Sooke school board chair ousted after six years at helm

Hobbs informed of lack of support, steps aside before elections

The Sooke School District’s Board of Education has a new chair.

Bob Phillips, who accepted a nomination from fellow trustee Ravi Parmar, was installed Tuesday as head of the board when previous chair Wendy Hobbs chose not to accept a nomination from trustee Denise Riley.

Rather than run for a seventh consecutive year, Hobbs read a prepared statement to the board and those in attendance.

“I have been thinking about this. Although I would like to continue the work we have done as a board in the past, it has come to my attention from a trustee … I do not have his support, or full support of the board,” Hobbs said. “The job of board chair here is difficult enough when you do have full support and even more strenuous without it. For that reason I have made a decision not to stand for the position of chair.”

Following her statement, Hobbs stood up and walked out of the meeting before elections were complete and rest of the board meeting began, saying she was heading to watch her granddaughter in her first PACE performance.

In a follow-up interview, Hobbs did not name the non-supportive trustee, and said she hadn’t heard any reason why she no longer had the support of the board.

“It’s very difficult for me,” she said. “I felt the board has been doing great; it ran well, got things done, was going in right direction.

“So to be told I need change was a bit shocking to me … I knew I didn’t have enough votes to become chair … I felt that I would not run so the majority of trustees could have the change they wanted.”

Elections concluded with Dianna Seaton taking over Phillips’ previous position of vice-chair, Margot Swinburnson the provincial council representative, Neil Poirier taking the spot as the B.C. Public School Employers Association representative and Ravi Parmar as the BCPSEA alternate. None of the elections went to a vote, as all positions were acclaimed.

Despite taking over her long-time position as chair, Phillips said he was grateful for the work Hobbs has done over the years.

“There are no adjectives that could describe the amount of time that is required when you are building new schools, when you are having job action, when you are having government changes,” he said.

“This is why Wendy leads the polls, she is so completely caring when it comes to kids and families and staff … She should feel justifiably proud of all of the things she has done for this district.”

Phillips described himself as a poor farm boy from Ontario who became a clinical social worker. He taught in Africa twice, taught at university and has been a school trustee for 19 years.

“I really don’t see any difference in the direction or the work or whatever that goes on with the board. The voice and the face change,” Phillips said. “Wendy and I worked closely together and we will continue to (do so). The story to me is how do we continue to support our staff and produce the educational outcomes that are expected from a board and a superintendent.”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com