The Chilliwack School Board, 2019.

The Chilliwack School Board, 2019.

Trustee reports on hold until Chilliwack school board creates new policy

Trustee Maahs argues that new policy shows intent to ‘curtail our freedom’

Trustee reports were missing from the Nov. 3 Chilliwack school board meeting, following a prior meeting where such reports derailed into accusations.

And there will be no more trustee reports until the board creates a policy that includes framework for how trustees should use that time on the agenda. These reports are generally where the public can hear what each trustee has been up to, including meetings, visits to schools, and professional development.

But on Oct. 20, trustee reports included an apology and a statement from Trustee Barry Neufeld over a personal matter between him and Trustee Willow Reichelt, a statement from Trustee Darrell Furgason regarding trustees getting involved in provincial politics, and a statement from Reichelt as well.

READ MORE: Chilliwack school trustee speaks out about board harassment

And it wasn’t the first time these reports have been used to level accusations across the board, or make speeches.

So on Nov. 3, Trustee David Swankey brought forward a motion that the board should “outline the parameters for trustee reports in a new policy as part of the Board’s policy manual review.”

They are currently undergoing a comprehensive policy review, and have now voted in favour of including the trustee report framework in that review. Trustee Heather Maahs was the sole voice against the motion, and Furgason was not in attendance.

She argued that the motion wasn’t a motion at all, and in saying so, she also said that putting guidelines on reports showed that “the wanton desire here is to curtail our freedom to say what we feel is pertinent, which is a problem.”

She was deemed out of order in both cases — first for alleging the motion was improper, and second for alleging that the trustee who brought it forward was attempting to censor others.

Swankey said at the outset of the discussion that his intent was to “have trustee reports with some real contribution to the business of the board.”

She agreed that the prior meeting had gotten “raucous.”

Neufeld was the first to speak in favour of the motion, provided there would still be ample opportunity to discuss the wording.

Trustee Dan Coulter, who will be resigning in the future to take on his role as Chilliwack’s MLA, agreed with the motion as well.

“I think it’s important to outline what a trustee report is, and most of our reports follow this list of things,” he said, adding that those that don’t follow the suggested framework “have been quite unhelpful tot he work of the board.”

Some of the suggestions made in Swankey’s motion for a draft policy include having a reasonable limit on time, and sticking to items such as notices of motion, issues in public education, reporting on issues in the Chilliwack community, reporting on the duties performed by the trustee, and consistency with the renewed Code of Conduct.

The policy will be discussed further by the board as they work through their policy renewal process. It would be included in the new policy manual.

READ MORE: Chilliwack school board to debate district wide dress codes


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