The board of education for School District 72 is considering a new way to take public input at meetings.
New chair Richard Franklin touched on the idea in his opening remarks at the first regular meeting of the new board since local government elections in October. The board had held an inaugural meeting on Nov. 6 for members to be sworn in as trustees.
On Tuesday night, Franklin set out some directions for the new board, including amending how the public can give input.
“One of my most important roles as chair is to maintain decorum at these meetings,” he said.
Current practice allows for questions from people in the gallery based on that meeting’s agenda. In recent months, the question portion of the meeting has regularly served as a forum for members of the public to comment on the Ministry of Education’s controversial SOGI 123 reference package, which critics have said impedes on parental rights.
Franklin said he has looked at how other school districts and municipal governments handle public input and suggested the board needs to refine its approach.
“These meetings are held in public, but they are not town hall meetings,” he said.
Later in the meeting, he brought up a proposal to amend the way public presentations are given.
“The board of education welcomes new ideas and opinions,” he said.
If approved, the plan will be for people wishing to address the board to fill out paperwork and provide any supporting documents in advance of the meeting. Franklin said the objective is to give trustees background information and allow presenters to provide a level of detail not possible at the meeting alone.
The trustees will have the chance to consider the idea in more detail in order to discuss it at the next regular board meeting when the actual motion is on the table.
Along with the issue of public input, Franklin outlined a number of upcoming priorities for the board, including the development of a strategic plan, the challenge of maintaining services for students through a prolonged period of under-funding and the rebuilding of Cedar Elementary.
“These are three important files that this board will need to address,” he said.
The new chair is also awaiting to see to the new funding model from the Ministry of Education and what this will mean to students in the future.
He also wants to look for new ways to hear from students themselves about their education.
“The board has a very busy four years ahead of it,” he said.
Franklin thanked a number of staff members, along with others who helped in the selection of new superintendent Jeremy Morrow.
“We have a great team supporting us,” he said.
Morrow, himself, spoke about some of the work happening of late, including an employee engagement survey, which had 84 per cent participation, he said, due to the efforts of stakeholders to encourage participation. The survey data is not available yet from BC Stats but should be in the near future.
“I know that will be important data for the board … as you look at data for the strategic plan,” he said.
The board of education currently oversees a budget of approximately $64 million for a district that includes some 5,400 students and just over 800 employees.
“We have an important role in this community, and I intend to bring that level of gravitas to these proceedings,” Franklin said.
At the meeting Tuesday night, the board also picked new trustee Kat Eddy as its representative to the BC Public School Employers’ Association and former chair Susan Wilson as its representative to the BC School Trustees Association Provincial Council.