Teacher’s union looking for more input into possible school closures

KCTU president Andy Davidoff says the teachers as well as CUPE members and DPAC are being left out of the process.

With the decision to shut down two West Kootenay schools, Castlegar Primary and Rossland Secondary, imminent, Kootenay-Columbia Teacher’s Union (KCTU) president Andy Davidoff says the teachers as well as CUPE members and the District Parent Advisory Group (DPAC) are being left out of the process.

Davidoff sent a letter to school district #20 board chair Darrel Ganzert stating their displeasure on Dec. 11.

“We were insulted by the fact that the board believed it was ‘respectful’ to vote to meet with parent groups of the up to seven schools that may be impacted, but did not choose to include any employee groups that will be profoundly impacted at the same sites in its long-debated motion,” said Davidoff in the letter to the board.

“We are also insulted by the board’s new practice of excluding parent, CUPE and KCTU representation on its Budget Review Committee which is where we have always carried out our important joint analysis and had our difficult conversations about the district’s finances.”

In a Dec. 17 interview with the Castlegar News, Davidoff spelled out the union’s position.

“The district is facing a $1.75 million budget deficit over the next three years,” he said. “What we are asking for – even if they close RSS and Castlegar Primary completely, that’s going to generate $625,000 a year in savings for the board. That’s if they close them completely. We’re not advocating school closures. If they don’t close them, the savings will be a lot less. Depending on the scenarios they adopt, we’re still looking anywhere from a $1.125 million to a $1.5 million deficit. What we ask the board to do, is to lay out specifically a parallel set of documents, what would occur and what cuts they’re going to be making, in addition to any school closure or reconfiguration savings so the public is fully aware of the budgetary difficulties the board is facing. If they have to cut an additional $1.5 million, that could mean 30 CUPE lay-offs; it could mean up to 20 teacher lay-offs. And then what programs are they going to cut? So right now the public is not getting a full picture of the financial crisis the board is in.”

Davidoff says that even though teachers and support staff will be directly impacted by any budget cuts or school closures, they have not been included in the budget process.

“We’ve always been included in the past,” he said. “So at a time when the board is facing its most severe fiscal crisis – last year $1.5 million and now an additional $1.75 million in budget cuts – that represents almost 10 per cent of the entire school district budget. For the first time since any of us can remember, neither CUPE, DPAC or KCTU are included in the full budget review deliberations. The budget review committee doesn’t exist any longer.”