Vancouver school district staff fear return of fired board members, says official trustee Dianne Turner

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      The likely comeback of dismissed Vancouver school board members is causing anxiety among employees in the district, according to official trustee Dianne Turner.

      “The threat of the return of the previous board has some staff worried about their futures,” Turner said in a media conference Monday (June 5).

      Turner made the claim as she announced the departure of district superintendent Scott Robinson, a move she described as a consequence of a toxic working environment created by the previous board.

      “As a result, it became challenging for the superintendent and his senior team to effectively lead the district,” she said.

      The former board was fired by the provincial government on October 17, 2016 for its failure to pass a balanced budget. Turner was appointed as sole trustee to replace the board for a term of one year.

      In March this year, the district released an independent report by lawyer Roslyn Goldner exposing how staff members were bullied, harassed, and shamed by the former trustees.

      WorkSafeBC confirmed the contents of the Goldner report about the toxic working environment in the district.

      “Bullying has real consequences for children and adults alike,” Turner said in the media conference.

      A B.C. NDP minority government propped up by the Green Party is expected to take over the reins of power in the province.

      New Democrats have promised before the May 9 election to either reinstate the fired trustees or call a byelection.

      According to Turner, a number of school district staff members are apprehensive about the prospect of the old board coming back.

      “This does not bode well for the school district,” Turner said.

      According to Turner, new policies are being formulated to prevent bullying of staff by board members. The new guidelines will be brought forward at a meeting on June 26.

      “Clearly, the situation here was deplorable, and needed to be dealt with, especially at the board level,” she said.

      Turner said that Robinson will leave the district on June 9. He will be replaced on a temporary basis by John Lewis, a former acting superintendent.

      “Everyone who works here deserves to work in a safe and respectful environment,” she said. “Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and absolutely will not be tolerated at the Vancouver school board or at any of our schools.”

      Turner said that she has worked hard to change the working environment in the district.

      “For me, it’s important to leave this district a safer place to work than when I first arrived,” she said. 

      Former trustees Mike Lombardi, Patti Bacchus, Joy Alexander, and Allan Wong, all members of the Vision Vancouver party, have previously denied that they bullied and harassed staff.