Screenshot from the Chilliwack Board of Education meeting held via Zoom on May 11, 2021. (Zoom)

OPINION: Enough is enough with regressive Chilliwack school trustees

No more: Heather Maahs, Darrell Furgason, Barry Neufeld need to do what they've been ordered to do

Enough is enough.

Anyone who has children knows that sometimes they behave immaturely when things don’t go their way, and get frustrated when something is too hard to do.

“I’m taking my ball and going home,” goes the cliché.

And while we have tip-toed around this subject for many months, the behaviour of three school board trustees – Heather Maahs, Barry Neufeld, Darrell Furgason – has gone from odd to offensive to just agonizingly frustrating.

I don’t often watch school board meetings, but when I do I feel nothing but sympathy for the senior staff in the room – a virtual room these days on Zoom – who are forced to endure the petulance of these three trustees who, between them, either don’t understand their roles, think their roles should be something other than they are, or just are intentionally being difficult like children who want their own way.

I watched part of this week’s meeting (May 11) and it was beyond the pale.

We have endured three and a half years of bad behaviour that kicked off with Neufeld’s anti-LGBTQ rant where he suggested he’d rather live in “Russia, or Paraguay, which recently had the guts to stand up to these radical cultural nihilists.”

READ MORE: Chilliwack trustee calls LGBTQ school program ‘weapon of propaganda’

His petulance has survived more than one education minister from Rob Fleming who called for his resignation more than once (most recently after he called yours truly and two colleagues the “R-word”) to Jennifer Whiteside who was pressured to fire the whole board.

She did not. Instead, Whiteside appointed special advisors to oversee the board and evaluate its “commitment to a school system that is safe, inclusive and welcoming to all students and staff.”

Those advisors came back with a report, which prompted Whiteside to issue several directives because, her words, “All students deserve to feel their education needs and well-being are supported at school, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity or academic ability.”

Obviously, but well put. And let’s be clear: Whiteside is talking about the above-mentioned three, The Trio, I’ll call them.

The minister directed the board to take six steps by Oct. 31 and to submit a status report by June 30.

Most of the steps involve policy revision and board-level self-reflection to ensure inclusive school environments, to revise trustee code of ethics, and really make sure there is meaningful engagement with the Indigenous community.

But one specifically: work with the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner to arrange and participate in training.

As part of the first step towards that first, most specific directive, a recommendation at Tuesday’s meeting was to set aside $1,000 from each trustee’s professional learning fund to pay for the required training. Simple enough.

But demonstrating an absolute lack of understanding what has been put before them, and a staggering lack of self-reflection, The Trio instead complained this was all “wokeness” and “political correctness” gone mad.

Neufeld said spending money on “politically correct type of training is out of this world.”

Furgason said the trustee education funds are “my money” and he, too, voted against the recommendation.

Then Maahs got on her soapbox (before board chair Trustee Willow Reichelt cut her mic) to say: “Our politically correct, woke trustees have decided to grandstand…”

And if it was a game of who missed the point most of all, Neufeld said “This has been imposed upon us by the government,” correct, but: “We should not be forced to give up our personal development funds for this.”

Psst, Barry, it’s your fault this was imposed on you, and the money is not yours to begin with.

To top off the meeting, Furgason did the virtual equivalent of storming out of the room, taking his ball and going home. Then Maahs did too.

It seems no manner of criticism or shaming or knuckle rapping is enough for The Trio to recognize that it’s time to focus on the education of students and to stop the obsession with spreading their social conservative politics.

These three need to grow up, look in the mirror, and get on with the job.


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