Teachers’ rep grills board on school district budget

  • Apr. 16, 2010 6:00 a.m.

“What cuts are you making in the board office?” was the question Evelyn von Almassy asked repeatedly at the school district’s budget consultation meeting in Sandspit on April 14. Ms von Almassy, president of the Haida Gwaii Teachers’ Association, asked the question six times, and six times received the same answer from Ken Campbell, the school district’s secretary treasurer. “None”, he said, “we cut nothing because we did our work (making cuts in the board office) last year.” He also said there was no increase in spending in the board office either. The school district has to reduce its expenditures by $430,000 in the coming school year, and plans to do so by reducing teaching staff by two (saving $184,000), reducing special education assistants by three (saving $93,000), changing how the Port and Sandspit schools are administered (saving $40,000) and reducing groundskeeping (saving $27,000), among other things. “It’s not fair. Show me what you are doing in the board office. We have less in the schools. What are you doing in the board office. You can’t have this Holy Grail,” Ms von Almassy said.The teachers’ union president also suggested that trustees, who receive an honorarium of about $8,000 a year, consider reducing it. That prompted one trustee to note that she is being paid about 50-cents an hour. Ms von Almassy also asked the board to send a needs budget to Victoria, one that reflects what this district needs, not what the province is willing to fund. Mr. Campbell said the budget has to balance and Queen Charlotte trustee Christine Martynuik said “Nobody puts in a needs budget.all the boards have to live within our means.””I’ve worked in four school districts. We’re doing pretty good here, guys,” Mr. Campbell said, “.there are lots of districts that would love to have this.” His slide presentation included figures on the pupil/teacher ratio here, which is expected to be 14.78 next year, up from 13.96 this year, but lower than 15.7 three years ago. Some districts off-island, such as Prince Rupert, have a ratio over 15, while in Langley and Richmond the ratio is above 18.Then, Masset trustee Sharon Matthews reminded those attending that the budget is not adopted yet. “If you have a good suggestion, send it to the board,” she said, “this is the time.”The board will present the budget at its meeting on May 25, and then adopt it at its June meeting, on the 22nd. It has to be submitted to Victoria by the end of June. The meeting in Sandspit was third in a series of four consultation meetings, which wrapped up April 15 in Queen Charlotte. The board previously held meetings in Port Clements and Masset (reported in our April 8 edition).