Trustees preferable to provincial control

Letting provincial government call the shots instead of trustees would be putting students in our district on shaky ground.

Dissolving our local school board and letting our provincial government call the shots instead of trustees would be putting students in our district on shaky ground.

School District #83 trustee Debbie Evans recently commented on social media that she hoped the Ministry of Education would fire herself and fellow trustees who have yet to join Barry Chafe and Jenn Wilchuk in resigning, and then appoint a ministry trustee to run the district until the next election (see below).

This comment was made in response to the school district’s transferring of $10.5 million in operational surpluses to capital funding over the past five years with little to no transparency.

Evans later said the comment was written in frustration, and regretted having posted it. She noted if that were to happen, public consultation for such things as school closures would be eliminated – increasing the potential for school closures.

Though there may be some circumstances where school closures make sense for the greater good of all, we suspect the province might be less sensitive to the arguments of parents and the needs of students than locally elected board of trustees.

Fact of the matter is, the B.C. government’s primary concern is the bottom line. This is evident in how the province is funding Lower Mainland schools for seismic upgrading. To qualify, a school’s student population must be at least at 95 per cent capacity. To reach this rate, the Vancouver school board is considering 21 school closures. In response to a news story comparing Vancouver’s provincially imposed 95 per cent school utilization rate to the 80 per cent rate being considered for Calgary, the Ministry of Education stated, “Taxpayers want districts to make the best use of existing facilities before we invest millions of their tax dollars in new schools… It’s important to stick to the fundamental principles — controlling our spending, working to diversify our economy, balancing our budget, and controlling our debt.”

Note there’s no comment about the prioritization of student health and safety, let alone environments that are best conducive to optimal education outcomes.

It is clear this is a government resigned to closing public schools where and when possible to save a buck.  (Interestingly, it is also a government that is all too happy to subsidize private schools annually with millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars.)

Certainly change is needed in our school district to assure greater accountability and transparency to our students, parents, teaching staff, etc. A ministry appointed administrator isn’t the way to get there.