Rookie trustee Mike Murray is the new school board chair Wednesday as the newly sworn-in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education opted to replace Ken Clarkson with the former parks and leisure services manager.
Trustees elected Murray in a secret ballot by a 4-3 vote to serve as chair for the coming year. Eleanor Palis, meanwhile, was acclaimed as board vice-chair.
“Obviously, I’m flattered and honoured, but I think it was because of my background they chose me,” said Murray.
He worked for the District of Maple Ridge for more than 30 years, retiring last year as the general manager of community development, parks and recreation for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows last year.
Murray is currently the chair of the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation, as well as a volunteer with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Arts Council, North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association and Haney Rotary Club.
Clarkson said he was surprised and disappointed when he realized he wouldn’t have the votes at the board table to continue serving as board chair. During the recent election campaign, Clarkson repeatedly endorsed Murray publicly.
“I had a pretty good inkling about two days ago, with all of the politicking going on,” Clarkson said.
“I am disappointed. I really feel this board has improved relationships, and I wanted to continue that work as chair.”
Representatives from the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association filled the board room in support of Clarkson Wednesday afternoon.
Also present was Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin, along with councillors Mike Morden, Al Hogarth, and Judy Dueck, and Cheryl Ashlie. The latter two both previously served as school board chair.
Former school trustees Kathie Ward and Mike Huber were also in attendance.
MRTA president George Serra said he was disappointed with the board’s choice of Murray as chair.
“We think Ken’s done a good job,” Serra said. “This wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for.”
During Clarkson’s time as board chair, the working relationship between the district and the teachers’ union greatly improved, according to Serra.
“I fear we could be headed in a direction that could be negative,” Serra said. “My feeling is that he [Murray] is a supporter of the Liberal government and their education policy.”
Serra thought Murray should have at least spent a year serving as trustee before vying for the chair position, just as Clarkson had when he replaced Kathie Ward as chair in 2009.
“That’s just integrity and respect,” he said. “But we’ll have to wait and see. Mike’s great with words, but we’ll see what he does.”
Murray, for his part, said he is looking forward to working with the MRTA.
“I have a real respect for teachers. My wife was a teacher, my daughter is a teacher in New Westminster,” he said.
Murray said he hopes to share leadership with all trustees and acknowledged Clarkson’s contributions as board chair.
“I share a lot of the sentiments Ken has,” Murray said. “I know that Ken, as a teacher himself, enjoyed a great deal of respect for our teachers, and so he should have.
“He is going to be a very strong asset in this board.”