New superintendent takes over but still no word on fate of city's middle school
The helm of the Kootenay Lake School District ship has changed but there is still no official word on the fate of the city’s middle school — and there is a possibility it may not close.
The school district board of trustees has chosen a new superintendent and chief executive officer, Christine Perkins, after a lengthy search following the announcement of the retirement of previous superintendent Jeff Jones.
Perkins has been in the school district for several weeks, but one of the major announcements from last year — after a lengthy process of debate and community meetings — is the closure of Trafalgar Middle School. Although the school is still slated for closure, the exact timeline of when this will occur is still not known.
“The board (of trustees) has passed a resolution to close Trafalgar Middle School,” said Perkins. “This is dependent on the receipt of capital funding to expand Blewett Elementary School.”
In a statement posted on the Trafalgar school website, the SD8 board of trustees anticipated that the “school will likely close at the end of the 2017-18 school year at the earliest, although the board motion provides an additional year (2018-19) for the renovations to Blewett and Central Education Centre to be completed before the anticipated closure of Trafalgar Middle School will occur.”
While the board motion indicates that the school could close as early as the end of this school year, this possibility “is extremely unlikely” because the closure is contingent on renovations to Blewett Elementary School and Central Education Center (CEC) to be finished in order to accommodate the students.
“Funding for these renovations is dependent on our district receiving a capital grant from the Ministry of Education,” read a question-and-answer board posting on the school’s website about the closure.
And it was still possible the school may not be closing.
“Yes, this is possible — if the renovations to Blewett and CEC do not occur,” the SD8 board’s posting noted. “The district, however, is committed to following through on the bylaw passed by the board and will make every effort to do so within the anticipated time-frame.”
Trafalgar, which was built in 1921, requires a “great deal of regular maintenance,” and has reached the point where it requires significant renovation and deferred maintenance in order to continue to meet the needs of students.
According to the SD8 board findings from last year, the cost of the renovations and upgrades outweighs the benefits, particularly when the facilities review process had shown that other schools could accommodate Trafalgar’s students.
“This move would more fully utilize the number of ‘seats’ filled in each of the other district buildings,” the board release noted. “In other words, it is more cost effective to close Trafalgar than it is to renovate and/or rebuild the building.”
Taking the reins
In taking over as the new superintendent of schools in the region, Perkins said she would not attempt to change much across the school district right away.
“I hope to continue the good work done by superintendent Jones and move the district forward in areas of academic success, aboriginal education, technology and other board of education initiatives including supporting their work on district goals and student expectations,” she said.
In addressing another issue about the teacher shortage as it pertained to the law on new class sizes, Perkins said she was not concerned since the Kootenay Lake school district was well positioned with teachers for the new school year.
“At present we are aligned with the restored language in the collective agreement and are supportive of provincial initiatives to attract teachers to the province and rural districts,” she said. “We have had outstanding response to our job postings to attract teachers to SD 8 Kootenay Lake.”
Perkins brings long list of credentials
Perkins is replacing Jeff Jones, who will be retiring on Oct. 31 after serving as the superintendent and chief executive officer for the past seven years.
Perkins will be joining Kootenay Lake School District from her position as assistant superintendent with School District No. 58 (Nicola-Similkameen), where she worked in areas of professional learning, Aboriginal education, leadership development and helped implement BC’s New Curriculum K-12.
Her body of work is extensive, starting as a classroom teacher and moving through the ranks as vice principal, middle and secondary school principal.
She completed a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction in 2002 from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of British Columbia in 2012.
“Our mutual goal is to ensure our students become resilient, creative, imaginative, academically successful and, most importantly, able to pursue their own passions and find success by following their own dreams,” she said in a statement.
SD8 chair Lenora Trenaman said Perkins should build on the tenets of governance, inclusivity and transparency left by outgoing superintendent Jones.
She said she expected Perkins previous leadership experience “will assist the board in the fulfillment of district goals, and most importantly the improvement of learning opportunities for all students.”