A private message exchange between Chilliwack School Trustees Willow Reichelt and Barry Neufeld was made public by Neufeld at a board meeting on Oct. 20. (YouTube)

A private message exchange between Chilliwack School Trustees Willow Reichelt and Barry Neufeld was made public by Neufeld at a board meeting on Oct. 20. (YouTube)

TOP STORIES 2020: Another tumultuous year at Chilliwack School board ends with ministry intervention

Board undergoes changes in 2020, including losing one trustee to provincial politics

Schools have been under the microscope since spring break, when it became clear that COVID-19 was becoming a global problem.

But that didn’t stop trustees on the Chilliwack board of education from veering away from those issues to create headlines of their own this year.

Notably, Trustee Barry Neufeld was censured for publicly insulting Dr. Theresa Tam online, regarding his opinion on her gender.

Neufeld was further censured later in the year for failing to recuse himself from a discussion in an in-camera meeting for which he had pecuniary interests, as well as breaking confidentially of an in-camera meeting.

He divulged information of that meeting in a different public school board meeting, on his Facebook page, and ultimately in a video published by Rebel Media.

In November, Neufeld used a derogatory term (the R-word) to describe employees of The Chilliwack Progress, which caused backlash from around the province from disability advocates among others.

This year, Trustee Willow Reichelt also spoke out about divisiveness among the board, after she received inappropriate private messages from Neufeld during a meeting. One of the messages called her “poor baby.”

This led to multiple renewed calls for Neufeld’s resignation, for him to be fired by the minister of education, and for the entire board to be replaced by an appointee.

A solution came right at the end of the year, with an announcement from the minister of education, Jennifer Whiteside. She has appointed two special advisors to evaluate the board, with a report expected at the end of February.

In the meantime, voters will be asked to go to the polls once again. This time, they will replace Dan Coulter, who is now sitting as Chilliwack MLA. Coulter beat out longtime Liberal MLA John Martin.

The byelection for his vacant seat is to be held on Feb. 13, and the candidate nomination period is Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 9 a.m. to Friday, Jan. 8 at 4 p.m.

So far, just two candidates have announced their intentions, Carin Bondar and Adam Suleman.

The board isn’t all antics, though. They also have hammered out their own policies this year, cleaning up the governance rules they follow, including their code of ethics.

RELATED STORIES:

READ MORE: Chilliwack school board censures controversial trustee Barry Neufeld

READ MORE: Special advisors appointed to evaluate Chilliwack school board

READ MORE: Chilliwack school trustee speaks out about board harassment

READ MORE: Nomination period for Chilliwack school trustee byelection opens today

READ MORE: Major project underway to streamline Chilliwack school board policies


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