Soccer players try and get a favourable result over the course of a 90-minute match.
And that’s exactly how long Richmond’s school trustees will be given to score some points with B.C.’s Minister of Education when he comes to town Friday to meet them face to face as part of his province-wide sweep of school districts.
The opportunity is to have Peter Fassbender come away with an understanding of the challenges to deliver education under the constraints of the ministry’s budget, said local school board chair Donna Sargent, adding there are three main points trustees want to stress.
“Basically, it’s keeping education a priority, as far as funding, by ensuring public education receives increased, stable and consistent funding, re-instating a capital plan for facilities, and providing support for new initiatives in education,” Sargent said.
Another topic on the agenda is co-governance, which is topical given the province’s recently negotiated agreement with unionized, non-teaching and support staff for a 3.5 per cent wage increase over two years.
The agreement, arrived at without the input of trustees through the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, downloaded the cost on school districts across B.C. under the province’s cooperative gains mandate, rather than being funded by the government.
That meant with no new funding, savings in the district have to be found to fund the raise.
In Richmond that is expected to cost $703,992 in the first year of the agreement and will be covered by dipping into the district’s modest $6.1 million operating surplus.
But job cuts are expected to fund the $1.34 million needed in year two.
Faced with that imposed settlement, Sargent said she and her fellow trustees want to remind Fassbender that the ministry and BCSTA (British Columbia School Trustees Association) had previously signed a protocol agreement to be co-governors of the public education system.
“We just want to bring that forward again and talk about what co-governance means,” Sargent said, adding that as part of the partnership long-term planning should be at the forefront to avoid situations where school districts that are not represented at the negotiating table are then required to fund agreements they have no say in.
Sargent added there is also a need for more consultation and feedback.
“We want two-way communication rather than being told, ‘here’s the information, this is what will be happening.’”
Sargent also called for trustee groups around B.C. to be present at the bargaining table for future negotiations.
“As really the only employer of these employees, we need to be bargaining with them. So, it’s not just a matter of consulting with us, we are part of it.”
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