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LETTER: Did definition of conflict change between meetings?

‘Clearly, our code of conduct was broken,’ writes Chilliwack School District trustee Heather Maahs
Chilliwack School District school bus outside Sardis elementary on June 11, 2014. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Re: Column “Some say it’s time to fire the Chilliwack school board, but maybe that’s what some of them want” published Nov. 12, 2021.

Hopefully I can provide you with some clarity and ease your pain.

On Nov. 3, 2021, the Chilliwack Board of Education held a special in-camera meeting to vote on vaccine mandates. Five out of seven trustees were in attendance because two trustees are married to teachers, which made them “in conflict.”

The issue of conflict was laid out very succinctly to all boards of education by the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) in emails before boards began voting. If you are married to a teacher, if you are the parent of a teacher or you have a child who is a teacher, that is considered “in conflict,” for obvious reasons.

Back to the meeting.

We made a motion. We voted. The motion passed. Full stop.

Suddenly, another special in-camera meeting was called Nov. 8 but the difference was, seven trustees were in attendance.

How in the world can trustees be in conflict in the first meeting but not the second, when discussing the topic of vaccine mandates? Has the definition of conflict changed? Did BCPSEA send a new directive? And what about our Code of Conduct policy item number 7: “Respect majority decisions of the board.”

What we have here is a phenomenon we’re seeing all over the world by those who hold the balance of power; Rules for thee, but not for me.

Clearly, our code of conduct was broken.

The policy doesn’t say, “unless you dislike the motion the board has passed.” It says, “Respect the majority decision of the board.”

And one further note, in-camera meetings are for very specific reasons. They are not to be used as vehicles for secret meetings compelling trustees to stay silent for nefarious reasons. In-camera meetings are to protect individual personele and for pending financial land deals etc.

For something like vaccine mandates, making a public policy of sorts that would affect the entire community at large, and staff of the school district, should have taken place in public. That aside, once decisions are made via in-camera meetings, those decisions are made public (other than personele).

That is what transparency and accountability from your elected officials should look like.

So let me just say this one more time.

On Nov. 3, the board voted and passed a motion which is still on the books. It was never undone and is complete with the rationale supporting all our staff in this school district and the vote stating no vaccine mandate for SD 33.

Mrs. Heather Maahs

SD33 Trustee

Board of Education