- New West Anchor
- No further Community First, school board investigations expected in Dee Beattie debacle
No further Community First, school board investigations expected in Dee Beattie debacle
The school trustee admitted to use of a burner account that went after people in New West
School board trustees meet on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. Dee Beattie, who is currently on medical leave, was not present. Ria Renouf.
Editor’s note: there is a full Twitter recap available. Please note the recap makes mention of a Laura Ward, not Laura Kwong. Laura Kwong was the representative from NW DPAC who spoke Tuesday night. Laura Ward is not associated with this story. We have since issued a correction tweet and we apologize for the error.
New West’s board of education continues to field questions in the Dee Beattie Twitter debacle, as it was met with concerns from parents and New West community members Tuesday.
Beattie—who has not resigned from the board, but did resign from her party, Community First—admitted through a statement to The Anchor on Friday that she was behind a burner account on Twitter. The account went after a number of members in the community, including a couple whose child attends a daycare in the Downtown core.
That woman, Sarah Arboleda, wrote a comprehensive Twitter thread last week chronicling how she managed to figure out Beattie was behind the “Allan Whitterstone” account, which used the handle @alfromnw.
Left: Dee Beattie, a school board trustee in New West, is on a leave of absence after confessing to be @alfromnw on Twitter. Right: A screenshot of the now deleted @alfromnw Twitter account.
Arboleda, who has a child attending daycare through New West Schools, has confirmed to The Anchor that Beattie has yet to reach out personally to apologize to her or to her husband, James Plett.
Things actually began a few hours before the 7pm meeting, as chair Maya Russell held a press availability outside the school board offices. She reiterated the board’s stance, saying it does not support Beattie’s actions. Beattie, who was not at last night’s meeting, is currently on a medical leave of absence that began once she made the admission.
What (could be) next?
When asked by The Anchor what would happen in the event that Beattie resigns from the board, Russell confirmed residents would need to return to the polls in a byelection. Russell—who also ran with Beattie under the Community First banner in the last election—doubled down during the scrum, where she noted that realistically, the only resolution to this event was for Beattie to resign—as the rest of the board had lost confidence in her.
“It’s our intention to [have a byelection happen] as soon as possible, so that we can have a full board that’s able to serve students, staff, and families,” she responded. “We think it’s important that there’s a full board serving them as soon as possible.”
New West Schools chair Maya Russell addresses media before the school board meeting on Tuesday, June 20. Brianna Reeve.
The School Act outlines the requirement for an odd number of board members: 3, 5, 7, or 9. If Beattie were to resign, the current roster of seven trustees would go down to six. As we reported in one of our previous articles, an individual trustee cannot be fired, unless specific circumstances are in play.
At the board meeting a few hours later, attendees spoke about the controversy, including the New West District and Parent Advisory Council’s (DPAC) Laura Kwong and CUPE 409 president Dave Bollen. Kwong underscored DPAC’s statement from the weekend, asking Beattie to resign—a point Bollen also called for.
In light of the admission from Dee Beattie to being behind the fake twitter account that has bullied members of our community, DPAC has prepared the following statement.
A downloadable pdf is available on our website
— New Westminster DPAC (@DpacNew)
Jun 18, 2023
Kwong, speaking on behalf of DPAC, said it was important to recognize the need for a fully functional New West school board in the event of Beattie’s resignation.
“Regarding the concerns of the costs of paying Mrs. Beattie’s salary while on leave versus the need for the costs of conducting a byelection, we offer this response: we recognize that the byelection costs are greater and would be borne by the district. This is a secondary concern to the principle at the heart of this matter,” said Kwong.
“The behaviour of Mrs. Beattie is not at all befitting that of a trustee, and we have no confidence in her ability to make good faith decisions and represent the best interest of the electorate. Continuing to pay her salary sends the message that we should accept this kind of bullying behaviour from our elected officials.”
Arboleda and Plett attended in person. They once again called for a third-party investigation into the school board’s culture.
Russell noted that there wouldn’t be any further investigations, saying the board had taken the strongest actions it could against Beattie.
Late Wednesday night, Community First said it would not take further action against Beattie either.
A screenshot from the Community First NW Facebook page. The post was shared in the 10pm hour on June 21, 2023. Community First.
“The matter is in the hands of the school board, and the party is confident that the school board is taking the required and appropriate steps. Out of respect for the integrity of the board’s process, the party will not be taking any further steps at this time.”
City councillor speaks at board meeting
Coun. Daniel Fontaine, who ran with the New West Progressives (NWP) in the last election, was accompanied by Paul Minhas; Minhas did not speak at Tuesday night’s board meeting. Fontaine made remarks during open presentations.
“I’m here representing myself this evening, as someone who was a recipient of some of the vile commentary from trustee Beattie. Let me first start by saying to you all that as elected officials I hope that we all join in… requesting that trustee Beattie does the right thing and that she resigns,” Fontaine said.
