Getting a trustee and a city council member to release the content of their texts during a school board meeting has yet to be productive.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 11th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

The original headline on this article has been revised: a reader took exception to the use of the phrase: “pulling teeth from hens” which she felt was sexist.  We didn’t see it that way and that certainly wasn’t our intention.

This is begining to feel like we are trying to pull teeth from hens: just release the documents.

A number of weeks ago the Gazette asked Ward 1 and 2 school board trustee Leah Reynolds if she would send us the complete contents of the texts she sent and received from Marianne Meed Ward during the June 7th Board of Education meeting. That was the meeting at which the trustees decided to close two of the city’s seven high schools.

We asked the same question of Marianne Meed Ward who is member of city council and served on the Program Accommodation Review committee that was not able to arrive at a consensus or send a direction or recommendation to the Director of Education and to the trustees.

Some would argue that writing a direction or recommendation was not part of their mandate. So?

Everyone seems to share the view that the process was flawed – any comment from the members of that PARC would have been welcome – and might have given the trustees a clearer sense as to what was wrong with the process used.

Reynolds replied to our request with the following:

Reynolds with Roberts rules

Trustee Reynolds had a heavy book marked edition of Robert Rules of Order – clearly came to the meeting prepared to fight a procedural battle – with a parents who is also a member of city council “coaching” her from the public gallery.

Thank you for your question, which I would have gladly provided to you earlier if asked.

Before, during and after meetings, I – as do all trustees – receive messages, questions and concerns from constituents and parents. As confirmed by the Chair at the June 7th and the June 21st meetings that communication does not violate any code of conduct nor is it contrary to any Board policy. As elected officials, hearing from our communities is part of the democratic process and the right of constituents to freedom of expression. While I cannot control who or what information parents or constituents send me, it is my job to listen and to take it into consideration to inform my questions and decision.

School closure conversations are difficult and the decisions are not desired by all of the residents of our community. My remarks were recorded on June 7 on why I supported the director’s report. Let me know if you want them.

The question was – would she send the texts that were exchanged by Meed Ward and Reynolds – which she chose not to answer.

We asked the same question of Meed Ward – we copied each of them on the separate message sent which was as follows:

I am putting together an article on how the Board of Trustees arrived at the decision they did to close two of the city’s seven high schools.

The communication between you and Trustee Reynolds during the debate are part of that story. Would you be good enough to send me all of the texts that you sent to Reynolds during the meeting.

If you wish please feel free to add any comment on the context within which the texts were sent.
Thank you – hope you and the family had a great summer.

Meed Ward came back with:

There is nothing to send. There was no communication during debate of the school closure motions.
As has been previously explained, the communication via text was related to a procedural matter prior to any discussion of the motions themselves, specifically a ruling of the chair on what order motions would be heard.

MMW typing

Marianne Meed Ward texting messages to trustee Leah Reynolds during a Board of Education meeting. Some of the content appeared to be instructions on how to vote on a procedural matter.

There was never a risk of motions not being debated; the issue was simply in what order – simultaneously or sequentially. Getting procedure right protects the outcome of any subsequent vote, thus protecting everyone’s interests including those making this an issue.

The communication had nothing to do with the votes on the school closure motions themselves, and no impact on them.

In the end the chair’s ruling was upheld 7-4 by trustees, the debate and votes on the dual campus and school closures proceeded simultaneously for another three hours. There was no communication during these debates and votes.

My communication is no different than the many emails or texts that were sent by other parents to trustees through the meetings. What makes this different and why it has become a story is because someone read and photographed private correspondence, published it on social media, then misrepresented the substance of the text in a broadcast news story. There was no effort to contact me directly for the truth about the communication, simply a rush to judgment with the aim of social shaming, via the press and social media.

That Ms Meed Ward is precisely the point –part of what you texted was read and it didn’t look all that good. Let the public see every word that was passed between the two of you – they will figure it out.

Some folks have willingly engaged in character assassination as a tactic to save their school. I understand the emotions involved in having your school on the closure list – having lived with it for the previous 6 months. But the ends don’t justify the means. We need to do better than this, especially on difficult issues like school closures. Thankfully the vast majority of citizens have been respectful in sharing their views and making their case throughout this process with facts and evidence, and without personal attacks.

I think there is a splitting of hairs here – the little bit of the texting that the public was able to see appeared to be directions from Meed Ward to trustee Reynolds.

The Bateman community managed to interest CHCH television in the story.  The ran a piece on their newscast – link to that broadcast is HERE.

