School District 52 board of education passes most of 2012/2013 budget

The board of education past most of the 2012/2013 budget after much debate on whether to hire additional administration or teachers.

On Monday, April 30, School District 52’s board of education held a special open meeting at the board office in Prince Rupert regarding the district’s budget for the upcoming fiscal school year. At this meeting trustees approved a majority of the senior management team’s recommendations, except for two areas of the budget that trustees delayed passing.

At the meeting earlier this week, Chair of the board Tina Last was not in attendance due to a family emergency, so vice-chair Bart Kuntz filled in as leader of the meeting. As well, trustee Marty Bowles could not attend the meeting in person, but was present via telephone.

The meeting started off with the senior management team describing their recommendations for the 2012/2013 budget.

Senior management advised that $43,640 from the budget be set aside for Education Plan-spending. The Provincial Government gave $43,640 to the district to help with the implication of the Education Plan. However at this time the board has not been told what exactly the funds can be spent on, so they recommended that the money be aside until they know.

“It’s fairly wide open, it can be used [for things such as] professional development, for meetings, staffing and a whole list of things. We don’t know, we haven’t gotten the regulations on it yet,” said Superintendent of Schools, Lynn Hauptman.

The next recommendation was to put $24,000 towards a Grade 5 band program in elementary schools across the district, with each school and its teachers determining whether to have a band course, or a music course. Management’s reasoning for this was that offering a musically-based program to students at a younger age would help attract more students to take the program in later grades, while providing the now part-time band teacher to become full time. Additionally, the board recognizes the positive affects that music can have on its students.

The next item that was adviced was to put $10,000 towards expanding the Grade 9 Modern Education project happening at Charles Hays Secondary School, where students participate in project-based learning that addresses the Grade 9 curriculum for humanities, art and science. The course is based partially in the community and partially in the school, and has been given great reviews from students, parents and teachers.

“What we’re recommending is a portion of the full budget that was requested to ensure that we can certainly continue what’s there, and have some degree of expansion,” said Secretary-Treasurer Cam McIntyre.

Another recommendation of management was to continue to provide $30,000 to the IUOE for staff training, something that the district first did this school year. This money is meant to provide further development of the district’s existing work force.

The next item that was advised was to make an adjustment to increase the amount of Child Care Worker (or CCW) hours. It came to the attention of the board that there should be more CCW working throughout the district, so $147,027 is being recommended for additional staffing costs, as well as some reserve funds left behind for September, in case of staff changes.

In the upcoming school year, new accounting standards will be in place that state that in each district the board of education is required to make an accounting for sick leave that hasn’t been shown on the books before. The board recommended that $13,785 be taken from the budget to go towards non-vested sick leave liability.

Almost $200,000 has been added back to the budget after a teaching spreadsheet correction was made. This error made it seem as if two teaching positions had been slashed from the budget, however it really was two additional full time equivalent positions that had been doubled counted within the spreadsheet.

“The same position was counted in two different cells [of the spreadsheet] so that amount freed up $187,272 because it was simply a double count. Our apologizes for any misleads on that one. It is not a reduction on teaching,” explained Hauptman.

The board also suggested that there be an increase of $20,000 for field trips and extracurricular activities in the district.

Another suggestion of the board was an increase to the allocation of surplus to $172,488. After reviewing the forecast of surplus funds from the current budget, the district will have more funds available to bring into the next school year.

The senior management team also recommended that $76,909 kept as unutilized surplus.

There were two senior management suggestions that didn’t sit well with many trustees, as well as members of the teachers’ union, who displayed their anger over the issue with signs they set up outside of the board office. These recommendations were to put funds towards new administration staff, and principal and vice-principal succession planning.

The senior management team suggested making changes to the district administration team by hiring a full-time Assistant Superintendent, instead of continuing on with the current set-up that has two administrative staff members taking on roles as part-time Director of Instruction, while having another part-time position in the school district.

It was a recommendation to hire an Assistant Superintendent instead, and eliminate the part-time positions. This would cost the district $70,000 for wage.

Management also recommended that $26,000 be put towards succession planning for principals and vice-principals in the district. Recently the Prince Rupert Principals’ Association made a presentation to the board, and through data showed that in a decade only two of the existing employees would not be retired, if they decide to stay in the district.

“We do have some concern over who will take those positions. We know that there are many, many vice-principal and principal positions being advertised all around the province,” said Hauptman on the topic.

However many trustees were not buying into the idea of putting money towards administration staff, especially considering enrollment numbers in School District 52 have been decreasing every year.

“Before I go in and make a decision on hiring more administration, when there’s a school with around 800 people that has three, possibly four senior administrators, I have to look at the whole picture and see if there’s a better model we could look at,” commented trustee Janet Beil.

Hauptman explained that even though there would be another full-time administration job created, there would still be a reduction in administration hours at the high school.

“If the board approves of the Assistant Superintendent, and we eliminate the Director of Instructor positions then there will be three administrators at the high school. The amount of administration time would be a little bit less next year, with three administrators working on 2.9 admin time.”

Trustee Terri-Lynn Huddlestone and trustee Kuntz agreed with Hauptman.

“We have been at a loss in our district in previous years where we have not had any succession planning. We lost a few principals, we had a time when we lost our superintendent and we brought in a new one… The lack of planning at that point really put the district at a deferment and therefore the recommendations in regards to adding an Assistant Superintendent and vice-principals, in my opinion, makes sense,” stated Huddlestone.

“I believe that the Assistant Superintendent would be a very good addition to the district. I believe if the top is healthy and is able to do their jobs correctly, [everyone in the district] will benefit from that,” commented Kuntz.

Trustee Marty Bowles had another idea for the $26,000 and $70,000.

“We have an important opportunity to do something very useful for the students of our district and that is to dramatically increase the number of teachers and IUOE help within the classroom. We probably have the most difficult situation in the province, and with money available this is an opportunity to [address] that problem, which also causes incredibly difficult succession problems,” said Bowles.

Superintendent Hauptman told that board about the Learning Improvement Fund, and how it could potentially cover the costs of supporting teachers in the district.

The district has been given money from the Learning Improvement Fund, a provincial first-time fund of $323,000 that the district gets to spend over and above anything within the budget. The board must hold consultation meetings with union president and with prinicipals, teachers and support staff to see how the distrit wants to spend that money, that will be available in the spring.

“It could be used for additional staffing in terms of both teachers and support staff. It can be used for additional in service or professional development,” said Hauptman, adding that consultation meetings will begin in May and June.

“That’s an extra big pot of money that we have to directly support any of the needs that we have in the district,” explained Hauptman.

Beil suggested that the money for both the vice-principal succession and the hiring of an Assistant Superintendent be carried forward into a surplus or a reserved account until a later date, when all trustees were present at the table in the summer months, with trustee Bowles, trustee Barb Gruber, and trustee Louisa Sanchez all in support of the idea.

Trustee Huddlestone however did not support the idea, stating that trustees are elected to make decisions. Both Sanchez and Gruber stepped in supporting Beil’s idea.

“I don’t care how many meetings it takes as long as we get that money in the classroom, where it belongs,” said Sanchez.

The amendment to defer and keep the money for the vice-principal and vice superintendent in surplus was carried, with Beil making a motion to have the board meet before May 31 to carry on discussion on the topic. The rest of senior management’s listed recommendations were passed.