The Urban Public Boards Caucus came into effect in the early nineties as an informal ad hoc group of public boards. Part of the reason for this development was the perceived need for public boards to position themselves more effectively to be heard and to be able to present issues that were more specifically representative of urban boards. The early nineties were a time of increased criticism of public education and tight economic times. It was becoming increasingly important to convey to all Saskatchewan educational organizations and to the public that the needs of the urban public boards were important and worthy of respect and attention.
At the same time more urban boards were becoming concerned regarding changes that were taking place in the Catholic Urban boards’ interpretation of their educational mandate. The Roman Catholic boards had essentially changed their recruitment approach from accepting only Roman Catholic students to accepting all students who met more flexible registration requirements. This resulted in increased enrollments for Roman Catholic urban school divisions and a corresponding decrease for urban public school divisions. Some cities experienced this to a greater degree than others. An outcome of this change was a deterioration in relations between Catholic and public boards, particularly in some urban centers.
Urban public boards attempted to address this development by approaching individual Roman Catholic boards, the SSTA, the Catholic Section of the SSBA and the Department of Education. It was during this time that the urban public boards joined together as a caucus, originally meeting annually in conjunction with the SSBA’s convention. A provincial executive was subsequently formed to lead the activities of the Caucus. In the fall of 2003 the Caucus employed an executive director.
The UPBC was successful because of the identification of a common purpose that united these boards and encouraged them to act together. During visits conducted by the executive director in 2003 the overwhelming objective identified by the membership was to address the public/Catholic mandate issue. This resulted in the passing of a resolution in November 2003, to pursue litigation through the courts to define “mandate”.
In the fall of 2005 the SSBA introduced the new SSBA governance model, which had a significant effect on the structure of the Urban Public Boards Caucus. The new model resulted in three boards remaining in an urban group, a number of blended rural and urban boards and rural boards. In the fall of 2005, the Executive Director of the UPBC and representatives of the Rural Caucus visited all boards to discuss the possibility of forming a Public Boards Caucus. A meeting of Public Boards was held in Saskatoon on February 1, 2006 to further explore the concept. At that meeting, it was agreed to proceed with a Public Boards Caucus and an organizational meeting followed in Craik on March 23, 2006. Bylaws were developed and an interim executive was selected that included Wayne Steen, Chair, Rod Luhning, Vice-Chair and Bryan Wilson, Secretary.
The intent to form a rural Caucus of the SSTA was indicated by trustees representing rural Boards of Education at the annual Convention of the SSTA held in the fall of 2004. Rural trustees present at that time felt that the more formal caucus structure would assist the rural Representative to the SSTA Executive with an opportunity to access a cross-section of ideas and opinions and present a structured opportunity for Rural Boards dialogue.
The organizational meeting of the Rural Caucus was held in the spring of 2005. Officers were elected with Micheal Halyk and Rod Luhning to serve as co-chairs and Marion Kreiser to serve as the Secretary-treasurer. The membership was open to all rural boards that expressed an interest. The membership fees were set at zero and no persons were hired to perform administrative functions or act as director.
The Caucus held one more general meeting in the spring of 2005 and attempted to assess the nature and importance of issues through surveys of the membership. During the period leading to and including the SSBA convention of 2005 the Rural Caucus executive attempted to assess the ongoing opportunities to focus on rural education by seeking input from both Rural Boards of Education and the newly amalgamated Boards of Education.
A meeting of all public Boards of Education early in 2006 considered and approved the formation of a single Public Caucus to replace the Rural and Urban public caucuses.
The next step for the organization in order to achieve equitable representation was to seek Section status under the auspices of the SSBA. At the SSBA General Meeting , March 27, 2009, the Public Section was established. View the Bylaw Amendment [pdf]