Single trustee gets down to work

Mike McKay says he's becoming familiar with the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District

Mike McKay is the government appointed trustee for the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.

Mike McKay is the government appointed trustee for the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.

North Okanagan-Shuswap’s lone trustee is on the job.

Former Surrey School District superintendent Mike McKay was appointed by Education Minister Mike Bernier to replace the board, which was recently fired.

“This is a go-forward moment,” McKay said when asked about the board dismissal in a meeting with the media Monday.

“I am in the process about becoming informed about the school district and will be guided by the recommendations in (special advisor) Liz Watson’s report.”

McKay said he will be holding public board meetings, although conceded that his “board of one” will look different than a typical meeting. He will continue to discuss motions and offer a question period for the public.

He also intends to visit each of the communities in the district for consultation.

“I won’t pretend to represent the communities, but I am going to  be considering the issues and acting in the best interests of the education system and each child in it,” he said.

McKay says board decisions to defer school closures and conduct community consultation will remain in place until he has had an opportunity for a full review.

“There will be no surprises. I am committed to an open process.”

McKay was previously appointed as a special trustee in Cowichan when the board was dismissed in 2012.

The dismissal in North Okanagan-Shuswap comes in the the wake of a financial scandal where more than $10 million was transferred from the school district’s operating fund to pay for the costs of the new $9 million board office. At the same time, the board was cutting educational programs and considering school closures, citing a lack of operational funds.

Noah Ralston, a parent and teacher who discovered the capital transfers, says he’s uncomfortable about the replacement of an democratically elected board with a single trustee.

“I’m curious if Mr. McKay will be representing the people of this area or the government? If he’s come to establish a fresh start and get some new mechanisms in place, I think that could be a good thing. I’m trying to be hopeful that’s how it will work out,” said Ralston.

The District Parent Advisory Council called the dismissal of the board a necessary first step.

“Parents have been heard. The Watson report is comprehensive and accurately represents the concerns and dismay voiced by the vast majority of parents throughout the district,” said DPAC in an e-mail.

The group acknowledges some parents are nervous about a single ministry-appointed trustee overseeing the district until possibly the 2018 election.

“DPAC will continue to work diligently on behalf of students and parents ensuring your voices continue being heard.”