By Al Gribbin, School District 8 Trustee
Given SD8’s recent media release, I take exception with some of what is said particularly when taken out of context regarding events of the time. It is my intention to write another op-ed for the local papers in the next few weeks, but the board’s claim that I have made ‘false statements’ needs to be addressed immediately.
Is accusing someone of making false statements different from calling them a liar? Whether or not it is, through innuendo, it can certainly be interpreted that way by many regardless of the intent. It is because of this potential interpretation that I need to address this aspect of my censure right away.
I want to point out that it is interesting that the board never challenged me on the “false, misleading and derogatory statements about the Board and its Staff” as they allege until my censure. If a statement was of such concern, would it not have been appropriate to discuss and have me correct any such information to minimize confusion?
Nothing was said to have me remedy any concerns they may have had. As a matter of fact, I have informed the board through email that I would apologize for any untruthful information. From their media release and the letter of censure that I have received from the board, I am still unclear how anything that I have said was ‘untruthful’ at the time that I submitted it to the press.
I believe that one of the statements that the board takes issue with and claims is untruthful was my op-ed in the May 14, 2020 issue of the Creston Valley Advance, specifically the following:
“From my perspective, I feel that the opening of schools in our district needs, at the very least, to be done carefully, safely, and be approved by the Board of Trustees with input from staff and community. I do not feel comfortable with nor confident leaving that decision to just one person, the superintendent of schools. In response, I have proposed a motion to this effect to be voted on at the May 19 school board meeting. As one of your local representatives on the board, I feel that I have a duty to listen to parents, students, and staff before making any decision to open schools. I also feel that all trustees have this same duty to their constituents, making decisions that reflect the needs of their communities. Without an approved motion, it is likely that the decision to open or close schools will be left to the school superintendent in Nelson. If you have a need or concern that you wish to express, contact me or any of the trustees on the Board of Education through the Kootenay Lake School district #8 website.”
At the end of April, staff was informed that they were to return to school in early May. I listened to them and the overwhelming consensus was that they didn’t feel consulted. Some members of the board even complained that they had not been informed while many teachers and staff were expressing their concerns on a district email chain. Does this sound like it was a decision being made in consultation with the various interest groups? Certainly, the board was surprised as were teachers and other staff.
In this time period, the BC School Trustee Association strongly recommended that districts get board approval prior to a return to school and since that time, the consensus from the board has been sought by the Superintendent.
Another false or misleading statement the Board appears to be accusing me with has to do with censure and censorship. I have been censured by the board. Does this censure amount to censorship?
The board’s media release in the Nelson Daily states “A Board censure is not ‘censorship”. One of the resolutions of the Board stemming from their censure of me is that I be allowed to participate on committees of the Board as an observer only for the 2020-2021 school year. As a dually elected trustee representing the community of rural Creston, I have been shut off from participating in the activities associated with board committees.
Is this action by the board not a limitation on freedom of speech? A limitation on the people of the Creston Valley’s ability to have their views and concerns presented to the board? A limitation that amounts to Censorship? In my opinion, it is and the board has chosen to muzzle a significant part of School District #8, not just their trustee.
I will respond to issues surrounding my censure in a future op-ed but calling my honesty into question needed an immediate response.
Trustee Under Censure, Al Gribbin