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Contentious school trustee byelection to cost $177K

Last Updated Jan 19, 2019 at 11:41 am EDT

A GTA school board is being criticized for how it’s choosing to replace a long-serving trustee who suddenly resigned.

Last week, the York Region District School Board voted in favour of holding a byelection to find a replacement for Anna DeBartolo. In her letter of resignation to board members, the Ward 1 and 2 trustee cited personal reasons for her abrupt departure after 15 years and also asked for privacy.

The trustees were notified about the resignation the night before a special Jan. 10 meeting, and were sent a 33-page report to review. The next day, trustees voted seven to four in favour of a byelection.

That decision didn’t sit well with some parents, including the woman who took on the YRDSB two years ago over racist incidents involving her son at school. Grant was also called a racial slur by a trustee who later resigned. In the fall municipal elections, she ran against DeBartolo and came in second.

“Just be as transparent as possible and let the public see there is considerable thought going to this decision — it’s not just a rushed decision,” said Charline Grant.

Since 1991, the board has had to replace eight trustees between elections. In seven of those cases, the board decided to appoint someone to avoid the expense of a vote. Grant is wondering if the board isn’t doing the same thing this time around because of her history.

“I hope it has nothing to do with me, but I don’t know,” she said. “It does cross my mind — Is it because it’s me? — I think it would cross anyone’s mind.”

Seven of the 11 trustees currently sitting on the board were newly elected in October. An anonymous source who was at the meeting last week told CityNews some of the trustees felt rushed.

The source said they weren’t expecting to vote at the meeting meeting and thought they would have more time to consider the options.

The board has the right to replace a vacancy through a byelection.

“After a healthy discussion and careful consideration of all options available, trustees determined that holding a by-election would provide the residents of Vaughan with a fair process to democratically select their representative,” board chair Corrie McBain said in a statement.

The school board estimates the byelection will cost $177,000.

A spokesperson said the school system is currently running a surplus of $1.4 million, so expenses for the vote won’t affect students.

The byelection is set for April 25, and Grant said she’s considering running again.