A fractured relationship between parent groups and the Chilliwack school board was one the after effects of the SOGI 123 debacle.
But the new board is working at reconnecting with groups like the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), as is part of the board’s mandate. One of the regular annual events held by the board is a thank-you dinner for volunteer parents. It’s a gesture of good will and a chance for parents who are involved in Parent Advisory Councils (PAC) to get some informal face time to talk to the decision makers.
But last year’s event was cancelled, after Trustee Barry Neufeld urged his friends and followers to join in on a letter-writing attack on DPAC’s then-president, Justine Hodge. The DPAC had taken a stand, asking for him to resign. Some of the letters she received included a forwarded email from Neufeld asking people to send letters directly to the volunteer.
Shortly after, DPAC members were informed the annual dinner would be cancelled.
But that is water under the bridge, and this year the groups are looking to move forward, while DPAC works to regain their intended role within the district. And it seems to be working. The district and board had a successful dinner with parents and administration on April 3.
And at a board meeting in March, Trustee Jared Mumford thanked his fellow board members for the efforts in reconnecting with parents. Mumford was a past DPAC executive himself, at a time when the council felt they weren’t being taken seriously by the board. He said the board is working hard to make positive connections with all stakeholders, and ensuring the lines of communication are open.
“For example, we’ve resurrected the long dead informal dinners between all stakeholders – CUPE and CTA have already met with us, and have invited us to their offices for another dinner,” he told The Progress. “All parties agreed that the meetings were refreshing, encouraging, full of real communication and even some laughter. We have also resurrected the DPAC / PAC dinner with the board… as well as the start of informal meetings with Mayor and council so that we can start working together on important issues that affect both city and schools like homelessness, transportation infrastructure, safety, and most importantly land sale and development.”
He added that there are reserved seats for DPAC members in board meetings, and that they are included on committees struck by the board.
“It is my hope that parents utilize DPAC’s growing strength as a platform to push issues in front of the board. This is how I envisioned parents having a voice – through representation from DPAC as an involved and engaged stakeholder.”
Chilliwack’s DPAC is a legislated organization recognized within B.C.’s School Act to represent the parent voice at the school district level. DPAC’s main role as an advocate for parent involvement in the education system is to provide input into the development of policy and curricula through the collective views of all district PACs.
Current DPAC president Diane Braun says the dinner went well, and was a good opportunity for PAC members to “be able to meet their trustee liaison in a comfortable environment and to hear that the members of the board are sincere in their desire to hear from parents.”
She added that principals have also been getting messaging out that parental input is important.
“In the future, I hope to see continued growth in our relationship so that DPAC feels it can give input to the board that is truly representative of parents’ views as they have been brought forward to DPAC through their DPAC representatives,” Braun said. “Of course, we are hoping to have DPAC representatives voted in at all of our schools this year so that we can truly represent all parents in the district.”
To learn more about the District Parent Advisory Council or your school’s own parent advisory council, inquire through your child’s school.
The school district is also asking parents to give feedback on the relationships through an online discussion portal they’ve been using, called ThoughtExchange. To sign into that conversation, to add feedback and rate others’ contributions, visit my.thoughtexchange.com and enter code