SD73 vents frustration in letters to government

The Kamloops-Thompson school board has not minced words with its frustration

By Dale Bass

Kamloops This Week

The Kamloops-Thompson school board has not minced words with its frustration at being asked again by Victoria to cut administrative costs for the 2016-2017 school year.

The Ministry of Education has ordered all school districts to cut expenses by specific amounts.

Last year, it was about $786,000 in Kamloops-Thompson. This year, a similar amount had to be removed.

Last month, after outgoing Supt. Karl deBruijn said School District 73 “is getting punished” because other districts have not made the type of cuts it has, board of education chairwoman Denise Harper sent letters to the provincial government expressing concern.

Harper noted in her letter several decisions SD73 has made in the past 15 years to reduce the cost of providing an education in the region:

• Since 2001-2002, strategy to target cost-effective energy upgrades has resulted in the district now avoiding $1.3 million in utility costs annually;

• Closure of 13 under-utilized schools resulting in the greater efficiency and the ability to direct funds back into the classroom in the form of additional staff and specialist teachers;

• School-based budgeting that encourages efficiency and long-term planning at the school level;

• Closure of a 14th school scheduled for September;

• Further utility savings;

• Savings from new disability and attendance-management position;

Harper asked the ministry to consult with district staff before introducing measures such as administration cuts.

A reply from deputy ministry Dave Byng acknowledged the steps taken by SD73 to cut costs, but he pointed to the cost of providing education and a belief “the savings expectations are reasonable, realistic and similar to what the province has seen in the health and post-secondary sectors.”

Harper sent a similar letter to Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone.

“It is only a matter of time before we lose more staff to other sectors that pay a more competitive wage than K-12 or we may lose them due to stress, illness or frustration,” Harper wrote.

“As this is a province-wide issue, every other district in the province will be facing the same staffing challenges. Attracting qualified replacements of the same calibre as our current senior staff will be very challenging.”

Stone’s reply acknowledged the “leadership you and your colleagues have demonstrated through the innovative, creative and, at times, difficult decisions you have made” and thanked them for their work.

He added he will continue “to advocate on behalf of my constituents and, most importantly, our students and parents, for increased and stable funding for our public-education system . . .”