Vision Trustees Lombardi, Bacchus with NDP MLA Simpson (l) at yet another anti-government rally
A non-partisan special adviser appointed by the BC government has released her report, and it is a scathing indictment of the Vision/COPE Vancouver school board. It cites lack of management experience, a "reactive" political strategy, lack of any longterm vision, and even identifies a conflict of interest from a Vision Vancouver trustee.
Here are a few quotes from the report produced by Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland, Comptroller-General.
The current Board of Trustees has not demonstrated they have the management capacity to effectively govern the Vancouver School Board or fulfill all of their accountabilities and duties of the Act. This is evidenced by the quality of board discussions, their focus on short term decisions at the expense of long term sustainability, the lack of strategic and long term plans, and an unbalanced focus on advocacy versus financial stewardship, delaying decisions that would see the effective use of existing or available resources.
We also identified a potential conflict of interest on the part of a trustee between their business interests and their obligations as a board member, in contravention of the School Act.
We were surprised to find that some trustees choose not to avail themselves of training opportunities. The Board of Trustees working with the District Management Team could improve its knowledge and capacity.
The Vancouver School Board does not have a long term strategic plan which would link Vancouver School Boardâ€Ÿs educational and business priorities and align its actions and allocation of funding with those priorities.
On the Board's financial position, the Comptroller-General comments:
The Vancouver School Boardâ€Ÿs balance sheet is healthy, it is in a strong cash position, and its current accumulated surplus is substantial; in fact it is the largest of all the Metro Vancouver school districts. It does not have significant debt and has no tangible long term liabilities.
On budget-making, she adds:
Despite management advice to support longer term decision making, some of the Board of Trusteesâ€Ÿ choices have created significant budget pressures. Collectively, these choices have created a structural deficit, which added about $8 million in annual budget pressures in 2009/10.
Wenezenki-Holland also suggests (quelle surprise!) that there were some political shenanigans using the VSB website:
The Vancouver School Boardâ€Ÿs posting of its budget information and financial performance is not transparent. The pessimistic preliminary budget is posted prominently on the website, but the amended budget and the year-end financial statements are more difficult to locate.
The conflict of interest the Comptroller-General cited concerns Trustree Sharon Gregson, who also works for a daycare affected by board decisions.
In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid stated, "I am troubled that the board's governance practices have led to poor choices that have diverted millions of dollars from the classroom."
For Vision Vancouver, this report is a huge embarrassment. It cuts across the party's decision to cooperate with COPE, to embrace a controversial former COPE Trustee in their caucus, and points out the lack of good judgment in their ranks.
The Vision-COPE allied school board was set up for the sole purpose of acting on the wishes of radicals in the BC Teachers Federation and their subsidiary organizations like VESTA, and not for advocating for children and parents. By allowing former BCTF President David Chudnovsky as their chief power broker, COPE have become essentially the elected arm of the Teachers' union.
By masking themselves as a party of the centre Vision Vancouver ably achieved majorities in City Hall, the Park Board and on School Board. As governers of the School Board they've focused solely on using the tools of political agitation, rather than developing an appropriate direction for our schools in support of kids and parents.
Board Chair Patti Bacchus will no doubt go on the offensive, rather than listen to the recommendations of the Comptroller-General. As with this Tweet to me, she cannot help but lay blame on others. It's time finally for some real leadership from Vision Vancouver. Perhaps, Mayor Robertson, you can pull aside your self-destructing set of school trustees and tell them to focus on our kids?
- post by Mike