Parent councils riled by board's move to oversee banking

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Parent councils riled by board's move to oversee banking

Parent councils riled by board's move to oversee banking

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) wants all school councils to do their banking through the board, a move that has riled some parent groups.

It's currently planning consultations on the idea, which would affect $4 million worth of donations handled by parent-volunteers every year.

Michael Carson, chief financial officer for OCDSB, said the issue boils down to community and donor confidence in fundraising activities.

"What we're trying to do is minimize the possibility that dollars would be either misreported or could go missing, and [avoid] all of the angst that can create for a community," Carson said.

Misappropriation of funds

There have been at least three instances where school council funds have disappeared in the last decade — two of which were reported publicly, he said.

Back in 2012, Rockcliffe Park Public School parents were informed $70,000 had gone missing.

The board report also mentions money lost at Leslie Park Public School last year. 

In both those situations, a report was filed with Ottawa police. Carson said the board has reimbursed school councils for lost funds in the past and has also recovered some of those costs.

Mistrust and concern

Christine Moulaison, co-chair of the Ottawa-Carleton Assembly of School Councils (OCASC), said the recommendation goes too far.

"It seems like a really dramatic response for something that's happened to less than a handful of schools," she said. "It doesn't mean you need to take control of everything."

Moulaison, who is also chair of the council at South March Public School, said parents are concerned they could face vetoes from school administrators about projects they've been raising tens of thousands of dollars to build.

"There's some mistrust and there's also concern. What if principals change and directives change for the school?" she said.

"Sometimes we're buying gym equipment. There are some schools that are raising money for full parks and play structures that the school doesn't replace when they wear out."

Most councils are well-run and manage several events, which require hundreds of cheques for vendors, Moulaison said. The proposal could overwhelm staff or cause them to limit access to a council's account to manage their workload, which would compromise the viability of those events, she added.

Consultation begins

But Carson said final decisions about how money is spent will remain with councils.

"Expenditures have to be authorized by a vote of council the same as they did before," he said. "The only difference is the bank account is in the name of the school."

Carson said staffing and workload are issues he hopes can be addressed in consultations on the policy.

So far about 30 out of the OCDSB's 150 public schools manage banking on behalf of their councils, according to Carson.

The consultation on the proposed transition to mandatory management was approved by a narrow margin at a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday night — four in favour, three opposed and four abstaining.

The consultation will run until June, though several trustees spoke in favour of extending the consultation period. If the final policy is approved, the new fund management model would begin in the 2020-21 school year.