Complete abdication

David Kircher

Dear editor:
The following letter is directed to Dan Belluz, chair of the Rainy River District School Board, and his fellow trustees:
You expressed concern in your last letter that I may misrepresent the board’s position on the missing funds at Fort High. In order for me to avoid that, let us review what I do know, starting in September, 2008.
1. From October, 2007 through to October, 2008, the minutes of all board meetings do not mention, refer to, or acknowledge that funds were missing from the high school account. Thus, all policies enacted by the board reflect the routine policy development process of the board with no connection to this event.
2. By mid-September, the chair, director of education, and three trustees relayed to me that the incident of missing funds at Fort High had been dealt with in closed sessions and that the issue, as far as the board was concerned, was closed.
3. Repeated requests to the board for the dates of the closed sessions of the board regarding these issues have not been answered. Were there, in fact, any meetings at all in this regard?
4. The chair indicated, immediately after my presentation to the board, that the board would respond to me directly—even though my request was for a public response. The chair stated that the board’s procedural bylaws required this of the board. The procedural bylaws of the board do not contain a requirement that the board must respond directly.
5. I also was advised that because this issue dealt with personnel, any discussions or presentations to the board must be “in camera” as indicated by the Education Act. The word “personnel” does not appear in that portion of the Education Act that allows a board to meet in closed session. In fact, except for the five subject areas described in the act, none of which apply to the subject incident, all board meetings must be open to the public.
6. The board also has indicated that it must remain silent due to the possibility of civil cases arising from this issue. In order for a party to have a civil claim, they must have been injured in some manner. In this case, it is, in fact, the board, representing the parents, students, and the taxpayers, that has been injured.
Whose voice should have been the strongest and most strident in seeking answers and accountability? The board’s!
7. The ongoing criminal case also has been used as an excuse by this board to remain silent. The information contained in the production order is publicly available and has not been restricted by the court. Therefore, a discussion of is contents cannot, as determined by the courts, impact the ongoing prosecution.
8. The board also has used the Municipal Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act as an excuse to remain silent on this issue. In fact, as with the Education Act, the aforementioned act allows for disclosure. Further, the information contained in the production order was not collected or compiled by the board. It is information that was provided to the board.
9. In terms of personnel, there have been no changes in the board’s personnel assignments that may be considered a result of the incident at Fort High, with one exception. As of September, 2008, a senior board administrator is now occupying a vice-principal position at Fort High, when the last position held by this board administrator was as principal at Fort High in January, 2005. Why?
10. Procedure 8.25 was in place and, as previously determined, was not consistently applied at multiple levels from March, 2004 to October, 2007.
This review of the board’s comments, together with the lack of any action taken by the board with regard to this incident, leaves one with the impression and opinion that this board has completely abdicated its fiduciary responsibility of oversight and accountability of and for the education system entrusted to it.
There appears to be no accountability required by this board for its management and administration’s effective implementation of board policies.
This has resulted in a serious erosion of community respect for, and taxpayer confidence in, this board.
David Kircher
Fort Frances, Ont.