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What's in the report … and what isn't said By Chris Woodall A great many questions emerge about what investigator Graham McKinnon found during his audit/review of the Howe Sound School Board's finances and operations. The school board promised it would release the report to the general public, but it has since changed its mind. School board chair Constance Rulka also said — soon after the recent election — that more open communications between the board, media and the general public was high on her agenda. That, too, seems to have changed. The press release indicates there are "issues that may require attention." These cover everything from the board's budget, to First Nations programs, to the relationship between the board and senior staff, and to communication. The school board, however, refuses to divulge any additional information, saying the press release provides sufficient information and that other information involves personnel issues that are normally kept confidential. While it is true personnel issues are traditionally kept under wraps, those issues involve specific persons and their situations. It is not a "personnel issue" when generalities are involved. For example, the number of teachers in the district is not a personnel issue, nor is how much is spent on total teacher salaries a personnel issue. Here is the bulk of the school board's press release, and the questions it raises, but are not answered: "In the area of finance," the board says in its release, "issues that may require attention" include payroll, the budget, relocation of the budget and budget shortfall, and provision of financial information. No other information is provided. The board says it will not provide any. These are not personnel items and therefore do not fall under confidential protection. "In the area of education," the board's release says "issues that may require attention" are aboriginal education and the level of support for education. No other information is provided. The board says it will not provide any. As with the first group of issues, these are not personnel matters and therefore should not be kept confidential. "In the area of administration," the board's release says "issues that may require attention" are the CEO model of administration; the relationship between the board, the superintendent and the secretary-treasurer; communication; grievances; the number of administrators; the role of the board; and policy formulation and implementation. No other information is provided. The board says it will not provide any. Most of the items listed here are not personnel matters, either. "The number of administrators" is not a personnel issue, for example, unless the report talks of specific individuals who should be kept or fired. "The relationship between the superintendent, secretary-treasurer and the board" is not a personnel issue because it involve the school board — a political body. This is similar to a situation between a government minister and his/her deputy ministers. If there's a conflict, it is in the public interest. It is not a personnel issue to be kept secret. "The board feels that the setting of policy is its responsibility; and it is restructuring the process," the press release says. There is no further indication why the board feels this way; what direction it will be taking; or any reassurances that the process will have public input, among other important questions. "An appeal procedure for personnel issues is being updated," the press release says. Again, there is not an indication why this is necessary; and what, if any, public input there would be. On the press release's second page, the release says "(McKinnon's) findings respecting education are: "1)- The education of students in the District is sound. "2)- Access to programs in Pemberton Secondary and (Whistler Secondary) is not fully resolved. "3)- First Nations programs require attention. "4)- The level of support for education... is within the normal range for B.C. school districts." No information tells us why these conclusions were made; what specifically requires attention in First Nations programming; and how the board can say "the level of support for education" is okay, when the first page says it "may require attention." Indeed, by dividing aboriginal education from the main stream, the board seems to indicate that First Nations education is a second-class subject. Why? McKinnon's report, says the press release, identified that "the flow of financial information to the board is inadequate" and "the payroll system of the board has serious deficiencies." The board will not say what is inadequate or what the deficiencies are. "That's all we're releasing. I don't think there's anything that's not in the press release. I think this is sufficient," says board chair Constance Rulka.

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