Manitoba’s Education Minister is meeting this week with the Hanover School Board to discuss concerns raised by a local parent group. 

“We just want to ensure that we have all the information we need moving forward to keep kids safe in schools and to ensure that they're following through on their responsibilities as school trustees,” said Minister Nello Altomare during a press conference on Monday afternoon. 

The Hanover Parent Alliance for Diversity sent a letter on Thursday to the education minister, claiming that six trustees on the Hanover School Board have violated provisions of the Public Schools Act, and calling for these trustees to be disqualified from holding office. 

Altomare notes his office has received a number of letters regarding this specific complaint against the Hanover School Board.  

He would not speculate whether there is any reason to dismiss any of the trustees, saying, “I want to meet with the board first, and then decide how we're going to act later. We need to gather some information here. We want to allow the board to come here, meet with me, outline what they're doing to ensure that they're keeping all students safe in their schools, and then we'll move from there.” 

Under section 39.6(1) of the Public Schools Act, a trustee will be disqualified from holding office if the trustee is found in violation of any provision of the Public Schools Act.  

One concern raised by the parent group was a motion recently approved by the Hanover School Board, ‘that all music and gym teachers be hired the same way the vice principals are hired.’  This was carried 5-4. It means that school trustees will now hire all teachers for music and physical education in all 19 schools in the Hanover School Division.   

“I do want to hear what the board has to say about that,” the minister says. 

SteinbachOnline was informed by the Hanover Teacher’s Association that there is provincial legislation that outlines how school boards are to hire administrators and those administrators are to be tasked with hiring staff.  

“We just want to ensure that all trustees, all school boards, are following the Public Schools Act,” Altomare says, “ensuring that schools again are safe, inclusive spaces for all students.” 

He adds the department wants to work cooperatively with democratically elected school boards, “and we’re going to continue to do that.” 

The minister also says he will ask Hanover school trustees if they have received training and if they know what their responsibilities are as trustees. 

“It is outlined in the Public Schools Act; their number one responsibility is to make sure that kids feel safe and included at school. And I'm going to ask them about that. Do you realize that that is your primary responsibility? Did you receive training regarding that? And we'll see what they have to say.”

Nello Altomare.Manitoba Minister of Education, Nello Altomare. (Photo Credit: Manitoba Government)

After meeting with the Hanover School Board, Altomare says he will meet with the Hanover Parent Alliance for Diversity. 

“As a democratic government, of course we're always going to encourage this kind of dialogue and this kind of reaching out to their government. It's an important step, one that we're always going to not only respond to, but also like I said, we're going to be meeting with them after.” 

With this process being in the early stages of conversation, the education minister offers a statement specifically to residents within the Hanover School Division. 

“The schools need to be safe and inclusive spaces for all kids. And that as schools, we need to model the behavior that we want to see in our public discourse. Schools play an incredibly important role in this. Let's be leaders. Let's do the right thing. Let's bring people together at the table. Let's have some important dialogue. And we're going to move forward and we're going to do the right things, things that include that, at our foundation, talk about student safety and inclusivity. It's really important.” 

Altomare says it is important for school boards to follow the Public Schools Act. 

“The Public Schools Act is doing exactly what it's supposed to do, ensure student safety, student inclusivity. And we'll remind boards of their job and doing that.” 

He also stresses the importance of following the Human Rights Code. 

“We need to ensure that we are anti-hate, anti-discriminatory. These are important pieces. Schools need to take a leadership role in this and how we behave in the public discourse properly, if I might add, and doing it respectfully. Doing it in a way that maintains our dignity but at the same time, we're not being discriminatory and targeting groups of people.”