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Special needs cuts eyed by Richmond School District

Public voice their concerns while board chair agonizes over where $1 million government-mandated axe will need to fall
Richmond School Board trustees and district staff, pictured last month with Richmond MLAs Linda Reid, fourth from left, and John Yap, fourth from right, are mulling proposals for how to find government-enforced $1 million in cuts to administration costs.

A packed house at the Richmond School District headquarters was given the nitty-gritty on how $1 million of government-mandated cuts might be achieved.

Parents, teachers, retired educators and school board trustees heard from the district’s secretary treasurer Mark de Mello Tuesday night of the proposals, imposed by the provincial government’s demand to slice administration costs.

At the top of the list is a potential $150,000 cut to the Learning Services’ budget, including a series of small reductions at different schools (equaling one full-time employee) and $50,000 for a vacant, part-time hearing specialist position, which has remained unfilled for the past school year.

Many in the crowd were parents of special needs students who implored trustees and staff not to axe any Learning Services resources.

School district chair Eric Yung said, given the feedback received thus far from the public, he would much prefer that particular area be left alone when it comes to the budget axe falling.

“It’s just my personal preference, but I would be looking at the administration cutbacks in Learning Services, including secretarial support,” said Yung, when asked by the News what proposals he’d like to see taken off the table.

“We’re obviously reluctant to see anything go, but those special needs students really need our support.

“Let’s not forget, we’ve been told to do this by the government. Under normal circumstances, this would have been a normal year, with no changes.”

Yung said the district is trying to spread the effect of the cuts as thinly as possible across the board to minimize the impact.

“Last night was a chance for the public to make themselves heard and they will have another chance at next week’s meeting,” added Yung.

De Mello explained that, wherever possible, staff reductions would be handled through attrition.

Other proposed cuts to next year’s school budget include:
* Clerical: $200,000: (One full-time equivalent (FTE) in schools (a series of smaller reductions, resulting in a total of one person); two FTE in the board office and one FTE in the District Resource Centre);
* School administration: $225,000: (Two elementary school vice principals);
* Business administration: $25,000: (Supplies);
* Maintenance administration: $100,000 (One works yard manager).

School board trustees met last month with Richmond’s three MLAs to highlight the financial plight of the district. However, former board chair Donna Sargent felt their pleas were, essentially, falling on deaf ears.

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