Chilliwack school district has backed out of a $15,000 commitment to the Chilliwack Hospital and Health Care Foundation, a decision that has left at least one trustee wondering whether the board had the wool pulled over its eyes.
A motion to rescind the school district’s financial support in the hiring of a coordinator for the Healthier Community Action Plan was passed at Tuesday’s board meeting, and was described by board chair Walt Krahn as simply a “housekeeping” matter.
At the Oct. 23, 2012 board meeting, Donna Dixson, then director of community relations for the Chilliwack Hospital and Health Care Foundation, presented to the board the foundation’s plans for implementing a new program aimed at encouraging children to live healthier lifestyles.
The Sustainable Childhood Obesity Prevention through Community Engagement (SCOPE) program, developed by BC Children’s Hospital, is a healthcare message encouraging children to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily; limit screen time to two hours or less a day; participate in at least one hour of physical activity daily; and avoid sweetened beverages.
In the presentation Dixson told the board the foundation already had a three-year financial commitment, at $15,000 per year, from the City of Chilliwack to help fund the position of program coordinator. She also said the program would go ahead with or without the district’s support, but that it was an opportunity to get involved from the ground up.
“There is unending community support for this,” she said at the meeting, “and this is your opportunity to be a part of it.”
Despite strong opposition from trustees Heather Maahs and Silvia Dyck, who called the fast-tracked proposal “reprehensible” and “bad business,” the board passed a motion later that evening to match the City’s contribution of $15,000 for one year with the promise of reviewing it again the following year.
Said then board chair Louise Piper, this was an opportunity to “take a risk” and show leadership.
However, months following the presentation the school district learned that the City hadn’t actually contributed to the project at all.
Choosing his words carefully, Krahn, still a strong supporter of the program, told The Progress this week that he didn’t want to “put anybody under the bus.”
“We provided the money because we were led to believe there was a matching grant from the City,” he said. “Since that motion was made, there have been a number of changes to both the council and the foundation. Because the landscape has changed slightly … we were not comfortable with the change in focus.”
Krahn said the school district requested the cheque back within three to four months of it being donated.
Tuesday’s motion to rescind – 16 months after the donation was first approved – was to clear it off the books.
“This in no way is a reflection on the work [the foundation] is doing; this was merely a housekeeping item,” said Krahn.
For trustee Maahs, however, it was good riddance.
“We are not in the business of being philanthropists – $15,000 from us to them made no sense to me.”