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Full transcript of the CBE trustee call to Metro

The following is a full transcript of the trustee call with Metro reporter Jeremy Nolais. Some portions, where multiple elected officials are trying to talk over one another, are inaudible. In other portions, it's not clear who is talking. All comments were made to the reporter unless otherwise stated. Every member of the trustee board was present for the call with the exception of chair Sheila Taylor.

Trustee Trina Hurdman placed the call at the request of a fellow board member. There was brief introduction and Hurdman indicated the call was about the story Metro published on the yet-to-be released CBE capital plan.

Hurdman: So, what happened was we came out of in-camera. The motion was made to receive the capital report (pauses, questions colleagues) — was it to receive it for information? It was to receive it for information, to come forward to a public board meeting on March 18.

Judy Hehr: Jeremy, I want to interject first. In your paper, you say that you have sources who informed Metro. So, Amber (Stewart) has taken her place and responsibility for this. Can you tell us, because we're all implicated in this, who else had the opportunity to talk to you?

Nolais: No. I can't.

(Inaudible noise)

Hurdman: (To colleagues) A journalist cannot release sources, they've gone to jail, Judy. They would rather go to jail than reveal their sources. (To the reporter about the board's actions) So, after that happened, Amber made an amendment to say rather than March 18, to make it (the release of the capital plan) March 4. I made a friendly amendment (inaudible) for public release on March 4 to be approved, board approval on March 18. Then, some other trustees said we needed to go back in camera, so we went back in camera.

Lynn Ferguson: No, no, trustees actually challenged trustees actually challenged the chair (Sheila Taylor) for her ruling that the motion was in order or not.

Hurdman: OK. So, some trustees challenged the ruling. Under our procedures, we state that you cannot question or debate a motion coming out of in-camera, and some trustees felt that, by making an amendment, that was questioning or debating a motion.

Ferguson: A majority of the board voted in favour of that challenge. So, the board made a decision that the motions were out of order.

Nolais: OK.

Hurdman: So, you may want to update your story with that part.

Nolais: Well, while I have you all here — why? Why would you not publish a document that, for all intents and purposes, is ready to go early . . .

Ferguson: The document is not ready to go. It's in draft form.

Nolais: Yes, I understand that. I understand the changes that were made were relatively minor, though. I guess, what I'm asking is . . .

Unknown: No they weren't relatively minor (inaudible)

Nolais: Sorry guys, I really don't mean to be rude and I don't mean to interrupt. It's just, if you can identify who's talking when each of you are talking. I'm trying to understand who's talking. It just sounds like a big . . .

(Inaudible)

Ferguson: You want us to identify ourselves because you're taping us?

Hehr: No, because I don't feel it's fair in relation (inaudible) why would I become a source when you won't declare your sources? And I don't think that's really fair, either. So, take it from who you get, the people in the room. We're trying to help clarify a story that was written.

Nolais: So, what is being clarified? That the motion was out of order?

Hurdman: (Inaudible) . . . That motion was declared out of order.

Stewart: Yeah, and, in fact, it wasn't a — sorry if I gave the wrong impression, I thought I was really clear that that's what had happened — but, it wasn't an amendment that was voted down, it was an amendment that was ruled out of order and the original motion stood and passed that the information would come forward to the board on March 18, and the vote on that I believe you already have covered.

Hurdman: So, when you say in your article that 'Stewart received support from fellow trustee Trina Hurdman and board chair Sheila Taylor, the board's remaining members — Joy Bowen-Eyre, Lynn Ferguson, Pamela King and Judy Hehr — denied the move,' they didn't really deny the move, they ruled the motion out of order.

Hehr: And that would have been done in a private meeting.

Stewart: No, that would have been done as we came out of private meeting in the public. Had Jeremy been sitting in the hallway, or any other member of the public, they would have had the opportunity to come in and join us at that point in time. That's why I don't feel that I breached confidentiality.

