The incoming Vancouver school board may have a Green trustee as chair.
Janet Fraser will be nominated by her two Green colleagues for the top post in the new board that voters chose in the October 14 by-election.
“I will accept that nomination,” Fraser told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview Wednesday (October 18). “I think I could be a good chair.”
Fraser and her two Green teammates, Judy Zaichkowsky and Estrellita Gonzalez, won the top three spots in the special election for school board.
Fraser, who topped the polls, was a member of the previous board that was fired by the provincial government for failing to pass a balanced budget.
The former board was also beset by disorderly conduct, and Fraser considers trustee behaviour as a paramount concern for the new board.
“The first thing that can happen, you know, it’s the responsibility of each individual trustee is to make sure that we have a safe and respectful workplace for everyone in the district, so good behaviour at the board table,” Fraser said.
An independent report by Roslyn Goldner, a lawyer commissioned by the education district to look into alleged bullying and harassment, had detailed the dysfunction that broke the previous board.
“The ex-trustees are described as a dysfunctional group with their interactions amongst one another variously described as ‘bickering’, ‘nasty’, ‘rude and disrespectful’ marked by such behaviour as eye-rolling and loud sighing while others are speaking and texting amongst members of the group.” Goldner wrote in her report.
Goldner continued: “The discussions at in camera and public meetings are described as highly politicized marked by grandstanding with individuals adopting fixed partisan positions that disrupt productive deliberation of issues.”
Goldner also reported that the board’s dysfunctional state led to the creation of a toxic working environment that affected staff in the district.
Fraser, who was first elected as trustee in 2014, said in the interview that she is hopeful that the incoming trustees will behave well.
“During the campaign, every candidate was aware of this situation, and … everyone talked about working collaboratively and working respectfully and working on behalf of students,” Fraser said. “So with everyone saying that coming into the new board, I think it will be a very positive environment to be in.”
Forming the Green caucus with Fraser are first-termers Zaichkowsky, who is an educator, and Gonzalez, a health and wellness consultant.
No party holds the majority of the nine seats in the board. Three seats are with Vision Vancouver, two with the Non-Partisan Association, and a single seat with OneCity.
“I have no expectations at the moment,” Fraser said when asked which party she expects support for her election as board chair.
Fraser continued: “What I’d like to do, what our caucus would like to do, is talk with other people, have conversations before the first meeting, and just to get to know each a little bit better.”
According to Fraser, the new board will hold its first meeting on October 30.