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Letter to the editor: School parents group crossed the line

It is really unfortunate that the DPAC executive claims in their press release they want stability but seem to be doing the opposite
A District Parent Advisory meeting held in 2019.

The District Parent Advisory Councils (DPAC) recent press release detailing their opposition to the removal of the former SD57 superintendent is disappointing as a parent who has been involved with DPAC in the past.

DPAC's number one purpose according to their own bylaws is "to be the collective voice of parents in the district" yet their position on opposing the firing of the district superintendent was not one the DPAC executive officially talked to PACs in the district about, nor did they bother to ask parents for their input before issuing the press release.

Instead, a seemingly political statement highlighting the resumes of the superintendent and 2 trustees, one of which was part of the DPAC executive last year, was released claiming DPAC is speaking on behalf of the majority of parents in the district, when in reality DPAC's position was made behind closed doors among a small handful of executive members.

It is really unfortunate that the DPAC executive claims in their press release they want stability but seem to be doing the opposite by rushing to join the four former trustees in an attempt to seemingly create maximum instability in hopes that the Ministry of Education will intervene and dissolve the SD 57 Board of Trustees and save the former superintendent’s job. Even if it means potentially violating their own bylaws and taking away the district’s focus on important issues like reading levels.

With such a close past working relationship with the former trustee Gillian Burnett, the current DPAC executive should have stopped to think that they may need to ensure they are acting as a collective voice to insulate DPAC from calls that they are playing politics which is also against their bylaws. I guess they just weren't experienced enough to realize they should actually ask parents what they thought before pretending that they were speaking as a collective voice.  I am pretty sure former trustee Burnett did not take on the role of being the board rep at DPAC meetings so that she could have separation from her past role to avoid the perception of bias yet the DPAC actions in releasing this press release only serves to highlight that connection. That is why organizations have bylaws!

Maybe since DPAC recently presented to the board of trustees that the silent majority of parents want the district to focus on a new logo and didn't get much pushback from parents that the DPAC executive decided it was ok not speak to parents or PACs about the superintendent being fired. Instead, the DPAC exec pushes their own narrative of events surrounding the superintendent firing before parents and PACs could give input. DPAC didn't even bother to send the press release out to PACs and parents in School District 57 until 3 pm on Monday, well after the story was published in the Prince George Citizen. DPAC 57 doesn't historically endorse or criticize candidates when they are running for office so why are they picking sides and endorsing former trustees and superintendents when they are no longer in that position?

DPAC's precedence for avoiding political interference in the past has been so strong that they did not release statements in opposition to trustee candidates when potential 2021 trustee candidate Stuart Parker invited anti-trans activist Chris Elston to a campaign launch event.

In that same election, 2021 trustee candidate Milton Mahoney also made hurtful remarks claiming "I do not believe reconciliation belongs within the district of schools" and DPAC yet again avoided making a statement before or even after Mahoney was elected to council condemning his comments to avoid a perception of political bias. The current board chair Rachael Weber, who is one of the trustees who seems to be given no room for making errors in learning the role as a chair as seen in the post reaction to her first public board meeting, which I hope is not related to her gender, was very vocal that Mahoney's comments in 2021 were unacceptable at the time and questioned publicly whether he even read the school act while DPAC said nothing because they were following their bylaws.

I voted for former trustees Burnett and Betty Beckering for their experience and still believe they are very knowledgeable and beneficial people to have on a board. Yet, when decisions were made by a vote that they disagreed with they decided to resign in a seemingly Hail Mary political power move to convince the BC Education Minister to dissolve the board.

Counter to DPAC's claims of inexperience, I still see lots of board members that are currently being thrown under the bus that have experience working within the district that seem to want to make changes but are being put down by DPAC and others because they want to do things differently. At least the remaining trustees are willing to work through problems and not quit when the going gets tough, even when they are still learning the ropes.

I agree with DPAC that former superintendent Cindy Heitmen was a very nice person to work with and she did some exceptionally good things, including most recently agreeing to start up District Literacy Nights to help parents teach their children to read when reading books to children as a result of feedback I provided at the last DPAC meeting. However, I think debating the personal qualities and accomplishments of any district employee related to a dismissal should not be done in public newspapers and I hope that it is a position the Northern Central Labor Council still holds and one that maybe the DPAC exec will come to see as important.

Richard Parks

Prince George