Chilliwack school board trustees change up leadership

Dan Coulter re-elected board chair but Willow Reichelt out as vice-chair, David Swankey in

Clear division on the Chilliwack Board of Education has been evident for a year but nuance came to the forefront Tuesday as trustees voted for a new chair and vice-chair.

Dan Coulter is back in as board chair, but Willow Reichelt is out as vice-chair replaced by David Swankey after elections for both positions.

To start off the annual votes by trustees, Reichelt nominated Coulter, Darrell Furgason nominated Swankey, and Heather Maahs nominated Barry Neufeld.

Swankey declined the nomination, and Coulter decided to forgo a speech “to keep this meeting short.”

Neufeld, on the other hand, had lots to say, suggesting it was time for a change. He pointed to when Coulter won his seat on the board in a byelection in 2013, after which Neufeld said he took Coulter “under my wing.”

• READ MORE: Coulter wins Chilliwack school board byelection

• READ. MORE: New Chilliwack school board sworn in after divisive election

But Neufeld said he did not like the way the board had been led since Coulter became chair.

“I would promise to serve in more of a quasi-judicial manner,” Neufeld said. “I would not argue with members. I would let myself be open to all sides of the debate, and I would work towards a board working together in consensus.”

He also said he would be a peacemaker, that statement after using a war metaphor.

“Chilliwack always votes on a four-to-three split,” Neufeld said. “I guess that’s democracy. But in a war, if a general only has 43 per cent of his lieutenants, l feels he is not going to have much success.”

Coulter was re-elected as board chair. Ballots are destroyed after the election and results of who voted for whom are not made public.

After that vote, the board chose a vice-chair. Reichelt has served in the position since November last year after she and the rest of the current board were elected.

For this vote, Trustee Jared Mumford nominated Reichelt. Maahs nominated Swankey, and Furgason nominated Maahs, but she declined the nomination. So it was down to a vote for either Swankey or Reichelt.

“If I’m successful in being chosen, I’d like to focus on the chair/vice-chair serving as the legislative committee [for the board],” Swankey said in support of himself, adding that he did not think Reichelt had done a bad job. “I absolutely have the utmost respect of the work that has been done this year.”

Reichelt pointed out how it’s been a challenging year, suggesting she has acted professionally in the role and that she is “good at chairing” in Coulter’s absence.

She added that she thinks it’s important that someone with her experience in the classroom serves in the role.

“I think it is important,” she said. “I think my voice is a good one to have as vice-chair.”

She then put forth what sounded like a plea to choose her: “Obviously the people who will be happy if Trustee Swankey is successful, it makes me sad.”

Swankey won the vote and was elected as vice-chair of the board.

The trustees also chose Mumford as provincial councillor for the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, and Reichelt for the provincial councillor for the B.C. School Trustees Association.


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