LETTER: Wondering why school board won’t accept offer of a special advisor

A reader wants to know why the Okanagan Skaha School Board is opposed to a special advisor

The School Board has confirmed that the board at this time does not see the need to request that the Minister of Education appoint a special advisor to review our process.

Does the board know the difference between the role of an ombudsperson and a special advisor? I’m perplexed.

The board chair’s statement in the media that “we can’t be running two processes consecutively” suggests that these are similar. While we appreciate that the ombudsperson is involved, their role is primarily investigative in nature. They are not mandated to help parties find common ground, settle disputes/differences and find a common solution – the way a third party consultant would. Different job descriptions and mandates. One can’t be called the other.

Ombudsperson’s are not facilitators/mediators. It is their mandate to investigate when someone lodges a complaint about unfair treatment of process. That said, they can make recommendations for resolution but they are not mandated to mediate or facilitate discussions to help resolve the issues at hand. A third party consultant would be mandated to do so with the intention to create a win-win for all parties affected.

This is why we, Concerned Parents of Summerland Schools, supported the offer for a third party consultant from MLA Dan Ashton and the Minister. It is a means of helping us all get out of a box canyon. We see it as a way for both sides to stop, take a deep breath and seek out common ground—in other words… focus on win/win solutions. And in doing so, we still recognize that the final decision remains in the hands of the Board. It is the process that we find most appealing with this offer.

I have heard so many people, both within and outside of our community, express how blown away they are that the board has so far simply dismissed this wise olive branch out of hand. Why are they in a rush? We do have time. And one year is not unreasonable. The board chair even said herself that ‘we’ should wait for guidance from the ombudsperson’s office.

So I once again appeal to the board to please take this offer from the minister in the positive spirit with which it was given.

Jane Campardo