Meed Ward admits she sent a message to a trustee while debate was taking place - says there is nothing wrong with doing so and that the message had to do with a procedural matter.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

June 26th, 2017


This article was revised.  In the original version we said Marianne Meed Ward sent just the one message to trustee Reynolds during the school board meeting. Meed Ward advised us that she sent several messages all of which were related to procedural matters.

Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward admits that she did send ward 1 and 2 school board trustee Leah Reynolds  messages electronically advising her not to vote on a motion that was before the board.

MMW message to Reynolds

“Don’t vote … Let it go” said parent Marianne Meed Ward to school trustee Leah Reynolds. The message was seen as private and was an acceptable practice?

Meed Ward adds that the messages she sent – there were several had to do with a complex procedural situation that the Board of Education debated for an hour.

Meed Ward’s view appears to be that a comment or advice on a procedural matter is acceptable.

The Chair of the Board of Education Kelly Amos said that trustees get messages from people in the public gallery all the time.

Meed Ward maintains the message was private and that it is being misrepresented and that false allegations are being made about her motives.

Meed Ward asks people to look at the facts and not come to a conclusion without all the facts.

The difficulty with this is that the facts are complex, confusing and that there are several sets of facts.

Amos and Graves

Chair Kelly Amos and vice chair Kim Graves trying to figure out just what the rules require when there are two different motions on the floor.

The issue before the board was which motion was going to be heard first. A Parliamentarian who was brought in by Board staff took the position that two motions could be on the floor at the same time.

The Boards lawyer saw it differently and said the Board could debate just the one motion at a time.

In matters like this – the Chair rules and Kelly Amos went along with the opinion given her by the Parliamentarian.

Central looking glum

People in the public gallery at the June 7th Board of Education meting – this shot is of a mostly Central high school people

For the Bateman parents it was all about a trustee who voted for the closure of their school getting advice from a member of city council who was also one of the parent representatives from Central, a high school that was originally recommended for closure.

It is not a pretty picture and it certainly smells. It was a complex issue and feelings were running very high. They were just as high at Central high school when they were recommended for closure.

When the closure recommendation was changed to closing Bateman rather than Central – attitudes changed in minutes and everyone began behaving badly.

One has to take Meed Ward at her word. She says she sent messages that to a procedural matter. If there is evidence to the contrary that should be brought forward.

Meed Ward told the Gazette that what she did was the right thing to do and added that it has been a very tough situation.

Meed WArd at PARC

Meed Ward sitting as a parent representative at the PAR meetings.

Asked if she regrets accepting the role of being a member of the Program Accommodation Review (PAR) Meed Ward said she had no regrets.

What she does regret is the lack of respect for differing opinions. “I have empathy for the parents at Bateman” said Meed Ward. The decision to close a school has real impact on a community and it is hard for people to accept changes like this, she added.

What bothers Meed Ward most is the disregard and damage being done to civil discourse. The public drops out of public debate when the respect for the views of each other are disregarded, she said. People don’t want to become involved when there is so much misrepresentation and distortion of the facts.

What is bothering people who are not directly involved in the school closings is the acceptance of a practice that has people in the public gallery sending electronic message to trustees with advice and direction – even if it relates to just a procedural matter.

What also bothers some is why the parents who had the evidence showing a person sending a message to a trustee waited more than two weeks before releasing the information they had.

MMW typing

Is what is on that computer screen public or private?

A further concern is the matter of what is private and what is public: When a city Councillor attends a public Board of Education meeting and is seen sending a message electronically to a trustee – is the sending of that message private or is it in the public interest for that message to be made public?

Trustee Leah Reynolds was asked to make herself available for an interview. So far there has not been a response.

The Board of Education has begun the transition process and appointed Superintendent Terry Blackwell to oversee the process.

The Board announced that it will hire architects who will do the design work on Nelson high school for the transfer of the Bateman students to that location in 2020.

