Lake Cowichan’s Duncan Brown speaks at a May 2012 School District 79 Board meeting prior to being dismissed for failing to pass a balanced budget.

Lake Cowichan’s Duncan Brown speaks at a May 2012 School District 79 Board meeting prior to being dismissed for failing to pass a balanced budget.

School trustee vote to wait until 2014

Minister cites costs in reversal: Fired trustee says the election should have been held a year ago

A former Cowichan school trustee is unimpressed by the province’s decision to cancel a planned election this fall to replace our fired board of education.

Duncan Brown, a member of the board that was dismissed in June of 2012 for failing to pass a balanced budget, believes the real issue is the fact a byelection was not held a long time ago.

“There should have been a byelection called as soon as we were released,” said Brown. “Every other district in the province, when a board has been dismissed, they called an immediate byelection within 60 days, or at least a couple of months.”

Brown said the reason was clearly politics.

“(Then-education minister) George Abbott at the time said he would not call a byelection because he was afraid the same people would be elected,” said Brown.

“In other words, the people of the Cowichan Valley did not get to vote because they would not vote the right way—in a nutshell that’s what he said.”

Current Education Minister Peter Fassbender revealed late last month in an interview with the Victoria Times Colonist that a new nine-member board will be elected during B.C.’s scheduled 2014 civic vote.

The province states the decision could save taxpayers $100,000.

Brown disagrees.

“I don’t believe it cost anywhere near $100,000 to run an election for the school board,” said Brown. “Democracy isn’t cheap, but it isn’t near $100,000.”

Fassbender’s decision flipped an earlier ruling that put appointed trustee Mike McKay in charge of School District 79 until an election this fall. McKay, the superintendent of the Surrey School District is now expected to continue in his current role until next fall.

Since his appointment McKay has overseen a major restructuring of Cowichan schools, closing some facilities and transforming the mandate of many others. Brown is not impressed.

“He is a representative of the ministry, not a representative of our valley, so in that way I would say he is representing the interests of the ministry quite well,” he said. “I do not believe he is representing the interests of the students, and parents of the Cowichan Valley.”

That echoes his feelings about the ministry of education in general.

 

“They look at the saving, but they don’t look at the costs—to make a long story short.”