Public school board web site give trustee heartburn; says the thing is very hard to use and badly outdated.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 9, 2015


The second in a series on the Burlington trustees on the Halton District Board of Education.

Burlington has four seats on the 11 member Halton District School Board. All are female; one was acclaimed.

Each had their own reasons for running. Some had a clear objective others were a little more nonchalant about public service.

The three new board of education members were somewhat overwhelmed with the steep learning curve but have for the most part have settled in.  None however has yet made a significant mark on what the board does. There have been issues: The Pineland school concerns; French language classes, starting times, using the schools as voting stations – each Burlington trustee has participated in the discussions – but our reporter Walter Byj, wasn’t able to point out anything significant in the way of a contribution from any of the new Burlington trustees on policy and the thinking as to how the schools should be run.

The one thing this current board did do was put in place a system that records every vote that takes place – the public knows in an instant how a trustee voted on any particular motion, which is more than one the public gets to know about how members of city council votes.

Both Walter Byj and I jointly interviewed all four Burlington trustees. Three were first time members of the Board – Amy Collard is serving her second term – she was acclaimed in both elections.

Grebnex - finger pointing

Andrea Grebenc – a woman seldom at a loss for words.

Andrea Grebnec ran as a trustee when she found she didn’t like the way the Alton school boundary review was handled. Now that she is on the Board she has concerns with triple stream schools. She is also a strong believer in parents being able to have all their children in the same elementary school.  she thought that at one point she would have three children attending three different schools.

Grebnec did some of her elementary classes at a Catholic school and then attended Lester B Pearson. Her Father taught at MM Robinson; her Mother was a librarian.

We leaned from Grebnec that the Burlington trustees never caucus – but are nevertheless described by Grebnec as a collaborative team – a term she uses to describe the full Board.

Grebnec give current chair Kelly Moss full marks for the nurturing and support she was given as she learned the ropes. She doesn’t give Burlington’s ward 3 Councillor John Taylor any marks – says she has never heard from the man even though she was elected by voters in ward 3.  So much for city – board of education cooperation.

Andrea, who covers wards 3 and 6 has a solid working relationship with city Councillor Blair Lancaster.  “I once did some one-one-one work with her on personal grooming – so we know each other quite well.”

Grebenc - expressive hands

Andrea Grebenc – trustee for wards 3 and 6 – when she gets going – there is no stopping her.

Board issues for Grebnec? The web site –“ it doesn’t work – close to impossible to find anything – even though you know it is in there somewhere” says Grebnec, who has a background in IT.  She thinks the website the board has in place now is what they “created originally and just kept adding to the thing.”

We have yet to come across anyone who has anything good to say about the web site – David Euale, the retiring Director of Education, told the Gazette that  $100,000 has been allocated for an upgrade to the web site – which is nice. The disturbing thing is that an institution responsible for the education of our youth – people who will be going into a world where the flow of information and the use of information is foundational – does not itself have a useful web site.

Whoever the trustees decide to hire needs to be on top of this kind of thing. The communications people within the administration need a sound talking to for permitting such a lousy system to be in place.

Grebnec - hands in front

Andrea Gebenc, trustee for wards 3 and 6 explains a point she wants to make during an interview.

Grebnec wants to see more walking and bicycle use; she wants to “get the kids out of the cars”. She maintains that the boards, perhaps unwittingly, have been telling people to drive to school. “we tell them how the traffic circle works, we tell them where they are to drop off their kids – we are telling them they are bad parents if they don’t drive their kids to school. Grebnec wants to see a change in the culture and has advised her colleagues that she will be bringing a motion to a future board meeting suggesting changes.

Grebnec points out that there is a lot of fear in the community about just how safe our children are – “safe streets have children on them” she adds and when children are on the streets with other children they play – which is a large part of what childhood is all about.

She talks about walking school buses – which amounts to a bunch of people who might normally take the school bus – walking to school as a group instead.

Grebnec with Byj

Trustee Andrea Grebenc talks with Gazette education reporter Walter Byj about the job she got herself into when she wanted to see some changes at the school her children attend.

There is a feistiness to Andrea Grebnec. Now that she has a year of service as a trustee behind her – I think the community is going to hear more from her.

To follow – short profiles on Richelle Papin and Leah Reynolds, the other two first term Burlington school board trustees.

We will follow that up with a look at what Amy Collard has been doing on the school board.

Related links:

Choosing the new Director of Education

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