A large crowd has turned out to Vancouver School Board headquarters this hour to protest the firing of the board’s nine trustees.
The event, organized by VSB unions comes just days after Education Minister Mike Bernier terminated the trustees for failing to pass a balanced budget.
Attendees are carrying home made signs and placards reading “we support the VSB,” and “respect our vote.”
“I’m not going away,” fired VSB Chair Mike Lombardi told the crowd, adding that he was humbled by the support.
“Initially it was disbelief, then acceptance, little bit angry and now I’m just resolved. Look, the government is government and I’m heartened that the people of Vancouver value what we do, they value our advocacy and they want us to keep fighting for their kids.”
Fired Vision Trustee Patti Bacchus says as far as she’s concerned, she’s still serving the people of Vancouver.
“I signed up for a four year term, you elected me for a four year term, and I’m going to be here for the next two years holding these people accountable.”
Bacchus then urged the crowd to attend the first meeting of the new VSB board of one, provincially appointed Trustee Dianne Turner.
The conflict comes after a fractious year between the VSB and the Minister of Education, with the board twice refusing to pass a balanced budget including $21.8 million in cuts.
Because of the way the School Act functions, that budget was put into place anyway on an interim basis despite the vote.
The VSB also voted earlier this month to scrap a school closure process that could have seen up to 11 Vancouver schools closed, arguing it needed to collect more information.
Education Minister Mike Bernier has alleged the board’s decisions have been mired in politics rather than sound long-term decision making.
The board has also been facing controversy over a half-dozen senior staff who went abruptly on leave in recent weeks, just as WorkSafeBC launched an investigation into “a toxic work environment” for VSB employees.
Trustee Turner now says those employees should be back on the job by next month.