School District 52 Board of Trustees amended the 2021-2022 budget on May 11, eliminating 13 itinerant teaching positions as well as making other line item cuts and increases. (File photo)

School District 52 Board of Trustees amended the 2021-2022 budget on May 11, eliminating 13 itinerant teaching positions as well as making other line item cuts and increases. (File photo)

SD 52 amends 2021-2022 proposed budget to eliminate 13 itinerant teaching positions

It has everything to do with the fact they were hired without the approval of the board - Tina Last

Ten itinerant teachers were hired at a cost of just less than $1 million without the School District 52 Board of Trustee’s permission and outside of the approved 2020-2021 budget, participants at the SD 52 board meeting heard, on May 11.

The hirings have had a domino effect on the proposed 2021-2022 budget which was up for discussion and where 13 itinerant teaching positions will be eliminated to create a savings of $1,201,200 for the education department. This, as well as other amendments, will enable SD 52 to balance the budget, as required by the Ministry of Education.

Initially estimated to need up to $3 million in budget cuts, including up to 40 positions eradicated by either termination or attrition, school board trustees met in the just under three-hour meeting to discuss areas of financial cuts and savings.

Itinerant teachers are full-time employees of the Board and travel as needed throughout the district. They are assigned duties in the schools however are not assigned a permanent classroom.

“No one’s disputing itinerant teachers are important to the district. But, the fact remains the former superintendent hired more than they should have,” Tina Last SD 52 trustee said at the meeting. “… It has everything to do with the fact that they were hired without the approval of the board, and the board was never informed of it. That’s the problem.”

READ MORE: Prince Rupert school district fires superintendent

The Board of Trustees agreed to Lasts’ motion requesting an investigation into how the 10 employees were hired outside of the Board’s knowledge.

“I wouldn’t think we would have needed to have a safeguard in place so that the superintendent couldn’t just go off all willy nilly and hire 10 people outside of the approved budget,” the trustee said. “It was well over a million dollars or close to a million dollars. That’s a very big deal.”

Last said she is ‘keenly interested’ in how such a thing happened and more importantly why the Board was not brought into the equation.

“We should have been told. We’re responsible for that budget. We should have damn well been told.”

“I will remind anybody that’s listening, an itinerant teacher that we’ve hired is guaranteed paid whether we have work for them to do that day or not,” she said.

Last said she was not prepared to cut ‘everything else’ so that the district can have people ‘waiting in the wings’ just in case they are needed.

“We can’t have a pool of ladies in waiting and men in waiting, you know we can’t,” Last, who has just less than 20 years experience with the school board, said.

By the end of the meeting, the Board of Trustees amended various budget line items cutting some and increasing others, approved and passed the third reading of the budget, and ended up approving cuts of $1,468,700 which allowed a contingency fund of $143,700.

Some areas that more than 75 meeting participants ‘zoomed’ in to hear about are that in contrast to the initial suggestion of cutting library assistant’s hours by 30 mins per day, they will be increased by the same time allowance for a cost of $19,000 per year.

Trumpets will keep blasting with the continuation of the Grade 5 band program, which was at risk of being silenced. The behavioural interventionist position will not be eliminated. The careers education teacher will be made into a full-time position, and the occupational health and safety budget has been cut by $100,000 as it has not been utilized fully for some time.

READ MORE: SD 52 amends current fiscal budget to increase by $1,118,958

More to come

K-J Millar | Journalist
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