Diary of a Mad Trustee-September 16th 2009 Open Board Meeting

 

 

Our Trustee Eden

 

 

Principiis Obsta…Finem Respice

Resist the Beginning…Consider the End

 It comes in many forms – the tactics for ‘shock and awe’ used to convince us ‘drastic action’ and ‘major restructuring’ are in order. Sometimes it is bombastic and hysterical like the harangue we were all subjected to back in 2006 by Dr Rubadeau; sometimes it is quiet and reserved.

To that end at this meeting – we had a gratifyingly short presentation from our Secretary Treasurer which could basically have been much shorter if he had just turned off the power point and told us we were all buggered and not in a nice way either. I am attaching it for your interest but I would draw your attention to the chart on page six which shows expenditures and expected revenue from the government – see that nice green line tumbling downward – well by 2014/2015 it falls just a hair above the expenditures for district admin and cuts off where functions 5 and 7– also known as maintenance and transportation- linger hopefully. I think we all get the hint – we just won’t have a public provision for those items. In addition there was a definitive motion from senior admin (see pages 2 and 3 of the same doc) recommending ‘budget amendments’ in order to fund more teaching and EA time to compensate for the continuing habit of underestimating our enrolment. Just for the record – ‘budget amendments’ is crapspeak for more cuts – this is not just a revision of our budget, it will be a substantial reduction in some programs and services. This is all about enrolment declines we are told (The temporary dip in enrolment in BC totals 6% of students since 2002). But we are also warned impatiently by our government there is plenty of funding- it has merely been adjusted to reflect the fact that there are fewer kids in the seats. But if that is true then answer me this, you guys at the ministry – If this is in fact a response to declining enrolment, then why have we experienced such a sharp corrosion in conditions and why are we projecting this trend to continue unabated?

At this board meeting the word ‘emergency’ reared it nasty noggin. It was not linguistic mischief which prompted the motion asking trustees to support a request for ‘emergency start up funds’ from the ministry to address a whole host of inadequacies and outrages dogging our learning and working conditions and threatening the wellbeing of our kids and our employees. Ultimately I had to abandon the word ‘emergency’ for ‘immediate’ to secure the motion’s success –however if the current situation in our schools is not an emergency I don’t wish to be around for one.

  The motion passed and we now can send off our hopeful little litany of horrifying shortfalls. I have boiled them down to this but frankly it is just for the purpose of addressing an uncaring ministry:

‘Emergency’ funds needed under the following designations:

Reinvest in class room supports with more teaching and EA time (the lost positions from the last budget and then some) reflecting the language in Bill 33, as well as learning assistance, counselling and library supports.

Restore clerical time to previous levels to continue to provide safety, engagement with families, valued support for teachers and other support staff as well as services such as transportation, protect private documents and avoid collective agreement infractions – including training for people in new positions. This includes the clerical/reception position in the Resource Centre.

Funding for increased custodial time to alleviate the danger of illness from H1N1 and other sources of sickness.

Restoration of funds to continue with facilities upgrades– the Connelly report refers continuously to the need for planning in raising the condition of our facilities and yet we are now faced with the loss of the very funds which allow us to tend to our schools.

Recovery of any funds lost due to increases in MSP payments-it is not a huge sum but over one year this amounts to about $42,000.

Funding to cover off the reduction in PAC funds from gaming money – we could for instance seek funds to provide bussing for field trips so that these enriching experiences do not suffer as a result. With 10 PACs reporting – almost half spent more than $15,000 on classroom needs –including class room supplies, library books, gym equipment, school events, bus trips, musical instruments and meal programs all of which are part of a rounded education and should be funded by our ministry. With the gaming money gone the PACs will either have to rouse their over worked parents to raise more funds locally or they will have to abandon their support for things like field trips to focus on core needs they never should have been responsible for in the first place – obviously the elevating experiences of extra curricular trips and projects will suffer.

Funding to live up to commitments to the Aboriginal community concerning  fully embedded Hwulmuhw language and culture programs in classrooms, improvements in general learning/transition and graduation for aboriginal students and equitable hiring of aboriginal teachers and other staff- downward pressures brought on by underfunding for classroom supports amplify the already increased disadvantage  for  native students and their success. Ongoing cuts to personnel place difficulty on the hiring of native teachers etc.

