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Ombudsman's spectre raised at Rainbow board meeting

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Mar 26, 2014 - 11:18 AM |
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, seen here during his December 2012 visit to Greater Sudbury city council, is set to have more powers soon, including the ability to investigate school boards. Rainbow District School Board trustee Robert Kirwan raised Marin's spectre at the board's March 25 meeting. File photo.

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, seen here during his December 2012 visit to Greater Sudbury city council, is set to have more powers soon, including the ability to investigate school boards. Rainbow District School Board trustee Robert Kirwan raised Marin's spectre at the board's March 25 meeting. File photo.

Lack of parent consultation concerns two trustees

The spectre of Ontario Ombudsman André Marin was raised as Rainbow District School Board trustees debated their new board governance policy manual March 25.

Two trustees — Robert Kirwan and Larry Killens — said they don't think parents had been given enough time to comment on the completed document, which was released about two months ago.

Although both said they thought the policy manual was excellent, they voted against it because of the public comment issue. In the end, however, the document was approved 7-2 by the trustees.


Now that the province has promised Marin's oversight will be increased to include school boards, the Rainbow board better be more careful about getting public input in the future, Kirwan said.

“The issue of giving the parents time to get feedback back to us is one that's kind of important,” he said. “It's going to be even more important if the legislation goes through to have the provincial ombudsman overlook school boards.”

Director of Education Norm Blaseg explained the information about the new policy manual was sent out to the chairs of school councils.

But most school councils only meet four times a year, and may not have had time to meet before the board approved the document, he said.

If there were opposition to some part of the new policy manual in the future, trustees could change it, said board chair Doreen Dewar.

“It's a breathing document,” she said.

But sometimes if you don't hear anything, it means everything's OK, she said.
“If there was something in here that people really opposed, we'd have heard from them,” Dewar said. “In a two-month period, trust me, they would have got ahold of us.”

As for Kirwan bringing up the ombudsman's new role in the education sector, she said she doesn't think Rainbow has anything to worry about.

“Do you know we are audited and monitored to death?” she said.

“There is absolutely nothing that isn't completely transparent. To suggest that the Rainbow District School Board would have something that isn't completely transparent and out there, I find it very difficult.”

The new board governance policy manual, which outlines at a broad level how the Rainbow board works, was prompted by Bill 177 — the Student Achievement and School Board Governance Act — which updates the role of school boards.

The revamped document involved an “extensive review of the many policies we had, consolidating and realigning them,” Dewar said, in a press release.

Next on the to-do list for the board is developing an administrative procedures manual and updates to operational procedures to support the board governance policy manual.
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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