The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association held a vote of no confidence in the Greater Victoria School District (SD 61) following the suspension of board trustees Diane McNally and Rob Paynter.
On Feb. 11, McNally and Paynter were suspended from their roles on the board and censured following complaints of bullying and harassment.
The school board received a report regarding the concerns and took a vote in camera, and the details that led to the suspension have not been released to the public.
The GVTA says in addition to the vote of no confidence, teachers also voted to boycott all meetings of the board until they are satisfied that the process that led to the officials being censured and suspended was appropriate or the suspension is rescinded.
“We are deeply concerned by the suspensions of two democratically elected trustees, and the secrecy surrounding it,” said Winona Waldron, president of the GVTA in a statement. “At our meeting we heard from very senior teachers saying they could not remember another time in their teaching career where a vote of no confidence had been contemplated or was warranted. We heard clearly from our membership that the suspensions required a strong response.”
The statement released by the GVTA says teachers have not received any more information about the process than what was contained in the news release sent to the public.
“We are unaware of any existing legislation that gives the Board of Trustees the authority to suspend elected members from participation,” said Waldron. “Trustees should be well aware of processes used by the District to effectively respond to findings of bullying and harassment. I can think of no other District personnel who has been subject to a nine-month suspension when bullying and harassment has been found.”
Waldron says there are upcoming votes that have so far been controversial and there have been high levels of public interest in, including the budget and the proposed sale of the Lansdowne school property.
“We are concerned that preventing two elected officials from exercising their votes may lead to future uncertainty for our District if the validity of decisions is questioned,” Waldron said. “Our members do not wish to participate in a potentially illegitimate process by attending meetings where invalid decisions may be made. We call on the Board to immediately release information pertaining to the process including the authority under which the suspension was invoked.”
The day the suspensions were announced, McNally spoke with CHEK, and at the time said she has been in touch with a lawyer about the suspension and expects to respond to these allegations.
“My lawyer assessed the penalties for what the board…has decided,” McNally said. “He says it’s a preposterous response, and I agree with my lawyer when he says it’s an attempt to silence two trustees who have a different perspective on governance regarding transparency and accountability for the electorate and parents and all stakeholders who elected us.”
When asked for more details on the allegations against her, she said she did not want to provide more information while she is working with a lawyer.
“All I can say is that from my point of view as an adult person, what was alleged certainly doesn’t deserve the degree of response from the board, it’s way over the top,” McNally said. “Hopefully we can all discuss it more once the legal inquiry goes ahead.”
When reached for comment the day of the suspension, Paynter said he is looking forward to speaking publicly on the matter, but is reviewing the information with an attorney before determining his next steps.