Two teachers were elected to lead the New Westminster school district's board of education, but for one local trustee the results are more about "power and control" than good decision-making.
Trustee Casey Cook said the vote to have labour-endorsed leaders at the board's helm speaks to the school board's status quo.
"It certainly is a concern," said Cook, who's a member of Voice New Westminster. "I just took it to be a natural extension of the state of affairs."
Trustee Michael Ewen - who has been a school trustee for 33 years - was elected chair by acclamation. Trustee Jonina Campbell was elected vice-chair, but the seat came down to a vote between her and Cook, who was nominated by fellow Voice trustee MaryAnn Mortensen.
The vote between Campbell and Cook went to a secret ballot and Campbell was elected. Cook said he let his name stand because he wanted there to be a broader representation of viewpoints on the board.
"I would have hoped we had a situation where we actually could have everybody represented in the decision-making process," he said. "I think different points of view are healthy."
When asked what the board will do if both Ewen and Campbell need to leave the room if there were an issue that was deemed a conflict of interest for the teacher trustees, Cook said, "It's something that should have been considered."
Cook was the lone trustee to declare a conflict after he was elected to the board in 2008. He removed himself from discussions on budget items related to special education assistants in 2009 because of his daughter's employment with the district.
Ewen also has immediate family working for the district. After Cook's declaration in 2009, Ewen denied he was in a conflict of interest, but later removed himself from budget discussions after getting a legal opinion on the matter. Ewen told The Record Wednesday that he would no longer have an issue with conflict with upcoming budgets because his son has enough seniority that his job wouldn't be in question.
"The only issue we (him and Campbell) would remove ourselves for ... if there was an issue around teacher bargaining," he said.
As for Cook's concerns, Ewen said he would have considered voting for Cook had he called Ewen and told him he was interested in being vice-chair. Ewen said he had no idea Cook wanted the role until he was nominated Tuesday night.
"I had one trustee phone me and say, 'I would like to be vice-chair of the board.' Nobody else phoned me," Ewen said, referring to Campbell.
"Now, I must admit I didn't phone anybody either," Ewen said, and added that he normally does that. "I didn't do that this year because I made assumptions. Turned out the assumptions were correct, but in the past I phoned up all seven trustees, (and) I've said 'I'd like your support. I want to be chair.'"
"This is a political arena; if you want to get votes, it's often a good idea to talk to people about why it would be a good idea," he said.
Cook has never expressed interest in the position, Ewen said.
"In looking at it in retrospect, it might have been interesting to hear from him on why," Ewen said. "I talked to Ms. Campbell about why she wanted to be, and she had some fairly clear reasons."
In retrospect, Ewen said it might have been best to have had the two candidates state their reasons for wanting to be vice-chair.
"We haven't ever done that," he said.
Ewen said he has talked to Cook on the phone. They spoke earlier in the week and Cook hadn't mentioned a plan to run for vice-chair, Ewen said.
"It's a little late now, but it would have been an interesting discussion to have," Ewen said, referring to talking about a bipartisan approach.
"I'm not saying I would have done something different, but I would have considered something different, but not having that choice I make the decision I make," he said.
Meanwhile, trustee David Phelan, also a teacher, was re-elected to the British Columbia School Trustees Association, and Campbell is the alternate. Mortensen is on the British Columbia Public Schools Employers Association, and trustee Lisa Graham is the alternate.