Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, says people need to focus their attention on the upcoming byelection in Chilliwack. (BCSTA image)

Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, says people need to focus their attention on the upcoming byelection in Chilliwack. (BCSTA image)

‘Let’s not talk about Barry’ says BCSTA president on Chilliwack trustee

Higginson says impending Chilliwack byelection will require ‘laser focus’ to ensure balance of power

It’s time to stop giving Chilliwack trustee Barry Neufeld attention, says the president of the B.C. School Trustees Association.

“Let’s talk about Barry,” tweeted Stephanie Higginson. “Or better yet, let’s not talk about Barry.”

This was in response to a social media post in which the Chilliwack trustee called three Chilliwack Progress employees a slur used against people with developmental disabilities. Neufeld has since removed the post, but the backlash has been heavy and includes calls for his resignation.

But Higginson says when Neufeld attracts controversy and people ask him to resign, “he digs deeper in his resolve to stay.”

“My suspicion is that every time his name gets mentioned and his hurtful and hateful rantings get shared, it emboldens him and his followers,” Higginson added.

She is urging people to focus on the importance of Chilliwack’s impending school board byelection, pledging to use her platform to educate people about the process. She explained that the benefit of a corporate board model for school districts, which some say is flawed, gives no individual trustee power, and that that’s a good thing.

“It protects against the ability of a rogue trustee with views and ideologies that run counter to the purpose of public education, to have their views reflected in the operations of the school district,” she added.

Chilliwack will have a byelection in the near future, as trustee Dan Coulter has been elected as MLA for Chilliwack. This will leave Chilliwack with a board of just six members, with viewpoints of trustees often split. While the byelection has not been called, Coulter will be resigning from the board to focus on his new role in Victoria.

READ MORE: Chilliwack school trustee under fire again – this time for offensive slur at journalists

Higginson spoke directly to Chilliwack voters about the importance of coming out to vote in the byelection.

“You have lost one of the strongest, most effective progressive trustees in the province,” she says of Coulter. “This byelection will be the most important election in a long time.”

School board byelections generally have a dismal turnout. In 2013, voter turnout was just 2.3 per cent. In 2015, Bob Patterson won with just 833 votes.

Higginson noted that even with Neufeld’s controversial comments and “hurtful, hate filled views” he was re-elected in regular election in 2018 with the second highest number of votes. And because of that, she says, the focus needs to be on voting in a progressive trustee.

“We must work with laser focus to ensure that the progressive views that were seen in the provincial election are solidified at the corporate board of education table,” she tweeted. “The balance of power is hanging by a literal thread right now. Do not lose sight of what must be done.”

The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association has also called for a shift in focus, to shine a positive light on Chilliwack in the wake of Neufeld’s comment. They are asking people to use the hashtag “ThisIsMyChilliwack along with positive stories and photographs.

READ MORE: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association revive #ThisIsMyChilliwack social media campaign


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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