How public Board meetings work - Sept. 19, 2017 - Before the meeting.

Trustee Work

Just a reminder - lots of my blog posts are for those who like diving deep. Not so much the 'quick peek'. And I haven't had time to edit this one because the Board meeting is starting as I write this. I want to watch. So please note - this is the detailed, nitty-gritty - not for everybody! :-)

Some of the most important work that Trustees do is preparing for and participating in the formal Board meetings. I'd like to help those in the public who would like to really understand the nitty-gritty of how these meetings are supposed to work. These meetings are supposed to provide the accountability that the public is looking for. People should be able to understand them if they're interested.  So I'll do a few posts, when I can, to give you a better sense than you might get from the material already available online. Today, I'll just focus on how to decipher the agenda and one item being monitored.

There are usually two public meetings each month.  You can find information about these meetings (including agendas and reports, as well as minutes and videos from previous meetings) here on the CBE Website.  Today, I'm going to blog about the meeting, once again using a "Before, During, and After" framework.

I've always been known in my workplace as a 'policy wonk' or a 'bit of geek'. For a long time I've been one of the few people to watch Board meetings completely by choice. In looking ahead to this afternoon's meeting I'm wondering if any of the same things that are catching my attention are on the radar screen of the Trustees. I'm thinking about the questions I'd be asking if I were them. 


To prepare, I've read the agenda and the prepared reports which were made available ahead of time. I refreshed my memory of some issues by going back to previous meeting agenda, reports or minutes. In this case, I didn't need to review any videos, but I could have if necessary. 

The first few items on the agenda won't need much preparation from the Trustees (Call to Order, National Anthem and Welcome;  Consideration/Approval of Agenda; Awards and Recognitions). Item 4.1 is a presentation from one of our High Schools which will help Trustees and the Public see the Results that we are getting in our schools, directly from those producing them (students). 

As for the Roles and Responsibility of Trustees, things get really interesting at Item 5. On the Agenda it says:  20 mins 5 | Operational Expectations 5.1 OE-3: Treatment of Owners – Annual Monitoring D. Stevenson B/CSR-5, OE-3, 8 Page 5-1. 

Please - let me translate!

This says that the Trustees are going to spend approximately 20 minutes on reviewing one of the expectations that they've set out for their Chief Superintendent. Today it's an expectation they have regarding how the CBE treats the 'owners' of public education. In other words, how does the CBE treat the people/community of Calgary?

In the past Trustees wrote out what they expected in a document called Treatment of Owners. You can see exactly what it says by clicking on the link. Would you go there and have a look? I'd be interested to know how well you feel the CBE is upholding the expectation.

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In the Agenda, the item is followed by the name of the person (Administrator) or Group (Board) responsible for the item. In this case, the Chief Superintendent , David Stevenson , will present information that allows the Board of Trustees to determine if he has complied with (met) their expectations. 

B/CSR-5, OE-3, 8 is a code that tells which policies connect to this item. In this case the item relates to the Board/Chief Superintendent Relationship - Chief Superintendent Accountability with respect to Operational Expectations 3 - Treatment of Owners and 8 - Communication with and Support for the Board. So, you can look at what the Chief is supposed to do, by looking at those policies. 

And finally - an important reference to the page number of the report being discussed in this item. In this case Page 5-1. They number the pages to match the item numbers. The reports have to be able to stand alone as documents in their own right. But they are compiled into one large document for posting. So page numbering can get a bit complicated!

If you look at the report which starts on the page labelled 5-1 and is page 3/79 in the package you will find that it starts with a certification sheet. This shows that the Chief is saying (certifying) that overall, he believes he's been successful at meeting the expectations (compliant). Now the Board of Trustees has to read the evidence of compliance, ask questions if necessary and take a vote to decide if they find the evidence to be "compliant", "compliant with noted exceptions" or to be "not compliant". 

The next two pages (5-2 and 5-3) provide an executive summary that by itself isn't too meaningful, but does allow you to see that the there are going to be 4 parts to the OE (3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4). There are going to be a certain number of indicators for each (4,4,6, and 2). A quick glance of these two pages will show you that according to the Chief Superintendent, one of the indicators in each of sections 3.1, 3.2, and 3.4 are non-compliant and the rest are compliant. 

The rest of the report gets into the meat of the matter. It provides the exact wording of the policy. Then is says what the Chief has interpreted it to mean (Reasonable Interpretation). Next it describes what indicators are reported to provided evidence that the intent of the policy is being met. Finally, there is current data on those indicators and whether or not the Chief believes that the data is evidence of compliance. 

So, ahead of even reading the report, I know a few things. I know what I think, generally, about CBE Treatment of Owners and I know that the Chief Superintendent thinks that he is generally in compliance with expectations. 

In my experience the CBE treats owners (community/especially parents) well in some regards but quite poorly in others. I think the CBE does good work in providing ongoing communication with parents who are attentive to the ways that they can get info - from their child's school, via messenger. or via CBE's website or via actual people in person or on phones. However, my experience suggests to me that when asked for their input and opinions, parents often don't feel listened to, and the CBE has  a reputation of being difficult for outside agencies or people to work with (as is common for many large bureaucracies).  So, I'll be interested to see how all of the indicators about organizational culture are compliant.

The items reported to be 'not in compliance' are not of extreme concern to me in most instances in this report because there is very clear data to say exactly why and what steps can be taken to mitigate. The indicators require 100% success and with human error a factor we must expect to some small degree,  I think these areas are not to panic about. I would however, be asking questions to make sure that we are appropriately dealing with every instance where we have not met our own expectations. For example, can the Chief tell the Board what steps were taken to  determine and address the effects when phishing schemes appear to have been successful in a number or instances?

In this instance, it turns out that I'm more interested in what is compliant. I hope the Board starts asking questions about these indicators. I don't think they get at what we need to get at! 

Board meeting's starting ... heading over there now. More after!





Board meetings have specific procedures. 

Board meetings have specific procedures. 

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