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Calgary Board of Education Danielle Smith Gordon Dirks Jennifer Pollock Judy Tilston Liz LoVecchio Pat Cochrane Peggy Anderson Teresa Woo-Paw

smith v. board of education (part 4).

This post is the fourth and final of a multi-part series that was published over the past week. Part 1 was posted on October 26, 2009Part 2 was posted on October 28, 2009, and Part 3 on October 30, 2009.

August 14, 1999: In a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Calgary Board of Education (CBE) Trustee Peggy Anderson accused Judy Tilston of getting John Lovink to file a privacy complaint against her. She also publicly speculated that Tilston, Liz LoVecchio and Jennifer Pollock encouraged the filing of Lovink’s complaint to embarrass Anderson and Danielle Smith. From the Calgary Herald:

Smith and Anderson have called for Tilston’s resignation after it was learned that Tilston had leaked letters dealing with a different issue that resulted in a complaint to the privacy commissioner. Tilston had initially denied leaking the letters which resulted in a taxpayer-financed probe into the matter. The privacy commissioner said Tilston leaked the letters.

Commissioner Bob Clark is investigating a complaint by Lovink who had a $120,000 contract with the CBE for an 18-month period ending after last October’s municipal election.

Calling Lovink a “$500-a-day spin doctor”, Smith, a rookie trustee, earlier this year released Lovink’s invoices and criticized veteran trustees for spending money to boost their image. Lovink said he provided “strategic communications” when the board was trying to get more money from the provincial government.

In Saturday’s story Pollock denied encouraging Lovink to complain to the privacy commissioner but did say she had friends who asked her to encourage him but wouldn’t identify the friends. LoVecchio and Tilston denied they had anything to do with Lovink’s complaint. “I accept their word on that,” said Anderson.

August 16, 1999: After being advised by Chair Teresa Woo-Paw that the CBE had become “completely dysfunctional” due to internal bickering, Learning Minister Lyle Oberg dismissed the CBE Trustees. Woo-Paw said in a statement that the decision represented “a failure of adults to act in an adult manner.” Following the decision, LoVecchio told the Herald that “the atmosphere is so poisoned that I don’t believe this board could work together.” The CBE, which was responsible for 100,000 students, had accumulated a deficit of $55 million in 1999.

George Cornish, Calgary’s chief commissioner under Mayor Ralph Klein, was appointed as interim trustee until the results of by-elections scheduled for November 29, 1999. Angus-Reid reported that 7 in 10 Calgarians agreed with the decision to dissolve the board.

August 22, 1999: Anderson and Smith declared their intentions to seek re-election in the by-elections.

August 24, 1999: From an Edmonton Journal column by Lorne Gunter:

Within minutes of Oberg announcing his intention to dismiss the seven elected trustees and replace them with one government- appointed trustee until byelections can held, a senior staffer in his office was on the telephone to Danielle Smith and Peggy Anderson, the board’s two right-wingers, encouraging them to run again.

Oberg, the staffer explained, did not want to get rid of the pair, but his hands were tied. The School Act permits him only to fire all or none of the trustees. Oberg, it seems, wanted to purge the board’s three avowed Liberals and weak chairwoman, and in order to discard the bath water had to dispose of the baby, too.

August 30, 1999: Declining to seek re-election, Smith accepted an editorial writer position with the Calgary Herald. Nishimura told the media that she “respected the way in which she [Smith] was able to tackle the tough issues.”

September 14, 1999: Nishimura declared her intentions to seek re-election.

September 24, 1999: Herald columnist Don Martin wrote that Premier Klein’s former Chief of Staff Rod Love was exploring the possibility of running against Tilston. Love’s previous forays as a candidate included running unsuccessfully against Lee Richardson for the Calgary-Southeast Progressive Conservative nomination in 1988 and as the PC candidate in the Calgary-Buffalo by-election in 1992.

October 7, 1999: Pollock declared her intentions to not seek re-election.

November 1, 1999: At the nomination deadline, only three incumbent trustees filed papers to seek re-election: Woo-Paw, Nishimura, and Anderson. Love did not file papers to run in the by-election. 50 candidates filed nomination papers, a leap from 17 in 1998 and 27 in 1995.

November 29, 1999: Nishimura was the only incumbent Trustee re-elected. Woo-Paw was defeated by David Pickersgill and Anderson placed third in the race that saw Sharon Hester elected. Current CBE Trustees Gordon Dirks, a former Saskatchewan MLA and Cabinet Minister, and Pat Cochrane were first elected in these by-elections. Total voter turnout was 9.3%.

November 2, 2009: Where are they now?

Danielle Smith is the new leader of the Wildrose Alliance. She has announced her intention to seek election in Calgary-North Hill in the next election.

Teresa Woo-Paw was elected as the PC MLA for Calgary-Mackay in 2008. She currently serves as a member of the Private Bills Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Services.

