After much disagreement and debate, the perennially fractious Chilliwack school board has voted to hire a consultant to help its trustees work better together.
In a narrow 4-3 decision at a public meeting Tuesday, trustees voted to hire education consultant Craig Melvin to help them develop a new self-evaluation tool and craft a "revised governance model."
"We're hoping for some kind of guidance to try and build that collaborative approach to governing together forward," board chair Louise Piper told the Times.
The problem, according to trustees who voted to hire Melvin, is that board members are unclear about the board's role and about their responsibilities as trustees.
"We spend too much time in dealing with a great number of philosophies because we don't know quite what our role and responsibilities are," trustee Walt Krahn said.
Outside help is needed, according to trustee Doug McKay who introduced the motion, because the board's own attempts to craft a common understanding have failed.
"We simply cannot get the work done ourselves," he said. "We have tried. We need someone to come in and help us work through our board governance. We have spent an inordinate amount of time fumbling our way through various committees."
But trustees who voted against the motion were concerned the consultant was being hired to shut down public debate and impose consensus where there isn't any.
"There's people on this board that just want a consultant to tell them they're right," trustee Martha Wiens said. "We can't afford that."
"We have different views," trustee Silvia Dyck said, "and a revised governance model will not change anything for us."
"Our issue is that we just don't agree," trustee Heather Maahs said, "and that's OK because we're not supposed to agree; we're supposed to debate; we're supposed to have these discussions around the board table."
Superintendent Evelyn Novak was unavailable to say how much Melvin's work would cost, but last year the Nanaimo-Ladysmith board of education paid $25,000 for the consultant's services.
Staff will report back on Melvin's work at the Dec. 11 regular public board meeting.