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Manitoba school board under review, province appoints oversight panel

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WINNIPEG -

The Manitoba government has appointed a panel to oversee a school board that has been shaken by controversy and seen board trustees quit.

The three-member oversight panel is to ensure that the Mountain View School Division in western Manitoba concentrates its efforts on student learning, with an eye on diversity, inclusion and reconciliation, Education Minister Nello Altomare said Wednesday.

"The oversight panel is going to help with agenda items to ensure that they're focused on, essentially, student learning and well-being. Agenda items need to be focused on that," Altomare said.

The province ordered a governance review of the board in April after one trustee, Paul Coffey, delivered a wide-ranging presentation in which he said residential schools started as a good thing. He also questioned the extent of abuse at the schools and said the term "white privilege" is racist.

The comments were condemned by Indigenous leaders, the provincial teachers union and the superintendent of the school division, Stephen Jaddock.

Earlier this month, Jaddock was removed from his position. Three long-serving trustees resigned, including Leifa Misko, who wrote in her resignation letter that "presentations, policies and decisions are being made at the table that I cannot support in good conscience."

The province's governance review of the board is still underway. Altomare said that while provincial law gives him the power to dissolve the board, it's not a step he's interested in right now.

"We're going to work with the oversight panel so that we can get to a point where we make this board effective," Altomare said.

Coffey did not respond to requests for comment.

The panel consists of a vice-president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, a school trustee from the Brandon School Division and a staff officer with the teachers union.

The Manitoba government dissolved a school board in 2001 -- in the Morris-Macdonald division south of Winnipeg -- until regularly scheduled elections were held the following year. It appointed a trustee to manage the division in the interim.

The move followed a report from the provincial auditor that said the division had received millions of extra dollars as a result of overstated enrolment numbers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2024.

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