Teachers welcome whistleblower policy

Trustees at Okanagan Skaha School District move to build suite of new policies, including one to protect employees who report wrongdoing

Trustee Ginny Manning

Trustee Ginny Manning

New policies to protect school district whistleblowers and spell out a trustee code of conduct are in the works, but officials said the items are simply part of a larger review process.

“We just decided it’s a good time to look at some of these policies that are existing or policies that we thought we need to look at or are missing,” said Ginny Manning, who chairs the board of the Okanagan Skaha School District.

The update work was approved by trustees at Monday’s board meeting.

Staff will now begin developing three new policies for whistleblowers and trustees, plus review and update six other regulations that cover everything from board spokespeople to meeting procedures.

Manning doesn’t anticipate any major changes to the board spokespersons policy, but rather new language to make it “a little more specific” regarding “individual trustees speaking on their own.”

“At the moment, the board chair speaks on behalf of the board,” she explained.

“And individual trustees … there’s no reason they can’t speak, as long as it’s identified it’s their personal opinion and it’s not a representation of the whole of the board.”

Manning said the action items were decided upon at an informal planning workshop last weekend with new secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller Routley, who brought “fresh eyes” to the district’s policy structure.

Staff also noted that changes to the School Act and an April 2013 report from B.C’s auditor general on school board governance added to the need for a review.

Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president Leslea Woodward said she would welcome a new policy to protect employee whistleblowers.

“We’ve been told by district staff that nobody should feel threatened or worried about their job if they report wrongdoing, Woodward said, “so it’s just more reassuring if there’s proper things in place.”

Draft versions of the new and revised policies will be sent to the board policy committee for input before being presented to the full board for final adoption.

The policy committee meets next on Dec. 11.