This post is the second of a multi-part series that will be published over the next week. Part 1 was posted on October 26, 2009, Part 3 was posted on October 30, 2009, and Part 4 was posted on November 3, 2009.
December 22, 1998: Peggy Anderson and Danielle Smith publicly called on the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) to drop its legal challenge to regain the right to tax collection. “I’m not sure that the power to tax should rest with the local boards,” Anderson said. “I’m not very excited about spending my time trying to bully the province into giving us more money.” The two trustees opposed the CBE decision to spend up to $100,000 arguing the board’s right to collect taxes before the Supreme Court. Liz LoVecchio defended the legal challenge and compared the 1994 government amendments to the School Act to “constitutional change by stealth.”
January 8, 1999: Smith introduced a motion to achieve 100% utilization in CBE schools by June, 2002. Officials had estimated that moving to an 85% utilization rate would require closing up to 30 schools. Smith told the Herald: “I am not doing this to be alarming, I want clarity, and communities deserve clarity.” The motion was rejected in a 5-2 vote on January 12.
January 10, 1999: CBE superintendent of finances Don Dart informed trustees that “the chances are not good the board can have a balanced budget and meet contract demands” of employees without an increase in provincial funding. The public board has run a $34.6-million deficit in the previous fiscal year due largely to an early retirement deal that encouraged 465 senior teachers to leave. Smith objected to the board spending $6,000 to pay for newspaper ads advertising the meetings. Teresa Woo-Paw disagreed, saying newspaper ads are the best way to get the word out.
January 12, 1999: CBE trustees unanimously passed a motion introduced by LoVecchio that expressed alarm at the number of elementary schools who had stopped French instruction. LoVecchio and several other trustees argued the CBE had a duty to offer French language instruction. Smith said she was not sure parents want French forced on them at the exclusion of other options, such as music and art. Smith told the Herald:
“This is a cost issue. Feasibly, French can’t be offered at every school and I don’t think that parents want that, either.”
January 26, 1999: Reported by the Herald:
Trustee Jennifer Pollock accused trustee Danielle Smith of deliberately leaving the boardroom before a vote, saying it was the second time such a thing had happened.
Pollock even briefly blocked Smith’s path out and whispered a warning to her not to leave.
“I said `don’t be unaccountable and leave the boardroom,’ ” Pollock said afterward.
Smith said she simply saw someone in the hallway she wanted to talk to.
“I got back in for the vote and that’s the bottom line, isn’t it?” she said later.
During Smith’s absence of about five to 10 minutes, Pollock was livid.
“I personally find offence with trustees who choose to leave the room” before a vote, she said.
January 28, 1999: Following the January 26 confrontation between Pollock and Smith, CBE Chair Woo-Paw suggested that trustees “need to review how we work together from time to time.”
March 10, 1999: Nominated by Smith, Lynn Nishimura was elected vice-chairwoman over Pollock in a 4-3 vote. LoVecchio had resigned as vice-chair after claiming that Woo-Paw had shut her out of important decisions.
April 13, 1999: Smith publicly states that the CBE needs to take action to plug leaks to the media.
May 9, 1999: In a letter to Premier Ralph Klein, Calgary businessman and Liberal organizer Donn Lovett accused Anderson and Smith of skipping three school board meetings in a row. Lovett’s letter argued that the School Act provided for removal of anyone who misses three consecutive regular meetings. Anderson and Smith sought legal advice and Smith fired back:
“The allegation is that I’m breaking the law. I’m not breaking the law.”
Smith and Anderson told the Herald that they suspected Pollock, LoVecchio and former chair Judy Tilston convinced Lovett to send the letter.
May 22, 1999: The CBE unveiled a plan to close 565 classrooms as part of its budget trimming. With the lights switched off and heat turned down, $1.5 million would be trimmed from the maintenance budget. The total maintenance budget was cut by $2.5 million.
June 14, 1999: A National Post editorial:
Political irregularities may be acceptable — that is for the voter to decide. But financial irregularities are less easily excused. And the inquiries by Ms. [Peggy Anderson] and Ms. [Danielle Smith] revealed excesses that would make Livent blush. They found dozens of questionable expenses; one trustee had racked up $4,500 in cell- phone bills in one school year. That’s tough to do — being a trustee is a part-time job with an office and phone included. More than $25,000 was spent on travel — on top of trustees’ car allowances. Office expenses for the seven were grossly over budget. A $104,000 legal opinion on the “rights of parents” had been commissioned.