“I felt the meeting went really well,” says Education Minister Nello Altomare, speaking of his meeting with Hanover School trustees. 

This meeting came about after the minister received a letter of complaint from a concerned parent group, alleging six of the nine trustees violated provisions of the Public Schools Act. 

“They certainly heard what my expectations are and what the role of a school board is, and of course that being keeping kids safe in their environment and to be inclusive. That is their number one job, and the expectation is that they take it seriously.” 

Altomare says he spoke with the trustees about their recent decision to allow the board to take over the hiring of all music and gym teachers across the 19 schools in the division. 

This task was part of the job expectation of Assistant Superintendents in Hanover. At the April 2nd public meeting, Hanover trustees approved a motion to change this by a vote of 5-4. 

“I expressed my desire for them to rely on the expertise that already exists in the school division around these matters,” Altomare says. 

Regarding the allegations of violating provisions of the Public Schools Act, which could be cause for dismissal, the minister says his department would rather support the trustees in making sure they are all aware of what is expected of them, supporting them to do their job. 

“We're doing that by offering the school division help from the department, so that they are following what's in the Public Schools Act. I will say, too, that in the Public Schools Act, it does say that trustees can be involved in the hiring of teachers. But what I also am offering, the support is, this is not common practice in Manitoba. And so, through offering the support that we have here in the department, we hope they come to that conclusion as well.”  

The Hanover Parent Alliance for Diversity had also requested the minister appoint someone to oversee the operations of the school board. 

Altomare says, “We want to offer the assistance of a retired superintendent, maybe someone from the legal community that can help them understand what their responsibilities are under the Public Schools Act as it’s outlined.” 

He feels optimistic about the meeting. 

“They were really receptive to what I was saying, every board member showed up. They took it very seriously, as I did. And I was pleased to see that.” 

Altomare notes they have not scheduled further meetings, saying, “We’ll be sending support from the department, and we’ll see how that goes.” 

Following his meeting with the Hanover school trustees, the education minister met with six members of the parent group to discuss the concerns they raised in the letter. 

“Anytime concerns are raised, we want to be responsive, and we want to be listening to what groups like this want to bring forward,” says Altomare. “We're not perfect people here. Anyone that can help us do our job even better is welcome.” 

SteinbachOnline asked the education minister what his response was regarding the parent group's request for some of the trustees to be dismissed, claiming they violated provisions of the Public Schools Act. 

“We live in a democratic system. I mean, we'll have to wait until the next round of elections. But I also said too, that if I get a sense that the board isn't doing what they're supposed to be doing, and that is ensuring student safety and inclusion, that we would be investigating, and we would find a way to help them get back on track and do what their main job is and that is to be a trustee of the public system. And we will hold them to that.” 

Altomare says school divisions and school boards need to be exemplars. 

“They need to do more than just the bare minimum. We're talking about schools and young people here. We need to go out of our way to ensure that schools are safe and inclusive spaces, and we need to lead in this. And I expect school boards to be the major players in this part. It's a role that we take really seriously in the department and I'm sure many school divisions feel the same way.” 

The minister says the Education Department is there to support school boards and trustees in the work that they do. He also suggests that the Manitoba School Boards Association can also help trustees understand their roles.