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News Item

Ministry of Education Recommendations to the Board

May 14, 2018

NVSD_logo_letter_may14.jpgThe North Vancouver School District has responded to a Freedom of Information request regarding Dr. Lee Southern’s report. Please find the information that was provided today in response to the request.

North Vancouver School District – FOI request re Board fees for governance and professional services

Over the period December 2014 to March 8, 2018, the North Vancouver School District’s total cost for all advice and professional services in connection with governance and the matters referenced in Lee Southern’s February 2, 2018 report was $199,250. Although this exceeds the District’s previous expenditure on such services, these fees fell within the District’s budget and have since significantly declined. This sum includes fees for general advice on governance that the School District would generally expect to incur in providing supports to the Board.

One of the benefits of a democratically elected Board is that each Trustee brings their own perspective, opinions and values to the table as a reflection of the electorate. This diversity can create conflicts that require professional advice and support for resolution and ongoing good governance.

Throughout their term, the Board has focused on governing the delivery of education to enable all learners to achieve their potential by acquiring the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy society and prosperous and sustainable economy. They continue to focus on their fiduciary and statutory duties to provide world-class education to North Vancouver students.

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Please find the NVSD Board of Education Progress Report to Minister of Education Flemming as per Dr. Southern’s recommendations.


April 30, 2018
The Honourable Rob Fleming Minister of Education
PO. Box 9045, Stn. Prov. Govt.
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Dear Minister Fleming:

The North Vancouver Board of Education is pleased to provide the following progress report. The Board's focus, as always, has been to govern the delivery of education to enable all learners within our School District to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy society and a prosperous and sustainable economy.

We believe we have made good progress against both the recommendations outlined in the Ministry's report on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 ("Report") and our core educational governance focus.

Progress Against Ministry of Education Recommendations:

In response to the recommendations in the Report, the Board of Education offers the following updates:

  • The preparation of a new Handbook of Trustee Governance is well underway and will be ready for the election and induction of the next Board of Education (2018-2022) for their reference and guidance.
  • In response to Recommendations #1 and #2, all Board meetings have been public and open, with the exception of those meetings pertaining to in-camera topics including legal, land, contract and personnel discussions as legally required for the benefit of the School District and students.
  • The Chair, along with Dr. Southern, has met with all Trustees individually to reinforce their personal responsibilities related to board relations as suggested in Recommendation #3.
  • In response to Recommendation #4, an offer of voluntary confidential mediation by an external professional mediator has been made to address the concerns of an unnamed Trustee. The Chair has re-confirmed to the unnamed Trustee that a written complaint must be submitted before the Board can formally act.
  • It is unnecessary to address Recommendation #5 as no complaint has been put forward at this time.
  • As noted in the Report, the Board has been and continues to fulfill its statutory and fiduciary duties.

Progress Towards Educational and Student Goals:

  • Our Board and staff have been working closely with the Ministry on important seismic projects. With the Ministry's funding for the full replacement of Handsworth Secondary School, we have invested more than $111 million in Capital Projects to ensure all School District schools are seismically safe. We will need to complete only one more seismic upgrade to achieve this goal and are working with the Ministry to get this project underway shortly.
  • We anticipate the new Handsworth Secondary School will open and welcome students by 2021.
  • Construction of the replacement Argyle Secondary School will begin imminently and will be open for the 2020/2021 school year.
  • Both of these new schools will not only be seismically safe, but also environmentally sustainable, energy efficient and designed to support teaching and learning spaces that support the new curriculum and 21st century learning to give students the best possible educational experience.
  • Our District continues to follow best practices in educating and supporting our students on mental health and mental illness. We are nearing the end of the second year offering a Grade 9 Mental Health Literacy course which has been very well received. We will pilot other mental health programs to support our students' mental and emotional wellness in the coming school years.
  • We have successfully introduced and implemented the new K-9 curriculum and supported teachers through both this curriculum transition and the reinstated class size and composition standards in the same school year.
  • We continue to develop new strategies to communicate student achievement and student self- reflection on the core competencies.
  • We continue to work on Indigenizing the Curriculum and meaningful Reconciliation with our First Nations Partners on the North Shore. We look forward to an official kyactn [Welcome Pole] raising ceremony on June 15th where we will celebrate this achievement with our larger community.

