A candidate running to be a trustee for the Rainbow District School Board had some choice words this morning for the English public school board.
Richard Eberhardt, who’s running to represent Area Two, said internal fighting among current trustees is distracting the board from the real work it’s supposed to be doing.
“Allowing internal squabbles to burst out into public controversy is unprofessional, and unnecessary,” said Eberhardt. “Rainbow Schools staff, students and their families are all busy getting ready for another school year. The Board of Trustees should be fixed on the same goal, but are instead dealing with petty disagreements at the board table.”
Specifically, Eberhardt is referring to an ongoing dispute between the board and one of its trustees, Larry Killens, who represents Manitoulin Island. An outspoken trustee, Killens, who is not running for re-election, was banned this year from attending board meetings over alleged code of conduct violations.
He’s accused of trying to facilitate litigation against the board, sharing confidential board information with the public and making disparaging comments about staff and board members — allegations Killens denies.
As well, Eberhardt is referring to a years-old dispute between the Rainbow board and parents Anita and Dylan Gibson (both of whom are running as trustees in this election), who have been under indefinite trespass orders from certain school board property (including the board office, where school board meetings are held) since 2012. The couple’s issues with the board date back to their efforts to stop the board from closing Long Lake Public School (which was eventually closed) and their vocal criticism of the board and its decisions.
The Rainbow board is distracted by these issues, Eberhardt said, while other issues are being left to fall by the wayside.
“The Board of Trustees has not issued any statement in defense of the revised Health and Physical Education curriculum, nor the government’s attempt to divide parents and teachers with a snitch line. They failed to take the lead on demanding a crosswalk over Hwy 144 in Dowling, to safeguard students at Larchwood Public,” Eberhardt said in a news release. “There are urgent topics to be addressed, and despite regular meetings over the summer, their silence is deafening. It seems these personal conflicts are getting in the way of the board’s work.”
Eberhardt’s criticism comes on the eve of a protest by parents of Rainbow Board students this afternoon outside the school board’s Wembley Drive offices. The protest is aimed at showing parents’ support for ousted trustee Killens.
“That things have gotten this bad reflects a serious failure of leadership, but it’s not too late to refocus,” Eberhardt said. “Elected trustees should keep their seats. Indefinite trespass orders against parents — and fellow trustee candidates — should be rescinded. These chronic distractions make it harder for the board to do its work.
“It is clear there is urgent need for new leadership at Rainbow schools.”
Eberhardt is a candidate for RDSB trustee in Area Two, which includes Levack, Onaping, Dowling, Chelmsford, Azilda and the Donovan areas.
Also running to become trustee in this area are incumbent Ruth Ward, who was selected by trustees in 2017 to replace former trustee Tyler Campbell for the rest of the term after he stepped down following conflict of interest allegations, as well as Anita Gibson (see information above) and Gordon Ewin, a retired director of education with the board.
Eberhardt is the program director of reThink Green, a former elementary classroom teacher, a former constituency assistant to the MP for Sudbury, and chair of the Social Planning Council of Sudbury.