Fired Vancouver school board chair Mike Lombardi accuses education minister of provincial takeover

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      Earlier this morning (October 17), B.C.’s minister of education fired the entire Vancouver school board, an elected body that has butted heads with the province for months.

      "What we have witnessed from the Vancouver school board is a misplaced focus on political tactics rather than responsible stewardship,” minister Mike Bernier said at a news conference.

      Now the school board’s former chair, Mike Lombardi, has fired back with his own accusations of the province putting politics ahead of students’ educations.

      “Education Minister Mike Bernier’s outrageous political decision to unilaterally fire the democratically elected Vancouver School Board is the wrong decision for kids, for parents, and for communities,” reads a statement Lombardi posted on Facebook.

      “The people of Vancouver elected trustees to stand up for public education, not to do the provincial government’s dirty work of closing schools, cutting programs, and selling off public assets to address a budget shortfall of their own making. The Vancouver School Board is now being run out of Premier Christy Clark’s office.”

      The release goes on to detail what it describes as the province’s failure to provide the Vancouver school board with adequate funding.

      “After a decade of chronic underfunding by this provincial government, British Columbia now ranks second-to-last in education funding in Canada—after posting a BC budget surplus of nearly $2 billion,” it continues. “VSB trustees have successfully advocated for students, securing money for seismic upgrades to ensure kids’ safety, a reduction in the arbitrary 95% utilization rule, and increased consultation with parents and communities. Despite these accomplishments, British Columbia still funds more than $1,000 per student less than other provinces. The situation is untenable, and our kids’ education suffers—while this government plays politics.”

      At the provincial government’s morning news conference, Bernier emphasized that the school board had failed to pass a budget by deadline of June 30.

      “This step has been taken despite the possibility that the board may now be willing to pass a balanced budget,” he said. “It is impossible to have any confidence that a potential last-minute change of position on the district budget signals a fundamental change in the attitude which has so far led the board to refuse to follow the law.”

      Before board members were fired by the province, they had scheduled a meeting for this evening (October 17), when it was expected they would pass a budget for this year.

      Bernier also said he was "deeply concerned" about a special advisor's report on the board's financial and governance practices. That document was supposed to be released to the public but its publication has been delayed pending a review of a privacy complaint filed by Patti Bacchus, a former board chair and one of the fired school trustees.

      In the meantime, the province has appointed Dianne Turner, a former Delta School District superintendent and presently the provincial chief educator, to fulfill the duties of the Vancouver school board on an interim basis.

      Lombardi and other former trustees have scheduled a news conference for 1:30 p.m.

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