We thank the Ministry for your ongoing interest and support of our Board, staff and students in North Vancouver. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

NORTH VANCOUVER BOARD OF EDUCATION

Christie Sacré Chair

cc      Trustees
          Mark Pearmain, Superintendent
          Georgia Allison, Secretary Treasurer
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At the public Board meeting of February 20, 2018, the Chair of the Board advised the public that the recommendations from the Ministry of Education to the Board of Education would be made public on February 28, 2018. Please find:

  • The North Vancouver Board of Education response to the recommendations
  • The Ministry of Education Recommendations

Public Statement from the North Vancouver Board of Education on the Ministry of Education Recommendations

February 28, 2018

After a public newspaper report in the North Shore News in November 2017, the Ministry of Education was contacted to provide support for the North Vancouver Board of Education. Dr. Lee Southern, former Executive Director of the British Columbia School Trustees Association, was contracted by the Ministry of Education to provide recommendations to the Minister of Education to support the governance of the North Vancouver School District. Six recommendations were provided by the Ministry of Education to the Superintendent of Schools on February 15, 2018 (see below). The Board of Education was provided the recommendations for their consideration on February 20, 2018.

After meeting and discussing as a whole, the North Vancouver Board of Education has accepted, and will implement Recommendations #1, #3, #4, #5, #6 and Bullet 2 of Recommendation #2. The Board will not implement Bullets 1 and 3 of Recommendation #2 at the current time for the following reasons:

Recommendation #2 – Bullet 1:

The North Vancouver Board of Education appreciates the recommendation to formally review Trustee governance roles and standards of acceptable Trustee behaviour. In this term the Board has participated in governance workshops facilitated by the British Columbia School Trustees Association, Eli Mina (Parliamentarian consultant), and other experts in the field. The Board believes a further meeting and/or presentation would not provide any new information for review. Instead the Board believes it would be more beneficial to focus its efforts on Bullet 2 of Recommendation #2 which is the new Handbook of Trustee governance.

Recommendation #2 – Bullet 3:

The North Vancouver Board of Education believes at this time it would be premature to schedule a Trustee review meeting prior to the completion of the implementation of the Recommendations. The Board will revisit Bullet 3 at a later date.

The Board continues to focus on fulfilling its fiduciary duties as outlined in the School Act in support of Public Education in North Vancouver. We appreciate the support and guidance that the Ministry of Education has provided and look forward to providing an update to the Ministry at the end of April on the work that is being completed.

Sincerely,

NORTH VANCOUVER
BOARD OF EDUCATION
Christie Sacré
Chair

Ministry of Education Recommendations

Recommendation 1

That the Chair and Superintendent cease holding any further closed meetings of trustees until the end of current trustee term of office (exceptions: official in‐camera meetings as legally required).

Recommendation 2

That the Chair hold three closed board meetings (February‐June period) focussed on specific governance subjects:

  • (trustees only) to clarify and re‐inforce the necessity for all trustees' compliance with the individual trustee's governance role to represent all members of the education community and the larger public; and to conduct themselves according to standards of acceptable trustee behaviour;

  • (trustees, superintendent and secretary treasurer) to deliberate on the new handbook of trustee governance conduct currently being drafted by the Superintendent;

  • (trustees, superintendent and secretary treasurer) to conduct an end of term, informal, self‐ evaluation of board governance performance.

Recommendation 3

That, prior to holding the above recommended closed meetings, the Chair meet with each trustee individually to re‐inforce their personal responsibilities for improving board working relations.

Recommendation 4

That the Chair offer Trustee A voluntary confidential mediation conducted by an external professional mediator to resolve her harassment complaint; and reconfirm the Chair's earlier statement to Trustee A that a written complaint must be submitted before the Board can formally act. (If a claim is filed and the Board determines its substance is within Board jurisdiction, the Board has an interim formal process available – in the attached document)

Recommendation 5

That, if and when a trustee harassment complaint is filed, the Chair request Trustee A and any trustee named in the complaint to take a leave of absence from board duties until any complaint process concludes.

Recommendation 6

That, being respectful of board autonomy and recognizing board governance responsibilities, the Ministry communicate these recommendations to the Chair and Superintendent with a request for a progress update by April 30, 2018 on what actions the Board decides to take on them along with any other steps the Board may initiate to strengthen its governance performance.

Ministry of Education Consultant Report: North Vancouver Board of Education Governance

Please note, redactions to the report were both provided by and occurred at the Ministry of Education. The North Vancouver School District received the redacted report from the Ministry of Education on Tuesday, March 6th, 2018.

Submitted by Dr. Lee Southern - 2 February 2018

In response to a Board request for support, the Ministry retained the Consultant to inquire into "the extent to which trustees are effective in carrying out their duties and identify any actual or potential problems with SD44 Board of Education governance and trustee behaviour.... provide a summary of findings...including developing recommendations to address any problem he identifies." (Education Ministry Contract No.: Cl8/3377).

