Former Cowichan trustees mull legal action over dismissal
The battle between B.C.’s Education Ministry and the now-former Cowichan Valley school trustees may be far from over.
Education Minister George Abbott fired the District 79 Board of Education on Canada Day for presenting a deficit budget—a move contrary to the School Act.
But before the official announcement was made July 1, the trustees already had a legal opinion at their disposal from Vancouver labour law firm Caroline and Gislason Lawyers.
“I think that we can challenge this decision,” Eden Haythornthwaite, the erstwhile chair of the board, told SunFM News.
Hawthornthwaite admitted the legislation requires a board to submit a balanced budget but that the School Act also makes the trustees responsible for providing “quality learning opportunities for all students”, something she claimed they couldn’t do with continued cuts to education.
“What the legal opinion says is that the weight of both of those appears to be equal.”
Cathy Schmidt, one of four former trustees who argued in favour of a balanced budget, reads the Caroline and Gislason opinion differently.
“That legal opinion told me loud and clear that we broke the law.”
“If they want to fight it in court, then hats off to them for going to fight it but I believe that we broke the law and they don’t have a leg to stand on.”
The four former trustees who fought for a balanced budget released a statement July 2, saying the opposing five were “only interested in playing politics and demonstrated little concern for the interests of students.”
They went on to tout the successes of District 79, such as higher graduation rates for aboriginal students.
Hawthornthwaite said she expects the individual trustees will decide soon whether they will take the government to court and fight to have their jobs reinstated.
Minister Abbott has appointed the superintendent from the Surrey school district, Mike McKay, as the sole trustee to run District 79.
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