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Two school board chairs asked to resign

B.C. Schools are closed for the winter break, but at least two school boards didn’t sign off with wishes of good tidings and cheer for all members: both the Kootenay-Columbia and Comox Valley school boards have trustees publicly calling for their chairs to step down.

Three of the nine school board trustees in the Kootenay-Columbia district sent a letter to Minister of Education Margaret MacDiarmid asking her to dissolve the board and remove chair Gordon Smith because of a decision to delay public hearings scheduled for January on school closures recommended by the district’s Planning for the Future document. According to an article in yesterday’s issue of Castlegar News, the board voted 5-3 on December 13 to postpone the hearings in favour of more public consultations.

The Planning for the Future document was completed November 2009, with public consultations scheduled on the board’s website for last January. Each possible scenario outlined in the report recommends at least one school closure, supported by Superintendent Jean Borsa:

“To continue to fund quality education in classrooms, changes in school configurations and/or closures need to occur in the Castlegar, Greater Trail and Rossland areas. Facility consolidations and/or disposal of properties also need to occur at the district level. All areas of the district will be affected over the next five years.”

Trustees Mark Wilson, Lorraine Manning and Toni Driutti agree, claiming the move to delay public hearings was both “political and self-serving,” and not in the best interest of public education. A response from the ministry isn’t expected until the new year.

Meanwhile, Trustee Mike Webber of the Comox Valley board has called for the resignation of Chair Susan Barr and Vice-Chair Corinne McLellan over allegations the two arranged a secret meeting between trustees and consulting group Sprott Consulting weeks before they won a tendering contract for the board’s operational review. Barr and McLellan also issued a document to staff and trustees over what should be considered in an operational review—without disclosing the document was written by Sprott Consulting.

Efforts to add the issue to the agenda of the last board meeting, held December 14, were shot down, however, by a vote of 4-3, though the Comox Valley Echo reports parents in attendance tried to bring it up again during question period, only to be stonewalled by Barr:

Barr encouraged the parents to move onto more positive issues instead of being mired in the past. "It's difficult working with the board when we have got some issues here as we do at this time. We do the best we can," she said.

A video of the meeting can be seen here.

Katie Hyslop reports on education for The Tyee.

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