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‘Bullying’ overshadows school board race

Candidates in Oct.14 Vancouver byelection hope for fresh start

Vision Vancouver candidate, Ken Clement was the first-ever Aboriginal person elected in the City of Vancouver and is running to be elected for his third time since 2008. (Submitted photo)
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Reported by Cass Lucke

A former Vision Vancouver school trustee campaigning to get back on the school board says if elected he will work to ensure there is a better relationship between trustees and the district’s senior staff.

Ken Clement, a former two-term trustee who failed to get elected in the 2014 civic election, is one of 19 candidates running in the Oct. 14 byelection for one of the nine spots available on school board.

In the last term of the board, trustees were accused of bullying senior staff. Clement was not a member of the board but is familiar with the controversy that involved members of his party and others.

“The best way to ensure the issues are dealt with is to work together cooperatively for students, parents, teachers and stakeholders in the district to make sure the needs of our district are being met by all parties so none of these accusations are put forward again,” Clement told The Voice.

Complaints trigger investigative reports

The accusations Clement is referring to were detailed in a report conducted by internal investigator, Roslyn Goldner. She determined that bullying and harassment occurred and that a toxic work environment existed at the school board.

The report came after Sherry Elwood, the president of the B.C. Superintendents Association, complained in a letter to the Ministry of Education that Vancouver superintendent of schools Scott Robinson and members of his senior staff were faced with an unstable and unpredictable work environment for many months.

Around the time of the letter, Robinson and five of his staff went on unexpected medical leave. Then, in the fall of 2016, then-education minister Mike Bernier fired the entire nine-member board for not balancing a budget. The board included three of Clement’s current Vision colleagues.

NPA candidate Fraser Ballantyne was on the previous board, but, along with his colleagues, denies he was a part of the bullying.

“It’s one thing to rationalize your behaviour at the beginning, but for them to not take responsibility for what has happened is shameful,” Ballantyne said when asked about Vision Vancouver’s redacted confidential version of Goldner’s report they released on March 7, 2016.

District members are looking to move forward

Acting-superintendent John Lewis declined to comment on the byelection. But he said in an email that he believes public education is a cornerstone of our democratic society, and the responsibility for governance and policy development rests with the elected board.

The byelection was called after three-term councillor Geoff Meggs resigned to take a job as Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff. With nine empty seats on the board, the new NDP government decided to tack on a race for positions on the school board, too.

Dianne Turner has been the official trustee of the school board since the trustees were fired.

Candidates from OneCity, the Coalition of Progressive Electors, the Greens, IDEA Vancouver and two independents are also running for positions on the board.

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