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Minister Moves to Take Control of South Shore Regional School Board

 

Education Minister Ramona Jennex, today, Nov. 29, is restoring stability for students, teachers and staff by replacing the South Shore Regional School board with an appointed board member.
 
The move follows an independent report by Deloitte into the governance practices of the elected board.
 
That report found frequent violations by the board of its own by-laws, persistent cases of conflict of interest, inappropriate use of in-camera meetings and a focus on individual agendas at the expense of the region's overall best interest.
 
"It is clear from the Deloitte report that the board was unable to fulfill its duties and its conduct placed the quality of education for students at risk," said Ms. Jennex.
 
She informed board members in a meeting in Bridgewater this morning that she was exercising her authority under the Education Act, which allows her to transfer the school board's authority and responsibilities to an appointed representative.
 
Effective immediately, former provincial deputy minister Judith Sullivan-Corney will serve as the appointed board.
 
"My job is to look after the best interest of students and teachers and help develop stability for the future," said Ms. Sullivan-Corney.
 
The Deloitte report made recommendations for improvement but concluded, "that the capabilities required to successfully implement the recommendations are largely absent from the board, and success is unlikely to be achieved by the current members, even with substantial outside assistance."
 
The report found:
— "strong evidence" of "not only failure to withdraw from matters under discussion, but also of active involvement in areas of pecuniary interest as defined by the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act."
— the board made excessive and inappropriate use of in-camera sessions. It spent 31 per cent of its meeting time in-camera, reducing time for public sessions and causing it to fail to "meet its obligation for public accountability."
— some board members reported that they did not feel they could speak freely without personal consequences.
— staff members reported a considerable lack of trust between a number of board members and staff.
— that with regard to the school review process, "personal agendas of some of the board members appear to have trumped their responsibilities to the Board and the Region as a whole."
 
"As a school teacher for more than 30 years I know that nothing is more important then ensuring proper support for students and teachers," said Ms. Jennex. "I cannot in good conscience allow the continued operation of this board because of the impact it would have on education on the South Shore."
 
Ms. Sullivan-Corney is a parent, has a strong background in policy, human resources and governance, and has a Bachelor of Education. She will serve until school board elections are held in October 2012.
 
Although authority of the board membership now lies with an appointed person, the day-to-day operations will continue to be business as usual at South Shore schools.
 
In August, the school board requested an independent performance review. The province hired Deloitte, which submitted a final report Nov. 22. The Deloitte report is available on line at www.ednet.ns.ca .
 
The South Shore Regional School Board manages a budget of $74-million and serves more than 7,400 students in 32 schools throughout Lunenburg and Queens counties.
 

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