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Drug police cuff kids at Kelvin Trustees ask why arrests turned into media event
Sat, Dec 1, 2001
By Bruce Owen
FIVE Kelvin High School students were hauled out of their classrooms yesterday by vice police and school officials and whisked away in handcuffs after a two-week undercover sting that caught kids openly selling marijuana and ecstasy during school hours. "The kids were very shocked," Kelvin principal Glen Eliasson said. "But the fact of the matter is that Kelvin won't tolerate anyone selling drugs at school." Eliasson added parents and the community should also accept the fact that drugs are part of everyday life in all city high schools. "We're no different than any other high school," he said. "What we will do is make it safe and comfortable for our students. We will not tolerate drugs." But last night, Winnipeg School Division trustees said they were concerned about the public nature of the arrests, which were caught on camera by local television.
"Technically, they (cameras) should not be there. It's hard enough as it is, and to have such a public display of this with the media being there I think makes it more difficult," division chairwoman Liz Ambrose said. In the TV footage, students, with their faces blurred, could be seen in handcuffs as they were being taken away in police cruisers. Trustee Mike Babinsky said he wanted to know how the arrests turned into a media event. "Whoever let this out, we should have a talk with these people to see why this was made so public," he said. Babinsky said he saw nothing wrong with students being pulled out of class and arrested in school. "If a kid has drugs in their lockers and that's their shop, you should go directly to the source," he said. "I have full confidence that the police did what they did for a reason," trustee Joyce Bateman said. Eliasson said the school asked police to take action when staff, students and some parents complained drug dealers were doing business under their noses. Winnipeg police vice Insp. Stan Tataryn said the drug unit put an undercover police officer into the school at 155 Kingsway to make drug deals. Posing as a student, the officer made nine drug buys from nine different people in the past nine days. Around midday yesterday, police and school officials had seen enough. Officers walked into classes and arrested five students. They were taken out into the hallway, where they were handcuffed and informed of their rights. Their lockers were also searched. Police were in the process yesterday of rounding up the other four students. The eight boys and one girl involved are between 14 and 17 years old.
Ambrose said she knew "actions would be taken" at Kelvin, but she didn't know when the arrests would occur. She said she assured parents there were no other sting operations under way in other Winnipeg schools. "This is an extreme case. This will not be the norm," Ambrose said. "I know what's going on in our schools and I know that this is not happening in other schools." A Grade 12 student who would identify himself only as Ryan said he witnessed the arrests. "The police grabbed their pens and pencils out of their hands," he said. "Then they dragged them out of the classroom in handcuffs. The teachers knew about it; they were all around the doors." A parent waiting outside the school in her car said she was pleased by the arrests. "Wonderful," she said. "I have no problem with that at all." But student Jonathan Towers said he wasn't happy about police being in the school. "Now we're not going to be able to trust anyone," he said. "School has changed now. It's never going to be the same." Tataryn and Eliasson said that's what police and school officials want. The arrests were planned in such a way as to drive the point home to all students that drug dealing is illegal. "Hopefully, other kids will take notice not to push drugs in high schools," Tataryn said. Eliasson praised the professionalism of the police and said that on Monday, all classes will set aside time to discuss what happened.
A police source said the undercover officer also attempted to buy a small amount of crystal methamphetamine, but the operation was wrapped up before the deal was made. Eliasson said the school of 1,350 students makes every attempt to educate them about drug and alcohol use, working with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "But some kids don't get the message," he said.
Besides criminal charges, the students also face a mandatory five-day suspension that could be extended to five weeks. "There was a lot of buzz in the halls," Eliasson said, describing the atmosphere in the school. "The police got the sellers. Now the sellers have the problem." The arrests will be discussed at the school board's next public meeting on Monday, said Bateman. She said trustees have asked the administration for a full report. bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca With files from Eliza Barlow and Federico Barahona

Babies teach schoolkids about caring for others
Thu, Nov 29, 2001
By Nick Martin
BABIES in diapers have started attending schools in Seine River School Division -- and teaching the kids there a lot about caring. The Roots of Empathy program aims to help children overcome the lack of caring and poor social skills that can lead to bullying, aggression, and even parenting problems later in life, Seine River superintendent Roy Seidler said yesterday. "It does foster the development of empathy in kids," he said. Local families with two-month-old babies come into a classroom nine times each year, while the instructor has an additional 18 sessions without the baby present. Family Services Minister Tim Sale has given Seine River $25,000 to introduce the program in its 11 elementary schools. The money covers training for instructors who work with teachers and classes. Developed by Toronto educator Mary Gordon, Roots of Empathy is a pilot project that's also caught the interest of educators in the U.S., United Kingdom and Japan. "Japan sees it as an anti-bullying program," Gordon said after officially launching the project at Ile des Chenes School yesterday. "I'm interested in the broader human perspective of our children being as wonderful as they can be," she said. Gordon said kids will study and carefully chart the baby's progress, each month analysing changes such as how the baby reacts to various stimuli and how his or her sense of touch is developing. Gordon and Seidler agreed that bullying is one aspect of the program, but it is far broader in its goals. MLA Marianne Cerilli (NDP-Radisson), Sale's legislative assistant, said the pilot project could next be targeted at kids affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. "They're finding kids who are at-risk are often responding best, (understanding) how their behaviour might affect other kids," she said. "It's a wonderful program that's going to have all sorts of spinoff benefits."
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Tories continue to slam Caldwell
Tue, Nov 27, 2001
THE Opposition yesterday accused Education Minister Drew Caldwell of contravening the Public Schools Act when he dissolved the Morris-Macdonald school board, but didn't fire superintendent Pat MacDonald. The Tories say the Public Schools Act requires all trustees and school board officials to be removed if the minister of education is to appoint a temporary board. "Is the minister of education free to interpret the law as he sees fit?" asked deputy Tory leader Merv Tweed during the latest of several question periods hammering away at the NDP over adult education. He again demanded that Caldwell resign. The NDP say they received legal advice on the matter and were told MacDonald, who became superintendent after most of the funding controversies took place, did not need to be removed. "We had legal advice, and the advice backs up our action," Caldwell said. An auditor's report in September showed Morris-Macdonald received up to $4 million for adult education students who did not exist. Caldwell dissolved the board on Nov. 9 after, he said, they failed to meet his request to develop a plan to repay the money.

Trustee seeks help to run troubled school division
Thu, Nov 22, 2001
By Nick Martin
OFFICIAL trustee Alex Krawec is forming two advisory committees of parents and municipal politicians to help him run the troubled Morris-Macdonald School Division. Krawec said yesterday that one advisory committee will consist of a representative of each of the school parent councils in the division. The other will include mayors and reeves, or their designates, from the councils of the towns and rural municipalities in Morris-Macdonald. He will meet with them separately in early December. Krawec also said he will hear public delegations the third Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon at the board offices in Morris, beginning Dec. 20. Education Minister Drew Caldwell fired the Morris-Macdonald school board on Nov. 9, along with secretary-treasurer Denis Lemay, over what Caldwell believed was the board's failure to respond to a damning report on the division's adult education scandal released Oct. 4 by provincial auditor Jon Singleton. Singleton said MMSD had deliberately inflated enrolment figures for adult education centres operated outside its borders, and owes the province as much as $4 million. Krawec said he will not start to consider how much Morris-Macdonald owes, or how quickly the money will be repaid, until he has met with the advisory committees. nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

'This is fraud': Tories Caldwell under increasing fire over Agassiz funding scandal
Wed, Nov 21, 2001
By Mia Rabson
THE Opposition stepped up its attack on Education Minister Drew Caldwell yesterday, accusing him of breaking the law by telling a school division to inflate its enrolment figures. "This is fraud," Tory MLA Harry Enns shouted at the speaker during a hostile exchange during question period. "Criminal fraud." While the Opposition repeatedly demanded Caldwell's resignation on Friday and Monday, yesterday was the first time criminal wrongdoings on this issue were alleged in the House. Caldwell is accused of telling Agassiz School Division to inflate enrolment figures in adult learning centres to get $450,000 that would keep them from running a deficit. Provincial auditor Jon Singleton, who uncovered the mistake, said yesterday he doesn't think this constitutes fraud, but he said lawyers should determine criminal wrongdoing and whether Agassiz should have to pay the money back. "We're not lawyers ourselves, but because of the unusual nature of this situation we think it's prudent for the government to get legal advice on this," Singleton said. "At least to the extent of whether or not Agassiz should be asked to return the money." In his report, Singleton recommended a legal review to determine if school divisions with fictional enrolment figures should pay back government money. Caldwell gave that report to the Justice Department for review two weeks ago and a government spokesman said yesterday the Agassiz issue is included in that review. Most of Singleton's report deals with falsified enrolment figures in Morris-Macdonald School Division. Caldwell dissolved the Morris-Macdonald board for not developing an acceptable plan to pay that money back, but he said he has no plans to ask Agassiz to repay the extra funding they received because it was money that was rightfully theirs.
He has admitted that delivering the money through false enrolment figures was wrong but said it was done to ensure that the kids in a school division already repaying a $1.2 million deficit did not suffer. But the Tories say that neither Caldwell nor his deputy had authority to make the decision to give Agassiz $450,000 without the approval of the government's treasury board. When pushed to disclose what he knew and when, Caldwell has given contradictory answers or not answered. On two occasions, Caldwell told the Free Press he had approved the decision, but yesterday he said he didn't find out about the decision until later, and that it was actually cooked up by a senior bureaucrat. Caldwell would not identify the bureaucrat yesterday, but he said the person will not be fired. Caldwell's NDP colleagues were outraged that the Tories accused Caldwell of breaking the law, and repeated their assertions that the former Tory government could have prevented the scandal from the beginning. "They knew the red flags were flying and did nothing about it," Premier Gary Doer said, referring to a letter which shows at least some members of the former government were aware that adult learning centres were in trouble a full year before they were defeated in the election of 1999. The NDP caucus applauded loudly when Doer and Finance Minister Greg Selinger stood in Caldwell's defence. "The minister followed all his requirements with treasury board and lived up to his responsibilities as a minister," Selinger said. Later, Selinger said that while Caldwell's actions don't meet the standards of acceptable behaviour, he has cleared himself by admitting he made a mistake, calling in the auditor to get to the bottom of the problems and promising to deliver legislation that will prevent this from happening again.
But following question period, Selinger said Caldwell should have brought the issue up either in cabinet or treasury board to reallocate the $450,000 properly. "He shouldn't have done it," Selinger said. "He should have to come back for specific discussion of it as a policy change."
mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

School funding scandal Tories want Caldwell's head over newest adult-ed fiasco
Sat, Nov 17, 2001
By Mia Rabson
PROVINCIAL Tories called on Education Minister Drew Caldwell to resign yesterday after they discovered a second school division was found to have inflated adult education enrolment figures to obtain higher provincial grants. Tory MLA Darren Praznik accused Caldwell in the legislature of ordering Agassiz School Division to "fudge their numbers" so the province could give the division extra money to balance its budget. "He funnelled money to a school division with the intent to hide it from the people of Manitoba," Praznik said in the legislature. An internal memo from Agassiz School Division, uncovered by the Tories, said an Education Department official told the school division to stop an internal audit of its adult education program and that the department would fund the division for enrolment figures it knew to be wrong. "Basically, they have found a way to funnel the $450,000 into Agassiz without drawing attention to the gift," Angela Moshenko-Hanson, secretary-treasurer of Agassiz School Division, said in the memo. Caldwell acknowledged yesterday he and the NDP cabinet knew Agassiz's enrolments were inflated but decided to fund the entire enrolment anyway because the division was strapped for cash. Provincial auditor Jon Singleton said yesterday that is unacceptable. "It's imperative that if the legislature is going to vote money to be used for a specific purpose, it should only be used for that specific purpose," Singleton said. This is the second scandal involving an adult education program this fall, and the opposition is calling Caldwell's handling of the two divisions a double standard. Last week, Caldwell fired the trustees in Morris-Macdonald School Division and called in the RCMP to investigate up to $4 million in overpayments for adult education students who did not exist. Singleton uncovered both the Morris-Macdonald scandal and the overpayments to Agassiz in a report he delivered in September. Former Morris-Macdonald board chairman Howard Brown was livid yesterday that his division was being nailed to the wall for allegedly doing something Caldwell approved in another division. "I am shocked," Brown said. "There should be one standard for all the school divisions in Manitoba." Caldwell said the government was right to give $450,000 to Agassiz, even if doing it through enrolment grants was questionable. Later, his deputy minister, Ben Levin, outlined what happened and accepted responsibility that his department made a bad decision in giving legitimate money to Agassiz by paying for students who did not exist. "The auditor has said this is wrong and we accept that," Levin said. He said the decision was made only because removing that much money from Agassiz's budget would have put the division into deficit again and there was no time to funnel the funds through proper channels because the budget was due. Levin also said Agassiz received the same amount of money for adult education this year that it did in 2000, about $1.4 million. Caldwell denied there was a double standard in how the two divisions were treated, because Agassiz was co-operating and was well on its way to repaying a $1.2-million deficit accrued in 1999. "(Morris-Macdonald) is a very different situation than Agassiz," Caldwell said. "This is a board that could not provide any assurance or substantive or meaningful action to redress the situation," he said. Caldwell dismissed calls for his resignation and accused the Tories of playing politics to hide their own responsibility in creating an adult education system that lacked any accountability. "I understand the political game, but I think it's only designed to divert attention from the issue of substance here," Caldwell said outside the legislature, adding the only reason the adult education programs in Manitoba got so out of control is because the Tories didn't put in place proper management when they were in power. "Programs designed by members opposite did not provide for any accountability," he said.
mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