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

* Key Finding: dysfunctional interpersonal trustee relations negatively impact the Board's performance of its governance duties.

First Case: [redacted] bullying behaviour towards staff and elected colleagues impairs the willingness of individual trustees to participate fully in board deliberations particularly in closed meetings ("trustee seminars"), over concern about personal attacks.

The Board is attempting to address interpersonal trustee relations through the development by the Superintendent of a new trustee handbook on trustee governance role, duties and responsibilities, and a Chair motion (23 January 2018-attached below) directing the Superintendent to provide information on current BC board of education practice on disciplining inappropriate trustee behaviour.

Recommendation 1

That the Chair and Superintendent cease holding any further closed meetings of trustees until the end of current trustee term of office (exceptions: official in-camera meetings as legally required).

Recommendation 2

That the Chair hold three closed board meetings (February-June period) focussed on specific governance subjects:

+ (trustees only) to clarify and re-inforce the necessity for all trustees' compliance with, the individual trustee's governance role to represent all members of the education community and the larger public; and, to conduct themselves according to standards of acceptable trustee behaviour;

+ (trustees, superintendent and secretary treasurer) to deliberate on the new handbook of trustee governance conduct currently being drafted by the Superintendent);

+ (trustees, superintendent and secretary treasurer) to conduct an end of term, informal, self evaluation of board governance performance.

Recommendation 3

That, prior to holding the above recommended closed meetings, the Chair meet with each trustee individually to re-inforce their personal responsibilities for improving board working relations.

Second Case: [redacted] publicly claiming "workplace sexual harassment and bullying" and threatening to file formal complaint with Board (reference: North Shore News article - 9 December 2017- attached below).

Recommendation 4

That the Chair offer [redacted] voluntary confidential mediation conducted by an external professional mediator to resolve her harassment complaint; and, reconfirm the Chair's earlier statement to [redacted] that a written complaint must be submitted before the Board can formally act. (If a claim is filed and the Board determines its substance is within board jurisdiction, the Board has an interim formal process available -attached below- which has been used in the above referenced First Case.)

Recommendation 5

That, if and when a trustee harassment complaint is filed, the Chair request [redacted] and any trustee named in the complaint to take a leave of absence from board duties until any complaint process concludes.

Other Findings:

*Threat to disrupt board performance:

Any continuing media exposure of trustee absences from meetings and harassment claims (reference: December North Shore News articles- attached below) threatens to have a potentially serious, negative impact on the Board's governance performance. As well, Board legal expenditures associated with trustee behaviour, if made public, could also have a deleterious effect on the Board's ability to perform its statutory functions.

  • Generally speaking, the Trustees, Superintendent and Secretary Treasurer are hopeful that the Board's working relations can be improved and each of those individuals provided the Consultant useful information towards that objective.

  • The Board has a very competent Chair and Superintendent both of whom are respected by all trustees and the chair/superintendent working relationship is positive and productive. This is a sine qua non element of all high performing boards of education. As well, the collective knowledge, skills and experience of the Board are more than adequate for its governing successfully.

*Despite the serious inter-personal dysfunction amongst the trustees, the Board is fulfilling its statutory and fiduciary duties. From a governance point of view, and for setting the stage for any further potential action from the Ministry, this is key.

*The Chair, Superintendent, Secretary Treasurer, and several trustees expressed the view that it would be helpful to have the Minister's continuing interest in and support for mitigating interpersonal trustee dysfunction.

Recommendation 6

That, being respectful of board autonomy and recognizing board governance responsibilities, the Ministry communicate these recommendations to the Chair and Superintendent with a request for a progress update by 31 March 2018 on what actions the Board decides to take on them along with any other steps the Board may initiate to strengthen its governance performance.

Concluding observation: If the Board can better manage its interpersonal trustee relations - a responsibility of each individual trustee (and the key objective of these recommendations) - its prospects of continuing to fulfil its statutory and fiduciary functions will be improved.

Consultant main activities

Consultant Interviews

Board Chair - 2 interviews

Superintendent - 2 individual interviews plus 2 interviews held jointly with Secretary Treasurer

Secretary Treasurer – 1 interview plus 2 interviews held jointly with Superintendent

Individual interviews views with each trustee (5 in person; 1 via telephone)

Human Resource Director

Consultant board meeting attendance

Board Seminar (closed) 9 January 2018

Board public meeting 16 January 2018

Related Documents

Chair Motion (16 January 2018): Trustee conduct-new trustee handbook

Board Process for Resolution of Code of Ethics Complaints

North Shore News articles: "North Van school trustee no-shows raise questions" (9 December 2017); "Ministry orders probe of North Vancouver school board" (2 February 2018)