A Greater Victoria school trustee is under fire for raising concerns about a local parents organization.
In a motion to the board that was withdrawn at the last minute Monday night, trustee Bev Horsman asked her colleagues to express regret for statements that Deborah Nohr made about the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.
The motion, which received the backing of board chairwoman Peg Orcherton, said Nohr’s comments “attempted to undermine [VCPAC’s] work to represent the parents’ voice on educational issues in our district.”
Horsman withdrew the motion without comment after the board voted 4-3 to affirm its support for the confederation as a recognized voice for parents in the district.
In a December post on her personal blog, Nohr said she had “serious concerns about the lack of democratic representation” by the confederation. “They do not represent 50 per cent or more of our school-based PACs,” she said.
Nohr suggested a committee dealing with the use of Wi-Fi in schools should send an email directly to the presidents of all parents advisory committees and ask them to discuss the issue. In response, the confederation sent the board a letter last week asking if other trustees shared Nohr’s concerns.
“Basically, [she’s] questioning our right to represent parents,” confederation president John Bird said Monday. “[She’s] saying that representation is not democratic and most certainly it is.”
Bird said every parent advisory committee has a right to send a voting representative to confederation meetings. They may not all show up, but the confederation is no different than other public bodies in that regard, he said.
“The board’s own elections — they don’t get 50 per cent of the electorate,” he said. “The democratic right is the right of every member to vote, and they all have the right. Every PAC can send their member and vote. It’s that simple. That’s representative democracy.”
Nohr said in an interview that she was merely expressing a concern that other parents’ views are being overlooked. Her concern, she said, is based in part on the fact that VCPAC meetings are sometimes poorly attended. “This has been a long-standing concern of mine that the district PAC has been the only voice for parents,” she said.
Nohr said she was within her rights as an elected official to raise the issue for debate, and she called it “totally inappropriate” for fellow trustees to criticize her for that.
Orcherton said in an interview that Nohr had no business commenting on another organization’s democratic processes.
“Hopefully trustee Nohr does regret that she posted on a public website her view of this organization. She’s speaking as a trustee of the board, and I think that’s outside of what the role of a trustee is.”
Orcherton said trustees are free to raise concerns. “But they need to be concerns that are relevant to the board [and] that the board has the ability to deal with. We don’t have the ability to deal with the internal workings of VCPAC.”
Orcherton could not recall a similar motion that singled out an individual trustee. “But I don’t recall either a trustee making a public statement such as these in the history that I’ve been a trustee.”
Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, said Orcherton should focus on more important educational issues than a trustee’s blog posts.
“The effect, too, will be to stifle openness and debate and discussion and that’s really not healthy for a local governance structure that’s supposed to be involved with the community and getting feedback,” she said.
Ehrcke said blogs by Nohr and other trustees provide valuable information that allows the public to know where the board and individual trustees stand on issues.
“Given the reluctance of the majority of five on our current board to agree to more transparent processes — such as recording votes and incorporating a Q&A period into board meetings — it is not surprising that they are upset that individual trustees are taking the initiative to simply do this themselves.”
© Copyright 2013