Teachers, parents turn out in numbers to School District No. 8 board meeting, voice opposition to budget
The School District 8 Kootenay Lake Education Board faced a room of more than 60 concerned teachers, parents and students demanding they review their budget priorities during the regular meeting, Tuesday, June 19.
“A lot of teachers voiced concern about the way in which the board has handled the budget,” said Nelson and District Teachers’ Association president Tom Newell.
Newell said about 16 teachers spoke out in the meeting against the approved budget because of teacher layoffs, busing fees for out of catchment children, and the closing of the two District Resource Centres.
“There was a major, major uproar over the District Resource Centre,” said Newell.
The question period went on for over an hour and a half. Newell said in the end the teachers didn’t feel any better after voicing their concerns to the board.
“There is no evidence or feeling of validity to the teachers’ concerns,” said Newell.
“(The board) repeated that they were proud of the budget. The trustees seemed content that they did a good job (on the budget) so it was even more disconcerting for the teachers to have their voices dismissed.”
SD 8 superintendent Jeff Jones and board chair Melanie Joy said the board has heard more than four hours of public input over the past two meetings about the budget concerns the public has and they are listening.
“It is important,” said Jones of the concerns. “The board took the time to listen carefully to what the presenters have to say… But the reality is the district has over funded and staffed for a number of years.”
“The board heard the concerns from teachers around the loss of the two District Resource Centers and the impact the cuts will have on schools,” assures Joy during an email interview with The Nelson Daily.
“The board passed a budget that will be sustainable going forward and while we do take into consideration what those impacts are, the board believes the direction that has been set for the financial management of the district is what will keep us in a positive position going forward.
“Every budget year is difficult as we make decisions on priorities but the board made every budget decision in the best interest of our students.”
Earlier this spring the education board announced the layoffs of 19 full-time equivalent positions, the closure of the two District Resource Centres to make up for a budget shortfall of $750,000.
Next year won’t be any better. The more than $53 million district budget will see another $750,000 shortfall as the district is weaned off of funding protection over the next three years.
The closure of the two resource centers was of great concern to both teachers and parents. Jones said the information and resources contained within those centers will not be lost.
“We will make a more efficient system of storing materials by way of technology,” he said. “That’s how we’re moving forward.”
Newell said teachers have no “formal” next step in voicing their concerns. He said the board’s reaction to their concerns only creates more destruction to the staff morale.
“(It is hard) to have an employer who doesn’t listen to what teachers say are priorities,” said Newell.
As for layoffs, Jones said things are beginning to sort out now and that teachers who have been laid off will continue to stay at the top of the list for call backs over the next three years.