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Vancouver school board byelection called for October

Patrick Johnston, Vancouver Sun

Vancouver school board trustee Dianne Turner. (Mark van Manen/Postmedia File Photo)

Vancouver school board trustee Dianne Turner. (Mark van Manen/Postmedia File Photo)

Vancouver's public schools will finally have a new board of trustees.

Education minister Rob Fleming announced Thursday that the city will have a byelection Oct. 14.

"Our government is restoring a democratically elected board of education to ensure legitimacy and fair representation for Vancouver residents and to better serve students," Fleming said in an emailed statement. "Re-establishing the board as a vehicle for public discussion, debate and decisions is part of our commitment to fix our education system."

The previous school board was dismissed in October 2016 by the B.C. Liberal government; the district has been overseen by provincially appointed trustee Dianne Turner since then. She was "tasked with bringing stability to the district and improving financial stewardship," the release noted.

At the time, Fleming's predecessor, Mike Bernier, said he was firing the board for failing to pass a balanced budget. He made the move the same day as the soon-to-be-dismissed board was poised to finally approve a balanced budget; they had previously refused to approve by the government’s June 30 deadline. “I have no confidence in any of those announcements or decisions they were making,” Bernier said.

“What we’ve witnessed from the Vancouver school board is a misplaced focus on political tactics rather than responsible stewardship,” Bernier added. “The board failed to follow the law.”

Once the new board is in place, Fleming has asked Turner to stay on as a special adviser to assist with transition.

"This is an opportunity for renewal that will benefit students, parents, teachers and staff," Fleming said. "I look forward to working with an elected board to expedite seismic projects and improve programs for students in the Vancouver School District."

The city is also having a council byelection on Oct. 14, to replace the seat vacated by Geoff Meggs, who joined John Horgan's staff. Fleming said the decision to hold the school board vote on the same day as the council vote will save the school board up to $1.5 million.