Hehr: I'm only trying to figure out . . . because, then, there were items that were discussed in a private meeting that I think (Stewart attempts to interject, Hehr responds to her) Careful, careful — hold it. (To the reporter) See how it goes, Jeremy? Careful this, careful not this. Amazing, isn't it Jeremy? That you get such clarity around information that makes four trustees, who are, on this particular vote, who are the majority. And, yet, when you look at what we're explained to from the Alberta School Boards Association, it says, when you disagree with a motion, you have a chance to come back at any point in time to the group. And, at that point in time, you can ask us to rethink. So, you also have, in your hot little hand, four reasons why there was a gag order in September.

Nolais: Just to be clear, I never, ever, once stated it was gag order. Not once in my stories.

Hehr: There's things that implicated — people saying that we weren't as open. And, similar to this situation, imagine if three people, who really felt that, in the best interest of students, the decision we made was not as clear as they would like it to be. Wouldn't you anticipate, just like in September, you have come back to the group and you would have said to them 'I want us to rethink this.' That meeting went on for a long time. And so, for decisions to be made (inaudible) and then to have you so graciously help us out — you know what I have no qualms with what you're doing Jeremy. You are doing exactly what you should be doing, you are writing on behalf of sources. The unfortunate thing is, the sources that you are supporting, from my point of view, are not the voice of the board. And so, when our sources select to move outside what the board has decided — I feel really sad that those sources aren't taking the channels that (inaudible) is available to them. The Alberta — as I've said they say nothing or you support it or your third big decision is you are permitted to resign. Now, when you look at this, and for those of us who are reading your article this morning — (we) literally know nothing about this having gone to the press, nothing, and you are reporting on behalf of the Calgary Board of Education.

Nolais: No, I'll stop you right there. I'm reporting on behalf of my readers. I mean I'm not reporting on behalf of you, I don't require your permission. I don't — Judy, i mean I appreciate  . . .

Hehr: I take that back. You're reporting on behalf of your readers. I'm just saying to you, as you report, you need to also look at that this is not a board decision. It's a process in time, as we're moving through. And what you're seeing is disappointment come through for some of us in the board through you being so willing to help out trustees, to write it from their point of view.

Hurdman: (To board) I disagree with that, because I don't think Amber asked him to write it. She was very clear that this was not the result of her pushing this story.

Stewart: I did not solicit an interview on this.

Hehr: (To Stewart) Of course, you wouldn't have had to because Jeremy regularly talks to you and that's perfect, and so should he. You are grounded and, you know what, Amber? Your heart and your soul is in your work and  I'm not giving you any fuss. I'm just saying here we are, so . . .

Nolais: So, I'm confused. I've got a list of questions here that I've tapped, written out while you're speaking about as long as my arm. But, I guess first off, to be clear, what are you requesting then? That the motion was out of order. That it wasn't voted down, that it was voted out of order?

Stewart: That would be helpful.

Unknown: I think that's what the group is requesting.

Nolais: That's pretty much all that I hear that's any different in what you're saying. I mean . . .

Bowen-Eyre: I thought we were looking for an eighth trustee and I thought you were it, Jeremy.

Nolais: Sorry?

Bowen-Eyre: You're like the eighth trustee.

Nolais: I'm like the eighth trustee?

Bowen-Eyre: You're like the eighth trustee.

Hehr: No, no. Jeremy, I really respect what you're doing and you know . . .

Nolais: Sorry, guys, guys, it just, it helps me even — I don't even care if I can't tell who I'm talking to. I mean I know you all well enough that I know your voices. But it helps me if one of you speaks, and then I speak, and then one of you speaks. Like, I can't keep track of who's yelling what. I can't hear half of you. So, what does it mean that I'm the eighth trustee?

Hehr: That will remain unnamed. I'm Judy, and I'm going to speak to you and say . . .

Nolais: But — sorry guys, just hold on guys. I'm allowed to ask you questions as well. What does it mean that I'm the eighth trustee, I don't understand what that means.

