Education Minister Mike Bernier today released the Forensic Audit of Board Expenses and Review of the Vancouver School Board.
“What I find most troubling in the special advisor’s report is how the Vancouver School Board allowed money to be tied up in inefficiencies, rather than spent in classrooms, in services to students, and on teachers,” Bernier said. “Stability has been put at risk by overstaffing compared to other school districts, labour agreements driving additional call out, duplication, and idle time, and a failure to use surplus real estate like the Kingsgate Mall to set a new path for fiscal sustainability.”
Three documents making up the full report are being released today:
The Forensic Audit of Board Expenses and Review of the Vancouver School Board (the report from Special Advisor Peter Milburn): http://ow.ly/TttC305DK9w
Review of the Vancouver Board of Education (District 39) (the detailed audit and reports prepared by Ernst and Young to support the report from Peter Milburn): http://ow.ly/RVUA305DKef
Review of the Vancouver Board of Education (District 39) - School Closure Supplemental Report (prepared after the suspension of the school closure process to examine the impact that decision had on the full Ernst and Young report): http://ow.ly/SxrM305DKi7
“The special advisor’s report makes it clear what challenges are involved in restoring stability for parents and students in the Vancouver School District,” Bernier added. “The reports – both the special advisor’s report and the Ernest and Young review – deepened my lack of confidence that those challenges would be dealt with and solved by the former board.”
The special advisor’s report prepared by Milburn makes 28 recommendations. It was supported by a review of the finances and governance of the district prepared by Ernst and Young (EY). That review contained 31 recommendations.
“The EY review provides a very careful, comprehensive and neutral analysis of the hard choices involved in proper trustee stewardship. Stewardship affects issues like the delivery of education, seismic safety, continuity of employment, and the financial planning required for sustainability in those respects,” Bernier added. “Mr. Milburn’s report, read together with the EY report, underlines the fact that stewardship is challenging enough without the distractions created by a focus on political advocacy.”
All the reports are online at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/administration/kindergarten-to-grade-12/reports-and-publications.
Excerpts from the special advisor’s report include;
- The divergent views of the Trustees on their appropriate role creates a material conflict which is at the root of some of the problems at the VSB. Some Trustees are defining their role based on their perception of the job, and their apparent lack of understanding of their fiduciary and stewardship responsibilities, regardless of the role of Trustees as set out or intended. (p 9)
- There are examples of school districts in similar jurisdictions where Trustees elected on a party slate successfully carried out their appropriate fiduciary and stewardship responsibilities. (p 9)
- The Board of Trustees at the VSB is taking an unusual and ineffective approach in the depth and nature of their interaction with the operation of the Vancouver school district. This approach is interfering with management’s ability to effectively run and operate the organization. It is also causing an unsustainable amount of stress on members of VSB management. (p 12)
- In addition to the additional hours and unusual level of engagement, information gathered for the review demonstrated that some Trustees are not always being respectful in their interactions with VSB management during board meetings. (p 12)
- Trustees that reported concerns stated that the information received at subcommittee meetings is not representative of the public at large, is often repetitive, and at times appears heavily scripted to support entrenched views of various Trustees to help them in their advocacy. This is in stark contrast to other urban school districts, which more often delegate the public consultation process to management and receive a consultation summary report for the vast majority of issues. (p 13)
- There is real concern that political alignments and considerations are detracting from the independence of decision making at the VSB. (p 15)
- There is no evidence that the Trustees of the VSB have ever conducted an evaluation of their own performance. (p 18)
- It is likely that many of the relationship issues within the Board, including any pressures created on management, could have been identified and rectified earlier if the Board had conducted a form of evaluation or self-evaluation. (p 19)
- There have been a number of missed opportunities to both reduce expenses and increase revenue at the VSB. (p 21)
- Language in agreements that restrict union members from doing the job of another union member, resulting in additional call out, duplication, and idle time. (p 21)
- In comparison to its peers, Vancouver School District is significantly overstaffed in many employment categories. (p 26)
- [The Kingsgate Mall] real estate transaction represents the largest immediate opportunity to set a new path for fiscal sustainability in the district and is an important component of the 2017/18 fiscal plan. This can be structured in a manner that could form a revenue stream to greatly assist in resolving the ongoing budgetary issues. (p 29)
- There has been a manifest lack of fiscal planning for several years, with each year looked at independently, employing unsustainable solutions to achieve balance. (p 31)