ACL helps teen with cerebral palsy get solid education
Thu, Nov 15, 2001
By Shamona Harnett
SHARON Maric says her son Paul was almost buried in the public education system. Maric's son Paul, a Grade 11 student at Grant Park High School, has cerebral palsy and is legally blind. Both conditions are results of his premature birth. If it wasn't for her involvement in the Association for Community Living (ACL), Maric says, Paul, 17, would have been the victim of schools which were ill-prepared to meet his special needs. "The education system was one of the biggest obstacles we had to face with Paul, particularly when he was younger. I thought the schools were the experts. But they didn't know what to do with my son. "The ACL helped me manoeuvre through the system."
The ACL is a privately funded organization that provides information and support for people with developmental disabilities -- and their families. The organization advocates on behalf of disabled people and their families.
The ACL, which has been around for almost 50 years, is one of many agencies funded by the United Way. Last year, the United Way contributed $144,000 to the ACL. The United Way hopes to raise $12.25 million in this year's fundraising campaign. Last year, the charity collected $11.8 million. To date, $1,476,297 has been raised. That's more than 77 per cent of the campaign goal. Maric, who now works as a family support co-ordinator for the ACL, is grateful she found out about the organization eight years ago. At the time, her son Paul was in elementary school -- and she wasn't sure if her son should be integrated into classes with the other kids. "The ACL workshops taught me Paul needed to be with the class -- not isolated from them. So, I made sure I asked the teachers to include him with the rest of the class." Today, his Maric says her son Paul is happy and productive -- due largely to the ACL's guidance over his treatment in the classroom. The teenager does volunteer work and attended an ACL youth club in the summer -- which gave him a chance to socialize with other teens living with similar conditions. ACL executive director Janet Forbes stresses the role of ACL as advocate. Aside from offering support and education, her organization lobbies government on behalf of people with disabilities -- and their families. She has lobbied the school system to make sure kids with disabilities are integrated into classes; she has helped families who are supporting their adult sons and daughters get social assistance. And she has tried to prevent Winnipeg Child and Family Services from placing the children of disabled parents with other families. The ACL helped more than 500 people last year, Forbes says. For Maric and her family, the ACL helped them understand that Paul has a hopeful future -- one that likely includes getting a job when he finishes high school.
shamonah@hotmail.com

Editorials - Buck stops where?
Mon, Nov 12, 2001
EDUCATION Minister Drew Caldwell has dissolved the Morris-Macdonald school board in the wake of a scandal that saw upwards of $4 million misspent or unaccounted for on adult-education programs offered there. The dissolution is an indictment of the system in Manitoba that pretends to give taxpayers direct contact with those responsible for spending their money on education. Mr. Caldwell appointed a trustee on Friday to manage the rural division but the new manager cannot resolve the issues that allowed spending to go astray. Manitobans can only hope some answers will flow from the police investigation also announced on Friday.
Morris-Macdonald taxpayers have been told they are responsible for repaying the missing money to the provincial coffers. The paperwork intended to keep track of spending -- who and how many were enrolled, for example -- was so shoddy, provincial auditor Jon Singleton could only make a stab at the total amount involved; somewhere between $2.4 million and $4 million, he said in a report to the legislature Oct. 4. Mr. Caldwell then ordered the school board to clean up the mess in the division and also advise him how the money would be repaid. The board could not complete at least half of its assignment. The adult-education program managers worked more closely with the department than with the trustees, spending money the province gave it and working according to the department's rules. Mr. Caldwell has rejected the board's report, the highlight of which was a proposal to have their own investigator compile a parallel audit report. The education department must answer to its own role in the mismanagement. The program grossly failed to meet its goals, yet spending went on unchecked for four years before a review was called. Yet the school trustees are on the hook to explain and fix the problem because the Public Schools Act makes boards nominally responsible for delivering programs and tracking the money spent on them. This is little more than a sham. The lines of accountability are obscured and confused by the fact the province controls education funding and sets program guidelines. Taxpayers need to know how those lines of accountability will be strengthened to ensure future programs and funding do not go astray. The government cannot do that by sending in a temporary agent. The relationship between the funders and the spenders needs fixing. Mr. Caldwell should start talking about how that can happen. The RCMP's criminal investigation into what went wrong might lay bare the weaknesses in the lines of accountability. This would further reveal the pretence of taxpayer participation. Manitobans should demand better controls and a stronger voice over spending.

Pointing air gun gets boy expelled
Weapon was broken, but target didn't know
Wed, Nov 7, 2001
By Nick Martin
ASSINIBOINE South School Division has expelled a 14-year-old Grade 9 student who pointed a broken air gun at another student in Linden Meadows School last month. The broken condition of the gun was unknown until principal John MacBeth confiscated it on the school playground, superintendent Paul Moreau said yesterday. "It looked real, felt real," Moreau said. "There is a small consolation, that it wasn't the real thing. The boy did pull it out and aim it at another student. He has never indicated why."
Moreau said the two students were alone in a classroom during a class change at the time of the Oct. 12 incident. The boy at whom the gun was pointed later went to the office and told MacBeth, who confronted the 14-year-old on the playground and removed the gun from the boy's bag.
Moreau said neither the expelled student nor his parents have given the division any explanation for his actions. The second boy has said he had no particular problem with the 14-year-old and does not know why the gun was pointed at him, Moreau said. Moreau said Assiniboine South is trying to get help for the expelled boy, possibly referring him to the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre. The boy at whom the gun was pointed has not needed counselling, he added. MacBeth called police after he confiscated the gun on a Friday afternoon, Moreau said, but a community constable did not go to Linden Meadows until Tuesday. "We were surprised the police did not move as quickly as we thought they would," he said. However, Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Sgt. Gordon Hudson said yesterday that it would be normal prcedure to have a community constable follow up the incident, rather than dispatch a cruiser immediately. "There's no urgency in dispatching a car" once MacBeth had the gun, Hudson said. "The threat is gone at that point."
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Adult-ed teachers expected to find jobs
Fri, Oct 26, 2001
By Nick Martin
DOZENS of teachers about to be laid off in the wake of Morris-Macdonald School Division's $4-million adult-education scandal should land on their feet in similar jobs, deputy education minister Ben Levin said yesterday.
"For most people, things should work out reasonably well," Levin said. At least 75 of MMSD's 200 teachers will soon receive layoff or termination notices after the province stripped Morris-Macdonald of control of adult learning centres it ran in partnership with various agencies outside its division borders. Many who have seniority have the right under their contract to bump teachers in regular Morris-Macdonald kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms. But Levin doubted much bumping will happen. "Most of the staff will be offered contracts by the new operators," Levin said. The province is asking at least five school divisions to take over responsibility for centres MMSD ran within their borders. While there is no guarantee all the centres will operate beyond the end of the June 30 school year, "We certainly expect most of them will be continuing. "There may be new adult learning centres starting as well. Most adult learning centres, including some operated by Morris-Macdonald, are good quality centres," Levin said, adding that adult education is expected to grow, along with the demand for qualified teachers. The province is not directly involved in negotiating jobs for affected teachers, Levin said, but wants to ensure that they will receive job offers from their new employers before receiving the layoff notices from Morris-Macdonald. Provincial auditor Jon Singleton issued a scathing report Oct. 4 in which he estimated Morris-Macdonald owes the department as much as $4 million for inflated enrolment figures and recruiting bonuses paid to staff. Education Minister Drew Caldwell has given the division a Nov. 5 deadline for spelling out how it will clean up its own mess, or face the province's taking over operation of the division. Levin said no decisions have been reached yet on how much money Morris-Macdonald will have to repay each year.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Adult-ed scandal may cost 75 jobs
Thu, Oct 25, 2001
By Nick Martin
MORE than 75 teachers are about to receive layoff or termination notices in the wake of Morris-Macdonald School Division's $4-million adult-education scandal. They could bump teachers from other jobs in division classrooms within weeks, or could be hired by other divisions that take over operation of the troubled adult learning centres -- though there is no guarantee, Morris-Macdonald superintendent Patricia MacDonald said last night. Morris-Macdonald officials met behind closed doors with Education Minister Drew Caldwell yesterday to receive an emphatic message that their 30 days to convince the Doer government they're able to clean up their own mess will end Nov. 5. "They expect a solid report. The board is committed to doing that," MacDonald said. Meanwhile, the province's decision to strip the division of control of the adult-education centres it was running outside its borders means that many of Morris-Macdonald's 200 teachers have to be laid off. "I require about 122 teachers in the kindergarten to Senior 4 side," MacDonald said. "I'm proceeding with layoffs and terminations. They are no longer going to be under the Morris-Macdonald collective agreement." MacDonald said that she expects any laid-off teachers who want to remain with an adult education centre as it comes under the authority of another school division would be given the opportunity to do so, but there is no guarantee. Many laid-off teachers could use their seniority to bump teachers from regular classrooms in Morris-Macdonald. "It's certainly going to cause disruption in the school division." Three weeks after provincial auditor Jon Singleton issued a devastating report on the adult-education scandal at Morris-Macdonald, none of the millions of dollars the division owes provincial taxpayers have been repaid. Singleton said Morris-Macdonald could owe $4 million for overbilling for inflated enrolment figures and staff bonuses at adult education centres the division ran in other divisions in partnership with community, social, labour and native agencies.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Special needs students get state-of-the-art facility
Tue, Oct 30, 2001
BRANDON'S Neelin High School will have one of Manitoba's most extensive and best-equipped facility for teaching life skills to special needs students after hometown Education Minister Drew Caldwell announced capital funding approval of $587,000 at the school yesterday. It was part of a $12-million announcement of final funding approval for capital projects at 95 schools throughout Manitoba. The upgrade to Neelin will include a grooming room, washrooms, furnishings, vocational work station, power assist entry doors and exit ramps. Most of the 95 grants cover heating and ventilation systems, roof repairs, or additional portable classrooms. Other major projects on the capital funding list include:
$1.3 million for phase two of the addition to Gretna Elementary School
$330,813 for a ventilation and boiler system at Riverton Collegiate
$363,812 to improve access at R.D. Parker Collegiate in Thompson, including an elevator and lift
$411,057 for a new heating system at Riverside School in Thompson
$238,891 for additional portable classes at Henry G. Izatt Middle School in Fort Garry
$170,252 for portable classrooms at Cecil Rhodes School in Winnipeg School Division

Council blocks school's expansion plan
Tue, Oct 30, 2001
By Nick Martin
CALVIN Christian School has put plans for a high school expansion on hold after West St. Paul council recently refused to allow the school to move into a vacant complex on Main Street just south of the Perimeter Highway.
"Unfortunately, we were shot down. West St. Paul council would prefer, it would appear, to have something other than a school there," principal Dave Taylor said yesterday. "The reasons given to us have been traffic." Taylor said Calvin Christian has 444 students enrolled at its kindergarten to Grade 9 school on Sutton Avenue in north Kildonan. It had agreed to buy the former Seven Oaks Centre for Youth from the province for $420,000, but council turned down the school's request for a conditional use. Taylor said Calvin Christian would have shifted its kindergarten to Grade 4 classes to Main Street, then added high school grades to its Sutton campus. West St. Paul Reeve Dave Oster said his council prefers trying to find a developer for seniors condominiums for the property. With no access to the site from Main, residents on Drury Avenue to the south of the school site feared heavy traffic, particularly school buses, Oster said. It would be necessary to install traffic lights on Main Street and improve sewage treatment to the property, he said. "Safety is definitely number one" in council's rejection of the school, Oster said. Taylor said Calvin Christian is still exploring a possible purchase or lease of the former Park Circle School which Transcona-Springfield School Division closed last year.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Editorial - Out of control
Fri, Oct 12, 2001
TAXPAYERS of Morris-Macdonald School Division are wondering why they should have to refund the province for up to $4 million in overpayments to its board for adult education courses. They and school board trustees have little real control over, or knowledge about, the affairs of those who set up and managed the adult learning classes, in contracts with the Department of Education. What these people and trustees are grappling with strikes directly at the fallacy that is community control in education through local school boards. Control primarily is exercised provincially, by those who make the rules, set curriculum and dispense funds. Under the Public Schools Act, however, school boards are responsible for delivering their programs and monitoring the public funds that pay for them. That point was underlined by Provincial Auditor Jon Singleton, who released last week his investigation into the adult education empire built up by Morris-Macdonald over the last four years. That board has one per cent of Manitoba students, but the department funnelled 60 per cent of the money for adult education to it. The division offered courses within and outside their own schools, through partnerships with a variety of agencies. It seemed no one watched how well those students were taught or how carefully the money was spent. Singleton's review found that beyond the bonuses of as much as $20,000 paid to those recruiting adults for the programs, its recorded enrollment of 7,000-plus students was grossly overstated -- some students registered had in fact never entered a classroom, some were "enrolled" after merely calling to inquire. Only a fraction of students completed the course. Records were so shoddy the best estimates Singleton could devise were between $2.3 million to $4 million of public money was overpaid to Morris-Macdonald. People in Morris-Macdonald note that it took the auditor six months to sort through and cobble together a paper trail, yet division trustees and taxpayers are being held accountable for the tangle of operations. That same concern can be said of all programs and spending by boards throughout Manitoba. The Morris-Macdonald board offered programs and responded to local need, but it was controlled by the rules and funding set by the Department of Education. The province not only sets curriculum, but also most of the funding for it through the education support levy on property tax bills, and the per-pupil grant given to boards. It set the rules boards follow in offering adult education courses. The provincial auditor found those rules sorely wanting. Facing the daunting challenge of reimbursing upwards of $4 million to the province, the Morris-Macdonald board is investigating the affair. It wants to know who did what and how. It should also review the role the department played to test its culpability. The affair gives Manitobans good reason to ask whether they are well served by small groups of trustees who pretend to exercise local control over education programs and spending. The province should admit it holds the real power. It should construct a more meaningful relationship with schools and taxpayers so as to make the government responsible.

