Choosing their leader for another year didn't bring Chilliwack's school trustees any closer together this week.
At a meeting Tuesday, trustees Louise Piper and Walt Krahn were both re-elected for a second year as chair and vice-chair respectively, but some trustees said the results were a "foregone conclusion" that reinforces a rift on the board.
"There was no sense us even being there," trustee Martha Wiens said.
Every year in December, the board elects a chair, vice-chair, B.C. Public School Employers' Association representative (and alternate) and B.C. School Trustees Association councillor (and alternate) for one-year terms through a secret ballot.
Trustees then vote on motions to con-m the results of the secret ballots.
On Tuesday every one of those votes were identical, with trustees Louise Piper, Walt Krahn, Doug McKay and Barry Neufeld voting to confirm the results and trustees Martha Wiens, Heather Maahs and Silvia Dyck abstaining.
"I abstained because we three felt completely left out of the process," trustee Heather Maahs said, "so really it was silly for us even to be there almost. It was my little revolt against what was a power play and was done without a conversation with us."
Krahn beat out Maahs for the vice-chair post, while Piper was elected over Dyck.
Boards in the past have often discussed the elections informally before the public meeting so trustees got a chance to exchange ideas about who they'd like to see as leader, said Dyck, who has been a trustee for 13 years.
Not so this year. "There's been no conversation with the board for quite some time," she said. "I feel like Alice in Wonderland dropped down the rabbit hole. We've had bad spots; every board has bad spots, but I think this is the worst I've seen."
The two factions on the board are polarized around the issue of their role as trustees-with Piper, Krahn, McKay and Neufeld favouring a hands-off approach that leaves the day-to-day district operations to expert educators, while Dyck, Maahs and Wiens want trustees to take a more active role.
For the majority trustees, the chronic squabbling is a product of trustees not understanding their role, and last month the board voted to hire education consultant Craig Melvin to help them understand that role better.
"I believe that healthy debate is very very important," said Krahn. "We should never move away from healthy debate, but we also need to understand our roles and our responsibilities and allow our very competent staff to do the work."
But Dyck disagrees, saying a consul-nt won't fix the rift.
"They all say, 'Be part of the team,'" she said. "Well, no, not if being part of the team means you have to rubber stamp and just go along. That's not team playing."
? Piper and Krahn will serve as chair and vice-chair until the first meeting of December 2013. Neufeld was elected as BCSTA councilor with Krahn as his alternate and McKay was voted in as BCPSEA rep.