Programs and budgets pondered by SD#20 board

School District board hears of success plans, creative writing successes and wetlands, among other topics

Stanley Humphries Secondary School principal Nathan Robinson (L) and vice pri8ncipal Patrick Kinghorn deliver a report to the SD#20 board on March 11

A pair of delegations got the proceedings underway for the regular board meeting of School District #20, Columbia-Kootenay on March 11 at the Blueberry Community School.

Presentations dealing with “School Success Plans” began with Stanley Humphries Secondary School (SHSS) principal Nathan Robinson and vice-principal Patrick Kinghorn talking to the Board about “Voice and Choice” – a provincial directive designed to better serve the needs and wants of students.

Using a video featuring an upbeat funky soundtrack, the men outlined a number of objectives being pursued at the secondary school.

A major strategy is the creation of programs designed to engage students in positive, constructive action.

“This could mean (lunch-time) dancing,” suggested Robinson, “and if there’s 100 in the gym there’s 100 fewer in the halls.”

It was mentioned that out of all the grade 8 kids who arrive, many don’t graduate from SHSS. Robinson did not use that statement to imply a lot of failures, he said, only that a lot of students move on to different situations between grade 8 and graduation, and that a concerted effort of tracking these learners was underway.

The school administration, according to Robinson and Kinghorn, is excited by the many ideas and initiatives being cultivated.

“We can do better,” said Robinson later, “so we can better serve our student population and ensure they’re getting the services they need, and having the voice in their education so they can have a positive experience and want to stay engaged, stick around and graduate.”

The vice-principal weighed in as well.

“We have noon-hour activities for the kids. There are teachers as well who have clubs going on after school. We’d rather not have the kids standing around, we’d like them active and having adults interacting with them. There’s a lot of external things out there that sometimes aren’t as productive and positive.”

The next delegation consisted of Webster School principal Carolyn Catalano who furnished an absorbing video component as well.

The crux of the presentation was the writing program at Webster and its strong popularity and success. The video included many testimonials from students on the topic of if and why they enjoy creative writing. The board ate it up. Catalano indicated that 80 per cent of Webster students involved are meeting or exceeding expectations in writing.

One more contact from a school was made, this one by Principal Wayne Naka of Kinnaird Elementary outlining the progress of a project to install and maintain a miniature wetland near the school.

Naka described how the pond is intended to have a liner, installed by the BC Wildlife Federation on a area of about 50 by 20 metres.

Asked about the possibility of mosquitoes becoming a problem as a result of the pond, Naka reassured, “…there will be bats and swallows, etc. If there is a problem with mosquitoes, we’ll drain it and figure it out, because there will be fresh water going in every day. There shouldn’t be a problem with mosquitoes.”

Questions about the year-round safety of the pond also arose.

“It will just be out of bounds,” stated Naka. “If need be, we’ll put in a fence or a berm. Safety is absolutely the number one concern.”

The board agreed to send a letter of support for the wetland concept to the project’s potential funders.

The board gave third and final reading to a bylaw paving the way for purchase of two 84-passenger buses for a price tag of $270,262.

Budget-related discussion occupied a fair amount of time and attention from the board on Monday night, including an agenda item pertaining to Trustee Mickey Kinakin’s desire for the formation of a budget advisory committee to meet with various stakeholders about four times a year.

“There’s never a detriment to having more information,” said Kinakin. The rest of the board did not agree in sufficient numbers for the motion to go ahead. It was defeated by a vote of 9-3. Those speaking against it felt there was already a process in place for such discussions.

Taking in the meeting was Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union, who later added his voice to those against the formation of a new budget committee.

“Basically our concern over the last two budgets was the lack of education stakeholder involvement in the process,” he said.

“We have publicly and privately expressed our concerns and dismay to the board about the lack of involvement between the DPAC (District Parent Advisory Committee), CUPE and ourselves.”

Board Chair Darrell Ganzert, the following day addressed Davidoff’s critique.

“Last year the board received, and I think rightly so, some criticism for not involving them (KCTU and CUPE) in a meaningful way. This year we’ve altered our process to include them in a meaningful way.”

Ganzert pointed to the closed meeting set for March 13 at which a “long list” of potential cuts to programs and services would be examined.

“We’ll go through that entire list with them, answering all the questions they have about that. Then we’ll leave it at that, for now. After spring break they’ll be called again to a series of meetings to go through their reaction to the long list. Finally the school board will take that information and create a short list which we will then present to the stakeholders for there reaction.”

To wrap up, the board voted unanimously in favour of expanding late French Immersion to Rossland Secondary School provided a minimum of 25 students enroll for the program by April 30, and that the district LFI program for grades 10-12 remains at SHSS.

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