The Kootenay Lake School District has opted not to renew its membership with the British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA), making it one of two districts in the province to do so.
“We had been dissatisfied with the whole association for quite some time. It had been building for about 18 months, and this wasn’t something we took lightly. It was definitely not an easy decision,” said outgoing board chair Rebecca Huscroft, noting that Vancouver was the first district to withdraw.
When their membership came due in July, the board made the decision not to renew. Huscroft said that though the BCSTA has traditionally been a voice for all the trustees in the province, a recent shift in mandate saw the association shift from an advocacy to a co-governance role.
“We’re not opposed to co-governance, but we believe advocacy is about asking questions and gathering input. They don’t have to be the official opposition, but they should represent the body,” she said.
“We don’t mean asking opinions of every one of the 500 members, but there’s only 60 chairs in the whole province. With today’s technology, it’s pretty simple to send out a question, a survey, anything.”
According to Huscroft, that simply wasn’t happening.
The initial dissatisfaction was the result of the dismantling of the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) board during the summer of 2013.
“That’s our bargaining body. We weren’t consulted over that summer. The Ministry of Education came in and said `we’re going to do this’ and then it happened,” she said.
Before the dismantling, Mel Joy had sat on the BCPSEA board.
Huscroft said ideally the BCSTA should give the Kootenay Lake School District a voice and some influence within the current government. They realized this wasn’t the case when the controversial $40 per day payment to parents was proposed during the teacher’s strike.
“That was our proof that the organization has no influence with the current government. Our only response was to say `we’re disappointed’ and we were told to start a letter-writing campaign,” she said.
“But with our current minister (Peter Fassbender), I don’t know if the letters are sent straight to the shredder or what, but we know that letter campaigns don’t work.”
She said their concerns about the proposed payment plan fell on deaf ears, and the BCSTA didn’t help.
“That was a position our association could’ve taken. That should’ve been a direct link. There’s a great example of them not advocating, and that cost the district a lot of money,” she said.
“If we were supposed to be living in this model of co-governance, we should have been able to sit down and say ‘there’s a better way’. As an association, we weren’t given that opportunity.”
The district also butted heads with the government over a proposed CUPE spending plan.
“The year before the government came forward and said `pay for this savings plan’ and the whole province united and said `No’…This time, when it came through in 2013, they said okay, but they weren’t happy about it. We were the only ones to say no, and that put us in quite a bit of hot water,” she said.
The executive of the BCSTA met with the Kootenay Lake School District in September to find out how they might convince them to rejoin the fold, and though the meeting went well, Huscroft said they stand by their decision.
“They want us to change our minds and come back. I know it’s been a bit confusing for the newly elected trustees, who I’m sure would like to be a part of the association. But I think it’s going to take a bit of time. A change of the executive might help,” she said.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the situation we’re currently in.”
She said their current exclusion from the association will not have a significant impact on day-to-day operations, though they’re waiting to find out what kind of legal costs they might incur that were formerly covered by the BCSTA.