Last year, it was the coldest fricken' winter, like... ever.
Now, when you live in Victoria, or Denver, or even Toronto, the 'worst winter ever' is not such a life-and-death matter.
Welcome to the Winnipeg School Division (WSD), where the coldest winter temperatures ever can maim you, fast, even kill you quicker than any other mid-size city on earth.
One thing Winnipeger's know, our weather is no laughing matter if you don't handle it correctly. And oh boy, did the WSD ever blow it last year, says the latest news.
See, last year, Scrappy Mike Babinsky, the long-time school trustee from WSD, found out that our kids were left on the side of the road in the dead of winter. Stranded, outside, waiting for a school bus that just didn't come. Again, and again, and again...
The worst. winter. ever. with kids allegedly left outside up to 90 minutes, waiting... waiting...* Know how fast skin freezes in that extreme cold? Of course you do, through experience, right? Even the image hurts, badly.
Oh, and these kids are all under 12. Just for colour.
This kind of winter famously maims, and kills, kids who are stranded outside in it. Got that image firmly in your mind? Ok, then let's proceed.
Scrappy Mike the trustee decided to do something about what he had been told. In public, and given that it is a public safety issue, obviously appropriately so.
So Mike went to the public school board meeting, duly filed a written notice of motion to address this matter in the public, and tried to do the right thing. Publicly. Like, with all of us.
Why so publicly, you ask?
Because otherwise, the WSD board's business is conducted 'in camera', aka. outside the reach of the public. Either publicly, or completely private. Like, huge-fine-if-you-ever-disclose-a-word kind of private.
Our kids safety, their suffering, and the failures at the Division leading to their suffering, in Scrappy Mike's world, are public matters. Guess what? In my anonymous little world, same thing.
And in the majority of the (NDP... cough...) WSD trustee's world..?
Apparently, this is a big secret deal to them. So the matter was moved almost entirely to their secret meeting. As much as they could, they threw the matter behind closed doors.
Even Mike's written notice of motion was scrubbed from the public minutes.
The resulting fuss has been all over the news. Marty Gold is tackling it, and even the Free Press's Nick Martin has looked up from his football channels long enough to write a few lines about it. Lots of hullabaloo. Lots of quotes from labour council sponsored trustees. High drama, indeed.
HEY, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN IN DIRE RISK OF INJURY*, and even death.
Being swept under the secret rug, then... Mike's motion voted down by the (Labour Council... cough...) trustees in a secret meeting.
Voted down. A motion to make sure our kids don't freeze in the dead of the-worst-winter-ever waiting for buses that seem to never come... voted down.
I couldn't make this up. Too bizarre, right?
So Mike got mad, and took the matter public in a different way. Go figure.
Big-shot lawyer and chair of the WSD board Mark Wasyliw has publicly attacked Scrappy Mike for his actions. Other trustees, same. Very disturbing, ok, but not particularly surprising, sadly.
Voting down a motion to keep kids safe, though? Hiding the matter from the public by removing the motion from the minutes? This is... bloody shocking, right? I mean, am I over-reacting here?
Hey, our kids' safety is not a private affair, WSD school board. Not even close. They are OUR KIDS*. And we are the public, you see?
Marty Gold points out, in his latest podcast (welcome back, Marty-cast!) that board chair Wasyliw may face legal sanctions for altering those public minutes. If summarily convicted, it is possible that he will not remain on the board.
And yet Mike got the public sanction by the Board. Seriously, I cannot make this up.
This attempted cover-up (is that too harsh?) has all been done to, apparently, protect division staff from the implications of publicly addressing the matter. To keep the staff safe.
I kid you not. In WSD, their students rank behind some airy-fairy notion of protecting staff from some theoretical liability under FIPA.
So folks, when you are griping about Manitoba students ranking behind other provinces in test scores... are you surprised? If staff of any enterprise are not held to account for failures, then failure becomes a way of life. Not student failure, but staff, which of course leads to student failure. In all kinds of ways.
Think about this: who are the raison d'être for the schools, anyway? The staff, or the students?
(Answer: I suppose it depends on who runs the board.)
Definitely not a good news story. Except for the Scappy Mike bit.
G-d bless you, Scrappy Mike.
(Dig, Marty. DIG*.)
*Bold stylin' inspired by The Black Rod blog. All rights belong to them.