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School District 8 issues statement on laptop procurement process

Earlier this year, Trustee Allan Gribbin alleged that the board was not following policy
School District 8 Trustee Allan Gribbin. (Black Press file photo)

The School District 8 (SD8) Board of Education has issued a response to statements from Trustee Allan Gribbin regarding the laptop procurement process.

In April, Gribbin wrote a column that had been posted on the Creston Valley Advance website questioning the process of purchasing $750,000 worth of student laptops.

He claimed that Policy 642 and Administrative Procedure 642.1 were not being followed, which he believed required the laptops to be purchased directly from local businesses.

READ MORE: Gribbin: It is important that we support local businesses)

During a closed meeting on Sept. 27, the school board decided to publicly address the statements made by Gribbin.

“(We) recognize the critical trust invested in the board, and we are dedicated to governing the affairs and business of the school district with integrity and in a fair, respectful, and professional manner,” said Lenora Trenaman, Chair of the SD8 Board of Education.

“The content and manner of Trustee Gribbin’s statements in board meetings and in the local newspaper were unfair to district staff, who in fact did exemplary work through the procurement process and did not deserve the criticism which was levelled.”

On Feb. 9, the board voted to approve the funding for student laptops. Gribbin opposed the motion, but it passed by majority decision.

“Trustee Gribbin did not respect or abide by that decision,” said SD8 staff in a statement issued on Oct. 27.

“Rather, he continued to object to the decision, to question it, and to question the steps taken by district employees to carry out that decision. Trustee Gribbin did not simply disagree with the decision to approve the funding, he repeatedly and personally criticized district staff for the role in that initiative and the decision of the board. That criticism included (a published column in the newspaper), which Trustee Gribbin reposted on Facebook.”

According to SD8, Policy 642 and Administrative Procedure 642.1 state that in procuring the best value for goods and services “using best practice and professional judgement” that “the school district should participate with other public authorities in a co-operative way and take full advantage of shared opportunities and services, when appropriate”; and that “the board will, whenever practical, join in co-operative purchasing with other school districts or agencies to take advantage of lower prices for bulk purchasing and to reduce the administrative costs in tendering.”

“The board, like other districts, looks to increase its purchasing power by teaming up with other districts to buy items which fill shared needs, jointly seeking bids from qualified vendors through a public bidding process,” said SD8 staff.

“Other districts were also looking to purchase laptops and a joint process was appropriate in the circumstances. The bidding process was overseen by Focused Education, a group formed specifically to facilitate joint buying processes for districts.”

When the bid process was complete, SD8 staff negotiated with qualified bidders and worked to secure the best possible deal for the laptops.

According to SD8, Gribbin’s claims and interpretation of Policy 642 and Administrative Procedure 642.1 would prevent the collaboration across districts in purchasing goods, resulting in additional costs.

“(Trustee Gribbin’s) implications of improper conduct by board staff are highly inappropriate and completely inaccurate,” said SD8.

“His statements undermine trust and confidence in the board and district as a custodian of public monies, and as an employer that recognizes and values the work of its staff. As we move forward into this new school year, we are excited to implement the school laptop initiative. We thank our staff supporting this work. This is a positive development that is a testament to the hard work and vision of our board and district community.”

Kelsey Yates

About the Author: Kelsey Yates

Kelsey Yates has had a lifelong passion for newspapers and storytelling. Originally from Alberta, she graduated from SAIT Polytechnic's journalism program in 2016.
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