School 52 trustees were scolded by a Prince Rupert resident for “disgraceful behaviour” at a contentious meeting on July 12 with emotions running high as Kate Toye was elected new board chair, after the resignation of James Horne.
Outgoing chair James Horne will remain on the board as a trustee and initially became chair three years ago. Temperatures in the online meeting rose when Horne, after just resigning from the position of chair, accepted the nomination for vice-chair.
While Horne did not specify at the meeting reasons for his stepping down, Trustee Janet Beal said the board has been dealing with some controversial issues over the past few months like staffing and budget cuts so it is important to move forward to secure long-term sustainability.
Prince Rupert resident David Quane vocalized his disappointment to the Board of Trustees over the behaviour displayed at the meeting including accusations of game playing, mockery-making, and even one trustee stating she hoped the Ministry of Education became involved due to the recent events surrounding SD 52.
“I was very disappointed as a taxpayer to see what happened tonight. Very disappointed. It really blew me away,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever actually spoken at the public forum, but that was absolutely disgraceful. And you know what … I hope it’s reported because you know what — that’s a sham.”
With more meetings left under the current term of the SD 52 board, there is still a lot of business to be finished that would be unfair to place on the vice-chair plate Beal said, so an election for a new chair was required.
Trustee Tina Last said she believed strongly that the positions of chair and vice-chair needed experienced trustees in the roles.
“I think it’s no secret for anybody who’s been paying attention that our board has undergone quite a tumultuous term with no shortage of contentious issues and stressful issues. I feel really strongly that whoever the next chair is, is someone that has experience not only as a trustee but also as either chair or vice-chair, she said.”
Last, who was the board chair for 13 years before Horne, and has more than 20 years of experience as a trustee, said that she was not advocating for herself to be re-elected chair because it had been made abundantly clear that she “could not lead a board of trustees who aren’t willing to follow.”
“And that’s been made pretty clear,” Last said. “But I also feel really strongly that eliminating the experienced chair and vice-chair on the first meeting of this term did not help our situation. In fact, I think it actually created a whole lot more harm than we needed.”
“James [Horne] didn’t have any experience when he became chair. Kate [Toye] had been a trustee for five minutes … and that’s no disrespect,” Last said.” I just don’t trust that we are going to put the right people in the roles.”
Nominated trustees for the board chair position were Beal and Toye in a three-vote to four-vote result. With Toye voted as the new president of the board the vice-chair role was left vacant, and nominations caused a heated debate between meeting attendees.
“Seriously, we’re making a mockery out of the school district by doing this,” Beal said when Horne accepted the nomination of vice-chair.
It was “hypocritical” of Horne to resign from being chair and accept the nomination for vice-chair when he could have just excused himself for the last three meetings instead of quitting, Beal said, and it was “awful that the meeting was called for game playing.”
Nominations for the vice-chair role were declined by trustees Bart Kuntz and Kristy Maier. Beal and Horne accepted the vice-chair nominations, with Beal eventually being voted in as vice-chair.
“I cannot believe that we’re going through this nonsense tonight and that the public is on here listening to this nonsense,” Beal said. “We’re supposed to be educated people. Just because you don’t want Tina or myself to sit there in a role that we played very well in the past and kept everything in check, you guys are playing this kind of game.”
“This is outrageous, outrageous. I hope the ministry gets involved now because this is not acceptable practice from a board that’s supposed to be looking after students’ needs,” the trustee Beal said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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