Funding to increase and sustain assessments of students. We have a crisis in our ability to assess students to determine needs – few students our teachers recognise as needing evaluation to secure more support receive this service. A class may have 5 IEP’s and little or no support but the reality is there will be 5 more that should be evaluated for IEPs based on behaviour and academic challenges teachers are aware of .  Additional assessment is critical to allow students to even be placed on a wait list for the learning assessment program which can transform a child’s learning prospects in just 8 short weeks.

Give us back our week of instruction – the disruption to learning extending the spring break will produce along with the loss of income for our least well remunerated employees due to budget rationales is shameful.

 

As you will have heard by now, the minister would rather stick pins in her own eyes than meet with our board so the motion requesting ‘immediate’ funding relief was followed by another recommendation urging our board to simply establish a time and date to travel to the minister’s office, give a heads up about our looming arrival and just motor on down (not actual wording sadly). The worst that could happen is – we will stand there awhile and she just won’t cave and allow an audience– as long as I can dart to washrooms across the lawn at the museum I know I can survive the ordeal but for now this is a ‘no go’ – too protesty apparently and not professional. I am of course much too polite to point out that 5 of us thought passing the last budget was a good idea. Now we are reduced to making noises of shock and distress at all this unintended misfortune. It is important to remember this; by passing the last budget all the impacts we are currently experiencing were completely predictable. Even the revoking of the AFG was not wholly unexpected. Community may wish to remind us as a board when we pass these budgets the outcome is a forgone conclusion – and by the time the cuts are being implemented it is too late to effectively reverse the inevitable result. All we can do now is seek more funding under impossible circumstances. Well …not impossible just improbable

My question is what are we going to do now or rather what are senior admin going to recommend we do?  Will we now be subjected to the optic of managers and administrators rabbiting on about pragmatic steps to meet the fiscal rigours of the ministry – but wait – there never seems to be any discussion about one area of serious high grade outgoings-the salaries of our senior admin and the various managers who function in the district. We can ask EA’s to do the impossible every single day and put in time for no pay, we can insist teachers cope as best they can with increasingly unendurable conditions, we can ask parents to fundraise until their ears bleed, and we can ask our kids to muddle through since there is an economic crisis that disallows their needs and rubbishes their services and programs. Oh – and just for effect we can put on hold the worthy ambitions of the aboriginal communities for expanding Hwulmuhw (Native) language and cultural programs, increasing educational supports for Hwulmuhw students and families and establishing equal hiring practices in all school district occupations.

But heaven forefend we have a good long look at the high and the mighty. These people set the agenda which always targets classroom supports, bussing services as well as the care and cleanliness of our schools. I am favouring a new game of tag where those who enjoy the best compensations are ‘it’ for a change. The ‘budget amendments’ referred to in the power point I have supplied will no doubt involve another round of bleeding for our programs and services – after all who can argue with money to hire more teaching and EA time to reach the minimal standards set down by the ministry. But – the debate regarding the precise areas this ‘savings’ will originate from should turn its guns on the huge block of cash we pay out for administration. After all, these people have not actively opposed the government’s poverty and humiliation program for our education system. They are just doing their jobs – nothing personal you understand .Why should they remain untouched as they insist it is inevitable our hopes and dreams for our kids are unrealistic?

I know – I have asked to go to the minister. You and I know this is a fool’s errand. The Chinese have a proverb- ‘Seek no cure from the gods of plague’-there is no cure from a ministry which has set its agenda on winding public education down to a minimum service. Believe me they already know what we are telling them because they have made it happen. But let’s do it anyway – because when we speak to them we are really building awareness and increasing our sum of solidarity. At the risk of sounding ‘protesty’ –trustees have a sacred obligation to lead their communities in fending off this assault; to petition, demand, present, assemble and never stop seeking for our kid and employees.  

As the Talmud wisely tells us –“Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.”

Your trustee Pal

Eden

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