The School District 69 (Qualicum) Board of Trustees may have voted to boycott the upcoming visit by Minister of Education Mike Bernier, but that won’t change the minister’s travel plans.
The board voted 4-0 during its monthly meeting in October to decline a meeting with Bernier when he visits the local school district Nov. 23. The motion to boycott, which was crafted by Trustee Barry Kurland on the spot, came during discussion about a separate motion addressing the ministry’s firing of the Vancouver School Board earlier in October.
“I’m disappointed that the board wants to put issues in other districts ahead of talking about what’s going on in their district,” Bernier said last week in a written statement. “It’s a missed opportunity for us to talk, but I’m looking forward to meeting with parents and others when I visit to talk about education and their children.”
SD69 Board chair Eve Flynn said the minister had been scheduled to meet with the board and school district administrative staff for one hour in the morning before going on to make visits to schools and classrooms.
Flynn was exempted in the boycott motion, which also directed her to deliver to Bernier a letter in which the board will call on the ministry to ensure “sustainable, adequate and predictable” funding for public K-12 education.
Both Flynn and School District superintendent Rollie Koop were taken by surprise by the motion to boycott. Koop asked trustees, before the vote was called, to carefully consider whether their concerns would be better addressed with a face-to-face meeting with Bernier. Flynn said the board would be passing up a unique opportunity for access to the ministry that has proven unavailable to the Vancouver Island School Trustees Assocation (VISTA).
“At our last VISTA meeting we talked about addressing Minister Bernier, but our efforts to meet with him have gone completely sideways,” Flynn said. “We now have an opportunity to do that as our own board, and I think that would be a missed opportunity.”
Kurland apologized for “putting you on the spot,” but suggested the minister’s visit was little more than an election-year photo opportunity, and felt the board should take a stronger stand than simply continuing to write letters to the ministry.
“I think it’s great that he’s going to classrooms to recognize our dedicated teachers,” said Kurland. “But it doesn’t matter whether I’m there celebrating a grant at Arrowview (Elementary School), because it’s not me who did the work. It’s the people at the school being recognized, whether I’m there or not.”