Trustees to consider downsizing

School trustees pass a motion to review the number of trustees with the idea of moving from nine to seven.

Before the last municipal election, the school board rejected plans to cut their numbers and reorganize the electoral boundaries.

But the issue is now making a reappearance at the board table.

At the March 8 school board meeting, trustees passed a motion to review the number of trustees with the idea of moving from nine trustees to seven.

“We’ve talked about it many times in the past,” commented trustee Michel Saab. “Lets commit to the process and then figure out how.”

At nine, the School District #83 board is among the largest in the province, with much larger school districts like Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton all having seven trustees.

There is also a significant disparity in board representation, which is, according to the School Act, supposed to operate on a representation by population basis.

Currently the Salmon Arm area represents 50 per cent of the student population, and has two trustee positions on the board. The North Shuswap area represents one school of 88 students, but has one trustee on the board.

It was noted the process to revise the board can be lengthy and involved the Ministry of Education, therefore it would need to begin in order to have and changes made before the 2018 municipal election.

A staff report was commissioned the last time this was considered and the board presented two potential options of trustee reductions. The first option was to combine the Enderby and Sicamous regions, the Carlin/Sorrento area with the North Shuswap, and remove a trustee from Armstrong.

The second was to remove one trustee from from the Armstrong/Spallumcheen area and the Salmon Arm area.

By cutting two trustees the district would save approximately $25,000 a year.

It is not known if the school board will simply reconsider the previous options or will study and come up with entirely different proposals this time. Trustee Chris Coers suggested the public be asked an open-ended question about what they envision the electoral areas should look like.

“I don’t think we should limit people to just one or two options. What do people think it should look like?”

While Trustee Larissa Lutjen, who represents the North Shuswap, suggested the school district wait until closer to the next election, other trustees noted there are a number of steps for the school district to take.

“We need to start this process sooner, rather than later,” said board chair Bobbi Johnson.

 

The motion passed with Lutjen and Armstrong trustee Bob Fowler opposed.