We had our monthly CAPE meeting at my place last night(May 25 2009) starting at 5 pm -well a few minutes after- we had to chat and fuss over the cats. We had 7 people there and those present gave new meaning to the term ‘quality over quantity’.
We acknowledged that the pressures this year that would need careful attention were school closure, the deterioration at the Lake and the cut in the school calendar. But ultimately it would all come back to the funding and the budget which is expected to become even more difficult if that can be imagined. We talked about the concern some support workers had regarding the diverting of the unfunded employee liability pay down to bussing – they can be assured as we were by the Sec/Treas. at the final budget meeting that there are ample funds (sick day benefits) for all those who are likely to retire in the near to medium future.
We started out by discussing the newly framed District Funding Sub Committee (see attachment for mandate) the board has created. We need a few of the spots on the committee filled – CUPE, DPAC and one more community member. I think we may have sorted the CUPE spot but the others are still to be dealt with .I f anyone out there would like to be involved let me know and I can redirect you. We discussed the prospect of doing some summer project work for this committee like researching the funding approaches in other jurisdictions as well as the strategies used to overcome the reluctance of government to properly fund public education.
I am including in italics a passage from the January 7, 2009 board report that gives a bit of comment on this new subcommittee for those who would like to know but don’t.
“In addition, the new board on this night has also voted to pass the following
We are now staffing out of our rapidly disappearing unrestricted surplus
We are experiencing troubling classroom conditions that cannot be rectified
with the funding we are receiving from the ministry
It is moved that:
The Board of Education recommends the creation of a board subcommittee
consisting of trustees and representatives from all the partner groups in order to
develop strategies to increase the level of public funding as outlined in the 9th
budget guiding principle.
This has been brought to the board on several occasions and actually
originated with the USW at the final meeting of the old finance committee early
in 2007- still peopled as it was with our community partners and had handily
been passed. This seemed a measured and wise recommendation – sure to
pass though the board without a flutter. However – it failed repeatedly and why?
Speculation – to avoid any substantiation of the grievous funding approaches
of the province, to keep the attention where the ministry wanted it to be – on
district inability to meet its rigorous demands for excellence despite making
such a poor commitment to resourcing the needs that would breed the
circumstances to permit these standards to be met successfully.
Well we have voted to build this committee which is a vote to build a more
organised and informed response to the funding priorities of Victoria. I am
looking forward to participating in designing the mandate and task list of this
subcommittee without fear and without restriction. So far so good…”
We discussed our own (as in CAPE’s) need to partner up with other groups and engage in a campaign around the budget that actually begins right away in the fall. Around the table we discussed an event to kick off the campaign that would be a workshop on the mechanics of budgets, followed up by a petition and other public work. One of our number mentioned the prospect of a board initiative to ask the Ministry for ‘Emergency Start-up Funds” in September- this would of course be a perfect partner with work in the community and draw attention again to the funding crisis as well as sustain the momentum we have built regarding this matter in Cowichan and elsewhere. It was mentioned that we need to raise some money in order to mount this campaign and we talked about our utter uselessness at raising money for CAPE. Maybe we should apply for a government grant.
We talked about the problems with delegations at the board meetings and the regularity with which they are being turned away. It was suggested that the policy (#1010-link http://www.sd79.bc.ca/policies/manual_subject_index.htm ) governing delegations and question period be revisited by board committee but perhaps it is also time that trustees talked openly about their expectations for the treatment of the public when they wish to address our board. We heard about the ongoing communication with the Ombudsman – particularly regarding the board refusing delegation status to several presenters over the last month or two. (a delegation from the custodians to discuss workload and cleanliness, another from the District Health and Safety Committee regarding employee morale and workload issues and two separate requests from the Friends of Cowichan kids about the final terms of the budget and the petition they collected.)
We always go around the table and ask for the ‘good of the order’ to hear from whoever attends what may be going on in their schools, staffing area or in their community. We were told that Kelsey is going to have much curtailed secretary time which will require changes in how the photocopying is handled (among other serious limitations to providing services to students) As the self directed program lives by photocopying material we are told this will result in chaos and increased workloads for teachers and support staff. We learned that at LCSS the Band program will be discontinued this fall and this will impact student enrolment as well as the quality of learning at the lake – so much for equal access to programs. We discussed the district health and safety committee and its lack of any real presence in the district or at the board table. We talked about some of the improvements in communications between labour and management in the district which should be a source of some satisfaction. We also heard from the Lake – and the recurring dismay over ABG – those who had the ear of the district (or were given the script to recite) drove the decision to can ABG in favour of pursuing a new large school. None of these people will have children in the lower grades if and when a new school is even begun. And as our dear friend has pointed out the Lake needs to sustain the educational locations it has left rather than allow them to evaporate while trolling for a new school which is unlikely to materialise.
We did have a light hearted chat about the FOCK petition and commented on the name which frankly I think is just fine and is now achieving some infamy they may wish to build on. One rather clever person suggested that the Friends of Cowichan Kids simply condense the FOCK to FCK and then embark on a recruitment drive that chimes – FCK – all that is missing is U.
All in all- the most critical matter that emerged (in my estimation) was the need to now prepare a campaign that hits the ground running this fall so we can actually build another stage in achieving a real community budget. With the various conversations and some discussion with other groups we can assemble a proposal (very simple) and move from there. This will involve a fall budget event, the wording of the petition along with a rationale for its approach, board strategy regarding motions and committee work, media work, public meetings. I will send out shortly a draft campaign proposal for your consideration.
We had a very pleasant (even if I say so myself but it was corroborated by the other diners) chicken chilli and home made bread along with pecan/chocolate cookies and fresh fruit. We drank enough tea to float a dreadnought through the Welland Canal.
Our next CAPE meeting will be held on June 15th @ 5 pm again in my fashionable drawing room.
Everyone within the sound of this email is welcome.
Vaya Con dios