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HomeMiscellanyExclusive: Hear audio from the explosive meeting that led to the Vancouver School Board firing

Exclusive: Hear audio from the explosive meeting that led to the Vancouver School Board firing

Bob Mackin

Oct. 14 is by-election day in the City of Vancouver, for one seat on city council and the entire school board.

Distrct 39’s elected school trustees were spectacularly fired Oct. 17, 2016, after a nasty spat with the BC Liberal government over a budget deficit and allegations by senior staff that trustees were bullying them.

A government-commissioned, February-released report by labour lawyer Roslyn Goldner was harshly critical of the way the board did business. Goldner pointed to a toxic work environment where some trustees yelled, called each other names and pounded tables, while others rolled their eyes and sighed audibly.

Tupper Secondary (VSB)

Several senior bureaucrats took sick leave, claiming to be victims of board bullying. Education Minister Mike Bernier finally laid down the law, fired the trustees and appointed a single administrator to replace them. The July 18-sworn-in NDP government chose to reinstate an elected school board.

Fired Vision Vancouver trustees Joy Alexander, Mike Lombardi and Allan Wong are attempting a comeback Oct. 14. So are the NPA’s Fraser Ballantyne and Christopher Richardson and Green Janet Fraser, who held the balance of power in the 2014-elected school board.

“Some trustees routinely tweeted throughout meetings, conduct that was described by many witnesses as disruptive and disrespectful,” Goldner wrote. “While witnesses agreed that not all trustees behaved badly the board did nothing to intervene or to indicate that this conduct was inappropriate and unacceptable. This behaviour manifest at committee meetings and in private and public board meetings.”

Goldner pinpointed ex-chair Patti Bacchus of Vision Vancouver and then-chair Lombardi.

“Ex-trustee Lombardi had been criticized in his role as chair of the board for his failure to maintain order in meetings and a failure to promote respectful exchange of ideas and information.

“Several trustees acknowledged that the conduct of trustees, both NPA and Vision Vancouver trustees, in private board meetings was disrespectful and rude. Several trustees noted that the stakeholder representatives who attended committee and board meetings were also highly partisan and used these meetings to promote their agenda to ‘get rid of the Liberal government.’ It was noted that there was a lack of objective, independent people at meetings.”

Goldner’s report pinpointed a pivotal, circus-like Sept. 26, 2016 meeting at Tupper Secondary where the board pondered closure of several schools in order to balance the budget. 

“According to witnesses,” Goldner wrote. “Trustee Bacchus then asked a series of questions related to other budget expenditures pointing out that many processes were undertaken without a dedicated budget and if this were the case then why could this not be done for the additional consultation. Witnesses reported that Trustee Bacchus paused after her questions as the audience laughed at the discomfort of the superintendent (Scott Robinson). There was no intervention from any trustees and no attempt to restore order by trustee Lombardi in his capacity as chair…”

Under the freedom of information laws, theBreaker obtained a recording of nearly three hours of the four-hour-plus meeting.

That recording is published here, in its entirety, for you to decide: Was it bombast, bloviation or bullying?

Or all three?