Jennifer Pollock is the nominated Liberal Party of Canada candidate in Calgary-West.
Pollock previously sought election against Conservative MP Rob Anders in 2006 and 2008. She garnered the most votes of any Liberal candidate in Alberta in the 2008 Canadian federal election.

David Heyman, the Herald reporter who wrote many of the articles covering the CBE in 1998 and 1999, is now the Calgary Communications Manager in the Office of the Premier of Alberta.

Bill Smith was narrowly defeated by Danielle Smith in the 1998 CBE election in Wards 6 & 7. Bill Smith is now a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Calgary and is the incoming President of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.

This post is the fourth and final of a multi-part series that was be published over the past week. Part 1 was posted on October 26, 2009Part 2 was posted on October 28, 2009, and Part 3 on October 30, 2009.

Categories
Calgary Board of Education Danielle Smith Jennifer Pollock Judy Tilston Liz LoVecchio Peggy Anderson Teresa Woo-Paw

smith v. board of education (part 3).

This post is the third of a multi-part series that will be published over the next week. Part 1 was posted on October 26, 2009Part 2 was posted on October 28, 2009and Part 4 was posted on November 3, 2009.

June 22, 1999: After being forced to leave a meeting due to conflict of interest, it was decided that Liz LoVecchio, Jennifer Pollock and Judy Tilston needed to submit their legal bills to an arbitrator before they could have them paid by the Calgary Board of Education (CBE). The motion was passed unanimously by the four remaining trustees. The question for the arbitrator was whether the trustees acted as members of the board or as individuals when controversial letters written by a school board candidate were given to a reporter during last year’s election campaign. If they acted as a board, their legal fees would be covered by the CBE, but if they acted as individuals, the CBE would not cover the cost.

While leaving the meeting, Pollock declared it to be a “travesty of fairness” because “the administration and CBE Chair [Teresa Woo-Paw] would not provide legal support on an action that was taken on behalf of this board and known by the chief superintendent.” Smith said the CBE had already received a $12,300 legal bill from its own lawyer for the inquiry and wouldn’t name a trustee who also submitted an $18,000 legal bill.

July 15, 1999: Despite calls for her resignation, Tilston declared that “couldn’t care less” about the demands for her resignation by Danielle Smith and Peggy Anderson. Tilston told the Calgary Herald that she had been wrongly blamed for breaching provincial privacy laws by ordering former CBE trustee candidate Andrew Koeppen letters released to the media.

The matter was then investigated by Alberta’s Privacy Commissioner. A hearing was scheduled for later that year to determine if the letters contained personal information. If so, Tilston and other trustees could have been liable for a fine up to $10,000, and a lawsuit.

July 29, 1999: After being told by CBE administrators that it would be too expensive to host on the CBE’s official site, Anderson and Smith launched their own website to publish board reports, discussion papers and agendas. The two trustees drew the ire of their colleagues after not informing them of their decision to launch the website.

August 8, 1999: A collection of notes are discovered in a CBE trash bin and are published by the Alberta Report, the Herald, and the National Post:

– One of the notes is addressed to “Lizard,” and another writes Ms. Tilston’s name five times, as if someone was practising writing it.
– One note refers to Ms. Woo-Paw as a despot, and a second one says “TWP absolutely nauseates me.”
– Another note accuses “DS”– an apparent reference to Ms. Smith — of having “crappy hair,” while a fourth note has the authors conspiring to recruit people to oppose Ms. Smith politically. “I have to find a constituent to write a formal letter of complaint,” the short missive says. “Any ideas?”
– A note in response includes the names of two potential complainants, each of whom “lives in DS’s ward.” But the note says the pair may be too high-profile, and so it may be better to recruit “someone more obscure.”
– Saying “I’ve decided to apply for aides for DS and PA, as they appear to be slow learners.”
– Questioning whether Ms. Anderson is wearing a “mood ring,” and is “more distant and pissed-off than usual.”
– Describing Ms. Pollock as looking like she has “stitches or a scar” on her face.
– Asking where “the FCD (an apparent reference to Ms. Woo-Paw) got her suit — it sure is ugly!”
– Saying “the FCD is being decidedly pissy this evening, as is her sidekick.”
– Asking “what’s trustee-half-a- brain is doing?”

Woo-Paw reminded trustees to abide by their code of conduct, which prohibited malicious behaviour. Smith told the Herald that she had seen the notes and believed the hand-writing was Tilston’s and LoVecchio’s. “Judy and Liz pass notes back and forth all the time” at board meetings. It’s a shame people are so petty when there is such important work to be done on the school board.”

