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NPA attacks Vancouver School Board hire

Ken Denike, a veteran school trustee, has attacked Vancouver school superintendent Steve Cardwell and VSB chair Patti Bacchus over the hiring of a new communications officer in the superintendent's office.

In a news release posted last Friday on the website of the Non-Partisan Association, Denike accused Superintendent Cardwell of "incredibly poor judgement":

"By bringing on a recent Vision Vancouver political operative into such a sensitive and vital non-partisan role as Public Relations officer shows incredibly poor judgment by Superintendent Cardwell.

"I am usually extremely reticent to publicly comment on the work of our staff, but this decision goes beyond the pale. You simply cannot put a political partisan into a job which requires the highest standards of public service non-partisanship."

An NPA trustee candidate, Fraser Ballantyne, was quoted in the release as supporting Denike's view:

"This is a very disturbing development which shakes my confidence in the current School Board administration. As a former Vancouver school administrator, I understand the critical importance of having a qualified, experienced, non-partisan person communicating with the public on behalf of the School Board."

Denike followed up with another media release on July 19, criticizing the role of VSB Chair Patti Bacchus in the hiring of Kurt Heinrich:

Vancouver School Board (VSB) Trustee Ken Denike is calling for the Minister of Education to investigate whether VSB Chairperson Patti Bacchus put herself in a conflict of interest by involving herself in the hiring of Kurt Heinrich for a junior communications position at the VSB.

Denike says the hire has raised a number of questions. "Did Kurt Heinrich disclose his Vision Vancouver work on his resume? Did the hiring committee know about his political work? Did Ms. Bacchus interfere in the hiring process?"

In a phone interview with The Tyee, Ms. Bacchus said she understood Denike's need to make political points, but said his criticism was "a stretch."

"The job was posted over a month ago, and it was a very open hiring process," she said. "The superintendent asked me to serve on the hiring committee; I've done it for a number of other positions. Sometimes we have representatives from Parent Advisory Committees. Human Relations screens the applications and then puts a shortlist together. I knew some of the candidates, including Kurt. He was the unanimous number-one pick of the committee. The superintendent advised the board last week that Kurt was the candidate. Ken didn't say anything at the time."

Bacchus criticized Denike's attack on Superintendent Cardwell: "Staff can't defend themselves against shots from trustees."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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