Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How to Vote- Ethical purchasing/School Zone

At the next board meeting (October 28th), I will have to vote on two issues and I would appreciate your input, comments, questions, suggestions, etc.

VOTE #1:
We will vote to pass or amend or defer the following policy below. This will be the 3rd and final reading. Readings 1 and were done last night. I and one other trustee opposed having both readings in one night, 7 voted for this- majority wins.

Policy DJ.BP
1. The board believes in purchasing competitively and seeking maximum educational value for every dollar expended, consistent with good purchasing practices.
2. All factors being equal, purchases shall be made from local, provincial and national supplies in that order of preference.

My question is: should ethical, health and environmental concerns be incorporated into our purchasing policy? In other words, do we only want the cheapest deal, or do we want to also consider whether a purchase is environmentally damaging, might have health implications for students with severe allergies, or is made in another country using child labour? (Or are there other factors I'm missing?)

I realize this is a big can of worms to open; I heard that if North Americans were to stop buying things made as a result of child or unpaid labour, we would be amazed at how many of our common everyday (dollar store!) products would come off the shopping list. So---maybe we're not ready to include all three.

Perhaps putting "green products" into the policy is a baby step in this direction. Many Canadians are committed the environmental issue, so perhaps our purchasing should reflect that public desire, at the very least. As consciousness grows around the true costs of "cheap goods"...perhaps then public sentiment will also grow to include ethical purchasing. I know it's a complicated issue....and that's why I would appreciate your thoughts! (before Oct. 28th!)

VOTE #2:
At last night's Board meeting, Trustee Colburn gave notice of motion regarding the implementation of School Zone at all District schools by the year 2010. Currently, 103 of our 192 schools have School Zone. It is offered at no cost to the schools and in-servicing from the District is provided to bring teachers up-to-speed. What do you think? Does your school have School Zone? Is it helpful? Are you a teacher who uses it? Is it labour-intensive? Does your school lack School Zone? Do you think it would be beneficial in increasing school-home communication?

Please send me your opinions, either by posting here, or sending a confidential email to

Many thanks for your input!


Anonymous said...

It's mid October, any news pertaining to the Sustainability Review On Line Survey? Does the School Board have an policy in place to check on all people impacted by school closure, to see how they are?

Sue Huff said...

Sorry for the delay. The work of the committee lately has been focused on the second part of the Review (the broad city-wide survey of the greater community's values around the effective, ideal use of school space). I will post a revised estimated time-line as soon as possible. It's coming! I promise!
RE: follow-up with those impacted by school closure... there is no official policy that I'm aware of, but it may be an outcome of this review process.

Anonymous said...

Re: ethical purchasing
I am not sure that the motion that is on the table is the proper place to start to work on an ethical/sustainable purchasing model for EPSB.
I think that the motion as proposed should pass and then the trustees should discuss the process for developing an ethical & sustainable purchasing policy (ESPP) at another meeting. I cannot foresee anyone in administration or on the Board objecting to the establishment of a well-articulated ESPP but I do think much more information is needed before the issue can be taken to a vote.
At minimum I think the following information is needed before an ESPP can be drafted for the Board's consideration and approval:
- what are the Board's major purchases?
- how much purchasing power is devolved to the school level (ie, are there 10 buyers or are there 350 or more?)
- what is the current policy or procedure for vetting suppliers for ethical or sustainable practices, if any
- what can we learn from the process and procedures implemented by other school boards, universities or governments with similar purchasing power?
- what would the cost of implementing an ESPP be for EPSB in terms of administering the ESPP (this goes to point #2)
- there is strength in numbers -- has this been discussed at an Alberta School Trustees meeting? Shouldn't it?
This will take a year, at least, to work through.
Good luck!

Sue Huff said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post. All of these are valid points and demonstrate clearly that (re)writing policy is a difficult process and not something to be rushed into without careful thought of all the implications. Hey, maybe you should consider running for Trustee!!!

Thanks again for the comments. Much appreciated.