Editorial page

Wednesday, October 13, 1999

School boards need to open up

It was refreshing to read some different views in last week's profiles of the public school board candidates.

Both boards were acclaimed in the last election which meant the public didn't get a commitment as to how the candidates would maintain education standards and scrutinize spending.

That made for boards where the superintendents have been setting the agenda.

Superintendent Loretta Foley was a force for the Catholic board, really overshadowing it. After asking ratepayers for $9 million to build a new Weledeh school, which they granted, she went on to wrangle $1.5 million from city hall to help pay for a new 6,000 square foot mega-gymnasium.

Now Foley has moved on to make room for Kern Von Hagen, former St. Patrick principal, who is to maintain the Catholic empire.

There's no nice way to describe the shenanigans at the public school board.

Superintendent Ken Woodley talked the board into suing a parent over a policy dispute. It was really his opinion against the parent's and the public was largely unconcerned until the lawsuit. Public reaction against suing a parent forced the board to back down.

Then the teachers got that note in their paycheques. Union negotiators neglected to cross a couple of important Ts, as in retroactive, in their newly signed contract. The contract was a year overdue and when vacation benefits were cut, some teachers had to pay some money back.

Woodley apologized for not giving notice but insisted he was only following the contract which seemed to be the case. They demanded the deductions be stopped until a ruling was obtained. The board backed down and stopped the deductions.

That's when Woodley's head went on the block. The board suspended Woodley without notice. Now, after a costly court battle, he's back in time to see completion of the $14 million renovation to Sir John Franklin.

We hope the new blood on the public board starts asking questions and opening up board business, much as city council has done.

These boards spend almost $30 million annually. If Yellowknifers don't take them seriously, why should the people on them worry about performance?

Giant lessons

Ten days ago, in Yellowknife, Minister of Northern Affairs and Northern Development Robert Nault said, "We don't want to play jurisdictional games when environmental safety is at stake."

Somebody should cut that out and frame it.

Nault has agreed to proceed with the surface clean-up at Giant Mine, although bickering over whose responsibility it is continues.

The city of Yellowknife is grateful the work is going ahead.

Much of the mess is the legacy of a lack of environmental understanding and low standards of safe waste disposal. As the clean-up of Giant gets under way, it is our hope that those who are in a position to approve mines in the future have learned the lessons of Giant Mine.

One mistake shouldn't kill a program
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Those calling for the abolition of the Nunavut Youth Abroad program (NYAP) should stop and take a look at the bigger picture before being so willing to end such a valuable program to our territory's youth.

Yes, the program had an unfortunate incident with one youth having to be sent home early after succumbing to the temptations of alcohol.

And, yes, we always hate to see unfortunate incidents like this happen and wish they wouldn't.

Unfortunately, things like this do happen, but they have to be kept in their proper perspective.

The Kivalliq District Education Authority's assistant director of programs, Chris DaSilva, says a lot was learned from the unfortunate mishap, which will serve to make the program stronger.

The program has two stages, one international and one national. Nunavut youth must complete the Canadian segment before going abroad to far off places like Swaziland.

The program has enormous benefits to our youth in preparing them for their futures and introducing them to different cultures.

It also provides valuable work experience for these youth and instills a real sense of value for teamwork.

One youth being sent home represents roughly four per cent of the total program, now in its second year.

Even the prestigious Canada World Youth program has an attrition rate equal, if not higher, than four per cent.

We can't punish all our youth and deny future participants the benefits of this program because of the bad judgment exhibited by one individual.

In fact, the NYAP is one of the few programs in which Nunavut's Department of Education showed an ability to look towards the future and appreciate the positive influence this program can potentially have on our leaders of tomorrow.

The department is to be applauded for its efforts in helping to fund the program and should not allow continued support to be jeopardized by this one incident.

As unfortunate as it may be, youth sometimes err in their judgment and we must be pragmatic in addressing these situations.

All we can do is our best in helping to guide their development and try to offer them quality opportunities for that development.

The NYAP is just the type of opportunity many of our territory's youth can take advantage of to help cement their futures.

To end this program due to one isolated incident would be a sin far greater than the bad judgment exhibited by a single student.

It would also do nothing to help other students avoid choosing the same ill-advised path.