A blatant potential “Conflict of Interest” would be having recently retired CUPE employees on your local Board of Education.

CUPE members should be very concerned that your executive feels compelled to spend your hard earned union dues on newspapers ads that would ultimately see jobs reduced.

In January 2017, a number of Trustees received a call from Bruce Richardson (Retired Vice President of CUPE Local 561) regarding our transfer of the District-managed CUPE pension to the provincial Municipal Pension Plan (MPP). He was totally opposed to such a move. He wanted everyone to know that we (the Trustees) could be replaced and his Union would make sure none of us would be re-elected! Fortunately, his bullying and verbally abusive tactics did not work and the CUPE 561 members agreed with the School Board by an astounding result of approximately 97% in favour of the transfer!

To ease in the transition, we offered to contribute a 4% increase in base salary to absorb the extra cost of joining the MPP. This transfer will give all future retirees a significantly larger pension when they retire. Two of the 2018 school board candidates in Port Coquitlam, Mr Bruce Richardson and Mrs Christine Pollock, are recent retirees who unfortunately do not qualify for the new Municipal Pension Plan, as they had retired before the agreement was signed. We did try to include previously retirees in the plan but both the Liberals and the NDP, along with FICOM said No! Therefore, our School District staff (SD43) will continue to manage the previous plan for the existing retirees which has a much more manageable solvency fund.

Small business and the voting public should also know that the New Westminster & District Labour Council actually told a sitting Trustee that they expect endorsed school board candidates to call the Council for advice when it come to matters related to their members. We take an oath to look after your $350 million tax dollars annually which your local School Board manages on your behalf. We are governed by legislation and a Code of Ethics that can be found on our website (www.sd43.bc.ca), where we pledge that we act on behalf of the School Board and the children and families of the District. No Trustee can or should be unduly influence by any employee group!

The revenues received from our International Education (IE) program has allowed us to hire more custodians, clerical staff, Education Assistants, Youth Workers, Teachers, and has provided extra funds to every school. It also allowed us to keep our schools open when they were being closed in districts all around us. If this program goes away so will jobs!

SD43 Trustees started our 2014 term paying off a deficit that was repaid two years ahead of schedule, partly due to the incredible success of the IE Program. International Education is not just about visiting students, it is also about Teachers and Principals training with educational exchanges, sharing our best practises with the world. Our International Education dollars (from students of Korea, Brazil, Germany, Iran, Mexico, Japan, and China) have allowed us to dig ourselves out of debt and achieve a surplus two years running. That surplus is allocated over three concurrent years that has allowed our district to plan ahead to mitigate any world events that might impact our IE.

In 2014, as School Board Chair with six new Trustees, I felt it vital that all new Trustees travel to China at least once to understand how our prestigious Confucius Institute designation works. This was possible with Han Ban support, an international development agency within the Chinese government. The public should rest assured that “NO public tax dollars are being spent”!

In the past two years, groups of students have been warmly welcomed to China. We have had several senior management team members, various administrators and many teachers travel to China over the past eight years, for the exchange of educational ideals and cross-cultural opportunities. We try to time our visits to best support our staff as well, usually scheduled during the annual Spring Break. Every School Trustee on our board has now been to China at least once and I hope our new board will continue this fruitful business practice. We know that taking the time to visit with our partners overseas greatly reinforces our commitment to our IE and our Mandarin Bilingual programs.

This is a business model that numerous schools boards around BC strive for and many across Canada would love to have. By taking our Board members and staff to China, they get an understanding of just how competitive this market actually is. They get to speak to parents who are planning on sending their only child to a foreign country to better their education and family. We have also become one of the destinations of choice! I don’t know about you but when I’ve traveled on business, the tab is usually picked up by the business I represent. As a board we get reports on individual schools and how their supplies levels are, and thankfully at last months meeting it showed very healthy surplus’ in all our school bank accounts, thanks in part to the IE Program! Again, NO public tax dollars are being spent!

In a recent article in the local paper School Trustee and the District were accused by CUPE of being a ‘conflict of interest’ by traveling to China. Nothing could be further from the truth! The local business community understands the many millions of dollars that IE has has brought to the community, to host families alone an estimated $100 Million over the last ten years! If you need validation check with the Economic Development Committee for the City of Coquitlam, the local Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce and with our local host families!

CUPE recently distributed a ‘who to vote for’ list to every union member in the Tri-Cities! The local newspaper has published this list as well. I propose that free-thinkers in the Tri-Cities use this list as the ones “who not to vote for”! I hope the public will understand that since 2019 is a contract year, and since the Union is spending hard working union dues to promote their candidates and their agenda, that recently retired CUPE members will be in a clearly potential conflict of interest!

CUPE was happy to endorse one Port Moody candidate, Keith Watkins because they had indicated in their endorsement that he had only been to China once; but the truth is that he has actually been there at least four times! Did that candidate set the record straight, NO? Are you as CUPE members getting the whole truth??

This board has worked respectfully with all of our partner groups. There have been so many areas of improvement and productive dialogue that has resulted in a strong environment of teamwork. We have moved away from the ‘Them and Us’ to ‘We’! The Coquitlam Board of Education had been recognized by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce as an Employer of Choice for past three years. Younger CUPE members have experienced this new environment of mutual respect and cannot understand why their union leaders refuse to acknowledge the improvements and ‘get with the program’.

Vote for the Candidates that are there for everyone, not for retirees that are part of the ‘good old boys’ network that have an agenda that will destabilize a world renowned IE program that is the envy of many. If you browse my Facebook page labelled ‘Trustee Judy Shirra”, you’ll see which candidates that I believe will be there for the betterment of the education system, the children and our communities, rather than just their own personal vested interests.

Judy Shirra
Trustee and recent Past Chair,
School District 43 Coquitlam