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Near North board dysfunctional, departing trustee says (Updated)

Near North District School Board trustee Chris Rees has resigned, calling the board the most “dysfunctional” he’s ever been associated with.
Near North District School Board trustee Chris Rees has resigned, calling the board the most “dysfunctional” he’s ever been associated with.

Rees terminated his five-year tenure at board meeting Tuesday night in the midst of a discussion about his attendance.

“I had missed three meetings through no fault of my own and a group of trustees saw this as an opportunity to get rid of me,” Rees told during a telephone interview.

“I had been thinking about resigning but thought I’d attempt to stick it out for rest of my term.”

He changed his mind, Rees said, during the discussion about his attendance and after the board had debated some “petty” issues.

Trustee Eunice Saari said the three meetings Rees had missed had been consecutive, which meant automatic ouster under the Education Act.

As well, Saari said, she had tracked Rees's absenteeism since the 2003 municipal election and found that he had missed 14 meetings in all, and had been late to arrive and early to leave at a number of others.

Great contribution
Board chairman Jay Aspin said he was “really sorry” to lose Rees from the board.

“He’s a very bright and intelligent man and made a great contribution.”

Aspin said he “won’t dispute” Rees allegations about the board.

“Some members are prone to that kind of thing.”

Rees had been acclaimed for the board’s Zone 1, which includes Sturgeon Falls and Nipissing Twp.

The board has 60 days to replace him.

Make things simple
Rees said he missed the meetings in question because his work as a consultant had, on one occasion, taken him out of the country.

“The board even asked for a legal opinion which stated I could be excused from those meetings,” Rees said.

One trustee told the opinion also stated the board could also remove Rees from the board if a motion to excuse him from those meetings didn’t garner any support.

The trustee said the motion to excuse Rees did not have enough supporters to pass.

Rees said he decided to make things “simple” by resigning.

“I think at that point there was general satisfaction from those people who wanted me out in the first place,” said Rees, who declined to name trustees he was referring to.

Experienced very little
During the meeting, Rees said, some trustees criticized board director of education Colin Vickers because he had joined the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce, while also being a member of chambers on Parry Sound and West Nipissing, an issue he considers “petty.”

“It’s totally wrong for the board to be criticizing our supervisory officers and teachers and principals.”

Rees said the board should be working toward making positive changes for students and making sure it operates effectively.

“I’ve experienced very little to that,” Rees said, adding his only true sense of accomplishment came during the board’s previous accommodation report.

“Some trustees and I helped save two schools in the Almaguin area other trustees wanted to close,” Rees said.

Same wavelength
Aside from that Rees hasn’t had “a lot” of satisfaction being on the board.

“It’s the most dysfunctional board I have ever been associated with,” Rees said.

“At the end of the day it was too much of a disparate group of people to function properly.”

Rees said he didn’t have the impression trustees were on the same wavelength, “and it’s as much of a criticism of myself as others.”

“Boards function well when everyone has the same vision,” Rees said.

“Ours is one of the most disheartening examples of a group not getting along.”

Rees added “new blood” is needed to “renew” the trusteeship.

Functional board
Saari said Rees has been voicing the same criticisms almost from the time he was elected to the board.

"I'm not going to get into name calling, but I think the board is only as functional as the people on it," Saari said.

"You must be team player, must have attendance and you must be prepared to do the work. That's what makes a functional board."

Be professional
Saari, who preceded Aspin as chair and has been a trustee for 15 years, said there have been "lots of times" she's encountered dissonance on the board.

"People can handle differences in a very positive way," Saari said.

"You can be professional rather than to lash out."

Saari added she's "disappointed" about Rees's behavious.

"I've been in this arena long enough, though, that I don't lose any sleep over things like that."