There is considerable concern within the community on just what happened. We have no idea what the two woman were up to. If there is a public concern both woman have an obligation to release whatever the content of the texts were – with time stamps on them.

Related news stories:

Bateman parents want an investigation.

Parents want trustee suspended.

Parent admits sending message – she wasn’t just any parent either

 

 

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8 comments to Getting a trustee and a city council member to release the content of their texts during a school board meeting has yet to be productive.

  • Phillip

    I was hopeful that Meed-Ward would make an excellent mayor–she appeared to listen to people and communicate well. Unfortunately, the whole sordid affair in supporting Central and lobbying on its behalf(despite her less-than-credible denials) have revealed that she is “just another politician”.

  • William

    Why is anyone whose privacy was violated and then accused of things on the flimsiest of evidence, then obligated to make available their texts, so every word, phrase and sentence can be parsed out, taken out of context and misinterpreted. Those who believe the fix was in will look for what fits their views, no matter how far it stretches the truth.

    The public discussion on the school closures has descended into the abyss. Rather than elevate the discussion, this opinion piece seems motivated to stir the toxic swamp of resentment and vengeance targeted against a few individuals.

    • Teri

      MMW could easily clear her name of any wrong doing if she released the information – she won’t because she knows what she did was wrong.
      She should never hold public office if she doesn’t want to be held accountable.

      Editor’s note: Meed Ward does not have to clear her name of any wrong doing – she does have an opportunity to clarify just what took place. The longer the public doesn’t have that clarification – the messier this will get.

  • George

    An Interesting Observation:

    Conspirators involved in subversion and treachery are wise to not reveal their records.

    For it is the record, if confirming conspiracy that will result in punishment.

    Recent examples of the above include: Gas Plant email records erased and Secretary of State email records wiped clean.

  • Stephen White

    If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear from releasing the materials.

    Listen carefully and you can hear a hissing sound. That’s what it sounds like when the air and momentum slowly dissipates from two re-election campaigns.

  • Jeremy Skinner

    Pepper:

    I do not believe that what was said between Trustee Reynolds and Councillor Meed-Ward is of great concern given the fact that two Ministry of Education Accommodation Reviews are currently underway (one each for Pearson and Bateman closure decisions).

    Instead, I believe that we as citizens of Burlington need to consider whether our elected school trustees are providing appropriate oversight as to the delivery of education to Burlington Public School students. To do so effectively requires us to invest in our school trustees so that they and those of whom we may elect to replace them understand what our expectations are.

    In my opinion, no school trustee should have voted for school closures unless they had clarity into the following concerns (my list is not exhaustive).

    1) Long Term Accommodation Plan (LTAP) Process. Do we believe that the historical LTAP reviews adequately forecasted the distribution of students and program needs across the available schools within Burlington? I don’t think so (with exception to those students seeking French Immersion).

    2) Hayden. Have we learned the lessons associated with Hayden experience? Too many rumours and innuendos abound. Many can be found in the comments associated with past HDSB PAR articles on this website. I believe that the board owes us a public explanation to clear the air so that we may learn from the past and move on to deal with the future. That being said, we must acknowledge that most past decisions made likely predate the initial election of most, if not all, of the currently elected HDSB trustees and the current director of education. Also, we must acknowledge that student enrollment forecasting is particularly difficult when new residential neighbourhood subdivisions are involved. More than two new residential subdivisions were involved with Hayden.

    3) HDSB Budget Implications. What proportion of the HDSB budget is impacted with any decision regarding Burlington Secondary School closures? It has been declared that the savings associated with the secondary school closures amount to about 2 million annually. This may seem insignificant when looking at the total annual HDSB budget (covering elementary, secondary and adult education for all four municipalities including Burlington, Oakville, Halton Hills and Milton), but is significant when considering the proportion of the HDSB budget which is allocated specifically to Burlington Secondary Schools. What is that budget number or proportion of the total HDSB budget?

    4) Staff Deliverables. Is there confidence that board staff can deliver on the commitments to the public to match or exceed current student program deliverables which were made during the PAR decision process on-time and on-budget? How will these commitments be tracked and made public, especially if some Burlington school trustees are replaced next year?

    Trustee Collard was the only one to vote NO to both school closure decisions and is the only second term trustee for Burlington.

    I believe that it is imperative that we articulate to our school trustees as to what we find is lacking. To do otherwise and simply replace school trustees without articulating our needs enables history to repeat itself. Are we prepared to make these investments in our school trustees or those who we elect to replace them?

  • Josie

    I would just like to add Mr. Skinner, that trustee Reynolds was the only one to vote NO to PAR almost a year ago.