School board examines code of conduct for trustees

Unruly school trustees could be sent to detention under terms of a new code of conduct in the works.

A policy committee of the board of the Okanagan Skaha School District heard last week that no such code, which would likely include expectations for behaviour and confidentiality, exists now.

The top-end punishment for breaking the rules would be censure.

“Essentially it takes the trustee out of the voting realm so they no longer have the ability to participate as an elected official,” explained secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller Routley, who’s leading development of the policy, which she likened to one already in place for students.

“We know what we do with students and with kids. We don’t know what we do with the top echelon, especially elected officials, and censure is essentially the way that political element is dealt with,” she said.

Committee leader Trustee Shelley Clarke said past school board chairpersons have “had a quiet word” with some trustees who have gotten out line, “but we’ve never come even close to censure.”

The code of conduct will be based on those in existence at other districts, and Trustee Tracy St. Claire urged colleagues to include a broadly worded section regarding the penalty for breaking the rules.

“I do think we need at least one statement about what the process is, because that’s your enforcement and I think that piece is that a majority of the board can decide on a remedy up to, and including, censure,” St. Claire said.

Creating a trustee code of conduct was recommended in a 2013 report from the B.C. auditor general following an examination of school board governance in the province.

Other policies related to trustee conflict of interest and employee whistleblowers were also suggested and are in the works here.

The committee also gave its blessing to a separate policy for district employees that defines bullying and harassment and how it’s to be dealt with, as required by WorkSafeBC since late 2013.

Assistant superintendent Dave Burgoyne said all employees will now have to complete an online tutorial that explains the new policy, how to make a complaint under it, and how an investigation will proceed.

He developed the tutorial with the help of a teacher at a cost of $700.

A neighbouring district had offered use of its system at $10 per employee, “but we have 900 employees, so that’s a $9,000 bill,” Burgoyne said.

Staff members who are paid hourly will be given time off to complete the training, which will take 30 to 45 minutes, he continued, while teachers will have to make time during a preparation period or outside of school hours.

The bullying and harassment policy was adopted by the board at its regular meeting Monday. The other new policies were sent back to staff for further refinement.



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