School property taxes to die slow death
NDP set to begin shifting burden from homeowners
Wed, Oct 10, 2001
By Nick Martin
THE Doer government could begin phasing out the controversial education support levy -- which costs the average homeowner about $350 a year -- as early as this winter's provincial budget, Education Minister Drew Caldwell said yesterday. Wiping out the levy would be the government's first step toward shifting the cost of education entirely from property taxes to other sources of revenue. Besides the province's education support levy, school divisions also charge their own special levies on property. Eliminating both property taxes for education is a long-term goal that requires finding $600 million from other provincial revenues -- the equivalent of a 15.3-per-cent increase in provincial taxes from all sources. After a speech yesterday to the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce, Caldwell outlined his plan to attack high property taxes.
He said it will gradually reduce or eliminate the mill rate for the education support levy, which collects about $200 million of the $600 million. "We're looking at that," Caldwell said. "We're moving into a phase where we attack the provincial support levy." The NDP government hasn't determined where it would get the money to replace that funding, but its choices are limited to its major sources of income: personal and corporate income tax, retail sales tax, lotteries and so-called sin taxes on tobacco and liquor. Raising $200 million to eliminate the education levy could be done with a one-point increase in the seven-per-cent provincial sales tax (that would bring in $136 million), plus a combination of personal and corporate income taxes to make up the remaining $64 million.
Eliminating school funding from property taxes altogether would be much more difficult. Placing the burden almost entirely on the sales tax would result in a four-percentage-point increase, although that would be politically inconceivable. More likely would be a combination of income tax increases. Caldwell was emphatic that the province would not simply wipe out the education support levy by transferring property tax credits to education funding, as some trustees have suggested. The $325 credit won't be touched, he said, adding that the money would come from general revenues and income taxes. The owner of a home assessed at a value of $100,000 pays about $356 in property taxes on the education support levy each year. The NDP promised to scrap the levy during the 1999 election campaign "as resources permit," he said. The education support levy is the least-understood element of education funding, which also includes provincial grants to schools and the local education taxes, set by school trustees. The ESL is established at a uniform rate across Manitoba, generally hovering around 7.92 mills each year. It's set by the province, but like local school taxes is collected on city property-tax bills. The ESL accounts for about one-third of property taxes paid for school support. The province could reduce that mill rate each year, replacing the money with higher education grants, until the levy is eliminated. Caldwell said it's the Doer government's goal to eventually remove education funding from property taxes altogether: "This is a $600-million beast of our own making." Finding another way to pay for education is the big challenge, he said. The province expects to collect $6.8 billion in revenue this year, largely from taxation and federal transfer payments. The budgeted $3.9 billion in taxation revenue includes $1.75 billion in personal income taxes, $375 million in corporate income taxes, and $957 million in retail sales tax. Caldwell also used yesterday's speech to the chamber to talk tough about amalgamating school divisions and asked for the support of the business community on new boundaries the NDP will announce within six weeks. He would not go into specifics. Caldwell said divisions have run out of time to merge voluntarily -- only three mergers involving six rural and northern divisions are close -- and it is time for the government to act.
"Some divisions took that more seriously than others. I have been serious from Day 1, as has the premier," Caldwell said.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Let our teacher keep job, students petition Caldwell Sat, Dec 1, 2001
By Mia Rabson
CHRISTMAS may be coming early for four schoolgirls in Starbuck who asked the government last week not to let their teacher be laid off until the end of June. The four, all Grade 6 students, brought a petition to the legislature Nov. 24 because they were worried their teacher would be laid off. Adult education teachers in Morris-Macdonald School Division with more seniority would have bumped more recent hires from their jobs if they couldn't be accommodated elsewhere. Morris-Macdonald is being forced to transfer all their adult education programs to other divisions by the end of the year after the provincial auditor discovered they had overstated enrolment in those classes. But yesterday the Free Press obtained a letter that shows Education Minister Drew Caldwell has made a proposal to prevent any bumping from happening in Morris-Macdonald until the end of this school year in June. A spokesman for Caldwell's office said yesterday that proposal is now in the final stages of being accepted.
Morris-Macdonald is in this predicament because the provincial auditor found the division was overpaid as much as $4 million after as-yet-unnamed division officials submitted inflated adult-education enrolment figures.
Bob Morse, father of 11-year-old Whitney, one of the girls who developed the petition, said yesterday he is thrilled with this outcome. "As far as my kids go, that was their main worry, and anything that is good for my kids is good for me," Morse said. He said it didn't make sense that a teacher who may not have any experience or desire to teach a Grade 6 classroom would be replacing a teacher with whom his daughter is completely taken. Whitney Morse and her classmates said their teacher, Allyson Barron, had opened up a whole new world of learning for them and they just want to be able to keep her for the rest of the year. "She lets us learn in a fun way," Whitney said. Alex Krawec, the official trustee Caldwell appointed for Morris-Macdonald after firing the previous school board Nov. 9, said he has received several calls from parents worried that changing teachers in mid-year will negatively affect their kids' academic performance. "This has been the major concern for parents," Krawec said. Neither Krawec nor Caldwell's office would release details of the proposal yesterday. The Manitoba Teachers' Association, whom Caldwell is working with on the issue, did not return phone calls yesterday.
mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Winnipeg board balks at adult-ed takeover
Fri, Nov 30, 2001
By Nick Martin
WINNIPEG School Division is balking at taking the responsibility for running four troubled learning centres for adults, formerly operated by Morris-Macdonald School Division. School board finance chairman Mario Santos said trustees have rejected two deals from the province this week, and are expecting another proposal from Education Minister Drew Caldwell to come before the board Monday evening. "We want full indemnity, we want to be fully covered by the province," Santos said. "Bottom line -- number one, unlimited liability (goes) on the provincial side. Number two, the property taxpayers in Winnipeg will not pay a penny. "If they can get a better deal elsewhere, I wish them well," Santos said. Caldwell stripped MMSD of its empire of adult learning centre partnerships after provincial auditor Jon Singleton issued a damning report Oct. 4 in which he said Morris-Macdonald owes the province up to $4 million for deliberately inflating enrolment. Caldwell wants local school divisions to operate the centres until June 30, when the fate of each centre will be decided. A spokesman for Caldwell said that since Morris-Macdonald was stripped of control, the province has been passing money through Winnipeg School Division to the centres' operators, Lionel and John Orlikow. Lionel Orlikow is a former Winnipeg School Division trustee, and John Orlikow currently sits on the school board. Under Caldwell's orders, the Orlikows will be removed as operators by mid-December, said the spokesman. The spokesman said Caldwell has some alternatives should Winnipeg School Division not agree to run the centres, but refused to elaborate. Santos said John Orlikow has left the room, or not even attended meetings, whenever trustees have discussed issues about adult learning centres.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Head of embattled school division cites health reasons Morris-Macdonald's superintendent quits
Thu, Nov 29, 2001
By Nick Martin
PATRICIA MacDonald resigned yesterday as the embattled superintendent of Morris-Macdonald School Division. "I'm leaving for personal health reasons. I'm going to focus on the personal and medical issues I need to focus on. I can't get well in a job that requires you to work 100 hours a week," MacDonald said in an interview. MacDonald would not discuss the nature of her health problems, but stressed repeatedly that her resignation has nothing to do with the turmoil over the division's $4-million adult education scandal. However, MacDonald acknowledged that she could probably have stayed on the job had Morris-Macdonald been operating as a normal school division and she had been able to work more reasonable hours. MacDonald said she has been in Calgary with her first grandchild for the past 10 days, and was unaware that the opposition Conservatives have been demanding in the legislature that Education Minister Drew Caldwell explain why he did not fire her Nov. 9 along with the MMSD school board and secretary-treasurer Denis Lemay. Tory education critic Harold Gilleshammer said yesterday he does not believe MacDonald resigned for health reasons. "It's not unusual for people to give an answer like that when they resign or retire," Gilleshammer (Minnedosa) said. Gilleshammer also said her resignation will make an already difficult situation in Morris-Macdonald that much worse. "I think it's a major problem," he said. "I think they acted very, very precipitously in firing the board and now there is further fall-out from that." MacDonald said she met yesterday with Caldwell's official trustee, Alex Krawec, and promised she would stay on until Krawec has found someone to fill her job, at least on an interim basis. A replacement for Lemay should be named tomorrow, MacDonald said. A former teacher and senior provincial bureaucrat, MacDonald was hired in the summer of 2000 to face a growing furore over MMSD's empire of adult learning centres operated outside its borders in partnership with a variety of agencies. "I knew it was going to be a challenging position. I didn't think it was going to be as challenging as it's been," said MacDonald, who continued yesterday to maintain her silence on the adult learning centres she inherited and the damning report that provincial auditor Jon Singleton delivered Oct. 4. Singleton said MMSD owes the province up to $4 million for inflated enrolment figures and staff recruiting bonuses. MacDonald said she might have been able to continue working to straighten out MMSD's problems had Caldwell not fired the trustees and Lemay. "I certainly feel as though I'd taken the division over the hill. I felt we were making some good progress in moving forward." MacDonald said she does not have another job waiting. Krawec said next Tuesday's first meeting with an advisory committee of school parent councils will be held behind closed doors to work out the process by which parents will advise him on running MMSD, but he will recommend that subsequent meetings be open to the public. nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca With files from Mia Rabson

How many students were in Classroom 56?
It depends on who is doing the counting
Fri, Nov 23, 2001
By Nick Martin
PROVINCIAL auditor Jon Singleton's report on Morris-Macdonald School Division aimed its most scathing comments at Classroom 56, an adult training centre on Sargent Avenue that was part of the disparate array of centres operated by the Orlikow family in partnership with the division. Singleton attacked the quality of education at the centre and said it had been overfunded by as much as $613,300. The centre claimed 301.5 full-time equivalent students; Singleton said it had at the most 100 students, likely fewer than 50. The province's problem was that it insisted on treating the official tally of adult students the same as high school students, counting them Sept. 30, John Orlikow said. But in adult education, "the key focus was continual intake," accepting students through the year "You do lose enormous numbers of students at the beginning. "Even if they're capable academically, socially they're missing big pieces of the puzzle," he said. "(School divisions) didn't want these students, generally. If they did, they'd have their own programs. We're trying to increase the marginalized, the cream has already been taken." Lionel Orlikow, John's father, began Upward Bound programs in the late '90s, providing a non-traditional setting to older, marginalized students to finish high school and get a job. Lionel Orlikow split with his original business partner, who established her own adult learning centres, and broke off relationships with several city school divisions. The Orlikows turned to Morris-Macdonald School Division (MMSD), which accessed provincial grants and provided curriculum support. "We made an offer," John Orlikow said. "Dad came to them, because of problems we were having with other school divisions. Some divisions were capping our numbers -- there was more demand than that." Added Lionel Orlikow: "(superintendent Ron Buzahora) was going to make Morris-Macdonald the division in the province, by getting in all these students. Without Morris-Macdonald, adult education wouldn't have taken off."
When the Tories were still in power, John Orlikow said, "They treated us as an independent contractor, a business that was providing a service. We had a good program, rules were being developed." When the NDP won the 1999 election, the NDP treated the Orlikows' centres as branches of public education and slapped far tighter controls on them. "It became very bureaucratic, centralized. We just got killed," he said. When Patricia MacDonald succeeded Buzahora as superintendent, she too exerted far greater control over the centres, said John Orlikow, who considered that turn of events negative. John Orlikow said he and his father fired the site-based administrator at Classroom 56 over her enrolment figures, only to have MacDonald reinstate her and take direct control of the centre. MacDonald will not discuss that situation, and the administrator has not returned a series of calls, but deputy education minister Ben Levin confirmed the sequence of events. Former MMSD trustee Janice Harrison said MMSD severed its relationship with the Orlikows last February, before Singleton started his investigation. "We worked all last winter on accountability," former trustee Allan Dickson said. "Our focus shifted from volume and number, to student achievement." The Orlikows laugh ruefully at the opposition Tories' charges that the government is protecting them because they're well-connected New Democrats. As of Dec. 31, John Orlikow said, they'll have lost their businesses and livelihood. Lionel Orlikow said he took out a $50,000 personal loan to cover payroll last fall, money he will never see again. "Our reputations are all toasted," John Orlikow said.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Caldwell admits 'error' Tories train guns on education minister in Agassiz adult-ed scandal
Tue, Nov 20, 2001
By Mia Rabson
EDUCATION Minister Drew Caldwell rejected nearly a dozen calls for his resignation yesterday but admitted he "erred" in letting his department fund adult students who he knew didn't exist. Having had the weekend to mull over the decision to give Agassiz School Division an extra $450,000 in funding for 200 more students than Agassiz actually had enrolled in its adult education programs, Caldwell admitted it was a foolish mistake. "I don't think there was any good purpose served by doing it, quite frankly," he said following question period yesterday. But he insisted the only reason it was done was to protect students in Agassiz from being negatively affected if $450,000 was suddenly ripped out of their division's budget. Agassiz is in the midst of repaying a $1.2-million deficit incurred in 1999 and could not afford to take another budgetary hit. "In terms of erring where we've erred, it's been on the side of stability in the public school system, but I think it's legitimate to say we've erred and I've acknowledged that," he said. In a question period yesterday that was so hostile the Speaker told members they were setting a bad example for some schoolchildren in the gallery, Tory Leader Stuart Murray took Premier Gary Doer to task for not firing Caldwell. "Seven times in this house (Caldwell) didn't tell the truth," Murray charged during question period. "If a minister did that in my government, I would fire that minister. Do you have the courage to do the right thing, or is that the difference between you and me?" Doer shot back that Murray would be better served to fire his own health critic, Myrna Driedger, whom the NDP accuses of bringing incorrect information into the house on a regular basis.
Caldwell took the demands for his resignation in stride."If I hadn't had a request for my resignation made in the early weeks of me being minister, then the barrage of the last couple of weeks would have been more intimidating than it is," he said. It was perhaps the most heated question period the NDP has faced since being forced to retract a plan to give Manitoba Public Insurance surpluses to universities. The Tories called for Labour Minister Becky Barrett, then responsible for MPI, to resign. She didn't lose her seat at the cabinet table but lost the MPI responsibility to Gord Mackintosh in January. Now the Tories, after struggling for months to find a place where the NDP is vulnerable, are latching onto Caldwell's mistakes. Tory education critic Harold Gilleshammer said the people of Manitoba deserve better. "This government knew those numbers were fudged and yet they proceeded to go ahead with it," Gilleshammer said. "We think, very clearly, this minister has lost the confidence of the house, that he has lost the confidence of the people of Manitoba, and that he should resign." Caldwell is being doubly criticized for sending money to Agassiz School Division for adult-education students who weren't there while sending police to investigate the same situation in Morris-Macdonald School Division. That division is on the hook for as much as $4 million after its adult-education enrolment was inflated, and on Nov. 9 Caldwell dissolved the Morris-Macdonald school board and sent his own representative to run the division until the next school board election. One resident in the Morris-Macdonald area said Caldwell's actions are inexcusable. Claude Bisson sent a letter to him yesterday saying he had initially supported Caldwell's actions in Morris-Macdonald but cannot support a double standard in these matters. "You might want to forget about any investigations by the RCMP," Bisson wrote. "You can't pick and choose whom to prosecute when they did the same thing. Our school division trustees and senior employees can not be excused and had lost the trust of many. Can we fire you and install a trustee of our choice to serve until the next elections?" The NDP played hardball with the opposition, producing a letter yesterday from former deputy education minister John Carlyle proving the Tories knew there were problems with the Morris-Macdonald adult learning centres more than a year before the NDP took office, but failed to act. The adult learning centres in the province got out of control, going more than $10 million over budget in 1999 as enrolment skyrocketed. It now appears that many of the enrolment figures were inaccurate, and the NDP says it's because the Tory government of the day failed to put measures in place to control the system. In August 1998, the deputy education minister tried to have an audit of one program running on contract with Morris-Macdonald. The audit never took place, and the NDP now wants to know why. The NDP initiated its own audit of adult learning centres after taking office, uncovering both the Morris-Macdonald and Agassiz overfunding. Gilleshammer, minister of finance at the time, said he wasn't aware of problems with the adult learning centres until August 1999, and that the election handed the problem over to the NDP. He denied his government was aware of the problems one year earlier. "That, to my knowledge, is not correct," he said.
mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Ex-trustees anger Caldwell 'Abrogation of responsibility' leads to threat of new rules
Wed, Nov 14, 2001
By Nick Martin
A furious Education Minister Drew Caldwell threatened yesterday to impose new rules on school boards to prevent another "fiasco" like the $4-million adult education scandal that led him to fire the Morris-Macdonald School Division board last Friday. The ex-trustees' actions raise doubts about how much they were in control of events in Morris-Macdonald in recent years. The four ousted trustees told a news conference in Oak Bluff yesterday that they approved senior administrators setting up business partnerships in other divisions. They neither asked for nor received monthly financial and enrolment statements, left the spending of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to site-based managers, and did not even have a board finance committee -- a basic in most school divisions. The ex-trustees washed their hands of responsibility for the division's financial mess and said they had brought the situation under control by this fall, but they were careful to say that MMSD's lawyer had advised them while they still held office not to publicly discuss specific details about legal, financial, or personnel issues. "It's appalling," Caldwell said. "The absolute abrogation of responsibility that took place among these officials is appalling. There may well have to be some systemic change with respect to school board financial responsibility." In the last two years, provincial auditor Jon Singleton has conducted Manitoba's first two audits into school division spending crises. He found that Agassiz School Division ran up a deficit of more than $1 million because trustees there were spending far beyond their budget and the taxes they were collecting, without demanding or receiving monthly financial reports. Last month, Singleton's damning report said Morris-Macdonald owes the province up to $4 million in provincial grants and staff recruiting bonuses based on deliberately inflated enrolment figures in adult education centres operated largely in other divisions. Friday, Caldwell fired the four trustees -- two others had quit earlier -- and secretary-treasurer Denis Lemay. Given 30 days to clean up their own act, the MMSD board instead had planned to spend $100,000 of taxpayers' money for a consultant to study Singleton's report and determine how much should be repaid. In Oak Bluff yesterday, fired trustee Janice Harrison said it was former superintendent Ron Buzahora's idea in 1997 to establish partnerships with a variety of agencies to operate adult learning centres outside the division. "It was an idea that was brought to us, and we embraced it," she said. "We felt there was possibly a need in our school division. Other adult learning centres followed," Allan Dickson said. "We expanded rapidly over the last couple of years." Most recent board chair Howard Brown said Morris-Macdonald does not even have a standing finance committee. Detailed financial and enrolment reports on the operations of the adult centres were not brought to the board monthly, nor did trustees ask for them -- that was the job of site-based managers, he said. Harrison said trustees themselves came up with the idea of staff recruiting bonuses of up to $7 per full-time equivalent student. It was preferable to hiring another assistant superintendent as growing enrolment added to staff's workload, she said. "That was something that came from the board, and yes, that was a mistake," she said. None of the four is sure about trying to regain office next fall.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

