The Chilliwack School Board has twice rejected the binding arbitration on a calendar for the 2020/2021 school year. (File photo)

Trio of Chilliwack school trustees reject arbitrator’s decision for second time

Chilliwack School District nearing final chances to submit calendar to Ministry of Education

Three school board trustees who are against a two-week spring break held fast to their vote Tuesday night (April 28).

Trustees Heather Maahs, Barry Neufeld and Darrell Furgason have now twice rejected a calendar decision made by an arbitrator back in February. The trio of trustees are usually in the minority on the board, and often vote in lockstep. But with two of seven trustees sitting out on the decision due to potential conflict of interests, (Willow Reichelt and David Swankey are both married to teachers) that only left trustees Dan Coulter and Jared Mumford at the table.

The discussion, held via Zoom and streamed live to those who registered, became heated at times, with trustees tossing out insinuations about intentions.

While the three trustees have stated that their decision isn’t about the unions, they have been speaking critically about the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association, with Furgason even saying several times on Tuesday night that “they should stay on the job.”

There has been no related job action to the ongoing calendar dispute, and it’s common practice for Chilliwack to have a two-week spring break.

He added that the board needs to “stand up for the children.”

“We were not elected by unions, we were elected by parents,” he stated. School board elections are done on the same day, on the ballot, as municipal elections and are open to all eligible voters.

READ MORE: Chilliwack school board rejects arbitration ruling on calendar

Neufeld spoke directly against Coulter in his own comments.

“You are a strong member of the CUPE union and whatever you say should be taken with a grain of salt,” he said. CUPE does not have a say locally in the school calendar, as a member of the public pointed out in the group chat that went along with the public, online meeting. CUPE members also don’t get paid for hours not worked, so a two-week break is a financial hardship for them.

Neufeld also noted that the needs of employee groups come second to the needs of students and families. However, the B.C. School Act mandates (article 87.01.7) that parents of students as well as employees should be consulted on calendars.

Coulter said that their meetings was not the time to “denigrate fellow trustees.”

But, he also added, “the disdain and hate for unions, and arbitrators, and labour law is dripping from some people, and this is to the detriment of the board. We’re going to end up paying money for this. And we are just going to come back to this, we are going to have to do this, and we are going to be paying for this out of our nose.”

It’s unclear what will happen next, as the arbitrator’s decision is considered binding. There was some talk of going to court, and who would shoulder the costs of that. Some trustees said they believe that the BCPSEA (BC Public School Employers Association) would pay for the legal fees, but the district’s secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis said that wasn’t a sure thing.

“I don’t care if it’s a binding arbitration, this will come out of BCPSEA funds to appeal this decision,” Neufeld said. Maahs added that she heard from BCPSEA members who are “sick of this nonsense.”

Even if BCPSEA did pay court costs, they don’t pay any damages. That would fall to the Chilliwack School District, which keeps a small legal fund.

Maahs said with the loss of school time this year due to COVID-19, they should take this chance to limit time away from school in the next calendar year.

“Her ruling must be challenged, we cannot simply comply when we know it is an error,” she says. “With the current unknown situation going into this year, it would absolutely negligent for us to agree to a two-week break.”

When there is a two-week break, the school days are several minutes longer to make up for the lost classroom time.

While there was a small time frame to appeal the decision, that ended 14 days from Feb. 28.

One thing that is clear is that time is running out for the board. The submission of a calendar is mandated under the B.C. School Act, which states that “a board must submit to the minister a school calendar prepared under subsection (2) at least three months before the expiration of the current school calendar unless the board has made available to the public a school calendar under subsection (9) for the next school calendar year.”

The act does not state a consequence for not submitting a calendar.

The arbitrator was called in this year because of a new part of the collective agreement, which calls for arbitration if the two parties can’t come to a conclusion. That was decided earlier this year, as part of a settlement from when the board broke the collective agreement in 2017.

Trustee Jared Mumford argued that they should accept the arbitrator’s decision because they agreed to use one, and that they should work harder next year to make their case.

“We agreed to this, as a school board,” he said. “If we didn’t present enough evidence to the arbitrator to have this pass, then next time we present more evidence.”

The next school board meeting is May 12 at 7 p.m., and will likely be held in an online format again. Registration is required to view the meetings in real time and take part in public participation periods, but the videos are also posted to the Chilliwack School District’s YouTube channel the following day.

READ MORE: Chilliwack school board results reveal clear split


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Chilliwack School DistrictEducation

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

Just Posted

PJHL delays start of season as teams struggle to secure facilities

The junior B hockey league was hoping to start Sept. 29 but is now targeting mid-October

Missing Chilliwack woman last seen on Wednesday

Friends and family concerned for Joy-Lynn Leon, 42, who was last seen Sept. 23 on Mary Street

VIDEO: Mounties looking to catch Chilliwack bike-riding teen groper

Man caught on video slapping the backside of girl near CSS riding a bicycle

Abbotsford has a COVID-19 rate 10 times higher than Chilliwack

Abbotsford has been much harder hit by COVID-19 than its neighbour to the east

Chilliwack illusionist Chris Funk brings live magic, music to Cultural Centre

‘You’ll see some creations that have made appearances on some of the largest television shows in the world’

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Most Read