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Teachers demand fewer trustees on North Okanagan-Shuswap school board

tracy hughes

Black Press

In an environment where the government is asking teachers to do more with less,the president of the North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers’ Association is suggesting the school board do the same.

Lynda Bennett has asked the school board to consider the reduction in the number of board trustees from nine to seven.

She cites declining student enrolment and the fact that the majority of school boards in the province are made up of seven trustees.

In B.C., eight school districts have boards with nine trustees, 43 districts have seven trustees and nine districts have only five-trustee boards.

While the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is one of the larger districts in terms of geographical area, Bennett points out that one trustee’s area includes only one school, North Shuswap Elementary, while another’s has only two schools – Sorrento Elementary and Carlin Elementary-Middle School.

Bennett suggests these two areas could easily be combined, as well as possibly dividing up the Ranchero and Falkland area to eliminate a second trustee.

Based on a trustee stipend of $9,800 per year, cutting the board by two trustees would save $19,600. Trustees also claim expenses, but this figure would likely not change, as the remaining trustees would shoulder the workload.

School board chairperson Bobbi Johnson says this issue has been considered in the past, but cutting trustee positions has not proven popular.

“The communities want to keep their trustees.”

Johnson says the workload shouldered by the trustees isn’t just about a geographical area.

“The trustees from some of these areas can be some of the hardest working trustees, sit on many committees and do a lot of work for the district as a whole.”

Bennett says the issue came to her attention during discussions on raising remuneration for trustees, as they are among the lowest paid in the province.

Rather than allocate more, Bennett suggests using the money saved from cutting two trustees to bolster the salaries of the remaining seven. This would be consistent with the government’s net zero mandate that teachers are being asked to accept.

“Teachers are being told that for two years they need to take zero and then, for two more years, the equivalent of zero. We are told to do more and more with less and less. If this is a difficulty for our trustees, perhaps they can rethink their position on this latest round of bargaining.”

Johnson says the issue will come before the board for consideration in September. The earliest the reduction could take place would be after the next municipal election in 2014.

 

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