Sask. school board chairs call for 'cooling-off' reverse

By Glenn Hicks
December 19, 2017 - 3:00pm

A Prince Albert school board chair is hopeful a new SaskParty leader will help rescind changes to regulations that have annoyed school boards.

George Bolduc with the Catholic Division spoke after the recent Fall Assembly of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) in Regina.

“I think we have the support of the contenders for the premier’s office, so that’s why we’re hoping once a leader is in place… we can have their support,” Bolduc told paNOW.

The SSBA has unanimously called for the province to reverse a change that places a two-year cooling off period on former school employees who wish to run for a trustee position. Bolduc added board chairs are still concerned about the ministry’s ability to intervene in local board decisions.

Bolduc said he had met some of the leadership contenders himself and discussed the concerns with them.

Asked what the confidence level was among Saskatchewan school board chairs to chang things he said he was optimistic.

“You know we have to get along with them and they with us; it’s a two way street so we have to get along well, and we do. But [with] these two decisions, we want to have an answer as soon as possible,” he said.

Bolduc said the two-year cooling off period is not fair and does not apply to any other jurisdictional election process. He said people who’ve retired from school divisions are often very knowledgeable about how things work, and could be valuable trustees.

As for the province’s right to intervene in school board decisions, Bolduc said local boards are best-equipped to make the right call on matters.

“We know the inner workings of our school divisions and we know them best,” he said. “For the minister to step in when a decision is made locally it takes away our autonomy.”

Bolduc said school boards are still puzzled why these new regulations came down earlier this year and have not been given a clear reason by the ministry. He added "all of a sudden" there seems to be an issue where there was none before. 

In a statement earlier in the year president of the SSBA, Dr. Shawn Davidson called for “a full review of The Education Act, 1995, with the goal of having an updated piece of legislation that truly reflects the needs of the province going forward. We would like to see an entirely new act, developed based on collaboration, introduced next year.”

Meanwhile Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre is reviewing the cooling down period.

She was not available to answer questions from paNOW, but in an e-mailed statement her ministry said, "Minister Eyre is aware of concerns raised by the SSBA regarding the disqualification of member clause in The School Division Administration Regulations. The minister is committed to continued collaboration with the SSBA and board trustees and will be reviewing the ‘cooling down’ period over the course of the next few months."

Education critic for the opposition NDP, Carla Beck told paNOW there is still “no justification or explanation for the government’s changes to the Education Act which allows the ministry to override decisions of boards or prescribe rules like the [cooling-off period.]”

Beck highlights how unjust it seems for the government to insist on a cooling-off period for someone wanting to be a trustee and yet doesn’t apply the same rule to MLAs or others in the SaskParty seeking the highest office.

“We have the senior most public servant in Alanna Koch… looking to be the premier and yet not subject to any such cooling-off period.”

 

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