Vancouver parents concerned about the province’s decision to fire the Vancouver School Board marched to Canada Place Tuesday to deliver boxes of petitions with more than 18,000 signatures to B.C.’s Minister of Education.
“It’s extremely upsetting that the province has chosen to fire our democratically elected trustees at this time,” parent Lisa Patterson said. “They were our only representatives that we were able to express our concerns to and now we don’t know. There is a lot of uncertainty.”
The parents’ protest comes one day after the province fired Vancouver’s elected school board trustees for failing to adopt a balanced budget by June 30. It was the only district in the province not to do so. The dismissal came hours before a Vancouver School Board (VSB) budget meeting scheduled for Monday night.
The signatures on the “Save Our Schools” petitions delivered to the education minister were gathered by students and parents in recent months because they were concerned about the possible closures of 11 schools in East Vancouver, including Gladstone Secondary, Britannia Secondary and several elementary schools. They won a moratorium on school closures in early October.
“We went canvassing door-to-door in 30-degree heat with our kids to get to this point,” parent Melanie Cheng said. “We’re outraged that our school is now again at risk potentially of being closed and we need some certainty.”
But Education Minister Mike Bernier said school closures are not on the agenda for former Delta School District Superintendent Dianne Turner, who the minister appointed as the official trustee for the Vancouver School District after the school board’s dismissal, for the foreseeable future.
“Her focus now has to be on restoring the district, focusing on staff, focusing on the students,” Bernier said.
Even so, Turner will work on a long range plan and closing schools could be a part of it.
In addition to the VSB’s failure to adopt a balanced budget, Bernier cited a WorkSafe BC investigation into allegations board trustees bullied senior management staff to the point where some staffers have taken leave, as a reason for the province’s decisions.
In spite of these concerns, some parents says they are frustrated by the loss of their democratic representatives and the uncertainty it creates for their children.
“Parents are tired we just want an end to this process,” Cheng said. “We’re not asking for much. All we’re asking for is a decent spot for our kids in a local school.”
– With files from Paula Baker and Tanya Beja