Parents in Chilliwack have grown weary of the school board and its “constant state of turmoil.”
The District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) has voted in support of removing of the entire school board and replacing trustees with an appointed official. They’ve penned a letter to the new Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside, outlining their concerns. (See full letter below)
Their chief concern is that the negativity that surrounds the current board is interfering with parents’ ability to have issues addressed by the board.
“As the legislated voice of parents in School District 33, Chilliwack District Parent Advisory (DPAC) is writing to you today to voice our ongoing frustration and concerns with regards to our current Board of Education,” the letter states.
“The constant negative attention our district receives in the media combined with the theatrics displayed during our public board meetings distract from the positive things that are in fact happening within our district.”
DPAC is made up of representatives from each school in the district, who are elected by the individual school Parent Advisory Councils. At a DPAC meeting earlier this fall, those DPAC members voted to go back to their individual school communities to find out what the wishes of parents are in regards to the board.
When an entire school board is removed, which has been done in the past in other communities, an appointee takes over the business of the board until the next civic election. The next civic election is slated for the fall of 2022.
On Dec. 10, DPAC voted with 16 in favour of removing the board, three opposed and one abstention.
This is not the first time they’ve appealed to the Ministry of Education to assist Chilliwack with its issues at the board level. DPAC wrote to then-Minister of Education Rob Fleming on May 15, 2020, asking him to appoint a Special Advisor to the board, under Sec. 171.1 of the School Act. The request was not granted.
“In the six months since we initially reached out, our board remains in a constant state of turmoil,” the new letter states. “The parent voices that are trying to address relevant issues related to education are largely not being heard by the board, often met with no response or become a lesser priority to the frequent conflict within the board.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of a functioning board, they added, “increasing pressures to identify resources as never before seen.”
They list off articles in the news that illustrate their concerns, and note the most recent censures by the board against Trustee Barry Neufeld.
“While our preference would be to remove the individual trustees that are in direct violation of numerous board policies, we realize that the School Act does not supply such a remedy at this time,” DPAC wrote, adding that “any forthcoming legislation that would amend the school act would not be done in a timely enough manner to address the current situation in our district.”
Which led them to the conclusion: “Our parent membership see no other alternative and have voted to request that the Minister of Education dismiss the full Board of Education in School District 33.”
They are not the first to call attention to the Chilliwack school board. Relationships across the board table have been described as toxic, with board members antagonizing each other since the 2018 election. That election was held just shortly after Neufeld made headlines for speaking against the teaching resource, SOGI 123. Fleming had previously asked Neufeld to step down, as has Whiteside.
The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) passed a motion at a special general meeting on Nov. 24 to call for the Neufeld’s resignation, and also to recommend that the Chilliwack board of education censure Trustee Darrell Furgason.
Neufeld has not responded to The Progress to discuss his views on SOGI 123, his censures, or calls for his resignation.
Furgason responded to the CTA via The Progress, saying “they have not shown us any respect, and regretfully have weaponized that disrespect via the local media.”
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