THE NPA school board candidates Fraser Ballantyne, Julian Prieto, Lisa Dominato, Christopher Richardson and Robert McDowell announced on Monday they are signing a pledge to keep bullying out of the Vancouver School Board (VSB) workplace.
The NPA school board candidates said they recognize this by-election is in part due to serious issues regarding bullying by school board trustees towards VSB staff. They are deeply concerned by the recent WorkSafeBC Investigation Report as well as the independent Goldner Report that found a culture of harassment and bullying at the Vancouver School Board that originated with former trustees. Following allegations of bullying and harassment, a number of senior staff took leave and as a result, the VSB was unable to focus on delivering its core mandate to provide services to students and parents.
“As a mediator and a former diplomat, I know how important it is to debate in a civil manner,” McDowell said. “And as a gay man, I fully understand the mental and physical consequences of a how damaging bullying can be. It does not serve the best interests of the students and educators, and it will not happen again if I am elected.”
The pledge identifies five key values that all NPA school board candidates agree are critical in establishing a safe and cooperative workplace.
- I believe that everyone is valuable and should be accepted regardless of any differences.
- I will treat others with fairness and respect.
- I will speak out against bullying whenever and wherever I see it.
- I will offer support to those who are being bullied.
- I recognize my ability to create change.
“As a parent and a professional who has dedicated the last six years to working with students, parents and educators across B.C. to prevent bullying in schools, I am incredibly troubled by the bullying that took place at VSB and contributed to what has been described as a ‘toxic work environment,” said Dominato, who left her position as Manager of Student Safety and Wellness at the Ministry of Education to run for school board to end the culture of bullying at VSB. “This behaviour is unacceptable and I believe we have a duty to work respectfully and collaboratively with district staff.”
“There is no place for bullying anyone, not in the schoolyard and not in the VSB board room,” former trustee Richardson stated. “Ignorance is not an excuse. It may be necessary for some to attend readily available Professional Development opportunities such as those offered by BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) to ensure that they can distinguish between aggressive advocacy and bullying. The main lesson that I drew from the Goldner and WorkSafe Investigative Reports is that everyone has an obligation to stand up and confront situations when bullying occurs. One must publicly express that it must stop and will not be tolerated and that gentle and private interventions are not enough.”
Richardson and Ballantyne asked and made public their names in the controversial Goldner report and are calling on Vision Vancouver to un-redact the names of its former trustees and those currently seeking re-election in the by-election.
“Parents and students deserve to know exactly what was happening and who was responsible for the bullying behavior that lead to the resignation and stress leaves of senior staff,” said former trustee Ballantyne. “I along with former trustee Richardson have un-redacted our names from the report and we are calling on Vision Vancouver to do the same with their former trustees and take accountability for their behavior and the resulting impact it has had on the VSB’s ability to provide services for students.”
In implementing this pledge, the Vancouver School Board trustees will be held accountable to conduct their duties with the utmost professionalism and respect for each other. This pledge will enable trustees to work through issues facing students, teachers, administrators and school board staff in a fair and positive manner, the NPA candidates said.
“Bullying shares something in common with racism and discrimination: its opposite is tolerance. I am proud to join the NPA in a pledge, and challenge to end it, in our schools and in the workplace,” stated Prieto.