PETA activist vows defiance
Fri, Nov 9, 2001
By Nick Martin
RADICAL U.S. animal rights' activists say the world will be appalled if an "ignorant" Education Minister Drew Caldwell tries to prevent them from taking their anti-milk campaign directly to Winnipeg school children. "You would do children a tremendous disservice by keeping life-saving information out of their hands," Sean Gifford, vegan campaign co-ordinator of the Virginia-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in a letter to Caldwell.
Gifford said Caldwell is so wedded to the dairy industry that he has chosen to censor PETA and stifle children's free thought. Gifford said the radical vegans will defy threatened court orders and police intervention when they demonstrate outside unidentified Winnipeg schools and directly lobby children in the next four to six weeks as part of PETA's "Milk Sucks" campaign. PETA targets elementary school children and tells them that milk makes them fat, pass gas, break out in zits, spew phlegm and even develop cancer and heart disease. The activists tell children who drink milk that they are responsible for the torture of dairy cattle. A spokesman for Caldwell said yesterday that PETA is free to make its case to parents.
However, Caldwell will meet with Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh next week to plan legal action to prevent the vegan radicals from preaching to children. Vegans shun all animal products, while vegetarians do not.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Division answers call to clean up act
Morris-Macdonald report addresses Caldwell's concerns
Sun, Nov 4, 2001
By Nick Martin
The answers Morris-Macdonald School Division ratepayers are impatiently demanding about their $4 million adult-education scandal won't be in the report the division is handing to Education Minister Drew Caldwell tomorrow. MMSD superintendent Patricia MacDonald said last week trustees are confident the report will be sufficient to satisfy Caldwell and keep the minister from taking over operation of the troubled division. But Morris-Macdonald's lawyers are still reviewing contract terms with the unidentified external investigator whose job it will be to determine how much the division owes the province, how MMSD's adult-education centres operated in partnership with agencies outside its borders got in such a sorry mess so quickly, and who was responsible. Provincial auditor Jon Singleton released a scathing report Oct. 4 that said MMSD owes the province up to $4 million in per-student grant overpayments for highly inflated enrolment and recruiting bonuses paid to staff. The provincial Justice Department expects to decide by mid-November if any criminal charges will be laid. The 30 days Caldwell gave the division to tell him how it will clean up its own act run out tomorrow. A spokesman said Caldwell will not comment until he has seen the report. "The board is confident they have produced a solid report," said MacDonald, who refused to discuss its contents before Caldwell receives it tomorrow. However, she said, financial, legal and personnel issues will not be addressed in the report and will have to await the investigation, which could take several months to complete. "I'm not about to prejudge the investigation," she said. MacDonald would not speculate how much MMSD believes it owes the province, or how the money will be repaid. No employees have been fired or have chosen to leave the division since Singleton issued his report, but the province is transferring control of a dozen adult-education centres to other school divisions. She was confident the division's woes would not interfere with a planned amalgamation with Red River School Division, and said that a bid by Letellier School in the southern end of Red River to move into the new division to be created by the merger of Rhineland and Boundary school divisions was always part of the amalgamation talks.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

High school costs disappoint Doer
Trustees to blame for recent wage hikes: premier
Thu, Nov 8, 2001
By Nick Martin
PREMIER Gary Doer has told school trustees to blame themselves for driving up the high costs of education. Doer recently told the Manitoba Association of School Trustees he is disappointed that Thompson's Mystery Lake school board gave teachers annual pay increases of three per cent and that Brandon school trustees handed themselves a 53-per-cent raise. A senior aide said yesterday that the premier was reacting to complaints from MAST executives, who claimed the NDP government's new arbitration process had forced the Mystery Lake board's hand. But Doer pointed out that Mystery Lake trustees chose not to test arbitration. The aide said: "It obviously has collective-bargaining implications across the province, especially when the overall settlement for provincial employees" is lower, he said. "(Doer's) message was, maybe they should look at what trustees are doing, voluntarily, first." The Doer government has said repeatedly that collective bargaining is an autonomous matter between school boards and their employees, and that school boards decide how to spend their education dollars. "He has an opinion like anyone else," said MAST president Don Dunnigan, who heard the premier's comments first-hand. Mystery Lake teachers' three-per-cent raise for each of the next two years is the highest percentage increase any Manitoba teacher has negotiated in a decade. Frontier School Division has just settled with its teachers for three per cent annually, and many other bargaining units are now seeking three-per-cent raises. Mystery Lake board chairman Lonnie Karpick said Doer has not complained to his board. "I heard about it, afterward, that he was unhappy with us, with the settlement we agreed on." Karpick said Mystery Lake had been bargaining for 18 months, and finally concluded that an arbitrator would give teachers three per cent after a costly and lengthy process if the two sides did not settle. Manitoba Teachers' Society president Jan Speelman refused to discuss Doer's comments. Meanwhile, Brandon trustees recently gave themselves a 53-per-cent increase in remuneration to bring them up to $10,500 a year, in line with similar-sized school boards in Winnipeg. "The premier said that? Wow!" said Cheryl Burke, vice-chairwoman of the Brandon board. But Burke hesitated when asked if Doer was interfering in the school board's local autonomy: "I don't know how to answer that," she said. Burke said that Education Minister Drew Caldwell has not raised the issue of trustees' stipends during visits home to his Brandon riding. The three-per-cent increases teachers are seeking, along with new benefits such as topped-up maternity leave, could exceed the level of education funding based on Manitoba's economic growth that Caldwell is expected to announce in January -- driving up local school taxes.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Trustees to debate ban on overseas field trips
Mon, Oct 29, 2001
By Nick Martin
WINNIPEG One trustees will decide Nov. 5 if they will ban school field trips to the U.S. and overseas. Trustee Lori Johnson said that the board does not want to heighten insecurity or panic, but the division must decide if it is safe to let children go out of the country following last month's terrorist attacks in the U.S. The board has concerns over a combination of the potential for danger, and the risk of students being stranded if there are further terrorist attacks that disrupt air travel, she said. "Members of the board don't want to be alarmist. It'll be important to find out what other jurisdictions are doing," Johnson said. Trustees went behind closed doors last week to direct senior staff to prepare a report on every planned or proposed out-of-country field trip before the next board meeting. 'Play it cool' Meanwhile, Manitoba's school safety expert is warning schools not to take field trips overseas and even to think twice about going to the U.S. this year. "Play it cool for the time being. Don't leave this country -- if you can find something to do here, stay here," said Keith Thomas, risk manager for the Manitoba Association of School Trustees.
The decision is being left up to individual school boards, said Thomas, who noted that most major field trips take place in the spring. Thomas said similar talks with insurers and school trustees will take place here soon.
Students and chaperones from Miles Macdonnell Collegiate and River East Collegiate are in France this week. The River East school board offered to reimburse anyone who chose not to go, but officials said only one student in each school decided against making the trip. Thomas said he's told St. Paul's Collegiate in Elie that he doesn't think it's a good idea to take a long-awaited field trip to France next spring. One major problem is that it is tough to get refunds, Thomas said. "It's up to the parents. The advice I gave was, keep your options open, don't spend any money (now). If you buy a cheap flight, the chances of getting money back are slim." Thomas said he's well aware that trips are often planned two years ahead, and involve significant fund-raising. Thomas said that bus trips to North Dakota or Minnesota would probably be acceptable, but advised against flying to major American cities.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

In Brief
Mon, Oct 29, 2001
Discussion on class sizes
Interested in how many students should be taught in a classroom? Parents, trustees, teachers, administrators and community members are invited to take part in public consultation sessions with Glenn Nicholls, who was commissioned by the province to look into a provincial policy on class size and composition. The hearings will take place Nov. 3 at the Viscount Gort from 9 a.m. to noon and at the Windsor Park Canad Inn from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. and on Nov. 6 at the Garden City Canad Inn from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Participants must pre-register today at 945-0350.

