Minister appoints special advisor to SD50

B.C.’s minister of education has appointed a special advisor to help the Haida Gwaii School District fix some governance problems.

Education Minister Rob Flemming wrote a letter last Tuesday to Roeland Denooij, the newly elected chair of the Haida Gwaii school board, to explain why the ministry has appointed an advisor and outline the advisor’s role.

“As you know, following discussions with the former Haida Gwaii Board of Education, a number of current and former district staff, and other members of the local community, the ministry has identified a range of issues with the board’s governance of the district,” Flemming wrote.

“I am concerned these challenges continue to undermine the district’s ability to focus on student learning.”

Speaking at the latest school board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18, Denooij said he and other school trustees look forward to working with the ministry’s special advisor, Piet Langstraat, who recently retired as superintendent for the Greater Victoria School District.

“We’re looking forward to receiving support from Mr. Langstraat, as he brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience,” Denooij said.

“In the end, it’s going to mean a strong gain for our district,” he added later.

A ministry spokesperson said by email that Langstraat will review the district’s governance capacity, culture, roles, practices (including its approach to conflicts of interest), relationships with district management and stakeholders, as well as compliance with legal requirements, and evaluations of senior staff.

Appointed for a term that ends June 1, 2019, Langstraat will also help the school district to finish developing a strategic plan, to recruit and hire new senior staff, and to understand effective board governance.

In August, teachers and parents were surprised to learn that after only two years, Dawna Day was leaving her role as superintendent of schools for the Haida Gwaii School District.

Day did not publicly explain why she was no longer with the district.

In October, members of the newly reformed Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) for Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary asked the outgoing school board why Day was gone, and what severance she was paid.

Former board chair Harmony Williams said at the time that the trustees were legally bound by confidentiality rules, but parents who wanted to know more could file a Freedom of Information request.

It may be unrelated, but the outgoing school board recently spent $5,500 to hire a lawyer — a legal fee not typically included in the school board’s budget.

Under B.C.’s School Act, a special advisor can inspect all school board records, attend school board meetings, and enter schools or school offices to evaluate a school district as needed.

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