The Grand Erie District School Board is accepting applications to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of trustee Christina Speers.
Speers resigned her seat representing Brant County and Wards 3 and 7 of Norfolk County in early October due to a controversy over comments about Orange Shirt Day posted on social media.
In a news release on Oct. 27, the board said an appointee will be named to finish the current term, which runs to November 2022.
“Trustees are a crucial link between the communities they serve and the school board,” board chair Greg Anderson said in the release.
“The ideal candidate will be an advocate for children and youth as trustees ensure that schools are meeting the diverse needs of students. They must also be connected to the needs of families in Grand Erie and believe in the value of public education.”
Candidates must be at least 18 and a Canadian citizen and also a resident within the board’s geographic jurisdiction, which includes Brantford, Brant, Norfolk and Haldimand County, and a voter for Grand Erie. Those interested must complete an application form. Candidates must submit a resume, cover letter and statement of intent with their application form. The deadline for applications is noon on Nov. 10.
The director’s office will verify applicant’s qualifications and those selected for an interview will be notified. Applications and resumes will be posted on the board’s website.
Interviews will be publicly conducted in November by board members.
The board will swear in the successful applicant at a special meeting in December.
Speers was a newcomer when she ran in 2018 and got the most votes of four candidates vying for two seats. She got 5,453 votes, followed by Rita Collver, who got 4,394 votes, David VanTilborg, 3,592 votes, and Tom Waldschmidt, 3,178.
To fill the vacancy, the board opted against appointing the third-place finisher in 2018 (VanTilborg) or holding a byelection, which would have been expensive and difficult to run during a pandemic, according to advice from Brant CAO Michael Bradley.
Speers set off a social media firestorm when she explained her reasoning behind why she and her children weren’t wearing orange during Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30, an initiative to honour Indigenous children sent away to residential schools in Canada and learn more about the history of those schools.
Noting that the mental health of children is being stressed during the pandemic with too many “heavy stories,” Speers said she prefers putting an emphasis on getting Indigenous culture into the school curriculum to wearing a shirt.
The board’s trustees, as a group, signed a letter denouncing her views, which they said minimized Orange Shirt Day.
Speers said she received such initial negative feedback from her post from people intimating she was racist that she resigned for the safety of her children.
The Grand Erie board represents more than 25,700 students in 72 elementary and secondary schools. It has a staff of more than 2,500 people.
The board also represents secondary students from Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
Application forms for the trustee process can be found at www.granderie.ca.