Chilliwack’s most vocal parent advocate is backing away from the school district.
After losing her bid for school trustee, Kirsten Brandreth resigned as vice president of the Chilliwack District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) this week.
Brandreth was disappointed with the election outcome and felt her time in the district had come to an end.
“I just cannot sit there for another three years and watch ineffective trustees,” said Brandreth.
With five incumbent trustees re-elected, one former trustee elected, and one newcomer, Brandreth doesn’t hold hope for change.
“I thought we were ready for a change, and I knew I was ready for a new challenge,” she said. “But the people thought otherwise.”
Brandreth earned 1,705 votes, and came in 10th out of 24 candidates.
“I have been so heavily involved and have dedicated so many of my own personal hours to this district, and for what, no change basically,” she said.
For more than 16 years, Brandreth, a mother of two, has been supporting public education. She’s volunteered in several capacities at schools, has sat on numerous committees, was an active member on Promontory elementary’s PAC for six years, before advancing to DPAC, where she sat for the past nine years – four of which were as president.
For more than four years, she has rarely missed a board meeting, and rarely did she stay silent at those board meetings. She gave trustees and district staff praise where she felt it was due, but also did not shy away from voicing concerns.
Brandreth came under fire last year after opposing a move by the board to rename winter vacation on all district documents to Christmas holidays. She said it was insensitive to students in the district who didn’t practice Christianity.
Brandreth also laid into trustees following the last meeting before summer holidays in 2010, chastising them for their “disrespectful” and “embarrassing” behaviour towards one another.
“I’m the kind of person who will speak up where others don’t,” said Brandreth. “I have no problem asking tough questions, and I have no problem listening to the other side of the story.”
Her voice has been heard at the school, district and provincial levels.
Her goal with DPAC was to increase communication within the district, and to get more parents standing up for their children.
It hasn’t been easy.
Active membership on DPAC has consistently been low. The monthly meetings generally have representation from just a handful of schools. And as such, most advocacy falls on the shoulders of the DPAC president.
With 30 schools in the district, and more than 12,000 students, it could be overwhelming at times, said Brandreth.
“It would be great to have 10 DPAC executive members going to various meetings so that it’s not all going to be on the president’s shoulders,” she said.
“There should be more parent representation; we all bring different visions to the table.”
Brandreth also wants trustees to get more involved with parents.
“I really hope this next set of trustees have a better relationship with parent advisory councils and parents,” she said. “They have to get away from just attending social functions and get into being a part of the parent advisory councils – they need to know more about the schools.”
Brandreth is walking away from DPAC with mixed emotions.
“DPAC and parent advisory council has been my baby for 15 years,” she said. “And I will always be there to provide information and help out if needed. But it’s time for other parents to get more involved.”