Controversial Lord Byng parent advisory council chairperson Cheryl Chang was re-elected Tuesday night.
Chang wrote an open letter to the Vancouver School Board in April as Byng’s PAC chair, urging trustees to delay or reject adopting a policy on sexual orientation and gender identities in favour of further review and consultation.
Byng parents forced Chang to remove the PAC’s endorsement from her letter at a raucous May 27 meeting. But those parents who hadn’t signed up for the PAC executive by the end of May weren’t permitted to attend the election meeting for the PAC’s table officers June 17. Ten parents protested outside the private college where the meeting was held with signs that read, “Why so secret?” and “See you in September for the legal meeting.”
“I’m recovering lawyer,” said Byng parent Maureen Fitzgerald who couldn’t get in. “I’m disturbed by [Chang’s] flagrant abuse of process and manipulation of the process… This is not normal in any stretch.”
Fitzgerald asked Chang to cancel the June 17 meeting and hold an extraordinary annual general meeting to hold elections for the new executive.
Fitzgerald and other parents worried about lack of communication about the meeting, the nomination and election process, and parents being excluded from a tightly controlled assembly.
Parents asked the VSB to cancel the meeting but were told the board lacked jurisdiction to interfere.
The PAC hosted the meeting at a private college because a member of the executive works there and offered the space, according to Chang. She said only 138 parents registered for the May 27 PAC meeting at Byng but more than 250 people attended and she didn’t want the June 17 meeting to be similarly unruly.
Chang noted the VSB tightly controlled its June 16 meeting where the board approved its sexual orientation and gender identities policy with proof of residency, security and a police officer. She added the VSB’smeasures were for a meeting where the public could attend as observers only.
Parents that backed the gender policy also worried those on the PAC’s Chinese subcommittee were told for whom to vote.
“It’s really quite astounding that [Chang] would put herself up for re-election knowing that she’s such a divisive person in the school community,” said Julia O’Dwyer, whose transgender child graduated from Byng a few years back and who now has a daughter attending Byng.
Byng parent Chris Bromige noted Chang’s Facebook page states she works for the Conservative Party of Canada. He wondered about her political aspirations.
Chang said she’s invested hundreds of hours into fundraising with the PAC over four years. Chang said she never intended to bring politics into the organization, but she recognizes that was the effect of the letter she wrote. She said parents who speak Chinese as their first language support her because they’ve worked together on the PAC.
Chang said she’s only intentionally brought politics into her position as PAC chairperson once, when a teacher wanted money to hire author and journalist Gwynne Dyer to talk to students about global warming. Chang said the school would then need to bring in a speaker “on the other side of the debate.”
Chang said more parents could join the PAC executive at the AGM in September.