Divided trustees face challenge of how to deal with public feedback

Now that they have collected volumes of feedback from area residents on the future use of education facilities in School District 20 (SD20), trustees are mulling over what to do with all the information.

  • Apr. 6, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Now that they have collected volumes of feedback from area residents on the future use of education facilities in School District 20 (SD20), trustees are mulling over what to do with all the information.

“It’s time to roll up our sleeves,” chairman Gordon Smith said at Monday’s school board meeting. “There’s a lot of data here,”

It’s not entirely clear, however, exactly what trustees will do with all that data.

The feedback was collected from the series of “focus group” meetings the district held in Castlegar, Rossland and Trail last month, which were organized in the wake of a public outcry over the possibility of school closures in Castlegar and Rossland.

Pages of comments from parents, educators and other concerned citizens were presented to trustees last night and were to be posted on the SD20 website Tuesday for the public to peruse as well.

But, other than having another meeting to discuss the feedback, trustees weren’t entirely sure how to proceed from this point.

“What is the game plan?” asked trustee Mickey Kinakin. “I mean, we’ve met so many times over this issue.”

Supt. Jean Borsa said the Board of Education as a whole needs to use this new information to come up with a five-year plan for education facilities in the district, but trustee Lorraine Manning noted the district is already three years into its “Planning for the Future” process, which was initially supposed to be a five-year plan, itself.

Trustee Mark Wilson echoed that concern.

“We’ve done a facilities plan. Now we have some new information from the three major areas,” he said. “We’re not starting over again.”

Wilson also took issue with some of the feedback received from the focus groups, pointing out one comment in particular from a Rossland parent who threatened to leave the country if there were school closures in that city.

“It is unacceptable to not have K-12 in Rossland,” that particular comment reads. “We will move back to Australia with our three children and just return for the ski season if K-12 in some form is not maintained in Rossland.”

Wilson said trustees need to look at the district’s needs as a whole and it would be a “waste of time” to concern themselves with every single “negative comment” contained in the voluminous feedback summaries from each community.

“We have to be able to weed out some of these comments,” he said.

Smith disagreed.

“I’d say that all comments are legitimate from the public and all comments need to be considered,” he said.

Kinakin, meanwhile, pointed out the obvious obstacle the board will face as it tries to move forward, namely the significant differences of opinion which exist largely between trustees from Trail and those from the Castlegar and Rossland areas.

“The proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room is the fact that there are huge divisions here,” Kinakin said.

“We’re going to have to deal with the divisions on this board.”

Trustees are currently working to come up with a date or series of dates to meet, go over the latest public feedback and try to work out their differences of opinion on how to address future facilities use in the face of enrolment declines and financial pressures.

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