Vancouver School Board audits say trustees ‘ineffective’

24/09/2019 Posted by admin

A special adviser’s report looking into the actions of the Vancouver School Board says problems within the board stemmed from some trustees prioritizing their political agendas, rather than stewardship of the district.

Education Minister Mike Bernier fired all nine members of the board last week and says two reports that show failures of governance and budgetary practices deepen his lack of confidence in the former board.

“It underlines the fact that stewartship is challenging enough without the distractions created by a focus on political advocacy,” Bernier said.

The province released the forensic audit by special adviser Peter Milburn along with a detailed review and audit by Ernst and Young. It also released a supplemental report on the impact of school closures at the Vancouver School Board.

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The reports offer a long list of options that trustees could have pursued to balance the budget, including following past recommendations by external reviews that were never implemented.

All school boards in the province were required by law to submit a balanced budget by June 30.

In a conference call Friday, Bernier told reporters that the audits support his decision to fire the board members because the report says trustees chose not to provide a balanced budget in an act of protest for more funding.

The special adviser’s report also cited problems of overstaffing, the need to better monetize unused facilities and real estate and improve collective agreements with staff and service providers.

“The Vancouver School Board allowed money to be tied up in inefficiencies rather than spent in classrooms, in services for students,” he said.

Former board chair Mike Lombardi couldn’t immediately be reached for comment but he did issue a statement on 桑拿会所 calling the forensic audit “nothing more than a fishing expedition.”

Lombardi said the reports are being used as a distraction from decades of underfunding of education from the province.

The report looked at opportunities for the board to balance its budget with and without school closures.

It recommended the board sell its Kingsgate Mall property, which could produce more than $50 million in revenue.

It also says the board could rectify past decisions that have limited the amount of revenue it can earn from its real estate and caused properties to be leased at below-market rates.

On the issue of governance, the report says the board of trustees took “an unusual and ineffective approach” with the operation of the school district and interfered with management.

The report says the board’s actions caused management “an unsustainable amount of stress.”

Bernier would not comment on the ongoing investigation by WorkSafe BC into allegations that senior management had put forward about bullying in the workplace.

The entire senior management of the school district went on medical leave at the end of September, but Bernier said he expects staff to return to their posts in the coming weeks.

Four fired trustees affiliated with the reigning Vision Vancouver party demanded a retraction and apology from the education minister earlier this week. They say he made defamatory statements about them, accusing them of creating a toxic work environment.

READ MORE: Former Vancouver School Board chair Mike Lombardi calls firing ‘outrageous’

There were 59 governance and budgetary recommendations made between the two audits, which the education minister says the newly appointed trustee Dianne Turner will be responsible for implementing.

Former trustee Patti Bachus tweeted her response on Friday, firing back at the provincial government.

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With files from Jill Slattery