There is cautious optimism coming from the Hanover School Board and a local parent group following their meetings with the Minister of Education, Nello Altomare. 

“The Board had a productive discussion with the Education Minister,” Brad Unger, Chair of the Hanover School Board said in a short statement emailed to SteinbachOnline. “And we appreciate the subsequent clarity he has provided regarding assistance. We look forward to continued conversations with the Department of Education.” 

Altomare stated this week that the department is sending support, “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.” 

All nine members of the Hanover School Board attended the meeting with the minister. 

In a separate meeting, Altomare met with six members of the Hanover Parent Alliance for Diversity (HPAD) to further discuss the letter the group submitted to the minister, outlining their concerns regarding six trustees and their requests. 

In a phone conversation with SteinbachOnline, HPAD stated that they appreciate the installation of a ‘Board oversight person’ as it requested in the letter, and that “the alliance feels strongly that a full review of all policies and practices within the Board is required to 'clean house' - there are other concerns with trustee conflicts of interest and conduct that must be reviewed, not just the issues we brought forward in our original letter.” 

Minister Altomare stated that he feels good about his meeting with the school board and believes Hanover trustees were “really receptive” to his message. The parent group is not as optimistic. 

“We would like to believe that this was true, however since their meeting nothing has actually changed,” HPAD states. “They have not reversed course on the problematic hiring motion, nor have they corrected their practice of backroom conversations that should be happening in the public forum. At the May 7 public meeting, both the April 2 parent delegation and the HTA letter to the Board were on the agenda. There was zero discussion on either item. Chair Unger stated that the trustees had done some 'deep thinking' and had 'some conversation' about the delegation's request(s), but all of that happened behind closed doors. His 'invitation' to add anything further was met with no dialogue because it had already all happened. But an issue raised in public should be discussed in public. And the HTA letter? Chair Unger gave that under 30 seconds of airtime, acknowledging they'd received it and read it. Meeting over. We can only imagine how disrespected and devalued Hanover teachers must feel by this Board right now.” 

Their letter to the Education Minister included a request to disqualify six trustees from the board, alleging violation of the provisions of the Public Schools Act. 

“We had some good conversation around this at our meeting (with the minister). We fully recognized that, while it is written into the Public Schools Act that trustees can be terminated for breaching the Act, asking to do so was 'the nuclear option'. Still, it wasn't an ask that we made lightly.” 

The parent group explains why the alliance members felt compelled to make that request. 

“When marginalized and othered kids die at disproportionately higher rates than their peers (4-6 times more likely), it's not hyperbolic to say these issues are life or death for some of the kids in our division. The Board sets the tone for the division, as the Minister has said, they need to be exemplars; but the only example we have seen so far is not the purposefully inclusive one it should be. 

“It was noted by the Deputy Minister (in HPAD’s meeting with the minister) that the nuclear option could also just be a band aid - if the whole Board was removed, who knows who would come in behind them with similar ideology and we'd be back at square one again. The Minister definitely gave us the impression he is more keen to educate the current Board than terminate, and as an alliance we can appreciate that sentiment, as long as it is followed up with real action, and we see real change as a result.” 

The alliance members report feeling heard by the Minister of Education and trust that he is committed to making sure all students in Hanover schools feel safe and included. 

“We were all definitely convinced that the Minister takes the safety and inclusion of our kids seriously. He said when he was a school administrator, he was always watching for the kids in the corner of the playground and working to make them included. Sadly, we are not convinced that the HSD Board feels compelled to do the same, or any more than the bare minimum when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” 

HPAD refers to comments made during the May 7th public meeting of the Hanover School Board. 

“Just take a look at the current diversity policy, which Chair Unger made very clear, half a dozen times at the May 7 public meeting, is only there out of 'obligation'. It is quite literally the bare minimum. It states the division's support for and commitment to diversity, yet completely lacks any meaningful or intentional steps beyond making accommodations for others who actually want to lead inclusive activities.” 

The alliance members report leaving their meeting with Minister Altomare “feeling heard,” and are grateful for the invitation to meet with him and the Deputy Minister for the Department of Education.