“We are all in elected office, and while we may not all agree on things… that’s fine, that’s absolutely acceptable. But the behaviour of Ms. Beattie went well beyond what I would consider normal political discourse,” he added, going on to highlight his own personal experiences of being bullied as a child.
“[In] public life, I can expect a certain level of criticism,” said Fontaine, “but what I do not expect is another elected official to take on a persona, to take on a whole other character, and attack me and other members of the school board, and other members of public office, and other members of the community.”
Along with Fontaine and Minhas, trustee Danielle Connelly, who also ran with the NWP, was a target of the Allan Whitterstone account.
Fontaine also took a moment to thank Arboleda and Plett, saying that their actions prevented “a lot of other people from being on the receiving end” of harassment. “I hope that trustee Beattie does the right thing,” said Fontaine, adding that he wanted to see other similar accounts shut down.
When asked by The Anchor why he chose to speak at the school board meeting, Fontaine cited a matter of principle, reiterating his experiences growing up.
A statement by NWP City Councillor Daniel Fontaine in reference to revelation that #newwest school trustee used fake Twitter account to attack opponents @riarenouf@j_mcelroy@fabulavancouver@juliemaclellan@richardzussman@JanetBrown980@VancouverSun@GlobalBC#bcpoli#sd40
— NWProgressives (@NWProgressives)
Jun 17, 2023
“For me this is beyond being political, this has a very personal connection in both that I was a recipient of Ms. Beattie’s attacks online… but secondly… from the time I grew up, from the time I entered into the public school system until close to my graduation period, I faced a barrage of bullying, physical bullying, mental abuse, a lot of attacks. And I grew up saying to myself that if I ever got to a position where I was in a position of power, or I did have, as an adult, the power to speak out against bullying, that I’d never be silent.”
On Saturday, Mayor Patrick Johnstone told The Anchor that he was disappointed to see what had transpired, noting in his opinion that it wasn’t helpful for mayor or council to get involved, and that he wasn’t sure what he and council could offer in light of the revelations.
“I think it’s a little challenging for me to say that this… whole use of this Twitter account, which targeted two members of city council, is solely a school board issue, because if it was a school board issue, then Coun. Minhas and I wouldn’t have been on the receiving end of tweets from Ms. Beattie,” said Fontaine. “Clearly she had targeted us, and we’re members of city council, so… I think it’s just a tad disingenuous to say there’s no connection between the school board and what happened at council, because two members of council were targeted.”
Repeating what he asked for on Tuesday night, Fontaine said a third-party investigation was integral, and that calling for Beattie’s resignation was, in his opinion, not the strongest position the board could take.
“I do not want this to be ‘cased closed and let’s move on.’ There [are] a lot of questions that remain unanswered, and I want to make sure that everyone, through an independent investigation, [is] asked whether or not they were aware of Ms. Beattie’s account. If they were aware, did they bring it to the appropriate authority’s attention? There’s a lot of questions that remain, and I’m hoping nobody was involved, but we will never know that unless there is an independent investigation that takes place.”
As was the case with Arboleda and Plett, Fontaine confirmed he and Minhas have not received any kind of apology from Beattie.
"Ms. Beattie has not reached out to me and I spoke to Coun. Minhas… and he had not been the recipient of an apology. I’m assuming the response that trustee Beattie gave to [The Anchor], in her mind would suffice, because she does speak in general terms in terms of apologizing.”
The full text of the statement provided to New West Anchor by Dee Beattie. The statement was sent on Friday, June 16. Ria Renouf.
As for Arboleda, she’s since tweeted another thread, adding she was hoping to put the Twitter saga behind her for a while.
“First, I want to say again that I thank the school board for taking the strongest possible action available to them by asking for Dee Beattie to resign (and acknowledging that doing so would trigger a costly and time consuming [but necessary] by-election). I also want to thank [Maya Russell] for her sober, compassionate tone throughout. This is the kind of meeting that had every possibility of getting heated, contentious and defensive. And a thank you to all Trustees who clearly listened and shared their thoughts on this,” Arboleda said in consecutive tweets—adding later that her call for an independent investigation still stood.
What then transpired in meetings was (from my perception) a culture of stonewalling and silencing that was equally troubling. It is for that reason that my call for a third-party investigation stands. Though I understand that the board has made their thoughts on that known.
— Sarah Siegel (She/Her) (@NewWestSarah)
Jun 21, 2023
New West Anchor has reached out to Beattie by email to ask whether she’s been in touch with Arboleda and/or Plett regarding an apology. The Anchor has also asked about the remarks from various members of the community calling for her resignation. The Anchor did not hear back by deadline.
The board has completed its meetings for the 2022-23 school year, and the next meeting will be in September.