Diary of a Mad Trustee April 21st 2010 Open Board Meeting

Our Trustee Eden

Our Trustee Eden

Principiis Obsta…Finem Respice

Resist the Beginning…Consider the End

Tonight something rather quiet but significant happened. Very few people in the room would be aware and why would they? Sometimes you pass a policy or a revised policy and it all seems somewhat pedestrian. As was the 2nd and 3rd reading of our fully reworked Disposal of Land or Improvements- policy 2230.

 After almost 2 ½ years of proposals to amend the former version – marked by a complete absence of any requirement to confer with the public about the fate of closed schools- we now have a means to bring these matters to the communities affected by the decisions the board makes regarding these lands and buildings.

 I remember the first time I viewed the old policy and noted it contained a proviso pointing to a ‘public process’. The secretary treasurer of the time told us firmly these two words were fulfilled completely by placing ads in the real estate section of the papers – which- my dears- was the outside extension of ‘public process’ at the time. Open to interpretation, it fell to the mercy and inclinations of the board and administration, as they perceived it. Now – we have something which speaks clearly and defines ‘public process’ – it is not perfect and of course as always it can be modified by this board or another.

However – this is a victory all the same for keeping our public lands and buildings for collective, shared needs. It sets the bar a bit higher and the mark will be there as direction for the future. I urge all of you to keep an eye on this since there is little interest provincially in consistency – if the wind changes the legal requirements will also spin around and before you know it, this will permit the evisceration of the policy under the nose of community. Even when Victoria appears to submit to good sense in any matter you are always wondering what they are up to. Sad really…

No sooner had we accepted the policy this night then we commenced deciding the future of three schools we had closed over the years. Two of them have been tragically abandoned to the elements – Cowichan Station and Chemainus Elementary while the third- Elsie Miles- has been in harness as a day care facility serving the Shawnigan Lake community.

We looked at each school in turn and first decided none were needed for educational purposes and would not be required for educational purposes for ten years or more. This hurt a bit – but in order to have a hope of passing these places into community hands it seemed the wiser course. The only thing which soothed was the assurance we would be subjecting these places to the scrutiny of our neighbours before deciding how they should be used.

 The policy calls for an eight month consultation process, however due to the length of time these schools have been sitting without resolution, we were asked to consider waiving this requirement in each case.

 Due to the impressive level of community and local government engagement which the Cowichan Station folks have brought to the hopeful creation of a neighbourhood centre, we have now granted a 2 month period so they can proceed with their plans and possibly secure a grant with a timeline on it. In fact, in a happy accident they were there at the beginning of the meeting to present their plan to us – as usual impressive and practical. After all these years and in the shadow of closing their beloved school this was like returning something to that community they richly deserved. It ain’t a done deal yet but my money- if I had any- would be on them to make a ‘go’ of this.

  In the case of Elsie Miles, we have granted them a 4 month consultation process as there is in place a healthy prospect of a confirmed partnership with the CVRD. The Chemainus site will now proceed through the full requirement of 8 months – there has been a contingent of folks interested in developing some ideas for use but the community as a whole will need to be gathered to fully review all their wishes. It should be a promising discussion. My only real worry – the Chemainus Elementary school was, up to a short time ago, part of the parcel which includes the current Chemainus Secondary. The community there may wish under 4 (a) in the policy to carefully consider whether the land under the rather tattered old school would be useful as sports fields for the secondary school.

 Perhaps you remember in the last meeting we were able to meet the appeal made by one of our middle schools to add a small amount of education assistance time to their daily efforts and one trustee had wisely requested we receive details of other schools needing further staffing in this area. The information returned and we were able to parse off another $56000 to put 177.5 hours of EA time into our classrooms for the final two months of this school year. Right now, we still have $400,000 sitting in surplus – it should be emphasised all our funds are there to secure services for our kids not to balance next year’s budget. When did it become de rigour to hang on desperately to a rainy day fund when it is pouring everyday in Cowichan?

 As I reported last time, we now have a somewhat revised budget timeline due to the solemn message driven home by the partners on the district Finance Committee. That committee is no longer building the compliance budget – that work is now in the hands of the board –well one assumes that budget is already in the can and the trustees are cantering through the riding course anyway just to satisfy perceptions. The Finance Committee still has one important budget duty and this is to build the Student Success or Needs Budget.

 As matters stand – we will hope to have a substantial ‘needs’ budget in place for review by our community for the May 10th public meeting – this will allow our families and staff to reflect on the relative merits of giving in to government extremism or insisting our board deliver the real budget to the minister . I will include the updated meeting times at the bottom of this doc. Please value your presence at these meeting as much as some of your trustees do – you are our inspiration, our reason to work and in some cases an unnerving reminder of our real obligations.

 My sincerest admiration goes out to the students of this valley who spoke in a clear voice last Wednesday – bless them because they knew why they were there and buoyed up our efforts on their behalf.

 And shame on those who wave away their words with the usual excuses.

When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become. – Louis Pasteur

Your Trustee Pal


                              Come and Speak out

May 4th (Tuesday) 10 am to 12 noon – Special Finance Meeting in the board room at the School Board office in Cowichan to finalise the Student Success(Needs) Budget

May 5th(Wed.) starting at 6:30 pm – regular board meeting in the board room at the School Board office in Cowichan at which we will have the first reading of the draft compliance budget and hopefully the Student Success(Needs)Budget in the board room

May 10th (Mon) 7 pm – Public Meeting Quamichan Middle School in Cowichan for the presentation of the draft compliance and Student Success Budgets

May 12th (Wed.) – starting at 6:30 pm special board meeting in the board room at the School Board office in Cowichan for the 2nd reading of the draft budgets

May 19 (Wed.) – starting at 6:30 pm regular board meeting in the board room at the School Board office in Cowichan for the 3rd and final reading of the 2010/2011 budget ( the Student Success Budget will be hopefully read as a bylaw as well during this process but right now how and if this will happen is unclear)

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