Grand Erie to begin process of replacing trustee

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(This article has been amended with correct vote totals from the 2018 election)

The Grand Erie District School Board soon will begin the process to replace Christina Speers, who resigned last week as a trustee.

At a meeting on Monday, the board agreed to advertise the vacant trustee position and appoint a successor.

Director of education JoAnna Roberto will prepare a report for the board’s Oct. 26 meeting that will include a sample advertisement, application form and dates for the process. 

The board rejected two other options that can be used to fill a trustee vacancy: holding a byelection or appointing the third runner-up in the 2018 municipal election for trustee representing the County of Brant and Wards 3 and 7 of Norfolk County, the position that had been held by Speers.

In 2018, Speers got 5,453 votes, followed by Rita Collver, who got 4,394, David VanTilborg, 3,592, and Thomas Waldschmidt, 3,178.

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In a letter to the school board, Brant CAO Michael Bradley said the municipality has “serious concerns” about the ability to conduct a byelection with in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Bradley said a byelection would cost between $50,000 and $75,000.

The board announced in a news release on Oct. 2 that Speers, elected in 2018 to a four-year term, had tendered her resignation effective immediately following her Facebook post two days earlier “minimizing the significance of Orange Shirt Day.”

Speers had posted an explanation of why she and her children weren’t wearing orange shirts on Sept. 30, saying kids are being burdened with too many stressful stories at school.

Orange Shirt Day was launched in 2013 to commemorate the experiences of residential school students and commit to learning more about the history of the schools, such as the former Mohawk Institute in Brantford.

A statement, signed by all the other trustees, said they denounced the views expressed by Speers and reaffirmed their commitment to the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report “as well as the important relationship we have with our Indigenous communities.”

The board said it “whole-heartedly honours” Orange Shirt Day.

Speers said she feels she has been the target of a “smear campaign” and has received “hate mail.” She said she resigned from her trustee positions because she felt her children were in danger.

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