Trustees from Kootenay Lake school district met with the Ministry of Education while in Vancouver last weekend.
But they didn’t spend the entire time discussing “the elephant in the room,” said newly elected board chair Rebecca Huscroft.
As the board struggled to find funds to pay for CUPE wage hikes and became the only district in the province to hold out on approving a savings plan, they didn’t hear from the Minister of Education.
They knew Minister Peter Fassbender wouldn’t be present at the meeting and decided not to bring up a discussion best had with the education leader.
“We weren’t going to address the savings plan at that point. In all honesty, they couldn’t answer our questions… The response would have been ‘we’ll take your concerns back.’ We weren’t responded to in our letters previously and we didn’t want to be faced with the same frustration,” said Huscroft.
Kootenay Lake was one of about a dozen districts who met with the ministry’s Mike Roberts and Joel Palmer, capital management branch. Local trustees and Superintendent Jeff Jones were present. They did bring up the savings plan at the very end of the meeting but other items took precedence.
Beyond CUPE contract negotiations are BC Teachers Federation wage negotiations and already this March, support workers start negotiating on their next contract. Kootenay Lake wanted to know how this would be funded.
CUPE wage hikes were funded under the capital gains mandate that is no longer active.
“They rest assured we would be funded by the ministry for any wage increases in the future,” Huscroft said. “That is good news but in the same breath you take it with a grain of salt. Things change.”
The Trafalgar middle school rebuild was also on the agenda and the group was told there is no money for capital projects aside from their seismic mitigation program.
“They were very clear,” said Huscroft. “Don’t get your hopes up, there’s no new money in the province and this current government is all about balancing its budget so basically, keep wishing.”
Huscroft said Palmer is familiar with the state of the aging school and understands the need, however.
Huscroft was chosen by acclamation to be the Chair of SD8 at Tuesday’s board meeting in Creston. A trustee for two years from Creston, she moves over from the role of vice chair and replaces outgoing Mel Joy who served in the role for three years.
“I had given it some considerable thought and felt like I was ready for the challenge,” she said.