Elected Trustees are governed primarily through legislation defined in the School Act. Government is currently updating this legal document and is set to release a newer version, the Education Act, shortly. As final edits to the Education Act are still under way it is an opportune time to request any final additions and/or revisions that would serve to strengthen content that offer improved legal guidance for elected trustees.
Recently, some trustees found that the current legislation surrounding, “perceived conflicts of interest and conflicts of interest” as defined in the School Act no longer seem to be aligned with the general publics nor the Ethics Commission’s perceptions surrounding this matter. In fact, our board was recently provided two opposing interpretations on this matter; one from our boards in house legal bound to the content in the School Act and one from the Ethics Commission who is bound by other legal interpretations related to this matter. These mixed opinions, illustrate the need for this matter to be examined and rectified. Clarity and direction to abstain from voting would be explicitly stated in relation to this matter for trustees within the new Act.
As public opinions evolve so must legislation. Both perceived conflicts and conflicts of interest are of concern to both public and private sectors. Scrutiny and interpretations of the law are constantly subject to societal perceptions; perceptions that change over the course of time. As such, the new Education Act should be aligned with current business and publicly held interpretations related to perceived conflicts and/or conflicts of interest. The Government of Alberta would be well served in updating those sections in the Education Act that pertain to trustee voting in relation to both perceived conflicts of interests and conflicts of interests.
It would also be beneficial for the new Education Act to direct boards to engage in a mandatory practice of reviewing and discussing as a Board Corporate the contents of Superintendent contracts. This would be for those years in which either a renewal of the contract is due or in years where a new contract is being voted on. As this is a critical function of boards, all elected trustees should be required to take part in this function and under no circumstances should this function be deemed unnecessary to preform as a Board Corporate. To be clear, this is not the same as having individual trustees look at the contents of the contract alone. This is a call for collective discussions on contractual contents. It will allow for trustee input and feedback, serving as an avenue to recommend additions and/or deletions in a formal process; one that yields the collective scrutiny over a critical board responsibility. Along these lines, a review of related policies should also support this action.
- I move that the Board of Trustees send a letter to the Government of Alberta requesting that changes be considered for the Education Act in relation to perceived conflicts and conflicts of interests. Specifically, trustees whose spouse or relative(s) hold district positions that report directly to the Superintendent should be excused from voting based on a conflict in the new Education Act.
- I move that the new Education Act will include statements that require all Board of Trustees to do mandatory reviews of Superintendent contracts. These reviews will necessitate that board corporate discussion on the contents within the contract itself take place prior to the renewal of any said contract or prior to the implementation of any new contract.
Notice of Motion:
That the scope of powers of Ethics Commission be extended to include school boards.