Al Gribbin’s request to sit on the Kootenay Lake School District’s labour management committee was turned down by board Lenora Trenamen. (Black Press file)

Al Gribbin’s request to sit on the Kootenay Lake School District’s labour management committee was turned down by board Lenora Trenamen. (Black Press file)

Teachers’ Association protests committee appointment process

Newly elected school trustee Al Gribbin’s request to sit on the Kootenay Lake School District’s labour management committee was turned down by board Lenora Trenamen, and her reasons have raised the ire of Creston Valley Teachers’ Association president Doug Kunzelman.

“Your explanation to trustee Gribbin included that you perceived him to have a conflict of interest due to ‘hold(ing) an active teaching certificate and because you are so recently retired, you could potentially be more emotionally attached or personally connected to the role of a teacher, rather than that of a trustee,’ a letter signed by Kunzelman said to Trenamen.

“Although Trustee Gribbin does hold an active teaching certificate, he is not employed as a teacher by School District 8, or any other educational institution for that matter. With respect to his being recently retired, the CVTA points out that at the date of your letter, trustee Gribbin had been retired from teaching for well over a year.”

“Perhaps, he was elected to this role because of his unique perspective and life experiences, including being a teacher, as opposed to the incumbent he replaced. Not even 2 months after being elected to the role of school trustee, this decision not to allow him to be on a committee has limited how he will be able to reflect local priorities, values, and expectations. He has now been limited in his ability to guide the work of the school district. He has now been limited in his ability to represent his constituents. But he will still be accountable to them.”

Trenamen told the Advance on Monday that while she could not comment on individual situations, she continues to believe that prior employment is a factor in her committee appointments.

“Without commenting on individual circumstances, we can provide the following information about Board committees,” she said. “Under Board Policy, assignment of trustees to board committees is discretionary. Committee assignments are normally made twice each term and take into account the roles of individual trustees and composition of the board as a whole at that time.

“There is just one trustee representative on each of the two Board labour relations committees. One committee is responsible for teachers union (KLTF) labour relations, and the other for support staff union (CUPE) labour relations. Various considerations are taken into account when determining committee assignments. Prior employment as a teacher or support staff union member may be a factor for consideration depending on the circumstances in each case. Trustees interested in serving on particular committees have the opportunity to be considered each time that committee assignments are being made during the term.”

Because Gribbin did not respond to her request that he provide other committee preferences, Trenamen told Gribbin that he has not been given any appointments.

Gribbin said on Monday that at the first school board meeting after last fall’s elections, Superintendent of Schools Christine Perkins said that three of the trustees had potential conflicts of interest—Trenamen and Trustee Bill Maslechko both have adult children who work for the district, and Gribbin, as a recently retired teacher.

“I would like to get legal clarification about whether I am in a conflict of interest when I have retired and no longer teach,” Gribbin said. “But that request has been ignored.”

“The Creston Valley Teachers’ Association is disappointed in this decision regarding trustee Gribbin,” Kunzelman said. “The CVTA wonders if any trustee would ever be determined to be in a conflict of interest because they are a business owner, or have had previous careers as supervisors or managers and would be too emotionally connected to management’s perspective to fulfill their role as trustee?

“It would be interesting to know what the constituents of Creston South Rural think about this situation.”

Gribbin said that he will continue to bring issues of concern to his constituents and the general public, as he committed himself to doing during the 2018 election campaign.