Parents call for New West school trustees to resignJanuary 20, 2014
Conflict between the New Westminster board of education and its parent community has been all too common during the past decade.
But last week, parents at the district’s only high school upped the ante by calling on the seven trustees to take responsibility for years of budget deficits by resigning and handing the reins to the B.C. Education Ministry. They also want the ministry to consider merging New Westminster district with Burnaby, its more stable neighbor.
Those motions were passed at a PAC meeting Thursday by dozens of parents angry about massive cuts to New Westminster secondary’s operating budget and anxious about the school’s future. They said they’ve lost trust in the board.
If the board were in control of a company, it would be fired and possibly sued, PAC president Stephen Bruyneel told The Early Edition on CBC Radio.
But the ministry has indicated it has no interest in getting involved in the board’s business.
“The ministry supports the efforts being made by the New Westminster board of education to manage resources, eliminate the deficit and minimize any impacts on students, staff and parents,” the ministry said in a statement to the New Westminster NewsLeader.
Jonina Campbell, a first-term trustee who was elected chairwoman last month, told The Early Edition she understands parents’ frustration and believes the board has done a poor job of communicating. For example, she said the drop in NWSS’s operating budget is partly a result of certain items being moved from the school budget into the district budget.
Interviewed Monday, Campbell acknowledged the financial struggles of past years – mentioning, in particular, the “surprise” deficit at the end of 2011-12 that required in deep cuts – but said the board is determined to balance its next budget and rebuild trust with parents.
For starters, it will conduct broad consultations with parents about the 2014-15 budget, she said, beginning Jan. 29 at Queen Elizabeth community school and continuing into February and March. (While many board complain that the province provides inadequate funding for education, all but a small handful balance their budgets each year.)
Whether the board will be successful in rebuilding trust before the municipal election this fall remains to be seen. Some parents are already talking about the need to find new trustee candidates in the hope of changing the board’s make-up, but that’s easier said than done.
What could have a greater impact in New Westminster are discussions now underway about trustee conflict of interest. The B.C. School Trustees’ Association (BCSTA) formed a working group recently to consider whether changes are needed to conflict-of-interest rules, given that the government is expected to introduce changes this spring to provincial bargaining.
BCCPAC will undoubtedly be watching to see if that working group considers a resolution passed by its members last year calling for school board employees to be disqualified from serving as trustees in any district (as is the law in Alberta and Ontario).
B.C. only prohibits school board employees from serving as trustees in their own district. Three of the New Westminster trustees are teachers in other districts: Campbell (Richmond), vice-chair Michael Ewen (Surrey) and David Phelan (Coquitlam).
In the midst of the latest furore, the district is searching for a new superintendent to replace John Woudzia, who is departing at the end of the month to take a position with Vancouver Community College.
The province’s new executive search service for school districts, GoFutures Human Resources, is charged with finding Woudzia’s successor, and principal consultant Ron Pound has indicated he wants to talk to PAC and DPAC chairs about his assignment later this month.
Photo credit: Royal City Record
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and the information presented here does not represent in any way the views of the organization.