Layoffs loom as school year nears end

The 2016-2017 Kamloops-Thompson school district budget has been approved

By Dale Bass

Kamloops This Week

The 2016-2017 Kamloops-Thompson school district budget has been approved — and it will result in 15 teaching positions being axed at the end of the school year.

And, while funds from the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) will likely be used in the fall to save those jobs, neither the board of education chairwoman, nor the president of the local teachers’ union, believe money from the fund is intended for that use.

David Komljenovic, president of the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association (KTTA), said in practical terms, the 15 full-time-equivalent teaching positions on the chopping block would involve up to 10 teachers.

Both sides are working to reduce that number, said board of education chairwoman Denise Harper, and both anticipate using LIF money to return teachers to classrooms in the fall, when classroom composition dictates more staff are required.

Because class composition changes annually, using LIF money would create temporary jobs for those laid off.

When it was announced, the Learning Improvement Fund was identified as money districts could use to hire additional teachers and special-education assistants, provide additional teaching time and support professional development and training to help teachers meet complex needs in their classroom.

Komljenovic wants to see the district use some of its professional-development fund — about $200,000 of it has not been used — to help retain teaching positions.

He said discussions with administration showed money is earmarked for the coming year, but specifics were not provided on how it would be used.

Supt. Karl deBruijn, however, disputed the claim, saying the KTTA knows the money is required to pay for teachers on call to come in so other teachers can attend workshops and training.

He said it is also used to provide in-service training, upgrading and certifications for other school district staff.

The KTTA also suggested the board consider an early retirement incentive plan that might lead to more long-term teachers opting to leave the profession.

In a response letter to the union, board finance and planning committee chairwoman Kathleen Karpuk noted when they have offered such plans in the past, it did not increase the number of retires.

Instead, she wrote, it “only paid additional money to teachers already committed to retire and the district does not see this as a good use of scarce resources.”