Calgary

'Final straw': CBE trustee Lisa Davis resigns, alleging secrecy and undemocratic processes

Calgary Board of Education trustee Lisa Davis has announced her resignation, alleging secrecy and undemocratic processes.

Education minister's press secretary calls resignation 'extremely troubling'

Lisa Davis, CBE trustee for Wards 6 and 7, has announced her resignation. It won't be official until she submits it formally in writing at the beginning of the next board meeting, scheduled for Tuesday. (CBE)

Calgary Board of Education trustee Lisa Davis has announced her resignation, alleging secrecy and undemocratic processes.

In a Facebook post Monday morning, Davis said a secret motion passed at a late night board meeting on Sunday was her final straw. 

She alleges the motion "hamstrings" her ability as a trustee.

"I know this direction is not in the best interest of students, parents, staff, the CBE or the taxpayers of Calgary," she wrote.

In a statement released by the board later Monday, it states that it's confident that current governance policies and procedures "are fully compliant with legislation and strong governance practices."

Board chair Marilyn Dennis said at a press conference on Monday that Davis has expressed opinions that are not held by the rest of the board and that every trustee is encouraged to walk into meetings with transparency.

"Trustees have been encouraged to be open and honest and transparent in their interviews and to the best of my knowledge my peers have complied," she said.

Dennis adds that Davis was scheduled for an interview with auditors that are currently reviewing the CBE on Monday morning and to her understanding, Davis didn't complete her interview. 

Marilyn Dennis says the CBE board has accepted Lisa Davis' resignation effective immediately. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Davis says that despite opposing votes from her and trustee Althea Adams, the board passed the following motion: "That the Board of Trustees agrees to adopt the advice as discussed in-camera."

"As the advice was given in-camera, I cannot speak specifically to the advice," she said. "However, this sort of record of verbal advice once again flies in the face of accepted democratic processes and true transparency."

Davis said the board may pass motions, but those motions must be spelled out in a public forum. 

"The public has no idea what direction the board is taking given the vague wording of the motion, and I have registered my objection to this," she said. 

CBE finances and governance under review 

The CBE is under the microscope of an independent financial and governance review, which was ordered by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange late last year. 

Davis said it's important that review look at the need for procedural change.

"Which would shine light on the decisions being made behind closed doors," she said. "No democratically elected body can be allowed to hide information that is inconvenient or uncomfortable for public disclosure."

Davis said that, should she be asked to, she would co-operate with the audit.

"As completely as I can, given all the constraints that have been placed on me," she said. "I remain hopeful the audit of the CBE will fully disclose the issues I have been fighting for over the last two years, and more importantly bring about true change at the CBE."

In a statement, Colin Aitchison, press secretary to LaGrange, said it's "extremely troubling" that Davis felt the need to resign in the midst of the review.

"Her indication that the CBE is constraining her and other trustees from completely co-operating with Grant Thornton's independent financial and governance review is disturbing," he said. "It is the government's expectation that the CBE will allow their trustees and administrators to fully co-operate with this review."

Davis's resignation comes on the heels of her calling CBE governance and procedures "deeply flawed, undemocratic" earlier this month.

She said that over the course of the past 18 months, she has proposed eight motions that have been shut down by the board without being debated.

Under the Education Act, Davis must submit her resignation formally in writing at the beginning of the next board meeting, which takes place on Tuesday.

Davis's UCP run

Prior to becoming a trustee,  Davis was a vocal critic of the board and was behind the advocacy group, Kids Come First, which expressed concerns over a number of issues, including math scores, literacy and transportation.

In 2017, Davis ran for the school board as a part of the Students Count slate, alongside current trustees Adams and Mike Bradshaw.

In June 2018, Davis announced that after hitting "significant roadblocks" that she felt had kept her from serving the public, she'd be running for the United Conservative Party nomination in Calgary-Bow. The contest was ultimately won by current UCP Advanced Education minister, Demetrios Nicolaides.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to safety on Calgary Transit. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at lucie.edwardson@cbc.ca

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