Inside the Coast Mountains School District board room. (Jackie Lieuwen photo)

School district briefs: Stewart protests possible budget cuts

Key discussions from the Coast Mountains School District meeting April 24

The Coast Mountains School District board met with a packed agenda on April 24. Below is a summary of the discussions:

District of Stewart protests school budget cuts

Potential budget cuts proposed for next year could mean one less position at Bear Valley School in Stewart.

District of Stewart councillor Maureen Tarrant presented a letter on behalf of Mayor Gina McKay to the Coast Mountains School District 82 board, asking that the proposed cuts be reconsidered.

Bear Valley is the only K-12 rural school in the district, located three and a half hours away from Terrace. Currently, four teachers work full-time there, and losing a position would increase their workload to “an untenable situation,” Tarrant says.

Three letters protesting the funding reduction from industrial stakeholders in Stewart were also included. As local employers, they expressed concern the cuts would adversely affect the community. 

“If there are more cuts, the families that we do have, will be forced to leave,” reads one letter from Dan Soucie, president of Soucie Construction. “The education system in Stewart can’t afford any more reductions.”

The board thanked Tarrant for the presentation and will write a letter in response to the District of Stewart’s concerns.

Ministry’s new funding model causing concern

The Coast Mountain Teachers’ Federation (CMTF) is concerned the Ministry of Education’s funding model review would have a profound impact on students in the district.

“Instead of targeted funding based on designations [for students with special needs], the Ministry is proposing the prevalence model to determine the level of funding the school district will receive,” the letter from CMTF co-presidents Kim Meyer and Michael Wen.

This means instead of money being allocated to students based on their individual needs, the school district would receive the money in a lump sum and designate at their own discretion.

“This could pit program against program, school against school and family against family in order to ensure that adequate funding is received for perceived priorities,” wrote Meyer and Wen.

And because this new funding model is based on census data renewed every four years, CMTF argued it does not accurately reflect current enrollment and could result in less funding for students with special needs.

CMTF has asked the board for a time to meet and discuss the issue. The board agreed to write a letter in response to CMTF’s concerns at a later date.

Educational assistant teacher shortage

The board has agreed to write a letter to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and Family Development to make sure the district will receive a portion of federal funding to recruit qualified educational assistants.

There is currently an “immediate” shortage and trustee Margaret Warcup describes recruitment as an “increasing challenge”. She says although the province recently announced $6.3 million for ECE professional development training, Warcup wants assurance that this funding will go to communities within the district.

READ MORE: School district scrambles to fill vacant teaching spots

Underspent Aboriginal Education Fund budget carried forward

CMSD 82 underspent the $234, 076 given by the Ministry of Education for the 2017/2018 school year, resulting in that money being carried forward for the 2018/2019 budget.

This funding was for salaries and benefits for Indigenous language and culture teachers, honoraria for elders and community experts, to purchase materials to support instruction, and student transportation costs.

The district says it did not use the full amount because it could not find someone to hire as a language and culture teacher for both Kitwanga Elementary and Terrace schools “after several attempts.”

Research into an Indigenous language and reading program for Hazelton Secondary School is also ongoing.

The money was spent on salaries and benefits for language and cultural teachers, honoraria for elders, and student transportation, among other items.

Trustees get pay hike

In lieu of the federal government’s decision to make the full amount for school board trustee remuneration taxable, the school board approved a recommendation that would result in a pay increase for the school board chairperson, vice chairperson, and trustees.

Previously school board officials received one-third of remuneration tax-free to offset some expenses as part of their job. As of January 1, 2019, the board chairperson would receive a $3,099 pay increase, from $14, 661 to $17,760 annually. The vice-chairperson would get $15,443, up from $12,749, and a school board trustee would receive $13,899, up from $11,474.

This remuneration will be reviewed annually in February and is tied to the B.C. Consumer Price Index.

Student work experience program

The district school board is introducing a new student work experience program.

The program was adopted during the April 24 meeting. It’s aimed at providing students with opportunities to observe or learn about any occupation or career they’re interested in with both paid and unpaid work experience. Students must be at least 15 years and older to participate.

READ MORE: Coast Mountains School District runs mobile trades program

Indigenous voices added to budget committee

Two First Nations representatives have been added to the school district’s budget working committee. The committee helps develop the budget, provide advice on issues, and assist with communication among others.

Students to visit Vietnam, British Isles

The board approved plans for international school trips for spring break in 2020 and 2021.

French immersion students in Grades 10-12 from Caledonia, Hazelton and Mount Elizabeth Secondary Schools will be going on a trip to Vietnam during spring break 2020.

Caledonia Secondary School has also chosen the British Isles for its spring break field trip in 2021.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

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