Don't rush to return cash to province, parents say
Fri, Oct 12, 2001
By Carol Sanders and Nick Martin
SANFORD -- Taxpayers and parents who packed a public meeting at Sanford Collegiate went on the attack last night, telling the Morris-Macdonald School Division not to be so keen to pay back any money the provincial auditor says it owes the Department of Education. "They should have guidelines in place," Macdonald Reeve Rodney Burns told the crowd of 400, referring to the province's failure to monitor the situation that led to the $4 million education scandal. "The board has a responsibility to resolve this issue," he said. If that means jacking up everyone's taxes to pay back the province, then the school board better be strong in negotiating with the province. The RM's growth depends on its being able to keep taxes down, Burns told people at the meeting, the second hosted by the division after provincial auditor Jon Singleton's report was released last week. Morris-Macdonald residents enjoy one of the lowest education mill rates in Manitoba -- 16.3, compared to a provincial average of 21.9 -- thanks in part to the profits the division has made from its adult education operations. A $100,000 home in Oak Bluff, Sanford or Morris pays $733.50 in local school taxes. A similar home in Winnipeg One pays $1,227.47, in Seven Oaks $1,204.88, in Assiniboine South $1,004.76, and in neighbouring Seine River $990.45. Boosting the mill rate to last year's provincial average would cost MMSD homeowners $252 a year in added school taxes, but leave their tax bills well below those paid in most Winnipeg divisions. Most of the people who got up to speak at last night's meeting said they felt they paid enough in taxes, and they shouldn't have to pay any more. "They just don't get it," said one woman from Winnipeg as she was leaving last night's meeting. "I don't get it," one man admitted before last night's meeting. "I think (the school division) should dip into their contingency fund." Supt. Pat MacDonald said she had been approached by some staff who'd received the bonuses and offered to "voluntarily" reimburse the board.
The public first became aware of the brewing scandal in February of 2000 when the Free Press reported that senior administrators earned more than $20,000 apiece for recruiting bonuses of $7 for every fulltime equivalent student signed up for adult courses.
carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

FRONTIER POLICY BRIEF
April 19, 1999
SCHOOL DAZE - BRING COMPETITION TO THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM
The method we use to fund public schools continues to create controversy, and public commentary about it continues to add confusion to the debate. The discussion fails to illuminate because it seldom relates spending to performance. Recently we heard through the media that, in the last decade, the proportion of property taxes dedicated to education shot up 50%. But the focus of the reports became the provincial government's cuts to education funding, with no mention of the different size of the school market. The province spends less on schools because there are relatively fewer students. Over the last 40 years, the average class size in Manitoba has declined by a third, from an average of about 25 pupils per class in 1960 to about 17 today. Imagine the fate of a private enterprise that kept increasing its budget in the face of such a market decline. The total money now allocated per student is very close to its historic high in real dollars. From 1985 to 1995, a decade of declining student loads, school boards expanded their budgets by an average of almost 1.5% a year, after inflation. Stingy we are not. Given this, the reasoning of the number crunchers who oversee the provincial budget seems pretty sound. Slight decreases in the share of tax dollars allocated to public schools over the last five years made sense. The people who actually disperse the money, the school boards, made no such adjustments. They maintained Cadillac spending when a Volkswagen level was appropriate. The difference is reflected in the gargantuan property tax bills that bedevil Winnipeg homeowners. Why did the system fail to adapt? It's a complex question, but it comes down to the issue of accountability. School board trustees almost never get voted out of office. Even though they are responsible for nearly half of the crushing property tax load, most ratepayers don't even know their names. Why should they make tough budget choices when they can simply pass on higher costs without a political penalty? When trustees sit down to sign contracts with their staffs, they bend with the wind. Fledgling local politicians, who typically start their careers at the school board level, are no match for the experienced, professional union negotiators who represent service providers. The size of the workforce therefore remains static, and its pay levels ever higher, even in the face of a declining market. How do we fix the problem? By reconnecting the link between funding and production. The first step is to reconfigure the funding. If the Province took over sole responsibility for education spending, the unaccountable middlemen, school board trustees, would lose the power to transfer the cost of poor decisions to the hapless property taxpayer. The Province already maintains strict control over curriculum and standards, so why shouldn't the buck stop there? Eliminating the education portion of property taxes would produce an immediate economic turnaround in the City of Winnipeg, and swell the Province's surpluses. Next, decentralize the production of school services. Instead of block funding divisions, the Province could send the parents of each child a credit for use in the school of their choice. Responsibility for staff levels and pay would come down to the school itself, a system known as School-Based Management. Those teams that ran an efficient, effective operation would attract support, while those who did not would fail. The magic of competition would shake out excessive costs. Winnipeg's largest School Division, it has been charged, overspends millions of dollars just for janitorial services. In the face of abysmal test scores, is it unfair to say that the cost of basic schooling is similarly overpriced? Not at all. Copyright 1999
Permission is granted to reprint this material.
Please assign appropriate credit to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

EDITORIAL - School tax relief
Wed, Oct 10, 2001
HIGH and rising school taxes make Manitoba an unattractive place to live or to own property. Education Minister Drew Caldwell's promise yesterday to start phasing out the province's education support levy shows that the government recognizes the problem and intends to start dealing with it. The net result of the effort should be lower property taxes. Mr. Caldwell and the government will have to ensure that school trustees and municipal councils do not nullify the province's gesture by raising their property taxes while the provincial one drops. Manitoba finances its schools through a property tax for reasons of inertia rather than sound public policy. A system of local school boards with local taxing power was inherited from an earlier era when the sums involved were more modest than they are today and when school trustees could maintain a balance between the cost of programs provided in the schools and the demands laid on local property owners.
Schools are not a service to property in the way roads and garbage collection are services to property. While other provinces have curtailed or abolished the school tax, Manitoba has kept it. High property taxes penalize those who improve their properties. They add to the costs of home ownership and discourage Manitobans from investing in housing. They are a brake to the physical improvement of the province and its cities. If the money for schools does not come from property taxes, it will come from somewhere else, primarily the income tax. The government probably cannot shift the whole burden of school costs off property in one budget, but it can set a policy and a direction that future governments can pursue over a period of years. While it is phasing out the province-wide education support levy, the government could also help homeowners by phasing out school division special levies. These special levies help ensure that pupils in parts of the province with little taxable property receive inferior education. The costs of the school system are controlled primarily by the minister of education and by the arbitration panels that dictate teachers' pay. Local control by school boards has dwindled to a polite fiction. Mr. Caldwell and his colleagues should scrap the fiction and take control of the schools.

Media Room: News Releases
10% wage increase, 4-year deal for CUPE at Transcona-Springfield School Division 10/30/2000
Winnipeg - More than 200 CUPE members who work for the Transcona-Springfield School Division last night voted to accept a new four-year deal with a ten per cent pay increase.Our members voted for this contract because the wage increases and salary adjustments put us on par with other city groups, CUPE 3465 President John Friesen said. These adjustments were needed as the School Division was having a problem with staff turnover. As well as the ten per cent wage increase, head custodians and library clerks will receive additional hourly increase adjustments.
The four-year agreement is retroactive to January 1, 2000. The CUPE members are employed by Transcona-Springfield School Division as custodians, maintenance workers, library clerks and para-professionals (teaching assistants).
The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services,
utilities, libraries and emergency services.
For more information, please contact:
John Friesen, President, CUPE Local 3465
Phone: (204) 224-1879
Stephen Edwards, CUPE representative
Phone: (204) 942-0343
DM/pr opeiu 491
http://cupe.ca
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Send us your feedback

Welcome to CUPE Local 796 Strike Information Page
On Friday, November 10th, 2000, members of CUPE Local 796 employed at the River East School Division walked off the job to backup their demands for a fair collective agreement. Who Are We? We are the 52 bus drivers, mechnaics and a stores keeper employed with the school division.
What Is This All About ? The River East School Division wants to remove a no contracting out clause from the collective agreement and replace it with a letter of understanding. This will give our employer the ability to start and contract-out our jobs when a vacancy ocurrs. Our employer claims that they will not contract-out our job. If this is true, then why the need for the change and why force us to strike? All we want to do is maintain our job security and continue providing quality busing services for the students of the School Division. Send a Message to the Workers If you would like to send messages of solidarity and support you can send an e-mail to CUPE Manitoba at http://www.cupe.mb.ca/cupemb@mb.sympatico.ca. Or E-mail Ann Rubiletz, A/President, CUPE Local 796 and Dave Spender , Treasurer, CUPE Local 796

November 29, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION RESPONSIBLE FOR PARENTS "FRAYED NERVES"
Winnipeg -- CUPE members who have been on strike for 19 days say that the River East School Division is responsible for prolonging parents problems by not getting back to the negotiations table."If the School Division is concerned about parents "frayed nerves," why havent they returned to discussions?" CUPE staff representative Mark Kernaghan asked. "A week ago today, talks were held because we initiated them. But those talks ended when the School Division left for their board meeting. Parents should be asking themselves why the School Division isnt doing more to negotiate an agreement and settle this strike."
Kernaghan said while the School Division is lamenting parents "frayed nerves," their laid back attitude is prolonging the dispute with River Easts 52 school bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper. "This isnt a teenage lovers spat where youre waiting to see who will phone first. Superintendent Carlyle said talks were good," Kernaghan said. "But we cant bargain by ourselves. The School Division has to resume discussions so both parties can reach an agreement." The CUPE employees say their work stoppage is not about wages but about jobs. They say without the present "no contracting out" language in their current contract, it would be impossible to hold the School Division to its promises not to contract out their work. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, libraries and emergency services.For more information, please contact:
Mark Kernaghan, CUPE Staff representative
Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex. 290 OR E - MAIL US NOW

CUPE workers sign 3-year, 7 1/2 per cent wage deal at St. James-Assiniboia School Division
10/17/2000
Winnipeg - Eighty-five CUPE members who work as custodians and bus drivers for the St. James-Assiniboia School Division voted yesterday to accept a new three-year contract that gives them a 7 per cent wage increase. Our members are satisfied with the new contract, said Mike Skatfeld, President of CUPE Local 744. The wage increases and adjustments are in line with other city groups. The agreement, which is retroactive to March 1 of this year, also includes shift differential adjustments for 4th and 5th certificate class Power Engineers. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, libraries and emergency services.
For more information, please contact:
Mike Skaftfeld, President,
CUPE Local 744
Phone: (204) 832-3442
Stephen Edwards, CUPE representative
Phone: (204) 771-2534
http://cupe.ca/
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Send us your feedback
Copyright CUPE 2000

Survey from trustees angers striking bus drivers, teachers
Thu, Dec 7, 2000
By Nick Martin
RIVER East school trustees Rod Giesbrecht and Wayne Ritcher have angered fellow trustees, teachers, striking school bus drivers and neighbouring school divisions with a wide-ranging survey now being delivered to Ward 1 residents.
They've been accused of asking leading questions and enflaming already-bitter labour relations. The two trustees asked residents if they favour contracting out transportation services. They asked for yes or no responses to undefined dress codes for staff and students, clustering special needs students into one location, and amalgamating with Transcona-Springfield School Division or the Elmwood section of Winnipeg One. The River East board has already slapped a "form of censure" on the two trustees by telling all employee groups that the division neither condones nor endorses the survey, board chairwoman Gail Scheer said.
"They were leading questions. The public was expected to answer in a very restrictive fashion. There were only snippets of information given," Scheer said. Ritcher said yesterday the public response has been gratifying so far, but given the board's adverse reaction, they'll likely keep the information gathered to themselves. "A survey like this has never been done in River East," said Giesbrecht. "Wayne and I paid for it, and now we are delivering it." They're delivering 10,000 copies to Ward 1 in the division's southwest corner. A preamble to a question on ideal class sizes says teachers are lobbying the province to set class sizes "regardless of programs, available space or costs" to guarantee teachers' jobs, a campaign that could prevent children from attending their choice of school. A question on finances says wages and benefits make up 86 per cent of River East's budgets, teachers are paid an average $53,000 for 200 days' work, and 70 per cent of residents have no children in the school system: are teachers' wages fair?, ask Giesbrecht and Ritcher; what budget percentage of salaries and benefits is acceptable? River East Teachers Association president Nancy Kerr said teachers about to begin bargaining on a new contract are filing a protest with the board. Mark Kernaghan, the Canadian Union of Public Employees representative for striking school bus drivers, couldn't believe trustees let their insistence on contracting out lead to a strike, and only then ask the community's opinion. Transcona-Springfield chair Mary Andree and Winnipeg One's chairwoman Liz Ambrose said any amalgamation talks should take place between full school boards. "I'm opposed to trustees doing their own thing."

Drivers to River East: Keep ban and we're back
Thu, Dec 7, 2000
By Nick Martin
STRIKING River East school bus drivers are willing to go back to work and allow the school division to study the feasibility of contracting out jobs. But there's a big if -- they want River East to sign a new contract that maintains the current ban on any contracting out of transportation services. "If that will end the strike, we will agree to letting the division do a feasibility study during the life of the (new) agreement," Canadian Union of Public Employees representative Mark Kernaghan said yesterday. "If they want to study it, they certainly can. Leave the (no contracting out) language where it is." But River East superintendent John Carlyle said the division doesn't negotiate through the media. Kernaghan should put the offer in writing and submit it to the provincial conciliator, who'll decide if it's a serious enough change in position to merit calling a meeting of the two sides, Carlyle said. The school bus drivers went on strike Nov. 10 over the division's insistence it be allowed to contract out jobs that become vacant through retirement or resignation. Carlyle said earlier yesterday that the existing contract language prevents River East from even studying whether contracting out has any benefit. "To even contemplate looking into it contravenes the Labour Relations Act," Carlyle said. River East wants to be able to study the safety, accessibility and cost of contracting out as vacancies occur. If trustees were convinced that all their criteria had been met, Carlyle said, they'd likely want to take the next step to contract out those positions. "Sure, they'd probably go for it. They'd only contract out if a whole lot of studies convinced them it was the right thing to do," Carlyle said.
However, Carlyle emphasized current staff would be guaranteed their jobs. Any route that became vacant would be offered to any CUPE member who wanted to switch routes, before it was considered for contracting out. Carlyle said River East asked the union on Tuesday to take the contract dispute to a mediator, but CUPE refused. Kernaghan denied it emphatically: "We haven't heard anything about a mediator, period." Meanwhile, the school bus strike in Transcona-Springfield that began Nov. 24 showed no sign yesterday of ending. Transcona-Springfield board chair Mary Andree said most of the crowd of 200 parents and striking drivers who packed a school board meeting Tuesday evening were from Anola or Dugald. Transcona residents can't understand why the drivers have gone on strike, she said.
While parents are claiming great hardship for rural families driving their kids to school and predicting accidents on highways and around crowded schools, Andree said she's hearing that some kids are enjoying being driven to school and getting to spend extra time with their parents.

Proposal made to end bus strike
Fri, Dec 8, 2000
By Nick Martin
STRIKING River East school bus drivers have made a formal proposal through a provincial conciliator to end their four-week-old strike and allow a study of contracting out -- if the division keeps no contracting out language in a new contract. "We're trying to address the employer's needs," Mark Kernaghan, representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said yesterday. The offer was made verbally Wednesday and put in writing yesterday, Kernaghan said. However, with several trustees attending a conference in Brandon, the striking drivers don't expect any response until early next week. Meanwhile, there's no progress in the Transcona-Springfield school bus strike which began Nov. 24.