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11 comments to Meed Ward admits she sent a message to a trustee while debate was taking place – says there is nothing wrong with doing so and that the message had to do with a procedural matter.

  • Greg

    I don’t understand how people believe that Marianne’s position as a City Councillor means she can have no agency in the PARC process. If she doesn’t, why do any parents? Do we obligate our Councillors to waive their rights as citizens if they become councillors?

    The City has no domain over the School Board. Marriage has no more power or influence than any other parent that was part of the process. Is she being persecuted because she understands the procedural process and used that knowledge to educate her Trustee?

    If I text my local MP on how to vote on a matter in the House of Commons, have I done something wrong? Have they?

  • Tom Muir

    I think that this problem would not arise if social media devices were not allowed during Board meetings.

    The introduction of these devices into the mainstream has been done with absolutely no consideration for possible moral and ethical implications in their use, especially in political settings.

    It has been generally observed that there is no moral compass for the use of these – if they are allowed to be used, then there is a presumption by the user of no wrong.

    However, this framing of the ethics cannot be extended universally, as this experience shows, partly because these devices never existed before, and they introduce a whole new dimension to social contexts that will be interpreted by the participants, using their own values frame of right and wrong, good or bad, depending on the context.

    There was a day before these devices existed when there was no talking or communication allowed from the public gallery. The public didn’t speak, rather shout, anything from the gallery, never mind tell a Board member how to vote, even on a procedural motion.

    Even between Board members, there was no verbal exchange except when the member had the Chair permission to speak. The Chair or the Speaker was responsible for keeping Order, and there are rules, that had a purpose.

    The same sort of rules do not exist now for these devices, so the texting goes on when, like driving a car, the members ought to be paying attention to the job.

    This incident suggests that rules are needed today regarding the use of these devices during debates and in session. Do the preparation homework and planning outside, just like through most of history.

    This seems to me the ethical pitfall that Leah Reynolds and Meed Ward have fallen into.

    It’s the optics. Remember, in politics perception is reality.

  • Member of the Bateman community

    Marianne Meed Ward has these 2 options when it comes down to this. 1) ACCEPT INVESTIGATION and PERSONALLY APOLOGIZE to the students of Bateman as she thought it was her right to interfere with their lives, some of which will be permanently altered because of her actions. 2) RESIGN from her duties as a city councillor because she no longer has the trust or backing by the people to represent our best interests. It is your choice. You’ve made a decision, now be ready to face all the consequences that come with it.

  • assumed resident of Burlington

    Im glad that MMW provided a response and no she doesn’t need to provide the text from the private conversation to anyone unless she is summoned to.
    I will also add that this article was more balanced in the middle verse the far left. In order to the city to come together to get things done right all this us and them needs to stop as well as all the flames as the editor has referred to.

  • Kerri

    Unfairly attacking Marianne Meed Ward for her strong voice and opinions has led to nothing but divide in the city. I note there are some city residents who have an apparent dislike for her and continually post comments here on Gazette articles or on various Facebook postings. You can sense an ulterior agenda in almost all comments from these three to four individuals. They are thriving on the anger coming from the Bateman community and I am certain they helped to steer them in the direction they went. I feel badly for Marianne who has to face this harassment on a regular basis. Taking pictures of her personal communication? Wow! While it may not be against the law it is certainly immoral and speaks to an agenda of some sort.

    I have also been shocked and disgusted at the threats of violence I have read on social media towards the HDSB. Comments from angry Bateman parents of beatings and cement shoes brings this gong show to an all-time low. There have been solid facts and arguments made by passionate Bateman parents that do not involve hatred, threats and misinformation. These facts and arguments I would stand behind, not the threats and disrespect of other people’s opinions.

