School District #20 trustees voted yes on second reading of a bylaw which would effectively merge Castlegar Primary School and Twin Rivers Elementary School. Students would stay in each school as before, but the two would share administrative staff, PAC board and other administrative duties.
Any possibility of Castlegar Primary being shut down altogether was taken out of the process and trustees were left with the decision to either merge the schools or leave as is and make budget cuts in other areas. Third and final reading will take place at the regular open board meeting on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Trail Middle School.
There was only about 20 people in attendance at the open forum, which took place Wednesday (Feb. 13) night at Twin Rivers Elementary School, but those who were there were vocal with their displeasure at the direction of the board.
Mickey Kinakin, who spoke against the merging of the schools, was the only trustee to speak to the issue at the meeting. After Kinakin spoke, board chair Darrel Ganzert held the vote which went in favour of the merger. After the vote, Ganzert, along with SD20 superintendent Greg Luterbach, asked questions from the crowd which were uniformly against the possible merger and potential loss of Castlegar Primary principal Kere McGregor.
“We’ll be losing our principal and they’ll be reinstating a vice-principal at a half-time position at our school,” said Leanne Osokin, president of the Castlegar Primary parents advisory committee (PAC). “They’ve already tried that in previous years (to put a vice-principal in Castlegar Primary) and each time that person has advocated that they are doing the work of a principal in that school, because it’s a stand alone school and that position needs to be a principalship not a vice-principal.”
Osokin was one of about a dozen parents from the Castlegar Primary PAC who attended the meeting. The parents were hoping to get more answers from the trustees but were disappointed with the brevity of the voting procedure which took less than 10 minutes.
“I’m disgusted by the process, quite frankly,” said Osokin. “This was supposed to be a debate. I saw no debating. I saw no rationale for any of the trustee’s decisions. I realize that a lot of them were going to vote for it. But I wanted to see why. That’s why I was sitting there. It wasn’t to watch them stick up their hands and remain silent.
“This is supposed to be in a public forum so we can see why they’re making the decisions they’re making. I still don’t see. I have no insight. I realize their are budget decisions to be made but nobody came forward to say why they’re voting the way they are. One trustee (Kinakin) stood up and spoke to why he wanted to vote against this motion, and that’s it.”
Osokin says the CP PAC met with trustees and gave several suggestions on how to keep things the way they were but were ignored.
“I have no faith that this will be turned around,” she said. “I’m so disheartened because all of us put in so much work and research and showed the trustees why a principal is so essential to our school. We begged the trustees to come to our school and see how it functions. See how amazing our principal is and how he interacts with the kids and the great things he was going to do with our school.”