First of all let me thank you for your time and commitment to the problems, and specifically our areas issues, with the Halifax Regional School Board.
When we first received word of your unqualified support for public consultation, I had hoped that the HRSB elected board and staff would hear your message and abide by it. Unfortunately, it must now be clear to you and all observers that neither board nor staff are prepared to act in good faith and actually allow consultation to take place. Allow me to review what has happened in the last two weeks.
On November 29th the HRSB directed “Senior Staff and the Superintendent to consult with the SAC’s and report back to the board as soon as possible”.
On December 1st, you affirmed your support for this process and declared your expectation that the SACs “would tell the superintendent they want further consultation”.
Unfortunately, as of December 11, we have been told that Superintendent Carole Olsen has decided that she will not be meeting with SACs, and in fact will conduct closed door meetings between herself and only the SAC Executives.
This is not in keeping with the HRSB’s own motion, or the direction provided by your Department. There is no potential for meaningful outcomes when staff and board conducting these limited, closed door meetings, which do not constitute meaningful consultation with all stake holders, all with every outward appearance of intention to manipulate the outcomes of these meetings.
On December 5th, members of the area SACs were informed that HRSB had begun the site selection process, and were proceeding with planning for the new school. Additionally, SAC members were told to tell parents that the “senior staff” had said that if they did not accept the new school, that our area “would get nothing.”
This is a full five days after your statement, Minister, and over a week after the elected board made its motion.
Once again, our faith that there may be some kind of possibility of working within HRSBs structure with staff or Board was shaken. Clearly the HRSB is determined to go ahead with this construction regardless of the outcome of the direction to consult the SACS.
On December 13, you stated of the HRSB elected board that “these people are elected to represent the people, and if the people are unhappy with that representation, then under the Education Act I can take some steps.”
No more than three hours after you made this statement, District 11 Board member Deborah Brunt put forward a notice of motion specifically targeting our area schools for special, punitive treatment. Ms Brunt said in her notice that she made it in part because “the community has expressed concerns regarding the size of the school with respects to the student population”.
Why the member from St Margarets/Prospect feels compelled to speak on behalf of my community without consulting any of us is unknown. While she grew up in our community many years ago she is no longer a part of it, and has not taken the time to consult with our community to find out what we hope will happen.
Once again, I was disappointed, but no longer surprised, that our point had entirely been missed, or ignored. Size of the school is but one of the concerns we want addressed through meaningful public consultation. We as parents and voters who are concerned with this issue have been threatened by this vindictive motion for almost two weeks, as Ms Brunt made no secret of her intention to single our schools out for special treatment. I have attached a copy of her email correspondence to me below.
Minister, this is a difficult issue you are working to solve on behalf of area residents and all residents served by HRSB.
At one time I would have asked you to freeze construction until you were satisfied the public consultation had been undertaken. I would also have requested that you consider directing and insisting all school boards to conduct a process of meaningful public consultation that involves the public, municipalities and school board before creating a capital plan. I would have urged you to reject the current HRSB Proposed Capital Plan that your department has not yet approved.
However, in light of the latest series of events, I feel I must I urge you to dissolve the elected board, take steps to place the Board under management and begin the necessary house cleaning that will follow. I for one no longer have any confidence that HRSB as currently composed will listen to the community, the parents, and to you.
Thank you for all your hard work on this issue,