River East aims to keep tight control at meeting
Wed, Dec 13, 2000
By Nick Martin
RIVER East school trustees won't let tonight's regular board meeting "degenerate into a screaming match" over the ongoing school bus strike. Spectators who didn't register ahead of time won't be allowed to speak. "If one starts to allow debate in an open forum, one could quickly get into the situation Transcona had last week," River East board chair Gail Scheer said yesterday. "I wouldn't want our school board to degenerate into a screaming match. People are quite free to attend and observe." Trustees plan no debate about the strike during the public portion of tonight's meeting, Scheer said. Only one delegation -- the husband of a striking bus driver -- had registered to speak this evening by the regular Monday deadline, although River East is booking delegations for its next meeting Jan. 10. Tonight's board meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Kildonan East Collegiate. Last week, 200 angry rural parents and striking bus drivers packed a Transcona-Springfield board meeting, where anyone who wished was allowed to speak without booking ahead. Neither strike shows any sign of ending before the Dec. 22 school break. River East bus drivers struck Nov. 10, Transcona-Springfield Nov. 24, with contracting out the crucial issue in both divisions. The strike will definitely continue through the holidays, predicted Canadian Union of Public Employees representative Mark Kernaghan. Kernaghan said several parents of children who regularly ride the bus are taking their compensation cheques from the division and giving them to striking drivers.

River East School Division Strike-Breaking, Using Maintenance Issue To Avoid Negotiating States CUPE Local 796
November 20, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION STRIKE-BREAKING,USING MAINTENANCE ISSUE TO AVOID NEGOTIATING
Winnipeg -- CUPE members who have been on strike for eleven days say the River East School Division is using a scheduled maintenance check to bring in strike-breakers rather than get back to serious negotiations that would put the bus drivers back on the road. "This is simply a diversion tactic, an attempt to get around the fact that the School Division is prolonging this unnecessary strike," CUPE staff representative Mark Kernaghan said. "If River East is really serious about a safe and timely return to work as their letter states, then why arent they doing everything possible to negotiate a settlement and get the bus drivers back on the road." Kernaghan said River Easts decision to engage an outside maintenance group is
counter productive and will only make matters worse. "Our members do the regular maintenance," he said. "They are familiar with these buses and what needs to be done so they are the best mechanics qualified to do the work. The School Division should be doing everything it can to get them back
on the job and end the unnecessary problems their stalling is causing students and parents." The 52 bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper of CUPE Local 796 have been off the job since November 10th. At issue is a "no contracting out" clause in the current agreement between CUPE and the River East School Division. The CUPE
members say they are fighting to keep their work and that contracting out their jobs will only lead to higher costs, a loss of accountability and flexibility, and questionable service down the road. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing
more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, day cares, libraries and emergency services.
For more information, please contact:
Mark Kernaghan, CUPE Temporary Staff Representative
Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex.290 OR E-MAIL US NOW

November 20, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION STRIKE-BREAKING,USING MAINTENANCE ISSUE TO AVOID NEGOTIATING
Winnipeg -- CUPE members who have been on strike for eleven days say the River East School Division is using a scheduled maintenance check to bring in strike-breakers rather than get back to serious negotiations that would put the bus drivers back on the road."This is simply a diversion tactic, an attempt to get around the fact that the School Division is prolonging this unnecessary strike," CUPE staff representative Mark Kernaghan said. "If River East is really serious about a safe and timely return to work as their letter states, then why arent they doing everything possible to negotiate a settlement and get the bus drivers back on the road." Kernaghan said River Easts decision to engage an outside maintenance group is counter productive and will only make matters worse. "Our members do the regular maintenance," he said. "They are familiar with these buses and what needs to be done so they are the best mechanics qualified to do the work. The School Division should be doing everything it can to get them back on the job and end the unnecessary problems their stalling is causing students and parents." The 52 bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper of CUPE Local 796 have been off the job since November 10th. At issue is a "no contracting out" clause in the current agreement between CUPE and the River East School Division. The CUPE members say they are fighting to keep their work and that contracting out their jobs will only lead to higher costs, a loss of accountability and flexibility, and questionable service down the road. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, day cares, libraries and emergency services.
For more information, please contact:
Mark Kernaghan, CUPE Temporary Staff Representative
Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex. 290 OR E - MAIL US NOW

November 17, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION REJECTS CUPES ATTEMPTS TO END STRIKE
Winnipeg -- The River East School Division continues to reject CUPEs proposals to end the strike by its 52 bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper which began a week ago. "The ball is in their court. Weve made proposals through conciliation to address the School Divisions concerns but they are repeatedly rejected without any discussion," said Rik Panciera, CUPE staff representative.
The CUPE Local 796 members, who have been on strike since November 10th, say that while theyve been attempting to resolve the issue and get back on the road, the School Division is doing nothing. "Its the School Division who are upsetting students and parents by needlessly prolonging this strike," Panciera said. "We keep trying to negotiate but how can we get a settlement when the School Division refuses to even talk about the issue seriously." The CUPE employees say without the present "no contracting out" language in their current collective agreement, it would be impossible to hold the School Division to its promises not to contract out their work. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, libraries and emergency services.
For more information, please contact:
Rik Panciera, Staff representative
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex. 217 OR E - MAIL US NOW

November 6, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION REJECTS CUPE PROPOSAL,
SETS STAGE FOR STRIKE BY BUS DRIVERS, MECHANICS
Winnipeg -- A conciliation meeting Friday night failed to produce an agreement between the 52 members of CUPE Local 796 and their River East School Division employer. The School Division rejected a proposal from union members that could have averted a strike. "Were disappointed," said CUPE representative Rik Panciera. "We proposed contract language to address the School Divisions concerns and avert a strike. The Division not only rejected our offer but further withdrew everything that they had already agreed to." The CUPE employees who work as bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper are fighting to keep present contract language that prevents their work from being contracted out. "The School Division negotiators have made it clear that they dont intend to resolve the issue," said Panciera. "Though they keep saying they wont use the language change to do away with these jobs, a strike now appears inevitable." No meetings are scheduled and the employees are now in a legal position to strike. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, libraries, day cares and emergency services.
For more information, please contact:
Rik Panciera, Staff representative
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex. 206 OR E-MAIL US NOW

November 1, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION BUS DRIVERS, MECHANICS
REJECT DEAL AND PREPARE TO STRIKE
Winnipeg -- The 52 members of CUPE Local 796, who work as bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper for the River East School Division, have overwhelmingly voted to reject a tentative deal and are now preparing to strike to prevent contracting out of their work. "These workers are fighting for their jobs, to keep doing their work," CUPE staff rep Rik Panciera said. "The School Division is demanding that they accept watered down language on contracting out and these people know their employer wouldnt be asking for this change unless the Division has plans to take away their work." Panciera said a tentative deal worked out with the River East School Division was overwhelmingly voted down by union members last week. "All these people want is to keep the language that presently exists in the collective agreement on contracting out," he said. "If the School Division is serious about its promises not to take away their jobs and not to contract out the work, why is this employer demanding that a clause thats been in the agreement for years must now be changed? Why does this employer prefer to see these employees out on strike?"
Another conciliation meeting is scheduled for this Friday, November 3rd. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, libraries and emergency services. For more information, please contact:
Rik Panciera, Staff representative
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex. 217 E - MAIL US NOW

The River East School Division is considering contracting out our work. Heres what that means
1 Loss of control, accountability Once a service is handed over to a private firm, the school board loses the ability to control and to change or modify that service in light of changing public needs. Also lost is the ability to do long-term planning. What happens down the road when the buses are no longer public property and the schools are dependent on a private contractor who then has control?
2 Higher costs in the long run In order to win contracts, private firms often submit unrealistic low bids (even if it means taking a loss) to get the first contract. But once they get the service, and the school board gets rid of its equipment and staff, the private firms can and often do jack up their fees in subsequent contracts.
3 Questionable service Private contractors are in business to make profits so theres always an incentive to hold down costs by cutting corners on the quality of work or service performed. Public employees take pride in doing quality work they work for the school board, its students and parents. Employees of private firms are often underpaid and are less skilled with higher staff turnovers.
4 Impact on the community In the long run, contracting out often leads to increased taxes for less service. The local community economy also loses. When salaries in the community go down or people are put out of work the living standards of all residents in the community suffer.
5 Public works! Public employers arent in business to earn a profit the way private contractors are. Added to the normal costs of providing services, the 10-to-24% extra that goes into profits inflates the price that taxpayers must absorb. Public works!Local 796 Canadian Union of Public Employees cupemb@mb.sympatico.ca

River East School Division Not Talking No Settlement Possible Says CUPE Local 796
November 24, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION NOT TALKING NO SETTLEMENT POSSIBLE SAYS CUPE
Winnipeg -- Unless the River East School Division gets back into discussions, CUPE says there is no possible way a settlement can be reached to end a strike by bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper that is now in its 14th day.
"CUPE initiated the discussions held on Wednesday," said CUPE staff representative Mark Kernaghan. "But the School Division left the talks for their Board meeting and we havent heard from them since. Superintendent John Carlyle
told the media there was "good conversation." Well if thats so then why arent talks continuing?" He said CUPE has made all the overtures it can to get negotiations moving but the School Division doesnt seem concerned about finding a solution."Parents and students need to know that the ball is in River Easts court," Kernaghan said. "In order for a settlement to be reached, both parties have to be talking and working out an agreement. That just isnt happening." The CUPE employees say without the present "no contracting out" language in their current collective agreement, it would be impossible to hold the School Division to its promises not to contract out their work. The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, day cares, libraries and emergency services. For more information, please contact: Mark Kernaghan, CUPE Temporary Staff Representative Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex. 290 OR E - MAIL US NOW

Students get say on how to stop drug trade
Sun, Dec 2, 2001
By Leah Janzen
THE Winnipeg School Division is turning to students for ideas on how to stop the sale and use of drugs in city schools. "We see a lot of ways we need input from the students themselves to deal with this issue," said Liz Ambrose, chairwoman of the Winnipeg School Division. "It would be worthwhile for us to hear how they perceive this issue and how they think we'd best resolve it." Ambrose said the division is establishing a youth advisory committee that will be composed of junior high and high school students from across the division. She said she expects the committee's first task will be advising the board on student drug use in light of the drug bust made at Kelvin High School Friday afternoon. "We need to review the effectiveness of the messages and education we're giving to students in this area," Ambrose said. "It would be helpful for us to hear what kind of education they'd like to see in place." Five Kelvin High School students were taken out of their classes by vice officers on Friday after a two-week undercover sting operation caught kids openly selling marijuana and ecstasy during school hours. Police were also to arrest four other students who were not at school Friday. The eight boys and one girl involved range in age from 14 to 17 years old. Besides criminal charges, the students face a mandatory five-day suspension that could be extended to five weeks. The Winnipeg police drug unit put an undercover officer in the River Heights area school to make drug deals two weeks ago. Posing as a student, the officer made nine drug buys from nine different people in nine days. Ambrose said she was not told the arrests were going to take place on Friday and she was disappointed the incident was captured on camera by local television. But she said the public nature of the arrests might be helpful in deterring other students from selling or using drugs on school property. "It will probably not stop everything," she said. "But it's certainly going to send a message to students at all schools, not just Kelvin, that this kind of activity won't be tolerated." Ambrose said the board will soon be sitting down with police and the school administration to review the incident. Wayne Drury, chairman of the Parent's Advisory Council at Kelvin, said the council had no prior knowledge of what the police and school administration were planning. He said he'll be asking the school administration to meet sooner than the regular meeting planned for Dec. 12 so the council can get all the details on the sting and the arrests. So far, Drury said, he has not received many calls from parents about the incident. Those he has received have been "pretty much in support of the administration and what they did."
leah.janzen@freepress.mb.ca

School case postponed
Fri, Nov 30, 2001
A potentially precedent-setting lawsuit over a school's right to expel students has been postponed again. Bernie Bellan is suing Winnipeg School Division for damages after his son Jordan was expelled from Grade 8 at Grant Park High School last year for posting crude comments about some of his teachers on a web site he created at home. Bellan wants $5,300 -- the tuition he paid to enrol his son at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education this fall. But the case was adjourned yesterday until Jan. 31 in small claims court after hearing officer Norm Sundstrom granted permission to the Manitoba Teachers' Society to intervene in the case, then gave MTS's lawyer time to prepare for the case. The division transferred Jordan Bellan to Churchill High School after the incident. ADVANCED Education Minister Diane McGifford will announce a new $3 million program this morning to prepare older students to return to finish school or enter training programs. McGifford will be at Winnipeg Technical College in Fort Garry to unveil a "prior learning assessment" program that will provide grants to post-secondary institutions, staff training, and other supports for older students. The program -- which officials believe may put Manitoba in the vanguard of Canadian provinces in educating adults -- will assess the skill levels of students returning to school and identify the programs which are best able to help them. Students expected to benefit from the $3 million program include adults enrolling in adult education centres. Compiled from staff

