News / Calgary

Four Calgary Board of Education trustees reject push to publish school wish list early

Four Calgary Board of Education trustees denied a push from one of their own last week to publish a highly anticipated wish list of school-infrastructure projects early in a bid to spur better conversation with parents, Metro has learned.

The public vote came following several hours of debate behind closed doors among the seven-member board about the CBE's 2015-18 capital plan. The project ranking included in the document serves as a guide to the province when it comes time for Alberta Education to green light new infrastructure.

When the province approved six CBE projects last month, for example, it followed the capital plan to the letter.

Sources informed Metro that CBE trustee Amber Stewart, who represents Calgary's school-starved deep south, attempted to publish the capital plan two weeks in advance of trustees approving it to allow more time for the public to review and discuss it.

The trustees had already received copies of the document and reviewed them during the meeting.

Stewart received support from fellow trustee Trina Hurdman and board chair Sheila Taylor. The board's four remaining members — Joy Bowen-Eyre, Lynn Ferguson, Pamela King and Judy Hehr — denied the move, however.

The capital plan would have been made public Monday had Stewart gotten her way. Instead, it will come out March 17 and be voted on the following day. The board's actions left parents like Mike Bradshaw scratching their heads. He's among a group pushing to move a school for the community of Silverado up on the capital plan — in last year's edition, it sat in the No. 33 spot.

"It's a massive document . . . the frustrating thing for me is that we want to work with the CBE on this stuff, we want to be involved, we want to help," Bradshaw said. "When they throw these things at us at the last minute, you're stuck not being able to do anything."

The Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools has long criticized the board's stringent timelines for publishing documents and then approving them.

"We need time to have impact or input on these matters . . . if we're expected to advocate to our trustees, our MLAs, whoever — if we're armed with information we're more apt to do that," said chair Larry Leach.

Trustee Taylor is typically designated to speak for the board once decisions are made. She confirmed Stewart's pitch in an interview Monday and that she and Hurdman had supported it.

"She proposed it, it was not successful," Taylor said, later adding, "I'm looking forward to hearing from the public on this matter as we move forward."

Sources also said the same four trustees opposing the early publishing of the capital plan rejected a bid by the others to move last week's discussion into the public realm.

That same group also opposed a pitch by Taylor last month to launch a conversation with stakeholders about alternative ways to fund much-needed school infrastructure projects.

Their actions come as all board members have turned to social media to request feedback on an ongoing search for a new chief superintendent and on the board's upcoming decisions regarding its operating budget.

Even with announcements of new facilities both last month and previously in May, the CBE has conceded it's not gaining ground in its accommodation struggle. The board anticipates taking in 3,000 or more additional students each year for the foreseeable future.

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