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School board's new trustees angered by appointments

Dec 17 2011

A Greater Victoria school board decision to quietly renew the contracts of the district's top two executives just prior to the fall election is under fire from three new trustees.

Deborah Nohr, Diane McNally and Edith Loring-Kuhanga, who ousted three incumbents in the Nov. 19 election, have expressed "shock" and "disappointment" at the previous board's actions.

"The old board have basically tried to prevent us from making leadership decisions in the district for the next three years and that is very upsetting," Loring-Kuhanga said.

Nohr said it only made sense to give the incoming board a say in the decision to renew the contracts, since it's the new trustees who will have to work with the executives for the next three years.

"Clearly, I would have appreciated a different process where that was brought forward immediately after the election," Nohr said.

The new board chairwoman, Peg Orcherton, who was also a trustee on the previous board, confirmed this week that the contracts for superintendent John Gaiptman and

secretary-treasurer George Ambeault were renewed at an in-camera meeting in October.

Orcherton said it was a "timing issue" because the contracts had to be signed by Jan. 1 and the new

board would have no opportunity to discuss the contracts before the deadline.

The old board wanted to ensure stability for the district in case the election resulted in a significant turnover of trustees, Orcherton said.

"You try not to do anything that's going to tie any future board's hands, but sometimes there's a timing issue and you just have to deal with it," she said

But Nohr said there was ample time between the election and the end of the year to examine the terms of the contracts.

The board was sworn in at its inaugural meeting Dec. 5 and could have met after that to go over the contracts.

"It might be of interest to the public to note that when I asked to have a business portion included in the December board meeting I was told that doesn't happen," Nohr said in email.

Loring-Kuhanga said if Orcherton and the old board were worried about coming changes on the board, they should have reflected on the reasons that might happen, instead of trying to subvert the process.

"Was there public dissatisfaction with the incumbents and if so, why do something that would only further that dissatisfaction and distrust?" she said.

The three new trustees, who were backed by the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association, ran campaigns that criticized the incumbent board for being too secretive.

McNally said the contract issue proves the need for greater transparency.

"I can understand why a performance review would be done in-camera," she said.

"But the minutes have a standing section for 'public disclosure' of in-camera discussion and nothing was reported in the minutes for October that are on the website. I do find that shocking."

Orcherton said the decision, which was leaked to Postmedia News this week, would have been reported publicly at the board's next meeting in January.

"It's not a secret thing," she said.

She said the contracts are "rollover" deals for three years and contain no raises or increased benefits.

Gaiptman earned a base salary of $175,000 in 2010-2011 and received total compensation of $233,042 including benefits, pension contributions and vacation payouts, according to the district's executive compensation report.

Ambeault's base salary was $149,745 and he received total compensation of $187,370.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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