The Coast Mountains School District 82 board held its first public meeting of the new school year Wednesday, Sept. 25.
This was the first public board meeting attended by interim superintendent Janet Meyer. Kiran Bath, acting director of human resources, and Geraldine Lawlor, director of instruction, graduation and innovation, were also introduced.
District financial statements audit
The audit of financial statements from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2019 was adopted by the trustees. The board received the district’s audited financial statements from accounting firm Carlyle Shepard & Co.
The biggest expense for the district is payroll at $48.6 million.
Questions about admin changes
Following the one-year transition plan announced after protest and demands for transparency around the demotion of three district administrators last spring, three members of the public and a teacher at Suwilaawks school voiced their concerns to the board going into the new school year.
“I stand here today as an exhausted teacher. As a teacher who lost all of June, all of May, all of April. As a teacher who lost all of July,” says teacher Cathy Kennedy. Suwilaawks principal Pam Kawinsky was one of the administrators affected.
“There hasn’t been any acknowledgement other than ‘You can go back to your school’ to the people who lead in our schools… I don’t know if this board respects the person that I work with. How does this district move forward in a trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed manner so I feel respected, and cared for, in the workplace?”
Three people also spoke to reiterate the need for more transparency from the district around the administrative changes.
Board chair Shar McCrory says the board continues to hear these concerns and they understand the challenges. McCrory says the district will proceed with a plan to move forward after independent consultant Dianne Turner completes her report next month.
Ministry responds to education assistant request
Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, wrote a letter in response to a request from SD82 highlighting recruitment and retention challenges with both education assistants and early childhood educators.
In the letter, Fleming mentioned recent actions by the province to spend $400 million annually on 4,000 new teaching positions and hire over 600 educational assistants.
“I know some long-standing hiring pressures remain in rural and remote areas, for that reason, the Ministry of Education is continuing to invest in analytics and to engage with the sector to address workforce needs to best support students,” the letter reads.
The board passed measures to increase the total annual remuneration of school board trustees by $17,918.
As of January, the board chairperson would make $17,760 a year, the vice-chairperson would make $15,443, and school trustees would make $13,899.
The changes were made in lieu of the federal government’s decision to make the full amount for school board trustee remuneration taxable, whereas before, one-third of rumination was tax-free to offset job-related expenses.
The revised policy did not pass unanimously however, with Thornhill trustee Sandy Watson voicing her opposition to the changes.
“It is $17,918 out of operating funds when we are already looking at, and have had to, ask programs to cut back. So we’re going to be asking them to cut back again due to this increase,” Watson says. “I also feel, personally, we should be assessing this on a yearly basis based on the Consumer Index. It should be coming to the board and not just automatic every year.”
New Indigenous languages coordinator
The board commented on the hiring of Colleen Austin as the new Indigenous Languages Revitalization Coordinator for the school district.
Austin’s goal is to build, develop and implement a five-year plan for Indigenous language revitalization for the four local Indigenous languages within the traditional boundaries of the school district.
Farm to School BC presentation
Margo Peill, Farm to School BC’s Northwest Regional community animator, gave a presentation to SD82 school trustees and interim superintendent about expanding their program to schools in the district.
The program seeks to empower and support schools and communities to build “vibrant sustainable regional food systems, develop student food literacy, and enhance school and community connectedness.” Program examples include workshops on how to make smoothies, grow microgreens, food preservation and gardening.
Currently, the program is funded with nine schools in Northwest B.C. in school districts 54 and 82.