Why the parents in Medicine Hat feel shut out.

Why the parents in Medicine Hat feel shut out.

Early this week, the message to include parents was brought to the Alberta Legislature. Thousands in Medicine Hat had been shut out by our elected Trustees. The local Media, and NDP activists took to deliberately twisting that message to suggest that parents wanted the ability to ‘out’ their children. That is not the case. Parents have been silenced by municipal, and provincial government, and anyone that stands up is smeared and harassed, or even threatened. No large media would even talk about what is going on in Medicine Hat, so we were left with little options.

There is a lot of history to why parents believe their School Board isn’t listening, and even actively suppressing parental involvement. So I’ve listed here a brief timeline. The appeal on March 13th was a culmination of all the actions that were taken by the Board. At any time they could have turned around and given open opportunity for genuine conversation, and parents would have accepted it. They unfortunately chose not to. The Board has not been working for the people, but for the provincial government. As public servants, they represent the will of the parents to the education ministry, not the will of the education ministry to the parents. They are bound to follow the law, but beyond the law, their actions are meant to be the will of the electorate. The democratic majority.

2016

  1. – February 23rd  Regular Meeting
  2. – Board discuses draft of policy 621 & 622. Promise to notify parents of dates and questions for  planned discussion with students about policies.
  3. – March 16th Notice given of restriction to 5 minutes speaking time. – In violation of board policy 203.2
  4. – March 22nd Regular Meeting – Delegations give 5 minute speeches (I am one of those delegates.)
  5. – March 29th Special Meeting – Ratify Policy 621 & 622, a promise to hold a town hall was made.
  6. – April 19th Regular Meeting – No town hall on agenda.
  7. – May 14th First notice of restricted public meeting – Violation of notice requirements in school act.
  8. – May 17th Regular meeting – Format for public meeting given only after request.
  9. – May 18th Request for copy of permission slips/notice for discussions that was promised in February
  10. – May 24th Public meeting – 3 questions asked of the public. Negative feedback discouraged. Trusstees do no answer concerns, nor speak at meeting.
  11. – June – Dr. Prince follows procedure to present to the board. Superintendent disallows it.
  12. – August 31st – Procedures implemented for 621 & 622 in a closed meeting.
  13. – September 19th Petition submitted to Secretary
  14. – September 20th Regular Meeting
  15. – Substantial policy changes & violation of SD76’s policy on posting of documents.
  16. Banning of all recording at public meetings without permission.
  17. – October first week – A teacher from the MH High School is intimidated because he was a witness and signed the petition. Told he was in violation of contract, despite signing on off time, before policies were in place. Info from the petition was obviously shared among administration.
  18. – October 7th Petition rejection letter given – Date of letter does not match date received.
    110 signatures of 2034 found to be out of region.
    259 signatures rejected for being only a postal code.
    Section 269 1(a) or school act not checked.
    Secretary says petitioners cannot have their petition back.
  19. – October 11th  Regular Meeting – Board officially rejects petition.
  20. – October 14th  E-mail requesting clarification sent to Secretary
  21. – October 17th Secretary refuses to give clarification
    Also refuses to examine petition for all avenues of sufficiency. (Section 269 1(a))
  22. – October 21st Appeal Application Filed. – Speak to Date set for November 17th
  23. – October 24th Notice of application of appeal given to Secretary and witnessed
  24. – November 8th First Contact with SD76’s lawyer of record
  25. – Request was made to postpone Speak to Date until today November 24th.
  26. – November 17th Speak to date, date of appeal set for March 10th.
  27. – December Board Meeting – After the meeting the Secretary finally gives some details on the rejected signatures. Threatens financial action against me for being “Frivolous and Vexatious” if I do not drop the appeal.

2017

  1. –  January 26th – ASBA lawyer makes similar threat. States they will be pursuing costs.
  2. –  March 10th  –  Appeal is heard by Justice Tilleman. Tilleman suggests that he will rule in favour of the board on the postal code contention, but states that the petition is the property of the petitioners, and can be amended and resubmitted contrary to the Secretaries statement that the petitioners could not do so. Effectively making whether the Justice overturns the secretaries decision a moot point, as it would be easy to collect the 110 signatures and fix the postal codes. Justice Tilleman reserves his decision on the matter until April 13th 2017.  Approx 100 concerned citizens back the court room. Requests for costs not mentioned during appeal. (However they were asked for in the Brief by the Respondent.)

