Langley’s school board had a sudden change in leadership on Tuesday, as a vote late in the meeting removed Trustee Shelley Coburn as vice-chair and replaced her with Trustee David Tod.
After three hours of presentations and discussions on budget and technology, Trustee Rod Ross brought up the section of the School Act that allows for the election of new chairs and vice chairs on boards of education.
“I’d like to hold an election tonight for the position of vice-chair,” Ross said.
A majority of the board voted to move forward, and Tod, Coburn, as well as Trustees Suzanne Perreault and Marnie Wilson were nominated for the position.
All but Tod declined the nomination, and he was acclaimed. A senior staff member was tearing up notepaper to serve as ballots for a vote before the nominations were declined and the acclamation was declared.
Few trustees mentioned the change during their closing remarks of the meeting.
“What a surprising evening this has turned out to be,” Wilson said. “Obviously some of us are more surprised than others.”
Coburn did not have any comments at the end of the meeting. Dykeman thanked her for her work as vice-chair and welcomed Tod to the role.
“I don’t know what happened, so you would have to ask the other board members,” Coburn told the Langley Advance Times later in the week.
She said she did not know in advance there would be a motion to pick a new vice-chair.
“I would prefer not to have it done that way,” she said. “It’s politics. It is what it is.”
Coburn said she was elected to serve the public and do a job, and she would continue to do that.
Ross told the Langley Advance Times that the vote was not personal.
“It’s been a longstanding rule of mine to train as many people in leadership as possible,” he said, and said he has been public about his views with other trustees.
He compared it to municipal councils, where the position of deputy mayor is rotated to different councillors on a regular basis.
Unlike councils, however, school boards vote on their own chair and vice chair at the start of each term.
Ross said he wanted to give more trustees the opportunity to take on leadership, and said he would likely move for another change in the vice-chair position in about a year.
Coburn has held the vice chair position about a year and a half, since the election in the fall of 2018.
An official statement from Chair Megan Dykeman was released the day after the meeting.
“The Board of Education thanks former Vice-Chair Shelley Coburn for her time and hard work as Vice-Chair, and for her ongoing service to the Langley School District as a trustee,” it said. “The Board appreciates her dedication to the students of our District.”