(Silence)

Nolais: Anyone?

Hehr: We will take back that comment, respectfully. OK?

Nolais: OK?

Hehr: Thank you. So, carry on with your next question.

Nolais: OK, sorry — and then, Judy, you were saying something? Sorry, again Judy, I appreciate what you're saying, I'm just, I'm trying to understand who's speaking to me (and) when.

Hehr: Jeremy, I highly respect the work you do. You write more stories and you need to write stories — that is your job. Our — my — question is in and around the material that's received from a member of a board who is brand new, who is trying to figure out policy, and who is working from policy, and who could easily go down the path of using the press in this manner. I just don't feel that that's in the best interest of student learning right now in the Calgary Board of Education.

Nolais: Judy, the votes, the votes, though. I mean I know you've been upset in the past when we've had documents that you don't think we should have any right having access to. I completely appreciate that, that's well within your rights. The votes on this matter are in public, Judy. The fact that I didn't sit there and wait for you to vote in front of me is irrelevant. The votes in this matter are in public.

Hehr: Correct. The thing is, as it's in public, what it teaches us again, as a board, (is) to say to ourselves, OK, so, the quickness of our decisions being able to be communicated to you, because I know you weren't at that meeting and I know that you would have had to somehow figure out that that decision was made, and we are trying so hard to come forward, looking as a united board. And each time . . .

Nolais: But Judy, you're not united. Even in this phone call, in the last five minutes, you've started three arguments between three of you. I mean, you're not united, and that's fine. If you look at city council, and I always come back to this example, if you look at city council, they vote 8-7 on a lot of things, I think that's fair to say. They vote 8-7, and then they pick up the pieces and then they move on.

Hehr: And we do that too.

Nolais: Well, it doesn't seem like it. You voted 4-3 on this. Three people, naturally, are probably not going to be as happy with that vote as the other four, correct?

Hehr: Correct.

Nolais: So, then I still don't understand what you're trying to tell me then — that we should only ever report on matters that receive 7-0 votes in favour or against? Like, I'm confused of what I'm doing here that is not helping you?

Hehr: Absolutely not. The only thing is, I would like you to get information around all of the things that are reported, not just where the vote comes down, that implies that we're not open and transparent.

Nolais: Well, Judy, I would say that I covered that, I cover a number of topics. Today, I'm coming down to your building in an hour to talk about Westgate and West Springs School. I've talked about school infrastructure . . .

Hehr: You know what, Jeremy? I'm just going to quit. I'm going to stop now and I'm going to say you know what? Probably, for me, I need to learn a whole lot more about your role and your support to the public, and, at this point in time, you and I are on a different page in relationship to what I would hope that, as we open all this stuff up, that when you are able to report that all of us in the board are aware. We . . . it's a little bit disconcerting when pick up the newspaper and we, as colleagues, haven't been able to say, 'You know what? I'm going to bring this forward to the press.' Everybody has the right to bring it forward to the press. All I'm saying is it would be sort of nice that we had enough sort of camaraderie together, that I wouldn't have to pick up the article (inaudible) . . .

Nolais: But Judy, again, I'll stop you right there. I don't think that these are comments that should be directed at me right now. This is talking, you're talking about your board's camaraderie. Frankly, that's not my job to police that.

Hehr: And I thank you so much for that and I will not give you another comment, because you're right, it's not in order.

Nolais: Like I'm trying to understand a couple of things.

Hehr: (Inaudible) I'm not expressing myself clearly for you and I appreciate that. So, the comments that I've made, please disregard. Because you are right, I have not made comments that show my clarity around the issue. I withdraw those, I will say I misspoke on every one of them, and so please turn to Trina and Amber because they can help you.

Nolais: OK, Trina, so you called me — I know you're sitting in there with every one. So, there's a story out today — let's break this into two parts — there's a story out today. What needs clarifying in that story from your perspective? That's how this works — you tell me what needs clarifying and then I . . .

Hurdman: That the motion was ruled out of order, rather than voted down.

