The Kootenay Lake school board will send a conciliatory letter to the British Columbia School Trustees Association after being one of two districts not to renew their membership last summer.
Recently representatives from the provincial association travelled to the Kootenays to attempt to address the local board’s concerns. Chair Lenora Trenaman said the meeting was a productive step in the right direction.
“We had a very interesting conversation. They want us back,” she said. “We heard explanations for processes they were involved in at the provincial level, and they tried to tell us why they took the stances and made some of the decisions they did.”
However, they haven’t quite been wooed back yet.
“We’re going to ask follow-up questions about the dialogue we had at the meeting two weeks ago. From that conversation we determined what questions we need to follow up on,” Trenaman said.
One issue is the potential $40,000 cost that would come if they were forced to pay their 2014/15 fees to rejoin the association.
Trenaman said that would be a significant financial hurdle to the reconciliation process.
Association president Teresa Rezansoff, who chairs the Boundary school district, told the Star on Tuesday she wasn’t certain whether the board will be required to pay the fees.
“I just received that clarifying question from the board last night, and we’re looking into what the options and ramifications are for re-joining.”
She said the association values the district, particularly because of its reputation for adding diversity to the educational conversation.
“It’s back and forths like this that provide for a rich discussion. We also recognize every board in the province has autonomy and a right to their own views, and we respect that. We think it’s important.”
Rezansoff said though the Kootenay Lake district has expressed concerns about the provincial association not fulfilling its advocacy role, they are committed to changing that perception.
“We are 111 years old this year. We’ll never change that we advocate for what our members want.”
She said the association’s influence is greater if they cultivate a respectful relationship with the government. In travelling to meet with the board, she believes the two groups have come together in a meaningful way.
“For both of us, we gained a better understanding of what’s happened over the past few years.”
Meanwhile, newly elected trustee Curtis Bendig has put forward a notice of motion for the next board meeting. He told the Star on Monday he plans to urge the board to find a way to rejoin the provincial body.
“I’m not speaking for the board, I’m speaking for myself in terms of where I stand on this issue. I think it’s very important that our board and the people we represent have a strong voice at the provincial level, and the association is a good way to have that voice.”
Bendig said his intent is to “drive a conversation about our next steps regarding having our voice heard at the provincial level.”
Both Trenaman and Bendig noted the previous board had legitimate concerns about the association’s leadership, but they were both optimistic that could change.
Bendig said executive members and association president Theresa Rezansoff, who chairs the Boundary school district, were accommodating and forthcoming.
“There have been healthy conversations and some understanding gained. The members of their executive did come to our district to meet personally with our board. I feel like that was a significant outreach.”
Trenaman said she’s heard concerns that other school districts may leave the association, which wasn’t their intention.
“It was never our intent to see a domino effect of other school districts dropping off. But we know there are other boards concerned about their membership.”