Wednesday, October 27th, 2021
At a Public Meeting of the Board of Education held on October 26, 2021, the following announcement was made:
We acknowledge, respect and honour the First Nations in whose traditional territories the Kootenay Lake School District operates and all Aboriginal people residing within the boundaries of School District #8.
Before we begin our regular meeting Agenda, there is another matter that I would like to address regarding the Board. The Kootenay Lake Board of Education recognizes the critical trust invested in the Board and we are dedicated to governing the affairs and business of the School District with integrity and in a fair, respectful, and professional manner. The Board's Trustee Code of Ethics and Respectful Workplace Policy sets out commitments that govern the actions of all Trustees and which promote the integrity and accountability of Trustees for their conduct.
Toward the end of the 2020/21 school year, a matter related to the district's laptop procurement process arose that the Board addressed under the Trustee Code of Ethics and Respectful Workplace Policies. This resulted in the Board holding closed meetings and rendering several decisions. Though the Board's closed proceedings are private and confidential, the Board determined that it was reasonable and appropriate to publicly correct the false statements which have been made by Trustee Gribbin regarding the District’s laptop procurement process.
What follows is the only statement the Board will make about these decisions.
September 27, 2021 Board decision
During a closed meeting on September 27, 2021, the Board determined that it was appropriate and necessary to formally correct false statements made by Trustee Gribbin alleging that the district’s policy was not followed in a procurement process for student laptops, and implying that improper conduct had occurred. The content and manner of Trustee Gribbin’s statements in Board meetings and in the local newspaper were unfair to District staff, who in fact did exemplary work through the procurement process and did not deserve the criticism which was levelled.
To correct the misinformation stated by Trustee Gribbin:
- The Board voted to approve the student laptop initiative funding on February 9, 2021. Trustee Gribbin opposed the motion, but it passed over his objection. This represents a majority decision made by the Board.
- In subsequent Board meetings, and in his articles published in the Creston Valley Advance, Trustee Gribbin did not respect or abide by that decision. Rather, he continued to object to the decision, to question it, and to question the steps taken by District employees to carry out that decision.
- Through his articles, Trustee Gribbin engaged in public unwarranted criticism of District staff. Trustee Gribbin did not simply disagree with the decision to approve the funding for the student laptop initiative; he repeatedly and personally criticized District staff for the role in that initiative and the decision of the Board. That criticism included public articles in the newspaper, which Trustee Gribbin reposted on Facebook.
- The essence of Trustee Gribbin’s statements is that the Board did not follow Policy 642 and Administrative Procedure 642.1, which he believed required the Board to directly solicit bids from local vendors. This is inaccurate.
- Trustee Gribbin has clearly misunderstood the application of Policy 642 and Administrative Procedure 642.1, which clearly state that in order to procure goods and services for the District, “while realizing overall best value for goods and services using best practice and professional judgement”; that “the school district should participate with other public authorities in a cooperative way and take full advantage of shared opportunities and services, when appropriate”; and that “the Board will, whenever practical, join in cooperative purchasing with other school districts or agencies to take advantage of lower prices for bulk purchasing and to reduce the administrative costs in tendering.”
- The Board, like other districts, looks to increase its purchasing power by teaming up with other districts to buy items which fill shared needs, jointly seeking bids from qualified vendors through a public bidding process. Other districts were also looking to purchase laptops and a joint process was appropriate in the circumstances and consistent with Policy 642. The bidding process was overseen by Focused Education (formerly ERAC), a group formed specifically to facilitate joint buying processes for Districts. This avoids duplication of effort and cost
- When the bid process was complete, staff negotiated with qualified bidders and secured the best possible deal for our District.
Trustee Gribbin’s interpretation of Policy 642 and Administrative Procedure 642.1 would prevent the District from joining with other Districts to achieve economies of scale in purchasing goods. This would result in additional costs and is not consistent with the Policy or best practices.
Trustee Gribbin’s insistence that the Board’s policy was not followed is rejected categorically. His implications of improper conduct by Board staff are highly inappropriate and completely inaccurate. His statements undermine trust and confidence in the Board and District as a custodian of public monies, and as an employer that recognizes and values the work of its staff.
The Board regrets that this statement has been made necessary by the conduct of Trustee Gribbin. As we move forward into this new school year, we are excited to implement the school laptop initiative. We thank our staff supporting this work. This is a positive development that is a testament to the hard work and vision of our Board and District community.
Chair, Board of Education
About The Board of Education of School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake):
The Board of Education of School District No. 8 provides educational services to numerous diverse communities in the East & West Kootenays, including Crawford Bay, Creston, Kaslo, Meadow Creek, Nelson, Salmo, Slocan, South Slocan, Winlaw, Wynndel and Yahk. Its dedicated team focuses on providing the best possible educational opportunities for over 5,400 students and their families. Its mission is to focus on excellence for all learners in a nurturing environment.