Is this democracy?

In my opinion: Public must be included in policy changes

At the recent School District 79 Board Meeting of Sept. 12, notice of motion was given of the new Draft Policy 1500: Policy Development, and the  official trustee approved it. At the next board meeting on Oct. 3, this draft policy could become the new district policy, and could potentially change all existing policies within School District 79.

Here are some quotes from the recommendations within the agenda documents of the Sept. 12 meeting.

The new Policy 1500: Policy Development, “will enable the Board to adopt, rescind or amend policy in a timely manner” and “will enable the board, with a two-thirds majority, to adopt, rescind or amend policy without providing an opportunity for public comment.”

The public has the opportunity, right now, to provide input on the proposed amendment to the secretary-treasurer, by Sept. 26.

Comparing the old and new policies, the old Policy 1500 provides for policies “based on community values” and that are “consistent with the board’s goals and objectives (Mission Statement).”

There are constant references to the Policy Committee and their role in all stages of policy development, from policy considerations, to drafting, to recommending and adopting. The Policy Committee has, in the past, included members from the employee groups as well as District Student Advisory Council and the District Parent Advisory Committee.

New  Policy 1500 provides the board “may refer to the Policy Committee”  and “may provide parameters to the Policy Committee to guide the review or development.” There is no stated commitment to include the Policy Committee at any stage, nor is there clear, stated reference to including community values or alignment to the board’s goals and objectives.

Essentially, the new Policy 1500, the one that governs other policies, like Policy 2445: Closure of Schools, or Policy 1010: Individual or Group Delegations to the board, to name just two, could be changed without the public’s input and knowledge. Reviewing, updating and even changing policy is a good thing, but doing so without including the public could mean the public is left to react to, and not be part of, any change.

What do you think? Sept. 26 is the last day for submissions to the secretary-treasurer.

Chris Rolls, President, Lake Cowichan Teachers’ Association, Vice President, Cowichan Valley Teachers’ Federation