A private message exchange between Chilliwack School Trustees Willow Reichelt and Barry Neufeld was made public by Neufeld at a board meeting on Oct. 20, 2020. (YouTube)

A private message exchange between Chilliwack School Trustees Willow Reichelt and Barry Neufeld was made public by Neufeld at a board meeting on Oct. 20, 2020. (YouTube)

Chilliwack school board chair looking forward to work set out by minister of education

Board will work to ensure all students ‘feel safe, included and excited about learning’

The chair of the Chilliwack school board says she is hopeful that they can move forward, following recommendations set out by B.C.’s minister of education.

The board will be meeting next week to learn more about what the recommendations will entail, Trustee Willow Reichelt says.

They include reviewing and revising policies and codes of conduct for students, establishing a plan for student achievement focusing on inclusive education, children and youth in care, and Indigenous students, developing a policy regarding inclusive board practices, reviewing and revising its own Code of Ethics, working with the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, and collaborating with local First Nations to develop policies and procedures that allow for meaningful engagement with Indigenous community members.

Both the inclusive board practices and Code of Ethics will require input from the community to be considered as part of the process.

“I am pleased to see the Minister’s recommendations,” Reichelt said. “It is clear that there is a recognition of the need for School District 33 to focus on inclusivity in order to support student achievement.”

The recommendations stem from a review that took place from December to late February, in which two appointed special advisors were brought in by the Ministry of Education to oversee the board and identify issues. The final report has not been made public. One of those special advisors, Mike McKay, will now stay on and continue to support and oversee the board.

“I believe the appointment of the special advisor is a positive step and will assist the board in making the necessary changes to move our district forward,” Reichelt said. “I am hopeful that all members of the board will take this process seriously and will work with our partners in education to ensure that all students in our district feel safe, included and excited about learning.”

Meetings have become heated at the school board in recent years, with arguments taking place that have veered away from education to become both personal and political.

Trustee Barry Neufeld called Reichelt “poor baby” in an electronic message during one meeting. In others, time set aside for trustee reports have been used to attack other trustees or make political statements. Trustee reports are currently temporarily off the agendas, as the board has already been working on rewriting and streamlining their policies.

READ MORE: Special advisors appointed to evaluate Chilliwack school board


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