August 9, 1999: Reported in the Herald:

The Calgary Board of Education voted Monday to punish two members who’ve been writing nasty notes about their colleagues at public meetings.
But only one of the two has admitted responsibility, and neither has apologized to her colleagues, board chairwoman Teresa Woo-Paw said after the board met privately.
Woo-Paw said her colleagues voted to have her write letters of reprimand later this week to the trustees, telling them their behaviour breached the board’s code of ethics.
Although Woo-Paw refused to name the two trustees, one acknowledged her role last week.
“The only way somebody could’ve got hold of these (notes) was either they ruffled through garbage and pieced them back together, or they stole them from me,” Liz LoVecchio said.
All the notes are in two handwriting styles that some board members have said match LoVecchio’s and trustee Judy Tilston’s. Tilston has refused to comment.

This post is the third of a multi-part series that will be published over the next week. Part 1 was posted on October 26, 2009, and Part 2 was posted on October 28, 2009, and Part 4 was posted on November 3, 2009.

Categories
Calgary Board of Education Danielle Smith Jennifer Pollock Judy Tilston Liz LoVecchio Peggy Anderson Teresa Woo-Paw

smith v. board of education (part 2).

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, 2009Part 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.



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, 2009Part 3 was posted on October 30, 2009and Part 4 was posted on November 3, 2009.

Categories
Calgary Board of Education Danielle Smith Jennifer Pollock Judy Tilston Liz LoVecchio Peggy Anderson Teresa Woo-Paw

smith v. board of education (part 1)

This post is the first of a multi-part series that will be published over the next week. Part 2 was posted on October 28, 2009Part 3 was posted on October 30, 2009, and Part 4 was posted on November 3, 2009.

Since the selection of Danielle Smith as leader of the Wildrose Alliance, a number of readers have suggested that I take a closer look at her time as a Trustee with the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) from 1998 to 1999. Not completely knowing what I would discover as I dug through the ProQuest archives, I uncovered what I consider to be a collection some of the most bizarre shenanigans that I have ever seen from Canadian elected officials. My sources largely included articles published by the Calgary Herald and the National Post.

In the first of a multi-part series that will be posted over the next week, here is a summary of what I found:

October 19, 1998: The face of the long-time Liberal-dominated CBE was changed with the election of two new conservative trustees. Elected on the joint platform “Campaign to Make Public Education Work,” Peggy Anderson and Danielle Smith advocated for fiscal prudence and more parent choice, including Charter schools. Both had strong ties to the Reform Party as Anderson was a constituency assistant to Calgary-Southeast Reform MP Jason Kenney and Preston Manning; and Smith, then 27-years old, had interned with the Fraser Institute and was the Executive Director of the Canadian Property Rights Institute (pdf).

Other trustees elected that year included liberals Jennifer Pollock, Judy Tilston, and Liz LoVecchio, and moderates Teresa Woo-Paw, and Lynn Nishimura. In their previous terms, incumbents Tilston and Pollock had publicly clashed with provincial government over school board autonomy and funding.

October 20, 1998: Following the election, a Herald editorial described the CBE as:

‘…a board coping with financial woes, ongoing feuding with the province, the allocation and utilization of scarce resources, the pressure from parents to provide more alternatives under the umbrella of the public system and the need to raise standards and improve the quality of education.

The Calgary public school board’s new roster of trustees has a wonderful opportunity before it to set an example for the community at large by demonstrating an open-mindedness to look for alternative solutions while fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and collegiality.’

October 27, 1998: Woo-Paw was selected as chair and LoVecchio as vice-chair. Former chair Tilston declined re-nomination. Smith told the Calgary Herald that:

“I look forward to a year of thorough debate . . . within a diversity of opinion.”

December 4, 1998: Due to budget and resource pressures, Tilston suggested sharing space with Calgary’s Catholic Schools. Smith supported the idea of sharing space with community groups, but told the Herald that she though that “the Catholic board has some legitimate concerns,” about “moral decisions” made by the public CBE.

December 6, 1998: Smith proposed the closure of up to 30 schools due to excess space in older, inner-city classrooms. Smith suggested that the money earned from selling or leasing older schools could be used to build new schools and stem the exodus of public school students to Catholic, private, charter and home schooling. Contradicting Smith, LoVecchio told the Herald that she didn’t “know where she’s getting her numbers,” explaining that when a CBE facility is leased to a non-profit group or private school, the Department of Education excludes those students from the board’s utilization rate.

December 7, 1998: Calgary Herald editorial:

‘Trustee Danielle Smith’s contention that the CBE will close schools and then lease the buildings is also fatally flawed. Even if such buildings are rented to day cares, private schools or other users, Alberta Education still applies the space against the CBE balance sheet, but not the students. Previous decisions to lease old schools instead of sell them has simply exacerbated the CBE’s poor utilization rate.

No matter how hard trustees try to wiggle around it, there’s only one solution — some schools must close.’

This post is the first of a multi-part series that will be published over the next week. Part 2 was posted on October 28, 2009Part 3 was posted on October 30, 2009, and Part 4 was posted on November 3, 2009.