Calgary Catholic school trustee censured but no reasoning made public

An undated picture of Calgary Catholic School District trustee Pamela Rath. Calgary Catholic School District

A Calgary school trustee has been censured by the school board she serves on, but the reasoning for the condemnation is raising more questions than answers.

On Sep. 26, the Calgary Catholic School District’s board of trustees found Ward 4 and 7 trustee Pamela Rath to be in violation of the code of conduct, formally censured her and removed her from appointments on the Alberta School Boards Association and St. Mary’s University community advocacy council.

A one-page “highlight” of the special board meeting was posted to CCSD’s website shortly after.

None of the public documents outline any of the allegations of the board’s deliberations other than the formal censuring and there’s no mention of the length the censuring would last.

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A statement from CCSD’s chair and vice-chair was mum on the matter.

“The Calgary Catholic School District board of trustees takes all board matters very seriously,” said a joint written statement from chair Cathie Williams and Linda Wellman, vice-chair.

“As this is a confidential, internal matter of the board, we are unable to provide any further comment.”

In an email to Global News, Rath said “now is not the time” to issue a public statement on the matter, saying she is not allowed to speak on it.

“My job is to protect students and classroom dollars. I can tell you that I have done that, and will continue to always put students, their well-being, especially those on the fringe, above anything else,” Rath wrote, expressing frustration in not being able to “defend myself.”

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Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams said the situation is unusual.

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“I can’t think of an example of a censure happening, and particularly when that happened, where the fact that the councilor was censured, but the reason for the censure was not made public,” Williams said.

“And that’s what’s put trustee Rath in such a difficult position: people are left to speculate about how serious the violation of the code of conduct was.”

The board of trustees sanctioned Rath up to but not including ejecting her from the board, enacting three of the possible four sanctions under the board’s code of conduct policy.

Williams said CCSD’s board of trustees, being democratically elected, are “meant to be transparent and accountable to their voters.”

“Obviously, in some cases, matters of privacy – legal obligations to protect privacy – come into play. But in this case, since the person who’s been censured does appear to want to speak about this and is apparently being prevented from doing so by the rules of this board, it’s raising a lot of questions about the restrictions the board has placed on this.”

The CCSD trustees’ code of conduct hearing process allows for presentations from the complaining and the responding trustees, as well as rebuttals. The neutral trustees are also allowed to ask the other members questions before making a decision on the matter.

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The code of conduct requires trustees to fulfill their responsibilities under the Education Act while also being “loyal to the interests of the ratepayers in the context of Catholic education.”

Trustees are not allowed to be involved in school organizations or committees with CCSD. They are also expected to complete their duties “honestly and in good faith.”

— with files from Carolyn Kury de Castillo, Global News

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