School District #27 (SD27) was one of three districts selected by auditor general John Doyle for a representative audit of the 60 school districts in the province.
In his report, Doyle’s key recommendations for the Cariboo-Chilcotin school board were for it to create formal whistle-blower and conflict-of-interest (COI) policies, as well as to continually review its governance activities and ensure the board is sufficiently delegating operational activities to management.
SD27 chair Will Van Osch says he feels the audit “went OK” and the recommendations for improvement were in areas already headed toward through internal changes.
“We are on our way there anyway. I think we will be able to implement most of the recommendations that they made, and there was no strong criticism of the district.”
The board does have a COI policy regarding anything financial, as he notes it is “very important” to have that defined when money is involved.
More details are needed on what, in particular, Doyle targets for a COI policy, so Van Osch adds the trustees will keep in contact with the Office of the Auditor General for further definition and discussion.
“They didn’t really give us a good breakdown,” he says, adding both policy suggestions were stated in general terms.
Van Osch explains SD27 already has a process for evaluation through a governance expert it uses to review aspects, such as adherence to the B.C. Education Act, and advise the board on any shortcomings.
Doyle discovered all three school boards audited were not properly evaluating the performances or the work of their superintendents.
Van Osch explained both of these overall recommendations are “fairly clear.”
“We’ve already been working on getting not only the superintendent’s review in place, but also … have been in contact with [its governance expert] to see if there is a template we could follow.”
Van Osch says he thinks the audit was a valuable process to go over the board’s governance and how it operates meetings, so all-in-all it was a “fairly good thing.”
“For the most part, our district did fine. There were no ‘fatal flaws’ or anything that was crucial that they found.”
Doyle’s summary also found good practices observed by his audit staff, including having publicly available documentation on the board’s roles and responsibilities.
He approved of the board’s ability to function in a professional manner, and says attendance at board meetings was “generally good” for most trustees and meetings.
Doyle notes his auditors found the information the board receives is sufficient, appropriate and made readily accessible to the board by SD27 management, and also approved of its communications policy to consult with stakeholders through public meetings and forums.
While the auditor general noted it is impossible to select a representative sample of board governance across school districts because each district will differ, his selection was based on a review of potential governance issues or good practices in candidate school districts, any financial significance, geographic location and other factors.
Van Osch discounts any notion of SD27 being targeted for any specific, district-related issues.
“It was somewhat of a random audit; they looked for districts that are rural and remote and the number of times they were in the media. I don’t think we qualified under [media attention], I think it was rural and remoteness that put us into the audit.”
To see Doyle’s with overall recommendations for all three districts and the Ministry of Education, download the report from the April 23 board meeting agenda (attached to item 4.6) at www.sd27.bc.ca under the Board of Education link.
The other two audits performed were at School District 36 (Surrey) and School District 75 (Mission).