Cam Fortems – Kamloops This Week
A Kamloops-Thompson school district trustee in her ninth year has ousted veteran chairwoman Denise Harper and will oversee the board of education in 2017.
And the incumbent never saw it coming.
Meghan Wade was voted in on Dec. 12 at the inaugural meeting by the school trustees in a secret-ballot vote before regular business.
“I was approached by trustees to look and consider it just as a change,” Wade toldKTW.
“I think they’re just hearing from a slightly different perspective.”
Harper, a representative from the Chase area, led the board for the past five years and served as chairwoman for an earlier two-year term.
Harper said she was surprised when Wade emailed her a few hours before the board meeting to tell her she would be running against her.
Harper said Wade told her before she would never challenge for chair.
“It doesn’t really matter whose at the helm,” Harper said. “The chair is just the spokesperson for the board and the board decides what she says.”
Wade noted Harper’s leadership included the last tumultuous, months-long teacher job action, as well as the selection of two school district superintendents.
Wade said her challenges include overseeing the board through a provincial curriculum change and a new strategic plan. Wade is a retired small business owner who coached female survivors of trauma and abuse.
Harper, a 17-year veteran of the board, said she got her first indication she would be challenged a month ago when Barriere trustee Rhonda Kershaw suggested she step down.
“Nobody has ever said we don’t like this and we don’t like that about what I was doing,” Harper said. “I never had that kind of feedback. But I’m not unhappy with the outcome.”
She said the job of chair comes with a huge workload, one that had her working almost full-time.
As a result, she is looking forward to having more time to do other trustee work, such as one-to-one reading in schools and other activities that bring her into the classroom.
Harper said she has learned a lesson from the election — it’s important to read between the lines.
“I guess I’m not a politician,” she said. “Just a person who has a passion for education.”
Wade said she is reluctant to reply to Harper’s comments because she knows her colleague is “hurt.”
She did say the former chair’s years of service and experience will be utilized by the board.
Wade said she was approached by a majority of the board and asked to run, adding Harper knew she would be accepting a nomination for chair.
She said the board now needs to come together.
While the board of education has no power in implementing coming changes from the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the stripped 2002 teachers’ contract, it may have a role to play when the issue of class size and composition as part of bargaining is addressed by the provincial government.
“I’m always hopeful for more money,” Wade said of millions of dollars that could come from the B.C. Liberal government to comply with the ruling.
“It’s always on my Christmas list.”