Is the VSB breaking its own by-laws in forcing through adoption of Superintendent's report on class size and class composition?

    VANCOUVER, Oct. 16 /CNW/ - On Monday evening, the Vancouver Board of
Education (VSB) considered the Superintendent's report on the Organization of
Classes - the report required by the Ministry of Education which documents
classes over the class size and class composition provisions in the School
    Teachers in attendance at the meeting have serious concerns about the
rough-shod use of the rules of order by the NPA trustees during the
consideration of that report.
    "Monday's meeting was quite the spectacle," says Glen Hansman, President
of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers' Association (VESTA).
    "We're not really sure whether or not the Superintendent's report was
adopted or not," continues Anne Guthrie-Warman, President of the Vancouver
Secondary Teachers' Association (VSTA). "If you phone Chairperson of the Board
Ken Denike, he'll probably tell you that it was. But we question the NPA
trustee's use of the rules of order, and are wondering if the board is in
compliance with its own by-laws. Given that overages in class size and class
composition in Vancouver schools is over 1000 classes, the confusion around
the issue will have to be investigated."
    In this particular situation, trustees Eleanor Gregory (NPA), Allan Wong
(COPE), Allen Blakey (COPE), and Sharon Gregson (COPE) voted against the
motion to receive and approve the Superintendent's report on the Organization
of Classes. Trustees Ken Denike (NPA), Shirley Wong (NPA), Don Lee (NPA), and
Clarence Hansen (NPA) voted in favour of the Superintendent's report. Trustee
Carol Gibson (NPA) abstained.
    Chairperson of the Board Ken Denike originally ruled that the motion to
receive and approve the Superintendent's report failed. But upon prompting
from those in ruled in favour, the board took a recess. After the recess,
Chairperson Ken Denike changed his ruling, interpreting VSB by-law 1.III.6. to
consider Carol Gibson's abstention to be in favour of the motion to accept the
Superintendent's report.
    By-law 1.III.6. reads as follows: "The Chairperson shall declare the
result of all votes; the names of those who voted for the question, the names
of those who voted against the question and the names of those who abstained
from voting on the question, shall be entered in the minutes. Any trustee who
fails to vote or abstains from voting shall be considered to have voted on the
prevailing side of the question."
    The COPE trustees at the meeting questioned this decision, as do Anne
Guthrie-Warman (VSTA) and Glen Hansman (VESTA), as a tie vote does not have a
"prevailing side" as described in the VSB by-laws.
    "The chairperson's final ruling was doubtful, at best," argues Glen
Hansman. "Just because a political party has a majority caucus on a board of
education does not mean it gets to spontaneously re-interpret by-laws and
Robert's Rules of Order."
    "For a moment, we were ecstatic, because it seemed that the
Superintendent's report was not adopted," continues Glen Hansman. "That would
be fantastic - because the limited amount of resources provided to Vancouver
schools have not been sufficient to provide appropriate learning environments
for all learners. Now it seems that the report was adopted anyway. The board's
use of it's own by-laws needs to be scrutinized carefully in these
circumstances - and because class composition and class size continue to be of
major concern in this district."
    As VSTA President Anne Guthrie-Warman pointed out at the meeting, the VSB
does have close to 7 million dollars in it's Local Capital Reserve, a
so-called "rainy day fund" which teachers feel should be used to address the
1000+ overages in our elementary and secondary schools.
    Similar dubious process occurred later in the meeting, when Chairperson
Ken Denike refused to consider a motion moved by Trustee Allan Wong during
space on the agenda entitled "Matters Arising from the Report."
    At the end of the meeting, the following questions were raised by VESTA
President, Glen Hansman:

    1)  If a member of the public has a concern that a board of education may
        not have followed its by-laws, what avenues are available to that
        member of the public to register that concern - with the expectation
        that the concern will be investigated and remedied if there is a

    2)  Do the VSB by-laws and/or rules of order define what is meant by
        "Matters Arising from the Report"? If, for instance a trustee wishes
        to move a motion related to an item in a committee report, do the by-
        laws and/or adopted rules of order all the trustee to do so?

    The answer provided by the Secretary-Treasurer to the first question was
that a complaint could be received by the VSB. The Chairperson of the Board,
Ken Denike, replied to the second question, saying that it was a matter of
interpretation, and that it would be up to the majority of the board to
sustain the chairperson if there was a concern about a given interpretation.
    "We have questions about the democractic processes that the majority of
the NPA trustees are using," finishes Glen Hansman. "We encourage the COPE
trustees to consider their options in this matter, and we will be forwarding
our concerns about the adoption of the Superintendent's report to the Minister
of Education."

For further information:

For further information: Vancouver Secondary Teachers' Association: Anne
Guthrie-Warman, President, at (604) 873-5570, or; Shaun van
der Hoop, Vice-President, at (604) 873-5570, or; Vancouver
Elementary School Teachers' Association: Glen Hansman, President, at (604)
873-8378, (604) 813-5318 (cell), or; Patricia Gudlaugson,
Vice-President, at (604) 873-8378, or

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