Mike Murray back as school board chair

Eleanor Palis vice-chair again as new board gets sorted

School board chair Mike Murray and vice-chair Eleanor Palis were both returned to their positions after the seven-member school board held a pair of votes on Wednesday.

New trustee Lisa Beare, the top vote-getter in the November school board election, ran against incumbent Murray for the position of board chair for the coming year.

Palis was opposed by newcomer Korleen Carreras.

Beare and Carreras both were members of the Voice team during the election, along with incumbent Ken Clarkson and Cherie Delainey – the latter who was not successful on Nov. 15. That team was supported by the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association and CUPE, and ran on a platform of taking a strong stand against inadequate government funding, and offering more stakeholder involvement in decision making.

Despite any divisiveness resulting from the election campaign, Murray said the board enters its term with good dynamics.

“We spent some time with each other at new trustee orientation and BCSTA (B.C. School Trustees Association) event,” he said. “It’s a group of very open trustees, clearly interested in hearing what each other has to say.”

Murray said he prefers to take a collaborative approach to being board chair.

Unlike municipal governments, where the mayor is elected separately from the rest of council, the board chair and the vice are both chosen by their peers, for a one-year term. It’s a procedure that works well, said Murray.

“I think it is a good process, because what it does emphasize is shared leadership,” he said.

The trustees were all given their committee assignments, and each will be put in a leadership position, on some body or group, he said.

The board will not meet until 2015, in what will be a busy year.

After the strain of a teachers strike, people in education have to pull together, said Murray.

“Rekindling our relationships with our key partners,” is the first goal, he said. “Not just teachers and CUPE – parents, students, principals and vice-principals.”

He said the new board gets a fresh start with recently hired superintendent Sylvia Russell.

Education funding will be another priority.

“Identifying how we can collectively advocate better, and we want to meet with government again on that,” he said.

A facilities plan will be on the agenda early in the year, and the board first must “map out the consultation process.” Murray allowed that where to built new schools, or school closures, can be an emotional issue for parents.

And the board will enter budget dialogue, beginning with the impacts of its previous budget decisions, including cuts to school secretaries and charging fees for using the school bus.

“It will be important for us to collect that information for two reasons – one is to inform our next decisions, and two so that we can convey the impacts of the cuts we’ve had to make, to our funders [government].”