UCDSB chairman warns trustees about being ‘pulled into’ school review

UCDSB board chairman Jeff McMillan, seen here in a Tuesday, June 7, 2016 screen grab from a YouTube video, warned the board Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016 about being pulled into the school review process. (YouTube via Newswatch Group)

BROCKVILLE – The chairman of the Upper Canada school board has warned trustees about being “pulled into situations that we should not be pulled into because it is not our role.”

While not identifying anyone by name and calling it a “reminder,” Jeff McMillan appeared to admonish trustees on a couple of fronts Wednesday night during a board meeting in Brockville.

He said trustees need to follow provincial rules and should not be stepping outside protocols, such as being a “coach and active participant” in the process when they should be “judge only.”

McMillan also said trustees criticizing a decision by the board is also potentially violating the board’s code of conduct.

The chairman said the motion that passed at the Sept. 28, 2016 meeting to accept the recommendations for potential school closures and restructuring needs to be supported post-decision.

“Any public criticism of that decision following that (night) is a direct violation of the code of conduct. There is nothing wrong with a trustee saying ‘I was opposed to the motion’…any comment or criticism beyond that puts the individual trustee at risk and this board at risk,” McMillan said.

McMillan said a trustee’s public discourse or criticism of the decision is a violation of the code of conduct.

During his 12-minute speech, he also took an opportunity to dispel some myths.

“We are doing what are doing is because it is our legislated responsibility to be accountable,” the chairman said.

“That is a myth that we didn’t see it coming (the school review). I cannot emphasize enough we have not closed schools,” McMillan said.

He added that there is no final decision on schools. “Anyone who says we have made up our minds (on school closures) is wrong…absolutely wrong,” McMillan said emphatically.

McMillan also addressed the process. “Our role is to actively listen throughout the (ARC) process and then become actively engaged after all the input is received and final report issued. This is not the (Boundary) 2020 process, it’s changed, our role has changed,” McMillan told the board.

He added that doing nothing to the local public school system is “unimaginable and unjustifiable.”

“These are the rules. These are our realities. And this is how we must engage in the process before us. It is important that we maintain public confidence,” McMillan said in closing.

After a nearly hour-long discussion, the board voted 8-3 against a motion to rescind the accommodation review motion from Sept. 28, 2016. The three trustees that voted to rescind the motion were Lisa Swan, John McAllister and Wendy MacPherson.