Six days after the Chilliwack Board of Education held a special meeting to elect chair and vice-chair, they held the meeting again, this time with all in attendance.
While the result of the vote ended up the same, there were several moments of tension as Trustee Darrell Furgason attacked vice-chair Trustee Willow Reichelt.
Trustee Heather Maahs called the whole meeting “a charade.”
Monday (Dec. 13) morning, the board held a special regular meeting to vote for board chair, vice-chair, and representatives to the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA).
The meeting was put on somewhat symbolically because the Dec. 7 meeting had no member of the public in attendance and it was not livestreamed online. Still, it was deemed a legal public meeting by the school district.
That meeting was attended only by Trustees Jared Mumford, Willow Reichelt, David Swankey and Carin Bondar. Neither the teachers’ union nor the chair of the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) (nor The Progress) were made aware they could attend in person.
After some criticism of that meeting being deemed public on a technicality, at which Mumford was elected board chair and Reichelt vice-chair, Mumford agreed to hold the meeting again. At the Dec. 13 meeting, Mumford explained that the Dec. 7 one was “not an illegitimate meeting” but because of the lack of transparency he decided to run it again.
And while Trustees Heather Maahs, Darrell Furgason and Barry Neufeld did not attend the Dec. 7 meeting, they did attend on Dec. 13.
To start with, Mumford and Maahs were nominated for the position of board chair.
Speaking to his nomination and prior to the vote, Mumford said it is a position that he is ready for and that he will bring his professional work ethic to the position of chair.
Maahs began by saying “unfortunately I think we can all see this is a bit of a charade for a meeting.”
She gave as an example the fact that congratulations messages to Mumford and Reichelt after the Dec. 7 meeting were still posted on the district’s Facebook page.
“I believe that there needs to be a lot more public scrutiny of what this board is doing,” she said. “We are doing far too many things behind closed doors.”
She said there is no place for partisan politics on the board and that the board needs a chair who will respect everyone’s opinions.”
“I think we’ve seen too much weaponizing of behind-the-scenes meetings, which is not good for any of us.”
After that, they voted and Mumford won the secret ballot vote.
Then came the vote for vice-chair, where Reichelt and Furgason were nominated.
Reichelt said her experience in the role of both vice-chair and chair made her the best candidate.
Furgason began a long speech outlining what he said were four reasons why he should be chosen. He didn’t get through the first one before he was called on a point of order. Furgason said Reichelt’s employment in the office of Chilliwack MLA Dan Coulter brought forth a “reasonable question whether this is a conflict of interest,” because a member of that NDP government has previously expressed a desire to fire the whole board.
Mumford interrupted Furgason explaining that there is no conflict of interest.
On his second point, Furgason was even more vociferous starting by saying that he would “cease the malicious dissensions and time-wasting motions,” something he blamed on Reichelt.
When pressed, Furgason said he was referring to the board’s censure of Trustee Barry Neufeld in May 2020 after Neufeld made a Facebook post early on in the pandemic saying that Dr. Theresa Tam could not be trusted on COVID-19 matters because he thinks Tam is transgender.
“I intend not to have these frivolous censure motions,” Furgason said.
He then brought up “a questionable lawsuit,” before Mumford cut off Furgason’s microphone on yet another point of order, this time from Bondar.
“Trustee Furgason is not making relevant statements, he’s making it about attacking Willow Reichelt,” she said.
“I’m not going to let this election get derailed,” Mumford said. “Please finish.”
Swankey then pointed to specific board policy that Furgason was violating, including talking about in camera meetings and legal liability in a public meeting.
Furgason was undeterred and continued to speak even with his microphone muted.
“If you continue to speak out of order I will have you removed from this meeting,” Mumford said. “I don’t understand why you feel the need to derail this meeting.”
After that, they voted and Reichelt was chosen as vice-chair.
Trustees Bondar and Swankey were then elected as BCPSEA and BCSTA representatives with Mumford and Reichelt to server as alternates.
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