
A Deloitte audit late last year found that some members of the former board had breached the act’s code of ethics and bylaws, had undermined staff and were not acting in the best interests of students across the whole region.
Jennex said the actions of a few reflected on the whole board, which is why she disbanded it and appointed Sullivan-Corney in its place.
Former board chairman Elliott Payzant, who is expected to reoffer in the Oct. 20 election, said he’s “not completely” opposed to reducing the size of the board, but “I also feel very strongly this is not the appropriate time for a substantial
One of Deloitte’s criticisms was that some members of the former board championed schools in their own constituencies instead of taking into account what was best for all students.
Payzant said reducing the board by one member “might be reasonable, but I feel very strongly anything further should happen only after careful consideration and deliberation by a fully elected board.”
Forbes agreed, and said cutting four seats is “too drastic.”
She was also concerned about the time frame given for public consultation before the school board took its recommendation to the review board for approval. She said it shows “some lack of respect” to anyone considering running for a school board seat in October not to know by mid-June how many seats that board will have.
Karen Reinhardt, a target of the Deloitte audit, has said she’ll reoffer. She made an eight-page presentation Monday and said she is part of a small ad hoc group that opposes shrinking the school board’s numbers.
“We are very concerned a smaller board would be detrimental to the democratic right to involvement and participation in educational issues,” she said.
Reinhardt said she feels access to a board totalling only eight members (including the two designated seats) would be “severely limited” and result in a “greater disconnection” between the community and the school board.
She accused the board of not properly advertising its public meetings to discuss a reduced school board, and she said Sullivan-Corney’s contention that those consulted favour a smaller board isn’t true.
“I see very little concrete evidence of it anywhere,” Reinhardt said. “It’s all hearsay as far as I can see.”
In fact, Reinhardt said her group designed its own public opinion survey and it showed 75.4 per cent of those who responded were in favour of reducing the board by just one member.
Reinhardt did not say how scientifically accurate the survey is, but she told the review board that the best evidence it has of public opinion is her group’s poll.
Former board members Max Rafuse and Herbert Seymour both felt a smaller board would mean fewer ideas coming to the table.
Review board spokesman Paul Allen said its policy is to have a ruling out within 90 days. But a look at similar reviews showed a decision often takes only a couple of weeks.