There was a telling moment in Tuesday’s school board meeting.
As school superintendent Evelyn Novak struggled to make herself heard over the chants of protesters outside, trustee Heather Maahs moved that the meeting be suspended until the protesters could be cleared. Trustee Barry Neufeld – the focus of the protest – seconded the motion.
But with no support from any other trustee, the motion failed; the meeting carried on.
The episode is emblematic of the situation the school district finds itself in. While important work waits to be done, the board has to overcome the distraction generated by Neufeld’s position on SOGI (the ministry approved teacher resource that covers sexual orientation and gender identity).
And it is a distraction.
All the bluster, hyperbole, exaggerations and obfuscations won’t change the fact that the resource has bi-partisan support in the B.C. Legislature, support from the BC Association of School Trustees, the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils and the BC Teachers’ Federation, local teachers and support workers. It’s used in nearly all school districts in B.C., including Chilliwack.
As board chair Paul McManus said Tuesday night, SOGI is not going anywhere.
The district can do a better job at explaining to parents what SOGI entails, especially given the amount of misinformation being spread about it.
But clearly, most trustees have grown weary of it dominating discussion. There are major challenges facing the district, including a seismic shift in grade configuration.
Then there’s the issue of a new school for the city’s south end. The district is still awaiting word if the province will reimburse it for the money it has already spent to purchase the property – never mind fund actual construction.
These are the kinds or issues the board should be focused on. Not dousing the latest fire ignited by a reckless trustee.
Opinion: Chilliwack school trustee should step down
Opinion: Who is Barry Neufeld on guard for?
Opinion: Chilliwack school trustee should lead by example