Sunday, November 20, 2011

Change sweeps across many BC school Boards

My home district of Victoria was just one of many to see a wave of change in the school trustee elections yesterday. Three incumbent trustees were defeated by three newcomers - all three endorsed by the Labour Council and the local teachers' association. All three newcomers are advocates against cuts and in support of smaller class sizes and full funding. Four of my own "picks" were elected - Catherine Alpha, Edith Loring Kuhanga, Deborah Nohr and Diane McNally. Results for Victoria, Sooke and Saanich are available here:

But Victoria was not alone. In Burnaby, the reactionary Parents Voice, running on a platform opposing a new homophobia policy, received less than 3% of the vote. This demonstrates that the anti-gay message they espoused was not what Burnaby voters support. Instead, progressive trustees swept the Burnaby Board.

In Langley, the Board shifted from a progressive minority to a progressive majority. This will be a welcome change in a district plagues with mismanagement and financial problems.

New progressive trustees were elected in Kamloops, Maple Ridge, Delta, Mission, Vernon and Kootenay Columbia.

In Cowichan, the five candidates from CAPE (Community Alliance for Public Education) were all elected, creating a majority on the Board. Look to Cowichan to be a leader in the coming months to fight for better funding for schools. Trustee Edith Haythornthwaite is one of BC's most progressive educational leaders, and she will now be working in a majority on her Board.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the loss of COPE candidates in Vancouver, and particularly Jane Bouey, a longtime advocate for LGBTQ within schools.

Also disappointing was the continuation of the Surrey Education First slate. The progressive Surrey Civic Coalition was only able to maintain their existing seat.

Many trustees were under scrutiny for their role in the recent contract dispute between teachers and the bargaining agent, BC Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA). But many also know that BCPSEA is directed by school trustees and government in a "co-governance" model. This means support for a "net zero" mandate and a desire to make major attacks on teachers' collective agreements have also come directly from trustees.

The chair of BCPSEA, elected from among trustee representative, Melanie Joy, almost lost her seat. She won by a mere 50 votes against two contenders who split the remaining vote. She has the support of only 41% of her electorate.

The chair of the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA), Michael McEvoy, was re-elected, but slipped from sixth to seventh place.

With this change in the air, hopefully a new set of trustees will bring a renewed vigor to the fight for full funding  for school Boards. And hopefully they will push government and BCPSEA to come back to the bargaining table with a real mandate to bargain.


  1. I guess that the results will vary from district to district about how much boards changed. But will the "small" changes to school boards really be enough to cause BCPSEA to change at the bargaining table?

    I heard Mel Joy boasting today on twitter that all the BCSPEA reps got re-elected. So, I think it will still be status-quo....unfortunately.

  2. I think that is Mel's spin. She won only by 50 votes with 41%. Had there been only one contender she probably would have lost. It's very hard to unseat an incumbent in school trustee elections. I'd also guess that not many know who the trustees are that function as directors to bcpsea. There was no concerted campaign to unseat them.

  3. I don't think its true to say the net zero mandate comes from trustees. It didn't even come from BCPSEA - it came from the treasury board of the government. Not all BCPSEA reps got re-elected. Also, remember that BCPSEA reps do not actually represent their boards. They are appointed by the boards but they often vote on things with no time to consult. Although they are trustees, as a body they deny that they have any responsibility to follow the wishes of their boards or even to consult them. In contrast,If you read recent statements coming from BCSTA they strongly stress the need for improved funding in many areas and they never suggest it should come out of staff salaries.

  4. I think I said "support"...I agree that "net zero" originated with the BC Libs, but no Trustee I know has spoken publicly against it, nor has the Trustee side of the "co-governance" group opposed it. So they are complicit.

    As to BCPSEA processes...well that is up to Trustees to fix if there is a problem. Boards pay fees, and they could refuse to pay if they really had an interest in changing the structures. I think they are happy with them...they don't have to take any responsibility for unpopular decisions and be accountable for how they treat teachers in bargaining. Plus, each Board elects their BCPSEA rep - so they do represent their Board. Many Boards have in camera meetings to take positions on items that come to BCPSEA meetings. They are much more connected to Trustees than I think you give credit for.

  5. Thank you Tara, for the continuous updates, pertinent information and your consistent stance for justice.