Dec 8,2006 - the NOW news
By Simone Blais - Staff Reporter
A Port Coquitlam city councillor is alleging School District 43 trustees dealt with school closures behind closed doors and is submitting freedom of information requests to find the documentation to prove it.
Coun. Greg Moore said he first learned of impending school closures when his eight-year-old daughter, who is in Grade 3 at Lincoln Elementary, brought a letter home notifying parents of the board's school closures decision.
Moore said he has made repeated requests to District 43 staff for information pertaining to capacity and enrolment and no one has returned his calls.
Since then, Moore said he submitted a written request for "all information and background documentation over the past year about the proposed school closures, including any other schools that were discussed and did not make the top-eight recommendations."
He has also asked, in writing, whether the item was addressed at any closed meetings.
Moore said he applied "for the freedom of information request (Thursday) because we're not getting the answers from the school board in a timely fashion.
"Time is of an essence. We don't have six months to request the information or wait for the school board to provide us with the information that we need to receive," he said.
Moore said he believes the information isn't forthcoming because school trustees first learned of the staff recommendation at an in-camera meeting.
Moore also said that the Power Point presentation made during the Tuesday, Nov. 28, special public meeting "had very little information to make such a substantial decision over."
That's what led him to believe the recommendation to close some schools to address declining enrolment had been discussed behind closed doors, he said.
"The recommendation at the end of it was very vague, it didn't identify what schools should be closed, why those schools should be closed, they didn't discuss why one school would be chosen over another school," Moore added. "As a city councillor, we were never asked for our thoughts or contribution to this decision that affects not just the school and the parents that go there, but the overall community."
District 43 chair Melissa Hyndes said the board had a working session on declining enrolment in October, when trustees reviewed the findings in the Matrix Planning Associates report issued in June 2005. Asked whether school closures was mentioned during that working session, Hyndes said "It was not," but "we asked staff to bring us back some kind of a more detailed report from that."
Hyndes would also not say whether the recommendation to close schools was brought up during an in-camera meeting.
"We had in-camera meetings and the subjects of those in-camera meetings obviously are in-camera. When you're talking about the effects that some decision could have on employee groups, that constitutes in-camera information," she said.
"On Nov. 28, that was the first time that anybody on the board had seen anything in writing within a public meeting."
Hyndes would not comment on whether she received a verbal report from staff recommending the closure of schools, aside from: "That would be an in-camera meeting and those are in the in-camera minutes."
In the interim, Moore said a new group, Concerned Citizens of Lincoln Park, is inviting the surrounding community to attend a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at Lincoln Elementary to discuss the facts, come up with solutions and develop a campaign to fight the school's closure.
To attend the meeting, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
published on 12/08/2006