SUDBURY—You might expect that Manitoulin Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) trustee Larry Killens would be crowing at least a little bit over the failure of a motion brought forward from the board’s March 7 strategic planning committee meeting to change the board’s code of conduct to pre-emptively exclude a trustee from in-camera discussions if “a breach of confidentiality is likely to occur” based on “past actions,” but you would be wrong.
“I don’t see this as a victory, while it went in my favour,” he said, citing the whole sorry mess as a symptom of what he sees as ailing the board.
Mr. Killens said that he had spoke for “about half an hour” on the motion that would have allowed the board chair to continue to exclude him from in-camera meetings (a previous 2015 ban of Mr. Killens from in-camera meetings was struck down following a complaint filed by Mr. Killens with the Ontario Ombudsman’s office). “It died,” he said of the motion, which failed to receive a second.
The unprecedented policy would have allowed a pre-emptive barring of an elected official on the basis of what they might do, rather than their actions. The concept would have been a clear violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Mr. Killens, who prefaced his comments with a statement that he was speaking on behalf of his own concerns as a duly elected public official and not on behalf of the board, said that he was not prepared to lie down and be quiet.
“How can I when we see that plans were being made to spend a million dollars on a soccer dome and we have 12 schools that are looking at closure?” he asked. The soccer dome issue prefaced the resignation of a school board trustee for which the board is now seeking a replacement.
“I have problems with how that is being done as well,” he said. “I didn’t receive the package (of resumes of the 13 candidates that have put their names forward to fill the vacancy) until Friday, right before the March break. The board meeting to decide on the matter is the day after March break is over. Many of the candidates are away for the break with their families.”
Mr. Killens notes that since the trustees will only be dealing with the resumes of the candidates and not meeting each face-to-face, the decision will be challenging. “Add to that the discussions will be taking place in-camera, and according to board policy you can’t take notes,” he said. “With that many candidates, how can you keep track properly?” adding “I am getting older.”
Mr. Killens said that he intends to continue to challenge the board whenever the proper procedures and processes are not being followed. “If you don’t clean and process the fish properly, don’t bother going fishing in the first place,” he said. “You will just wind up throwing the whole thing out. If you don’t do it right it will fall apart later. I will object to anything that goes about, if it is not done properly.”
Mr. Killens said that his interest is first and foremost the children. “If nobody is standing up and making noise, who is going to look after the kids?” he said. “I am going to bring things to the table, even if they are unpopular decisions.”
Mr. Killens said that there were many things he was proud of during his tenure on the board. “I am proud of the fact that none of our elementary school students are going to have to travel to MSS (Manitoulin Secondary School) for their classes (in some areas, some grades have been transferred to a local high school); I am proud of our relationship with the First Nations schools and I am proud we have not had to close any schools.”
Mr. Killens said he was pleased to see that two Island residents have put their names forward to fill the vacancy on the RDSB. “It is important to get involved early,” he said. “Don’t wait until the last minute, go to school councils, learn about the issues.”
Mr. Killens suggested that his candor may lead to further censure for himself. “They have told me not to talk to the press,” he said. “I am not speaking on behalf of the board, I am speaking on behalf of the people who elected me. I asked them to tell me where it says that I am not allowed to speak to the press. Nobody has shown me where in the Act it says that.”