18 could be laid off due to adult-ed fiasco Keep our teacher: students' petition
Sat, Nov 24, 2001
By Mia Rabson
FOUR Grade 6 students from Starbuck waded into the adult-education funding debate yesterday, producing a petition at the legislature they hope will keep their teacher in the classroom until at least the end of June. Whitney Morse, Morgan Kinley and Erika Rayner, all 11, and Shelby Bohn, 10, delivered the petition yesterday to their MLA, Conservative Frank Pitura, after they learned their homeroom teacher, Allyson Barron, was told she may be laid off at the end of December. Morris-Macdonald School Division will lose all of its adult-education programs at the end of December in the wake of a $4-million, adult-education scandal caused by inflated enrolment figures. If those adult-education teachers cannot be shifted to other school divisions or choose to stay with Morris-Macdonald, teachers with less seniority in the division's schools will be laid off. Barron is one of 18 recently hired teachers in Morris-Macdonald schools who have received notices that they could be laid off in December. That prompted four of her students to put together a petition asking that the layoffs not occur until June. It was signed by 128 students, teachers and parents. "We didn't really think it was fair because it's not like she did anything," Shelby said, saying it makes her angry to think she will have to finish Grade 6 with a different teacher. "We sort of try not to think about it," she said. The girls say Barron has made them look at learning in a new way. "She's a really good teacher," Whitney said. "She let's us learn in a fun way." Pitura said he was surprised that four young girls would think to do this. "I was really overwhelmed," Pitura said. "But I think it shows about how much these girls have bonded with their teacher." The Tories have asked Education Minister Drew Caldwell to delay the changes in Morris-Macdonald until June. The minister said his department is working to prevent any layoffs from happening.
mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

PCs seek new schools probe Tories say outside prosecutor should look at Caldwell, Agassiz
Thu, Nov 22, 2001
By Mia Rabson
THE opposition wants an independent prosecutor appointed to probe the Agassiz School Division funding debacle after the deputy attorney general said yesterday it was not fraud.
The Tories have repeatedly demanded that Education Minister Drew Caldwell resign for giving Agassiz School Division $450,000 for adult education students who did not exist.
On Tuesday, the Tories upped the ante by accusing Caldwell of breaking the law, an allegation they repeated yesterday in a hostile Question Period during which the Speaker chastised members for poor behaviour. Tory MLA Darren Praznik even suggested the NDP's promised legislation to deal with adult learning centres was to keep Caldwell from breaking the law in the future. "Is the reason they are bringing in legislation because they need a bill to ensure he will be honest?" Praznik asked. Deputy Attorney General Bruce MacFarlane said yesterday he reviewed a provincial auditor's report and referred the situation in Morris-Macdonald School Division -- also given money for nonexistent students -- to the RCMP. He did not ask for an investigation into Agassiz, which was mentioned in the same report, because he said there is no evidence of deceit -- a main criterion to allege fraud. "It was wrong but it's not fraud," MacFarlane said. "Both the department and Agassiz knew exactly what was going on." Praznik didn't buy that. "The minister representing the people can deceive the people and hide money from the people and this is OK? I would be much more comfortable if an outside prosecutor determined that," he said. The Tories had quoted provincial auditor Jon Singleton as saying the Agassiz affair was fraud, but yesterday Singleton said he has never thought of it as fraud, but only as a mistake. "The legal side of it was never the issue," he said. "I was concerned with the lack of transparency and openness." The Tories refused to repeat their allegations of fraud outside the legislature, where they would not have the protection of parliamentary privilege, even though the NDP challenged them to do so.
Premier Gary Doer took it a step further, asking if Oppositon Leader Stuart Murray would resign for his allegation when it is proven there is no criminal fraud involved. Doer, looking furious during Question Period, firmly rejected calls to fire Caldwell. "The minister of education is the reason we had an audit in the first place," Doer said. In an interview yesterday, Deputy Education Minister Ben Levin refused to identify the senior bureaucrat who proposed funnelling the money to Agassiz. "I don't want to identify individuals. People give me advice, I don't have to take it," Levin said. "People acted in good faith." mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca With files from Nick Martin

Agassiz board head denies wrongdoing Orders came down from senior bureaucrats
Wed, Nov 21, 2001
By Nick Martin
THE tangled web in Agassiz School Division that has entrapped Education Minister Drew Caldwell started with $450,000 the province quietly slipped the division early in 2000 to help cover a financial fiasco. That money had nothing to do with adult education, and Education Minister Drew Caldwell did not make a big deal out of bailing out a financially-plagued school division with which he was publicly playing hardball. But, by December of 2000, when yet another fiasco was erupting in Agassiz -- this time over adult education funding -- the provincial government ordered Agassiz to manipulate its books to show that the $450,000 was covering grants for adult education students that provincial bureaucrats claimed did not exist, Agassiz school board chair Eleanor Zieske said this week. Zieske said the orders came from senior bureaucrats, and there was no direct contact between her school board and Caldwell or deputy minister Ben Levin. "We haven't done anything wrong. We're caught in the middle. At no time were we trying to pull one over on anyone," Zieske said in an interview from her Beausejour home. The Agassiz saga began in August of 1999, when secretary-treasurer Lynn Braiden unexpectedly faxed in her resignation and left the country. A mandatory audit soon followed. Trustees were horrified to learn they'd been spending far beyond their means, approving purchases and programs that weren't in their budget without getting -- or demanding -- regular financial updates. Agassiz was $1.15 million in the hole for 1998-99 on an $18 million budget, and was well on its way to running up a bigger deficit for 1999-2000. Agassiz cut a deal with the new NDP government to pay off its deficit over three years, largely through higher taxes and draining its surplus, and immediately slashed $1 million to avoid a second year of deficit -- making deep, deep cuts in services, especially classroom aides for special needs students. But those cuts triggered an unforeseen impact on the provincial funding formula that would have chopped even more money from kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms, Zieske said. That's when the province gave Agassiz $450,000 to alleviate the effect of those cuts. "Our students were really going to take a hit. The province was prepared to make a one-time allocation. This money was earmarked for K to Senior 4 students," said Zieske, adding that Agassiz had not asked for the money. Fast forward to the fall of 2000, when the province challenged Agassiz's estimate of its adult education enrolment. Zieske said Agassiz had been operating three adult learning centres for several years in Beausejour, Powerview and Lac du Bonnet. There was a fundamental disagreement between Agassiz and the province over defining regular attendance and full-time students when calculating per-student grants. "I'm sure we may have had a couple of handfuls (of students) who may have registered and not shown up. It wasn't like half of them were phantom students," she said. Zieske said Agassiz believed that an adult student with a job, who attended some classes and caught up with work missed while absent, is a full-time student. "You wouldn't have the same regular attendance as if you were in high school. But that's not their definition of regular attendance," she said. "They said they would still provide us with the one-time allocation, but they would show it as the full allocation for the (Agassiz's version of) adult enrolment. "It's like a stabilization payment," Zieske said. "They said, 'We're not going to claw you back, but that money we said was for K-12, we're going to show as for adult learning centres,'" Zieske said the province told Agassiz. She said Agassiz did not seek legal advice before doing what it was told. "We don't tell the department how they're going to report, or how they're doing it," Zieske said.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

District urged not to force vote on school theatre
Thu, Nov 15, 2001
By Nick Martin
THE new school board chairman in St. James-Assiniboia urged fellow trustees yesterday not to try to force a $5.5-million theatre project at Sturgeon Creek Collegiate to a costly plebiscite. The school division needs to hold on to every penny it can in case the NDP government reduces funding, said Bruce Alexander, elected Tuesday night to head the board. "The rumours are pretty strong we're going to have changes to the (funding) formula." Alexander said.
Capital funding is especially at risk, he said, and St. James-Assiniboia has older schools that will need renovations. Tuesday evening, trustees voted 5-4 to send plans for a 700-seat theatre back to an ad hoc committee for further study. Intended for use by the entire division as well as by the community, the theatre would have been financed largely by covering mortgage payments through rent charged on the 14 schools St. James-Assiniboia has closed over the past 20 years. Favouring the theatre were Sandra Paterson-Greene -- whose ad hoc committee has steered the project for two years -- Scott Johnston, Dennis Wishanski and Ron Marshall. Paterson-Greene said yesterday she'd be happy to make the theatre an election issue next fall, and even put it on the ballot as a yes-or-no plebiscite. "That would be my pick -- let people tell us what they want," she said yesterday. However, city clerk Richard Kachur, the chief electoral officer, said adding a plebiscite to the ballot could be expensive for the division. He was not even certain that the Public Schools Act has provision for school boards holding plebiscites. Paterson-Greene said she was disappointed that five trustees sent the issue back to her committee for further study. "I've spent two years of my life on this. Direction from the other trustees hasn't been given. I'll go in to the (next) meeting and see what else they want to know."
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

School board fired in funding scandal
Caldwell seizes division, asks RCMP to do criminal probe
Sat, Nov 10, 2001
By Aldo Santin
EDUCATION Minister Drew Caldwell flexed his political muscle for the second day in a row when he dissolved the troubled Morris-Macdonald school board, fired its secretary-treasurer and said the RCMP will be asked to conduct a criminal investigation into the misappropriation of upwards of $4 million. Caldwell said he was extremely disappointed with the division's response to a damning report by provincial auditor Jon Singleton into Morris-Macdonald's controversial adult education program. The report found that enrolment numbers were deliberately inflated and the province was overcharged between $2.5 million and $4 million. "This is a step to restore public confidence and accountability," Caldwell said in justifying his move to dissolve the six-member elected board of trustees -- the first time this has happened in Manitoba -- and replace it with an appointed official trustee. Caldwell said the response from the board he received on Monday effectively challenged Singleton's report. He added that the trustees wanted to do nothing until they hired a consultant at considerable expense to redo Singleton's work. "The board's actions can only be described as deeply unsatisfactory as a response to the provincial auditor's report," Caldwell said. "The board has been either unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to remedy the very serious problems." On Thursday Caldwell slashed the number of school divisions in the province, ordering some of them to merge to reduce the number of boards to 37 from 54. And yesterday, he lived up to the threat he made to the Morris-Macdonald trustees a month ago when Singleton's report was released: Persuade him they could deal with the problems or the province would take over the division. During a news conference outside his office yesterday, Caldwell vowed the province would be repaid and that the problems of the Morris-Macdonald division would be straightened out.
"We want to bring stability for the ratepayers in the division and the students in the schools," Caldwell said.
The minister said he was acting under the authority of the Public Schools Act to dissolve the board of trustees and replace them with Alex Krawec, who has spent 22 years in senior positions with the Education Department, as well as being a former teacher and principal, a former two-term mayor of Stonewall, and a trustee with Interlake School Division from 1995 to 1998. Krawec, 67, will oversee the division's operations until a new slate of trustees is elected in the October 2002 election. In addition to managing the division's daily affairs, Krawec will be responsible for negotiating the merger with neighbouring Red River School Division. Krawec said his first priority will be to "clean up the mess with the adult education centres," adding he'll meet division staff next week.
Krawec, who lives in Stonewall, said it will be important to establish his credibility with division staff and the community. "Everyone is skeptical . . . You have to build trust," he said. Caldwell said Krawec will also work with department staff to determine exactly how much money is owed to the province and then work out a debt repayment plan that won't unduly impact schools in the division. One of Singleton's findings was that because of the overbilling, trustees had been able to keep the mill rate and tax increases lower than other rural divisions and the overbilling led to a division budget surplus. The legislation gives the government the authority to dismiss all school officials as well in the event the board is dissolved, but Caldwell said he chose only to dismiss Denis Lemay, the longtime secretary-treasurer. Lemay refused to comment yesterday. Caldwell said he had "absolute confidence" in division superintendent Patricia MacDonald, who will work with Krawec. "I'm still running the division and the division is running just fine today," MacDonald said yesterday, but she refused to comment on the government's move. It was only Monday that MacDonald said the trustees were confident the response they would send to Caldwell would satisfy his concerns, adding that the trustees weren't prepared to deal with any financial, legal and personnel issues until their own independent review had been carried out. Caldwell said removing the elected trustees, who are paid about $600 a month, would have little effect on the functioning of the division, adding the board had been reduced to a rump in the wake of Singleton's report. The chairman and vice-chairman resigned after the report was issued, leaving four trustees to manage division affairs. But a third trustee declared a conflict of interest in the adult education debacle and would not participate in any decisions relating to it.
Former vice-chairwoman Shirley Preusentanz of Starbuck said she was pleased with Caldwell's decision to dissolve the board, but added she was surprised Lemay had been fired.
Preusentanz said she and former chairman Bert Kornelson quit because other trustees didn't believe the provincial auditor's report. She said the other trustees suspected the province was out to get them because the adult education program had been too successful.
aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

