October 17, 2016 - 12:06 PM
VANCOUVER - All nine members of the Vancouver School Board have been fired following months of controversy over allegations of bullying in the workplace, the prospect of school closures and concern over the board's finances.
British Columbia Education Minister Mike Bernier linked the board's dismissal to failure on the part of trustees to balance the books, accusing board members of focusing on political tactics instead of responsible stewardship.
Trustees from the political slate Vision Vancouver said last week they would be willing to pass a balanced budget after being previously opposed, but Bernier said the move came too late.
"It is impossible to have any confidence that a potential last-minute change of position on the district signals a fundamental change in the attitude which has so far led the board to refuse to follow the law," Bernier said on Monday.
"Today is about bringing stability. Today's announcement is about the students in Vancouver."
School districts are required under provincial legislation to pass a balanced budget by June 30 or face the possibility of dismissal.
Dianne Turner, a former superintendent with the nearby Delta School District, has been appointed by the province as the Vancouver board's official trustee.
Board chairman Mike Lombardi, a Vision Vancouver trustee, described Bernier's move to fire them as outrageous, calling the decision bad for kids, parents and communities.
"The people of Vancouver elected trustees to stand up for public education, not to do the provincial government's dirty work of closing schools, cutting programs, and selling off public assets to address a budget shortfall of their own making," Lombardi said in a statement.
"The Vancouver School Board is now being run out of Premier Christy Clark's office," he said.
The political affiliation of the nine members of the board is divided into four Vision members, four members from the Non-Partisan Association and one from the Green party.
Stacy Robertson said he and his fellow trustees from the opposition NPA slate, who all voted in favour of balancing the budget, accept the board's dismissal.
"Something needed to be done," Robertson said. "We accept the minister's decision ... and hopefully the district can move forward."
A statement from the NPA school trustees released earlier on Monday described board meetings as toxic and dysfunctional.
Allegations of harassment involving trustees and staff prompted WorkSafeBC, the province's health and safety agency, to launch an investigation earlier this month.
Bernier's decision to fire the board came after the completion of a forensic audit of the board's finances and governance structure, the result of which he said only deepen his concern about the board's ability to govern effectively.
The audit was launched after the board voted against a balanced budget, posting a multimillion dollar budget shortfall.
Bernier said he received the audit report on Saturday and will release it once province's privacy commissioner finishes looking into a privacy complaint.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016