Tuesday’s school board meeting in Chilliwack was another contentious one, with many of policy amendments riling up Trustee Heather Maahs and causing several outbursts around the table. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Tuesday’s school board meeting in Chilliwack was another contentious one, with many of policy amendments riling up Trustee Heather Maahs and causing several outbursts around the table. (Jessica Peters/ The Progress)

Former Chilliwack board chair steps to the mic on trustee behaviour

Silvia Dyck says Chilliwack school board needs outside help and doesn’t understand governance policy

Tuesday’s school board meeting got so heated at times that a former board chair sitting in the audience couldn’t hide her dismay.

Silvia Dyck, a trustee for 19 years prior to last fall’s election, took to the podium and chided the current board for bringing their animosity into the public realm. She said that they need to get beyond their adversarial state, hash things out as a board at Committee of the Whole meetings, and be “more aspirational.”

The board spent almost two hours arguing over minor and major amendments to their own self-governance policies.

“May I suggest that policy governance is about building a team,” she said to the board. “It’s the seven of you that need to work on it, not in an adversarial role … you need to reach some sort of consensus. Consensus doesn’t mean you agree but you can live with it.”

Dyck was often the one corralling trustees and keeping order of meetings in her years on the board, including several years as board chair.

She was at the board meeting in the audience, with fellow former trustee Walt Krahn, to deliver a report from an ad-hoc committee on trustee remuneration earlier in the evening. The meeting was nearing the three and a half hour mark when she was able to speak during question period.

“We have a great school district, and we turned it over to you in great condition, please keep it that way,” she said in closing.

Dyck said after the meeting that she has only ever tuned into one meeting since the changeover of the board.

“I watched one when they first started and caught a few mistakes,” she said. “When you make a motion, you have to complete the motion. There were some errors, and when you get sloppy you run into trouble later.”

She said Tuesday night’s meeting was again full of errors. But even more appalling was the obvious tension, she said, and the lack of collective knowledge of policy governance writing.

“Like most dysfunctional boards, they are using policy to hit each other with,” she said. “Policy is not there for battles, or to fix the current dispute. There’s a lot of naivety there; they don’t understand policy governance.”

The board had six action items on their agenda, following with their plan to clean up the 200 policies which outline self-governance. Several amendments were introduced during the meeting that trustees did not have time to digest, and a few trustees argued that the changes were heavy handed. Those arguments were also at times combative and out of order.

In particular, the Code of Ethics was up for amendment, with a full page of new wording for punitive action if a trustee broke that code. There have been numerous instances of trustees breaking their code of ethics over the past year, but no action has been taken to censure any trustees.

The amendments were eventually passed, with Trustees Heather Maahs, Barry Neufeld and Darrell Furgason voting against it. They were particularly opposed to wording that included the Human Rights Code.

While Maahs said she was “trying to take the high road here” in regards to things said in the past, she often interrupted other trustees. When Trustee Jared Mumford lamented that “you don’t need a code of ethics until you need a code of ethics” she said out loud, “wow, wow.”

It’s that sort of discussion that should be happening behind closed doors, says Dyck.

“They were challenging things without really looking at what they were challenging,” she said. “Instead of listening to the commentary, they said ‘I’m not going to listen.’”

If they had spent the time together they could have come up with something that everyone could be content with, Dyck added. She said this was bound to happen with the different types of people who were elected this time around. But she also said it’s incumbent on the board now to mend fences and get back to work.

“They have to do the teamwork piece, then the governance piece,” she said. “They could really benefit from a governance workshop… They need group assistance.”

Dyck called the current board dysfunctional, and that in the past when the school board had similar issues they went through workshops and had outside input, and worked hard at coming back together as a united board.

“We turned over a school district in great shape, we had the right people in the right places, with all skill sets in good places,” she said. “The finances are good, things are good, student achievement is up. When you start to lose that, when staff is demoralized — and a dysfunctional board is demoralizing — it goes all the way down to the school level.”

She said she has hope that things can be fixed in time, but that the board seems to be going through the a common “forming storming and performing” process.

“We seem to be in the storm, and hopefully we get to the performing piece,” she said. “We have to have hope, our students desperately need it, education is so critical.”


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Former Hope resident Jason Thomas Graff is set to be sentenced on charges of telecommunicating to lure a child and posession of child pornography at the Chilliwack Law Courts Jan. 28. (File photo)
Former Hope resident to be sentenced for child luring in Chilliwack court

Sentencing Jan. 28 at Chilliwack Law Courts following offences in Hope, Vancouver Island

A black-capped chickadee tolerates the 40 below zero weather. (File)
Harrison Christmas Bird Count taking flight

Local bird watchers help with worldwide bird tracking effort

RCMP don’t want to see you having your vehicle towed away after an aggressive driving infraction. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP hand out more than 500 tickets in aggressive driving crackdown

Police say they’ll continue to focus on speeding, aggressive and distracted driving

Home sales for November in the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board were profitable for sellers because of historically low supply. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)
Historically low supply leads to higher prices in Chilliwack real estate market

City dwellers want to relocate to the eastern Fraser Valley and are willing to pay a high price

Prolific offender Jonathan David Olson (left) and Brodie Tyrel Robinson, both of Chilliwack, were convicted of several offences in BC Supreme Court in August 2019 in connection to a crime spree on the Canada Day long weekend in 2017.
Dangerous offender designation off the table for Chilliwack gangster

Jonathan Olson found guilty in connection with 2017 crime spree now facing 14 years maximum

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Lefeuvre Road, near Myrtle Avenue, was blocked to traffic on Thursday (Dec. 3) after an abandoned pickup truck was found on fire. Police are investigating to determine if there are any links to a killing an hour earlier in Surrey. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Torched truck found in Abbotsford an hour after killing in Surrey

Police still investigating to determine if incidents are linked

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey Pretrial centre in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Pretrial hit with human rights complaint over mattress

The inmate who lodged the complaint said he needed a second mattress to help him manage his arthritis

Most Read