The final board meeting of the school year saw a continuation of the chaos and dysfunction that has embroiled one rural Manitoba school division since a trustee presentation earlier this year set off alarm bells, and prompted the province to step in with a full governance review.

During the Dauphin-based Mountain View School Division (MVSD) board meeting last Monday, a resolution was brought forward by trustee John Taylor, and seconded by trustee Paul Coffey to make changes to the agenda that would allow deputy education minister Brian O’Leary to address the board at the meeting and take questions from trustees, regarding an ongoing provincial review of the board.

But it took almost 15 minutes to get the four votes needed from the division’s five current trustees to pass the motion, as board vice-chair Jason Gryba argued it would be an unacceptable departure of the existing board rules, and he accused the province of attempting the “bully” and “threaten” to get O’Leary on the agenda.

“I will say I am not in favor of this, we are under duress from the minster,” Gryba argued. “We are under threat actually that if we don’t allow these kinds of things they’re going to dissolve us, and I’m not sure if this is a threat that that’s what they’re going to do, or this is a test to actually adhere to our own governance.”

Gryba claimed “threats” were made to dissolve the board during a June 11 meeting held in Winnipeg where Altomare met with MVSD trustees to discuss the review.

“If they can threaten us and get in, they can threaten anyone and get in,” Gryba said.

That prompted a response from board chair Gabe Mercier who said he did “not appreciate” Gryba’s comments, and in a surprise move told trustees that if the motion did not pass and O’Leary was not able to speak, he would step down from his position on the board.

“I’m going to put my cards on the table regarding this and I’m just letting you know ahead of time, if we don’t get the votes I will resign, I am going to resign as chair and resign as a trustee,” Mercier said.

“We have to respect the office of the minister of education and of the province, we have to respect the institutions that we have. I think this is very important that we follow the directives of the department of education.”

MVSD has dealt with a slew of controversies since Coffey made a presentation to the board during an April meeting, where he made claims that residential schools were “good,” defended the use of the word “Indian” when referring to Indigenous peoples, and used the term multiple times while speaking, and questioned the need for Indigenous land acknowledgements in schools and events, calling them “divisive.”

That presentation led to Education Minister Nello Altomare calling for a governance review of the MVSD board, and that review continues as of this Tuesday.

Then on June 3, the board announced that superintendent Stephen Jaddock had been removed from his role as superintendent, after trustees Coffey, Gryba, Taylor, as well as Kerri Wieler voted to oust the superintendent.

One day later, the board then announced that “long-time” trustees Leifa Misko, Floyd Martens, and Scott McCallum had all tendered their resignations from the board effective immediately.

The motion did pass after almost 15 minutes of discussion at the meeting last week, and O‘Leary told the board that in Manitoba past similar governance reviews have led to one school board being dissolved in the last two decades.

“In the past 20 years, to my knowledge, this is the fourth time a full governance review had been done,” O’Leary said. “In one of the previous occasions, the minister of the day did invoke powers under the Public Schools Act.

“In two other cases, the governance review was resolved with the board implementing changes and recommendations from that review.”

Last month, the province also announced they had appointed a three-person oversight panel to “support” the MVSD board of trustees. The panel includes Manitoba Métis Federation cabinet minister Frances Chartrand, Brandon School Division trustee Jim Murray, and Manitoba Teachers’ Society staff officer Andrea Zaroda. O’Leary said last Monday there are also plans in the works to appoint a First Nations representative to the board.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Altomare did not confirm or deny if there were any threats to dissolve the MVSD board at the June 11 meeting, as was suggested by Gryba.

“The Minister took a balanced approach and offered to work with the board,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“The Minister appointed an oversight panel to assist the board and help them regain the confidence of their community and their stakeholders. The Deputy Minister met with board last Monday and introduced the oversight panel and reviewed terms of reference.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 02, 2024 at 18:12

This item reprinted with permission from    The Sun    Winnipeg, Manitoba
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