Nova Scotia

Education minister mulls South Shore board review

Nova Scotia's education minister is considering a request to investigate the board caught making backroom deals to save certain schools.
The South Shore school board votes for a formal review. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's education minister is considering a request to investigate the board caught making backroom deals to save certain schools

Education Minister Ramona Jennex said Thursday she hasn't decided yet if she'll accept the South Shore Regional School Board's request to be audited.

The request came after the board was accused of secret back room deals to avoid discussion on school reviews, including school closures.

Max Rafuse, one of the board members involved in the backroom deals who requested the audit, said he wasn't given sufficient time to review the documentation before voting.

That was news to the minister.

"From my understanding, from the school boards all across the province, that information is provided to board members in a timely manner and that they do have time to read the material," Jennex said.

"If I find that that is something that isn't happening, of course, we will be looking at that."

Jennex said she's never heard of a board requesting to be audited before.

The school board requested a formal review or audit at a meeting in Bridgewater Wednesday evening.

"I think that [Ramona Jennex] will find that we've been doing some really good work, and hopefully this incident that we've met about tonight … as I've said before, I think was a blip in our operations and I think that's what we'll find," said board chairman Elliott Payzant.

The board also apologized for not discussing any of the 12 schools under consideration for review for 2011-12  — a process that could have led to the closure of some of them.

"A better process should have been followed," said Payzant.

On March 30, 10 of 12 board members decided to skip the review process. That prompted the local newspaper to file a freedom-of-information request to find out why.

The Lunenburg County Progress Bulletin obtained emails that showed some board members lobbied others to support their schools before the vote.

Rafuse said he didn't want to discuss the schools up for review because he felt pressured into making a decision without reviewing all of the documentation first.

"Reports coming to us an hour before we had to vote on them, reports that had been originally prepared weeks ahead of time, that was changed just before they were to be voted on," he said.

Rafuse said he was concerned about how the media portrayed what happened. But Payzant, who did not appear to be involved in any of the secret deals, said the reporting was accurate.