VANCOUVER, Oct. 17 /CNW/ - Vancouver teachers have serious concerns about
the rough-shod use of the rules of order by the NPA trustees during the
consideration the Vancouver Board of Education (VSB) Superintendent's report
on class size and class composition. This week, the NPA and COPE trustees
considered the Superintendent's report, which is required by the Ministry of
Education and documents classes over the class size and class composition
provisions in the School Act.
"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). "Our understanding of the rules of
order and the VSB by-laws is that it was not. But if you phone Chairperson of
the Board Ken Denike, he'll probably tell you that it was.
"We question the NPA trustee's use of the rules of order," she continues,
"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
1200 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, which VESTA and VSTA
feels was correct. 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.
"We are concerned that Chairperson Denike's final ruling was not in
keeping with the rules of order of the VSB by-laws" argues Glen Hansman. "Just
because a the NPA 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 its 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 its Local Capital Reserve, a so-called
"rainy day fund" which teachers feel should be used to address the 1200 +
class size and class composition overages in our elementary and secondary
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 problem?
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
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 democratic processes that the majority of
the NPA trustees are using," finishes Glen Hansman. "Does the NPA use similar
tactics at City Council and the Parks Board? VESTA will be seeking a legal
opinion on 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 firstname.lastname@example.org; Vancouver
Elementary School Teachers' Association: Glen Hansman, President, at (604)
873-8378, (604) 813-5318 (cell), or email@example.com