School theatre project up in air
Trustee predicts long meeting
Tue, Oct 30, 2001
By Nick Martin
THE fate of a $5.5-million theatre project at Sturgeon Creek Collegiate goes before St. James-Assiniboia school trustees Nov. 13. And that still touch-and-go decision could spell doom for a $7-million theatre arts plan at Grant Park High School that is already on shaky ground.
"It's going to be a long evening" on Nov. 13, St. James-Assiniboia trustee Sandra Paterson-Greene said yesterday.
Paterson-Greene's facilities committee is treating the poor turnout at five public hearings this fall as evidence that residents have no objections to the theatre plans, but it's still too close to predict whether a majority of five trustees will approve the theatre, Paterson-Greene said. The division would use the rent it collects from 14 schools closed over the past 20 years to carry the mortgage on a 700-seat theatre at Sturgeon Creek. It would be used by schools throughout the division, as well as by community groups, for theatre, band and choir performances, and for special events such as grad ceremonies. The province would have to authorize using school property for the theatre, but St. James-Assiniboia does not plan to seek government funding. Paterson-Greene said there have been recent objections raised from day cares which rent space in division schools, which do not want their rent used to help finance the project. After covering utilities and custodial services, she said, "The amount of money is usually very, very little." Meanwhile, Ken Hill, chairman of a parent council planning Grant Park's theatre complex, acknowledged yesterday, "If they went ahead, we would probably forget about ours. It would be absolutely insane" to have two school theatres only a few kilometres apart. "Our whole plan was to fund it totally from companies and individuals," Hill said. "I don't think it's going to happen." Hill said his group is already concerned that three outdoor tennis courts approved for Grant Park last week could end up on property between the school and Pan Am Pool that had been targeted for the theatre. The parents are running a lottery for a $19,545 baby grand piano intended to raise $25,000 for their project, he said, but the money will likely be spent instead on permanent fold-down theatre seats for the senior gymnasium.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Riverton principal demoted, transferred
Mon, Oct 29, 2001
By Nick Martin
RIVERTON Collegiate principal Brent Chalmers was abruptly transferred to a vice-principal's job in Gimli two weeks ago after parents complained to Evergreen school board about a lack of leadership in the school. Chalmers is now the vice-principal at Gimli High School, and former Gimli High School vice-principal and math teacher Ken Kristofferson is acting principal in Riverton.
Kristofferson's transfer prompted students in Gimli to organize a petition that drew hundreds of signatures demanding his return to Gimli. Chalmers said yesterday he has asked Evergreen to reassign him at the end of June, but said reluctantly that it would be better if he did not comment on what happened in Riverton. "Unfortunately, there was very little notice given to either party," school board chairwoman Ruth Ann Furgala said from Riverton yesterday.
Furgala said she could not comment on the reasons for personnel decisions. Will be returned However, she said Kristofferson has been promised that he will be returned to Gimli as soon as the division can hire a new principal for Riverton Collegiate, and said senior administrators are working out mileage compensation for Kristofferson's daily 84-kilometre round trip from his home in Gimli. Furgala would not explain why Chalmers is not receiving mileage to commute from his Riverton home to Gimli, and would not say what will happen to Chalmers once Kristofferson returns to Gimli High School. Gimli trustee Joanne King said yesterday that Riverton parents have unfairly blamed Chalmers for the school board's refusal to give Riverton as many teachers and programs as the community wants. Riverton Collegiate is a small school whose enrolment does not justify the community's staffing demands, King said. "The board isn't in the position to offer them everything they want to have. We can't justify the staff required to offer all the programs they wanted to have," Chalmers said. "If the parents in Riverton are angry, they should be angry with the board, not with administrators" carrying out trustees' decisions, King said. King said she forced a public vote on the transfers -- and then voted against them -- after learning trustees approved the switch of jobs at a closed-door retreat. Gimli parent Judy Lindsay said that there is widespread community unhappiness with the way in which the transfers were ordered Oct. 17 on 24 hours' notice.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Education tax phase-out in spring likely But income, sales taxes won't rise to make up difference, Doer vows
Fri, Oct 12, 2001
By Helen Fallding
PREMIER Gary Doer confirmed yesterday that phasing out the province's share of education property taxes will likely begin with next spring's budget -- but he is adamant that income or sales taxes will not be increased to compensate.
Education Minister Drew Caldwell raised the phase-out earlier this week at a Manitoba Chamber of Commerce breakfast, but did not say where the money would come from to fill the hole in the education budget. The NDP government has already fulfilled an election promise to increase property tax credits by $150 in its first two budgets. In the third year, the Doer government had promised to tackle the education support levy -- if that could be done without hurting health and education priorities. "Stay tuned for our next budget," Doer said yesterday. "We will keep our election promises as we have in the last two years." He was furious with suggestions by the opposition Tories that he might raise other major taxes to fund the property tax cuts. "Some of the speculation about raising sales tax to lower property taxes was patently a fantasy -- not mine," Doer said. He jokingly suggested a tax on rumours would be a better idea. "I think we could make a lot of money on that." Last year's hike in property tax credits cost the province $27 million in lost revenue. It would cost another $98 million to remove the province's portion of school funding from residential property tax bills, but the government is expected to phase the tax out slowly over a number of years. The extra money needed to cover school costs will likely be found through increased revenues from economic growth and reallocation of existing funds, possibly supplemented by increases in "sin taxes" on tobacco or alcohol. Under balanced-budget legislation, the Doer government would have to hold a province-wide referendum before raising income, sales or payroll taxes. But Tory Leader Stuart Murray suggested yesterday the NDP might be planning to get around that by amending the law. Doer gave a flat no to that idea yesterday, noting that the NDP government has already strengthened the balanced-budget law on the advice of the auditor. The Conservative and Liberal parties also promised during the 1999 election campaign to remove the provincially controlled education support levy without increasing other major taxes. The premier said previously announced income tax cuts due to kick in Jan. 1 will not be delayed. Personal income tax cuts combined with new property tax credits totalled $200 million in the NDP's first two budgets, but money will be tighter next year due to an economic slowdown and contract renewal for health-care workers.
helen.fallding@freepress.mb.ca

Scandal stirs tempest
Firings, fraud charges threatened in adult-education fiasco
Thu, Oct 11, 2001
By Nick Martin
MORRIS -- Morris-Macdonald School Division will fire staff and push for fraud charges if an internal investigation into a $4-million adult education scandal justifies drastic action, superintendent Patricia MacDonald promised last night. But more than 250 angry and anxious Morris-Macdonald School Division taxpayers didn't get the answers they demanded last night: How could their tiny rural division be tarred by a $4-million scandal? How much will their school taxes rise to repay the province? Will anyone face criminal charges or be fired? Words such as fraud, lying, stealing and dishonesty filled the air in the packed high school gym. Almost everything residents want to know about what could be the biggest boondoggle in Manitoba public education history will have to await an internal investigation about to get under way. "It could take several months," MacDonald said. Last Thursday, provincial auditor Jon Singleton issued a damning report about the school division overbilling the province by as much as $4 million since 1997 for its controversial adult education partnerships based in Winnipeg and elsewhere beyond division borders. Singleton said the division significantly inflated the number of students enrolled, paid $477,800 in recruiting bonuses to staff and provided an inferior education to those students who actually signed up for class. The Justice Department is considering whether to lay criminal charges. "It's not my responsibility to pay for the incompetency or dishonesty of others," Kane-area farmer Curtis Penner said last night. Larry Gluck of Lowe Farm accused people, whom he didn't name, of lying and stealing. "What about getting the bonus money back?" he asked. Morris farmer Chris Hamblin said any repayment will have a huge impact on farmers. "We do pay very large taxes. We really can't afford that," she said. One mother questioned what example has been set for the division's 2,000 school children: "Us paying for someone else's fraud isn't the right thing for us to do," said Rosenort farmer Heather Bunkowsky. MacDonald told the crowd that within two months of being hired in the summer of 2000, she had such serious concerns about the adult learning programs that the division talked to a lawyer but was told there wasn't enough information available to justify breaking the partnership deals. MacDonald said trustees are extremely dependent on what senior administrators tell them. She made it clear she has supplied the board with information trustees had not previously heard about adult education. The public first became aware of the brewing scandal in February 2000 when the Free Press reported that senior administrators earned more than $20,000 apiece in recruiting bonuses of $7 for every full-time-equivalent student signed up for adult courses. Education Minister Drew Caldwell is still working out how quickly the division can repay millions of public tax dollars without hurting the 2,000 children in the division's schools in Morris, Rosenort, Lowe Farm, Starbuck, Oak Bluff and Sanford. First, the division's $1 million reserve fund will likely be transferred to provincial coffers. Morris-Macdonald board chairman Bert Kornelson and vice-chairwoman Shirley Preusentanz resigned last week, saying they could no longer work with a dysfunctional board. Yesterday, Howard Brown was elected the new chairman and Janice Harrison, vice-chairwoman. Allan Dickson is also on the board, while Jim Lyons has stayed out of debate on the scandal. He was vice-principal of Sanford Collegiate when thousands of adult students were officially enrolled at the school, regardless where their programs were based. The board holds another public meeting this evening at Sanford Collegiate at 7p.m.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Division answers call to clean up act
Morris-Macdonald report addresses Caldwell's concerns
Sun, Nov 4, 2001
By Nick Martin
The answers Morris-Macdonald School Division ratepayers are impatiently demanding about their $4 million adult-education scandal won't be in the report the division is handing to Education Minister Drew Caldwell tomorrow. MMSD superintendent Patricia MacDonald said last week trustees are confident the report will be sufficient to satisfy Caldwell and keep the minister from taking over operation of the troubled division. But Morris-Macdonald's lawyers are still reviewing contract terms with the unidentified external investigator whose job it will be to determine how much the division owes the province, how MMSD's adult-education centres operated in partnership with agencies outside its borders got in such a sorry mess so quickly, and who was responsible. Provincial auditor Jon Singleton released a scathing report Oct. 4 that said MMSD owes the province up to $4 million in per-student grant overpayments for highly inflated enrolment and recruiting bonuses paid to staff. The provincial Justice Department expects to decide by mid-November if any criminal charges will be laid. The 30 days Caldwell gave the division to tell him how it will clean up its own act run out tomorrow. A spokesman said Caldwell will not comment until he has seen the report. "The board is confident they have produced a solid report," said MacDonald, who refused to discuss its contents before Caldwell receives it tomorrow. However, she said, financial, legal and personnel issues will not be addressed in the report and will have to await the investigation, which could take several months to complete. "I'm not about to prejudge the investigation," she said. MacDonald would not speculate how much MMSD believes it owes the province, or how the money will be repaid. No employees have been fired or have chosen to leave the division since Singleton issued his report, but the province is transferring control of a dozen adult-education centres to other school divisions. She was confident the division's woes would not interfere with a planned amalgamation with Red River School Division, and said that a bid by Letellier School in the southern end of Red River to move into the new division to be created by the merger of Rhineland and Boundary school divisions was always part of the amalgamation talks.
nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Boisterous Meeting Solves Nothing
Vote favours drivers - then ruled out of order.
The December 19,2000 meeting of the Transcona-Springfield school board was another noisy, impassioned event that once again attracted so many concerned parents that the meeting had to be moved from the normal meeting room to a school gymnasium. After listening to many parents urge that the school division stop demanding that the no contracting out clause be removed from the union agreement, trustee Jamie Boychuk forced a vote on the issue. The vote was five to four in favour of leaving the no contracting out clause in the agreement. Chairperson Mary Andree and several other trustees then maintained that a vote could not be done in that way and that the motion and vote was invalid. She said that they couldn't discuss and vote on such issues in a public meeting. At that point, the several hundred people in attendance all walked out so the trustees could have their private meeting. Conflicting reports emerged from that closed meeting, but Mary Andree reported that no resolution was reached on the issue. Therefore, it appears that the official policy of the deeply divided school board is that the no contracting out language must be removed from the union agreement - and therefore, the strike by the 70 drivers and mechanics is continuing. Since this was the last scheduled school board meeting of the year, it was probably the last chance to avoid having the strike drag on into January with all the headaches that will cause for the parents who have to find alternative ways of getting their children to school. Sometimes that involves driving up to 200 kilometres a day over often slippery winter highways and side roads. Some of the nine school trustees, including Jamie Boychuk and Sally Anderson, have made it clear all along that they support the drivers and mechanics and oppose contracting out. Sally Anderson (second from right in photo) has gone so far as to walk on the picket line. She told the people on the line that very few of the parents she's heard from support the school division's position of contracting out the bus service. She termed contracting out a big mistake".
Although many issues remain unresolved in these talks, the one key issue that made the strike that started November 24 unavoidable is contracting out. The union contract which expired last December 31 contains a clause that states that "no employee will lose their job as a result of contracting out." The school division says they don't want to discuss any aspect of a new agreement until that wording is removed from the contract. As long they maintain that position, the strike will continue. Once they drop their demand that the no contracting out clause be removed from the union agreement, the union is confident all other issues can be resolved within a few hours of talks.Anyone who would like to add their support to the fight to stop contracting out can send an e-mail to the division's superintendent, Paul Moreau,.

An open letter to parents with students in River East School Division
A conciliation meeting Friday night with our employer, the River East School Division, failed to produce an agreement.
Our employers negotiators rejected contract language we proposed to address the School Divisions outstanding concerns and avert a strike. They closed the meeting by withdrawing all proposals including those they had already agreed to. No further meetings are scheduled and we are now in a legal position to withdraw our services.We are very disappointed with the Divisions response. All we want is to keep doing our work and continue to provide the best possible service we can as bus drivers, mechanics and storeskeeper for the School Division. We are fighting to keep our jobs!Please voice your concerns to the School Division.Your bus drivers, mechanics and storeskeeper
For the River East School Division Local 796 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees E - MAIL US NOW

November 9, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION BUS DRIVERS, MECHANICS STRIKE TO KEEP JOBS
Winnipeg -- The 52 members of CUPE Local 796 who work as bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper for River East School Division are going on strike tomorrow. "This is a strike that didnt need to happen," said CUPE representative Rik Panciera. "We did everything we could to address the School Divisions concerns. But the School Division made no real attempts to resolve the issue." The CUPE employees who work as bus drivers, mechanics and a storeskeeper say without the present contract language there would be nothing to hold the School Division to its verbal assurances that it doesnt intend to contract out the work done by the members bargaining unit. "The School Division are forcing these members out on the picket line, to take a stand now rather than wait until their jobs are pulled out from under them," Panciera said. "All they want is to keep doing their work, to keep providing the best possible service they can for students and parents." The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canadas largest union representing more than 485,000 women and men across the country. In Manitoba, CUPE represents 23,000 members in health care, education, municipalities, social services, utilities, libraries and emergency services.
For more information, please contact:
Rik Panciera, Staff representative
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex. 217 OR E - MAIL US NOW


September 29, 2000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
BUS DRIVERS, MECHANICS AT RIVER EAST SCHOOL DIVISION VOTE 100% FOR STRIKE
Winnipeg -- It was unanimous. Yesterday all of the 52 members of CUPE Local 796 voted to strike because the River East School Division wants to take away their job security.
"These people are not trying to get something," CUPE staff rep Rik Panciera said. "Theyre fighting to keep something they already have, that they fought to get into the contract before." The River East School Division wants to pull a no contracting out clause from the collective agreement and replace it with a letter of understanding. Panciera said the employees who work as bus drivers, mechanics and as storeskeeper arent buying the School Divisions explanation for the change. "These people know that this is a very serious issue. Their jobs are on the line. Thats why everyone was at the meeting and the vote was 100 percent for a strike," he said. Contract negotiations started in February. Another conciliation meeting is scheduled.
For more information, please contact:
Rik Panciera, Staff Rep
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Phone: (204) 942-0343 ex. 206 OR E - MAIL US NOW

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