Shortly after the decision was rendered last Thursday April 13th, 2017, Board chair Rick Massini shared the following comments in a chat news article:
“Massini says the board has been diligent with involving parents in the drafting of the policies, noting the policy has been discussed at the school council level, and a school council representative sits on the SD76 board.

“Parents in effect have direct access to policy development through their representative from the council of school councils,” he said.

The board also had three public meetings and a town hall in regards to the LGBTQ policy, says Massini.

Massini says SD76 is currently in the process of updating its LGBTQ policies, which it does each year. Massini adds the board is responsible for representing all students.”

Now these statements are effectually true, but they are not the whole truth. The 3 public meetings Massini spoke of were board meetings. All of which the public was not allowed to speak, save for the delegations that were given 5 minutes instead of the 15 granted in policy. The delegates were also not allowed to ask questions of the board, only answer if a question is asked of them. These meetings were ‘open’ to the public, as is the law, but the public was not open to engage the board. The only reason the public was even able to speak on March 29th, 2016, was because those that came refused to just sit by while the Board passed a policy that put their children at risk, and over extended the authority of the Board and Administration.

The whole truth about the so called “Town Hall,” is that it was in fact NOT a town hall. District Superintendent Mark Davidson, fresh to his new position, and during my first time meeting him, stated, “This is not a Town Hall.” But don’t take my definition of a Town Hall, here is the definition of a Town Hall courtesy of Merriam-Webster (emphasis mine)

 “:  an event at which a public official or political candidate addresses an audience by answering questions posed by individual members Town halls have lost some of their spontaneity. The 80 or so undecided voters chosen for Tuesday’s event must submit their questions in advance and moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will decide which people to call on. — Connie Cass”

The public meeting in May, which was sprung on residents of Medicine Hat with little notice, (less than what is outlined in the School Act,) did not allow for any answers to questions, and did not allow for direct communication between Trustees and the Public. It told the public what questions were being asked, and how to answer them. Not a single person who went to that meeting honestly called it a Town Hall. Not even Mark Davidson.

But this is how the current culture in government and education system works. They take a word, or phrase that has a common understanding, and make up a new meaning for it. They conveniently don’t tell the person that is hearing or reading it, that the meaning they think it has, does not in fact have the meaning intended. This is deception without a lie. It is the perverse manipulation of language to fool someone into accepting what was said.

We saw this with how the NDP government twisted the message of ‘include parents.’ The media and the NDP government took those words, applied their own made up meanings and understanding, and said that the message was “out the gays.” This is intentional deception, and unbecoming of those in authority. Whether journalist, trustee, or deputy premier, and might I say, a violation of oaths.

But let us get back to Massini’s comments. There is just one more truth I would like to point out. The ‘review’ of 622. There are a couple little tid bits that were left out. 1. As part of this years review, the Board wants to take out the yearly review on the policy, and 2. the only change they are making is that they will “without coercion, encourage children to speak to parents.” Also of note, is that at no time during this process did the Board ask parents what they thought should be changed. Not one of the parent councils that I heard from even conveyed that that was an option.

On the parent council’s being part of the process. I think you should know, that by the Trustees own admission some of the parent councils were not even going to bring it up with parents that the policy was open for review. One trustee engaged in ‘informing’ a parent council that ‘their is nothing to be concerned with’ in the policy, and to just pass it. One parent council didn’t even know that procedures existed for the policy, and were implemented in August of 2016. This is not even considering the fact that most, if not all parent councils have employees of the district sitting on them, and they ARE NOT ALLOWED to disagree with the board or they may have their employment terminated.

A public meeting, with a committee being formed, in a formal process under the School Act, is the ONLY way parents in Medicine Hat have any hope of being openly and honestly heard and to hold the Board accountable to that feedback.

Ask yourself this. Why does the board not want to let parents speak to them, why do they not want to ANSWER parents on the record, and why do they want to suppress discussion of and remove the yearly review of the first controversial policy in the districts history.

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