An amendment to the question period policy at school board meetings, now in effect, limits the queries the members of the public present at the time can make.
Trustees made the announcement at the recent Nov. 8 monthly meeting, along with changes to other board meeting policies. The motion to approve the new policies was passed unanimously.
“We undertook a review of best practices at other school boards around the province and frankly, across the country,” acting chair Gary Tymoschuk said at the meeting, as Laurie Larsen was not present.
Going forward, anyone wishing to ask a question must only do so on topics that pertain to that meeting’s agenda. If anyone would like to ask something relating to other topics, they will have to be submitted to the secretary treasurer Jon Harding’s office for a response, Tymoschuk stated.
Harding’s office can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
When asked why the question period policy is being changed, Tymoschuk told Peace Arch News the idea to revise the policy has been in plan for at least four years. After looking at how question periods are conducted in other districts, “we asked each other ‘how come ours is different from the others?’”
“I think it helps to create a more timely feedback, if any, pertaining to the items that were discussed at that meeting.”
While the amendment limits the nature of the questions the public can ask at the board meetings, Tymoschuk said anyone can ask anything they would like to of the board or district staff outside of the meeting time.
“There’s always lots of opportunity for people to ask questions about anything and everything for that matter. Whether it’s to an individual trustee, our phone numbers and emails are available or of course, they can send an email to staff and get a response that way,” he said.
“There’s no limitation whatsoever. Anyone can ask any question at any time through the channels, through the secretary treasurer’s office, through the staff, the Superintendent’s office, any of the trustees and we do deal with them. I know most, if not all of the trustees, when we get questions from residents, from parents, we make sure that they get forwarded on for a swift response so I don’t think there’s any concern there at all.”
While this change is coming on the heels of question period being dominated by questions pertaining to SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) in schools and have at times got out of hand, Tymoschuk says these incidents have nothing to do with the policy change.
“The last (question periods) over the last four, five months have been a little raucous, shall we say, but I don’t know if this policy will change that… I don’t know if that could change it or not. It all depends on who’s at the meeting, how they conduct themselves and the response of the chair.”
The Oct. 18 regular meeting’s question period, for example, did include several questions regarding SOGI but gained a nod from Larsen for being “respectful”.
“Just so the public knows, it’s not an issue of trying to create more red tape, it’s actually quite the opposite. We need to update policies, to clean them up, make them simpler, easier for the public to understand, easier for us to enact,” trustee Bob Holmes said at the meeting.