December 19, 2006 14:17
Minister of Education Karen Casey has acted to restore stability to the Halifax Regional School Board today, Dec. 19, after its elected members failed to comply with the performance standards set out by the minister earlier this year.
“I am disappointed it has come to this, but it has become necessary to exercise my authority under Section 68 of the Education Act,” said Ms. Casey. “This board has failed to follow the directives to act in a professional manner.”
Effective immediately, the elected board is stripped of its authority under the Act.
“The public expects its elected officials to act professionally,” said Ms. Casey. “Board members have a duty to the people who elected them and to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, but most importantly they have a duty to the students they were elected to serve.”
Howard Windsor, a former deputy minister, has been appointed by the minister to carry out all responsibilities and have the authority of the board.
“Mr. Windsor brings many years of experience to this position,” said Ms. Casey. “I am pleased that he has agreed to accept this challenge.”
Halifax Regional School Board, which is entrusted with the educational welfare of 55,000 students and control of a budget of $350 million, has been wracked by internal division for more than a year. Earlier this year, meetings were ground to a halt after disgruntled board members walked out, leaving important agenda items undecided. There was also a confrontation over seating arrangements.
One board member was found to be in a breach of trust and another voted off the board for missing three consecutive meetings, a violation of the Education Act.
Last February, Jamie Muir, the education mister at the time, issued directives to board members in an effort to have them behave in a professional competent manner. Board members were also directed to re-affirm and observe the board’s code of ethics, which requires members to show respect for others and respect for decisions made by a majority of board members.
Ms. Casey’s decision to transfer control of board operations comes following a recent committee meeting when a shouting match between a number of board members erupted inside the board members’ lounge. This most recent incident comes a week after one board member moved that two other board members be investigated for conflict of interest.
“I am disturbed by the board’s continued inability to respect one another and I am frustrated that they seem unable to get back to the business of educating students,” she said.
Ms. Casey said the move will ensure that students and education will be a priority in Halifax Regional Municipality.
Although authority for board operations will lie with an appointed board, the day-to-day operations of the organization will not be noticeably affected. The new board will continue until the next board election in October 2008.
This is not the first time a minister has used the Education Act to restructure a sitting school board. The last time was in 2002 when a financial scandal forced the minister to appoint Ken Meech to manage the Strait Regional School Board.