Nolais: OK.

Pamela King: You know what — Hi Jeremy, it's Pamela.

Nolais: Hi.

King: From my perspective, it's irrelevant. All it's going to do is generate another news story. My question to you — I understand that you have sources — my question to you is did you reach out to any of the four of us to counter-balance the article?

Nolais: So, I've been told by you repeatedly, especially, not necessarily you Pamela but . . .

(RECORDING FILE ENDED. CHANGED TO A NEW VOICE FILE)  - In the downtime, it was explained to Pamela King that Metro has contacted her numerous times since the election in October. It was also explained that Metro has been repeatedly told that, once a board decision is made, chair Taylor is to speak for the board. Taylor was the only member quoted in the article. Less than 30 seconds passed between the switch to a new audio file.

King: I have caller ID, I haven't seen your number on there.

Nolais: I've also emailed you at least four times and I've received responses from you maybe twice. I have all those emails archived if you want to see them.

King: Ok, no, I accept that, that's fine. But I'm not interested in chiming in on this either, but I mean, honestly, this was at a trustee's request that Trina get in contact with you. So, I have nothing more to say on it either, but I mean, because it happened, the conversation happened, in a private meeting, I can't actually even talk to you about what my reasoning would be for not making the document public, which is why I wouldn't contact you on this issue in the first place. So, that's the position that I'm in, but I don't think it's very much different than the whole conversation about me going to Palm Springs. There's a point in time, where, if you're soliciting public feedback, you want to somewhere and have value. And so, to me, rather than being criticized for going to Palm Springs, it would make more sense that the community has input in the right places . . .

Nolais: Pam, Pam, I'm going to stop you again, and I really don't mean to be rude and interrupt you guys and I feel like we all get lumped into one, big media monster. I never have written the words 'Palm Springs' and 'Pamela King' in the same story. Again, you're confusing it with a different publication.

King: No, Jeremy, it's not a criticism of the story. I'm talking about a specific process, right? If people want to provide input, when does that happen? So, in terms of trustees' PD (personal development) and expenses, to me, the time for the input is on the front end of it when trustees are voting on the remuneration, not at the end of it, once the expenses are posted. And so I feel the same way about any of these documents — the capital plan, any of them.

Nolais: But doesn't that feed the argument some people are making in the piece today, then? Releasing the capital plan a day before it's got to be approved? I mean Pamela, come on, you're a parent. How is a parent supposed to take a 130-some-odd-page document, survey it in one day and the provide adequate feedback to the board? Also, get in on the five positions you allow to actually speak at your meetings, which I know are a hot commodity when big issues come up. I bet you West Springs will put four people in that lineup. So, how is a parent, the average Joe — if I'm a parent, as some of you know, I don't have any kids — how are they supposed to read . . . you guys, I won't even have time to read a 130-page document in a day. I mean, come on, I'm asking you now because that's the criticism being raised in the piece — you're going to release the capital plan one before it's approved, how does anyone provide feedback on it in such a tight time period? And this is criticism that has come against this board repeatedly in the last four years, in terms of your budgets, which you have changed, you now do your budgets in two phases, at least last year. You bring it forward, you debate it, two weeks later you approve it. That is what these people are calling an improvement. How does anyone ever time to review the capital plan in a single day and provide your feedback. I'm asking you a question and if someone answers I would love to know the answer and I would love to do that story — anyone.

King: I agree with you, Jeremy. It's not a huge timeline, but this particular point in the process is not the time for the feedback. This is the document as it is. Any feedback that we would get isn't going to influence the actual decision of the capital plan.

Amber: OK, Jeremy, it's Amber. I think, I know myself I need to run to another meeting, so can we stop you short there? I think the purpose of our call is done and we appreciate your time in allowing us to clarify, but I myself have to leave the room and I'd prefer not have the conversation continue when I'm not here. Alright, thank you.

Hurdman: So, we're hanging up now Jeremy, bye.

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