Clandestine, unhealthy, unethical, dysfunctional, tragic-Chilliwack school board trustees exchanged some peppery language Tuesday while debating three motions aimed at "streamlining" their policy-making role.
The motions, introduced by Trustee Doug McKay, called for an interim process for developing policy until the board hammers out a new governance model with the help of education consultant Craig Melvin sometime in the New Year.
The motions also recommended doing away with the board policy committee and deleting Policy 200, which had hitherto outlined the board's policy-making process.
Debate on the motion highlighted a by-now chronic rift on the board.
Trustees Heather Maahs, Silvia Dyck and Martha Wiens, who have agitated for the board to play a more hands-on role in the district, argued the changes would further curtail its role.
"In effect, what we'll be doing is deleting our job," Maahs said, "and in the interim we'll have no job description. So we delete Policy 200, we delete our job, but we'll collect our paycheque, thank you very much."
McKay, however, said the change would do no such thing.
"What it does actually is pretty much mirror what we do right now with exception that now instead of trustees drafting or crafting the language of policy, the administration would do that, if the board deemed it necessary that we had a policy."
McKay and trustees Walt Krahn and Barry Neufeld along with chair Louise Piper have advocated a more hands-off approach for the board that leaves the details of running the district, including "word-smith-ing" policy, to education experts.
"As we have grown, our board needs to stand back and look at the forest instead of the trees instead of
getting their hands involved in writing every little policy," Neufeld said. "I think we need to focus more on long-range planning, on vision of the future and get out of the way of the educators doing their best work."
Melvin, who will meet with Piper, Krahn and superintendent Evelyn Novak in a preliminary meeting sometime this month, has been brought in to bridge the divide on the board and help forge a new governance model.
At Tuesday's meeting, however, the rift gaped as wide as ever, with Maahs suggesting the majority trustees had a plan for the future direction of the board they weren't sharing with everyone.
"I'm very concerned that half this board has made decisions that the other half has not been privy to," she said. "I want to go on the record vehemently opposing this whole procedure because it has a real feel of unethical-ness [sic] to it."
McKay called her remarks tragic, unfortunate and untrue, and said that, while debate is important, personal attacks served no purpose.
He took a jab of his own later in the meeting, however, when Wiens, who is in her 80s, appeared to abstain from voting for a motion he opposed and then voted for it when the vote was retaken.
"She voted against it, and I'm not being unkind, but I can't help it if trustee Wiens has a difficult time following," he said.
? Tuesday's three-and-a-half hour meeting was the last of the year. The next regular public meeting is Monday Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at the school district office, 8430 Cessna Dr.