British Columbia

Teachers cast non-confidence vote against school superintendent in northwest B.C.

The Coast Mountain Teachers' Federation has approved by a margin of 99 per cent a vote of non-confidence in superintendent Katherine McIntosh, citing concerns over her decision-making and communications style. 

A school board's decision to reassign principals from 2 schools also prompted protests

On June 12, parents and students protested at the Suwilaawks Community School against the school board's decision to transfer a principal. (Holly Harris)

Citing concerns over decision-making and communications style, teachers in the Coast Mountains School District serving Terrace and Kitimat in northwestern B.C. have approved, by a margin of 99 per cent, a vote of non-confidence in superintendent Katherine McIntosh.

Following the vote, the Coast Mountains Teachers Association declined to elaborate on its concerns, saying it wants to raise them directly with the school board.

However, at least one of the concerns seems to involve the reassignment of two principals and a vice-principal at Skeena Middle School and Suwilaawks Community School, both of which fall within the superintendent's jurisdiction.

The schools have a large population of Indigenous students.

"We were concerned about some of the repercussions of her actions that were creating a divide in our community," said Michael Wen, president of the Terrace District Teachers' Union in an interview with CBC Daybreak North's Andrew Kurjata.

The federation sent a letter outlining the same concerns to the school district chair after passing the non-confidence motion.

While the federation's public letter does not mention the transfers, the issue has caused recent protests at both schools. 

Some community members say they're upset the school district made important staffing changes without first consulting them.

"You have three of the top-rated administrators in this district being directed to take a 'promotion' to other places,'" said Calvin Albright, executive director of the Kermode Friendship Society, who was present at the protest at both schools.  

Albright said the principals who are being reassigned have gone "above and beyond" to work with students and their families. They introduced after-school programs and have driven parents to appointments and provided clothes to families in need. 

"So, basically, the needs of the school board are more important than the needs of the children of these two schools. And that's unacceptable."

Symbolic vote

Albright said the First Nation communities helped galvanize support for the non-confidence vote.

But the motion has limited powers. 

The B.C. Teachers Federation said in a written response to Daybreak North, "votes like these are symbolic … they are not unprecedented. And the locals will have to chat with the board about next steps."  

Wen says the vote should get the board's attention.
 "It [no-confidence vote] is something that we considered carefully. It's a means of communicating a sense of concern and urgency to the board of trustees so that we can get that meeting with them."

At the time of publishing, the board had not responded to the teachers' request for a meeting. The CBC also contacted the superintendent's office for comment but has not heard back.

With files from Nicole Oud.