  • Peter Menet

    Every person has a right to assist and advise their councillor and their trustee. It is my belief that this right extends to all persons. It is my opinion that Meed Ward was advising her Ward 1 and 2 trustee and that this is her right.
    Yes, I am concerned about privacy and the following points are my opinions. First, it does not matter what position you hold in society you are entitled to privacy in your “communications”. Second, some people have argued that at a public meeting nothing is private because the meeting is open to the public. This is nonsense because it implies that the contents of my wallet, my notebooks, my computer and my cell phone are now in the public domain for anyone to look at. Third, specifically at a board meeting, the only information that enters the public domain is that information which appears in presentations or is discussed by staff, trustees and those people making presentations.
    I attended the June 7th board meeting and there was considerable confusion around the motions put forward. As you noted, the board’s lawyer and a parliamentarian were present and were asked several times to clarify which motions the trustees were voting on. There was also considerable confusion about what a yes vote meant and what a no vote meant. I also suspect that there were many other people, in the audience and at home, contacting their trustees during the evening, as was pointed out by Chair Amos, wanting to be sure that their trustee was clear on what a no and a yes vote meant.
    The PAR process is very divisive. You have commented in previous articles that the PARC members only found their voice during the last three meetings. I agree with you. Perhaps this is the most important thing to learn from the PAR process. The process has to be changed. The most significant change needed is to remove the necessity of requiring the director to name a preferred option at the start. This lead to a fait a compli attitude by many communities and PARC members. Many of the PARC members, and their communities, have forgotten that there were nineteen options that were originally looked at. Options 14, 15 and 19 involved the closure of Central and Pearson. Options 9, 10 11 and 13 involved the closure of Bateman and Pearson. It would have been very beneficial to have had a ranking of these closure options instead of the director being required to name just one option. From the beginning the director advised the public that the initially recommended option may not be the final option chosen. A ranking would have resulted in more public engagement earlier in the process and there would have been less likelihood of the rancour we are now seeing. It is my opinion that the PARC members and the public, from the very start of the PAR process, should have considered Hayden as the the only school in the PAR process that was “off the table”.

    • Steve Armstrong

      As a former PARC member I agree with much of what you’ve noted, except for the last line. No I’m not suggesting Hayden should be closed, but the process, and now the decisions made, haven’t fixed Hayden’s problem!
      Under utilization isn’t a problem for the students, low enrolment is. In contrast, over utilization is a problem that diminishes student experience.
      In hind sight there was a very poor framing of the problems to be solved, and hence ineffective outcomes occurred, including very divisive behaviour among communities.
      So it remains that of the 17 feeder schools in Burlington, 7 still stream into Hayden. Moving FI only lowers the extent of the remaining crisis. Over the next 10 years not a single portable will be removed from the site, leaving Burlington
      residents struggling to find parking when it is their turn to enjoy those community facilities.
      Ironically Pearson, which was built as a relief when Robinson was overcrowded, was named in 12 out of the 19 original Options. Only Option 7 contemplated leaving all schools open, and even that original one didn’t really address Hayden’s crisis.

      • Peter Menet

        The last sentence would have been clearer if it said “off the table” as far as closure.
        As you stated the problems of overcrowding and portables at Hayden have not been addressed.

  • Shannon

    I don’t agree with Councillor Meed Ward on much, but I agree with her on this. There’s nothing wrong with her communicating with the trustee about procedural matters, or frankly, anything else. If you don’t like what your councillors or trustees are doing, the advice they’re giving or taking, or the decisions they’re making, don’t vote for them again. But we certainly don’t need an investigation. And the over-the-shoulder photo snapping of a private email conversation? Wow. That’s just absurd.

    • Teri

      Are you comfortable with a city councillor dictating to a school board trustee how to vote? Giving advise is one thing but clearly interfering with the meeting is another. MMW is a city councillor who is supposed to represent the CITY of Burlington and yet she pushed for the closer of Bateman. That is not right and should not be acceptable to any reasonable person.

  • Teri

    I will look at all the facts when she releases the complete conversations back and forth with Trustee Reynolds.
    I still don’t understand why she would be advising the Trustee – is Reynolds not able to do her job without being told what to do?