Palliser committee updates process for external review panel

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The Board of Trustees of Palliser Regional Schools has narrowed down its search for candidates for a three-member panel to carry out an independent, external operational review of the school system.

At a regular board meeting Tuesday, trustees were provided an update on the selection committee’s progress to date. It was also noted that an offer of assistance from Alberta Education to the committee has been accepted.

The selection committee consists of Vice-Chair Robert Strauss and Trustees Craig Whitehead and Debbie Laturnus.

In a special meeting of the board on March 10, trustees voted to accept the offer from Alberta Education to provide an educational representative to provide guidance and direction on the implementation and the use of appropriate policy and protocol to support the work of the selection committee.

It was noted that representative is not from the Minister of Education’s office, but the administrative arm of Alberta Education. That representative will fill an administrative support role on the committee, a position originally held by Palliser’s secretary-treasurer. This will ensure all Palliser staff can remain at arm’s length from the process.

A number of potential candidates for the review panel were considered and selection committee chair Strauss said they have narrowed the search down to three individuals for further reference checks and interviews.  Once the review panel has been selected the identities of the individuals will be made public.

The review process will be held entirely off-site, said Strauss, and the goal is to have the review finished by the end of June if not sooner. The panel will present its findings to the board once complete.

Superintendent Kevin Gietz had asked the board in January to hold an independent investigation to clear the air in light of online allegations and allow the staff to focus on students and student learning.

At that time trustees voted to ask the minister to provide oversight of the review. At a subsequent meeting with the deputy minister, trustees were informed a review was the sole responsibility of the local board.

The panel selected to conduct the review must be free to determine the terms of reference to ensure its independence. It was noted at Tuesday’s meeting that all requests and submissions to the board in relation to the review, other than the panel selection process itself, will be forwarded to the review panel to ensure the matter is entirely independent.

In addition to the three trustees and the Alberta Education representative, three school council chairs have been asked to provide input and advice as to the selection process of selecting a panel. Their role is also to observe and ensure transparency and public confidence in the process.