On February 8, 2022, five of the nine members of the current Board of Education for School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) took the extraordinary step of suspending me and Trustee Diane McNally for the remainder of our term, which ends following the election of a new Board in October 2022. I am barred from attending meetings, receiving information from the Board or staff, expressing my perspective on critical issues, including the sale of school property and the upcoming annual budget, and casting my vote as your elected representative.
It is my position that the Board has exceeded its authority by taking this action, which is not defined in the School Act or other legislation. In my view, it is fundamentally undemocratic that elected representatives may have the capacity to eliminate their counterparts (your elected representatives) at their own discretion. Consequently, I have filed for a judicial review of the Board's decision in the BC Supreme Court.
I am grateful for the widespread public support I have received since the Board’s decision was announced. At this time, I am seeking your financial contributions as well. The cost of pursuing a judicial review in the BC Supreme Court will likely be between $20,000 to $30,000. Funds raised through this campaign will be held in trust by my lawyer, Nicholas Vaartnou, at Farris LLP. and will be used exclusively to pay my legal fees.
If the funds raised exceed my legal fees, the balance will be donated to the Victoria Foundry, a not-for-profit health and social service centre that provides mental health care, substance use services, primary care, social services, and youth and family peer support to youth in our community.
Please note that while I am working with Diane McNally through our lawyers in this effort, this fundraising effort is for my legal fees alone. If you wish to contribute to Diane’s legal expenses as well, please visit: Legal Fees BC Supreme Court re SD61 Board
I was first elected to the Board of Education in 2014 with 18,926 votes and re-elected in 2018 with 20,103 votes. My motivation in running for this office is rooted in the failure of school and district administration to respond to the vicious and repetitive bullying of one of my children. My wife and I were ultimately able to achieve a resolution of this situation but only after protracted engagement with school and district staff.
Reflecting on our experience, we recognized that we were able to support our child because of the great privilege we possessed: we had the flexibility to meet repeatedly with administration; we were comfortable reviewing policies and procedures to determine the path forward, and we were not intimidated by confronting those in positions of authority. It wasn’t difficult for us to imagine the situation for children whose parents/caregivers were not so privileged. With a desire to serve our community and, specifically, the students and families of District 61, I ran for office.
Since being elected in 2014, I have sought to engage actively, learn from, and assist members of the school community—including individual students and parents, parent advisory committees and other stakeholder groups, the leadership of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, the Metis Nation of BC (Victoria), and the urban Indigenous community as well as the broader public, and municipal leadership. I have sought to conduct myself with integrity throughout my term of office, with an ongoing commitment to public accountability and transparency.
About the Board of Education of SD61 (Greater Victoria)
The nine trustees comprising the SD61 Board of Education are elected during municipal elections, alongside mayors, municipal councils, and regional district representatives. The next Board will be elected in October 2022.
Trustees in School District 61 (Greater Victoria) are responsible for public education of K-12 students in View Royal, a portion of the Highlands, Saanich south of Royal Oak Avenue, Esquimalt, Victoria, and Oak Bay, as well as for Indigenous students living on the Esquimalt and Songhees reserve lands. This area is a part of the traditional territory of the Lekwungen speaking peoples, known today as the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.
Although school boards have a lower public profile than municipal councils, the work is significant. The Board oversees the school district, which delivers educational services to approximately 20,000 students at 47 schools. The Amended Annual Budget for the current fiscal year is almost $273 million. This amount is comparable to the annual budgets of the City of Victoria or the District of Saanich.
Thank you for your support. Together we will fight to retain our democratically elected representation on the Greater Victoria Board of Education.