Richmond school support staff ask for more funding

Support staff bore the brunt of cuts when school district budgets were tight, according to CUPE loc. 716 executive members, and now they’re hoping the Richmond School District will restore some funding to their members.

The school district is preparing its 2019/20 budget and has been seeking feedback on proposed spending. Both CUPE and the Richmond Teachers’ Association as well as the Richmond Association of School Administrators addressed the board of education at its April meeting about the upcoming budget. While the RTA was fairly happy with funding for teachers, for example, $400,000 for teacher training in technology and “change management,” CUPE’s president and vice-president said they hoped more funding would come for support workers.

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Ian Hillman, president of CUPE loc. 716, pointed out that the number of custodians and groundskeepers have been reduced over the years or haven’t been replaced on retirement.
“Increasing staffing in custodial and grounds departments will enhance the appearance, cleanliness and safety of our schools,” Hillman told the board.

In addition, school district trades are understaffed, and work orders can take up to a year to get done, Hillman told the board of education at the public board meeting.

CUPE vice-president Stacey Robinson asked for increased hours for clerical staff and educational assistants (EAs).

“With only 32 hours worth of wages per week, many (EAs) have taken on part-time jobs to supplement their income to attain a decent living wage,” Robinson said. Increasing their hours would mean they could put more time into the classroom, she added.

Violence towards EAs should be focus of the school district, Robinson said, adding that “low pay and dangerous working conditions” are two reasons why there’s a shortage of educational assistants in the school district. She asked the board of education to increase their hours to 35 per week.

Robinson also appealed to the school board to pay clerical staff in school for 40 hours per week, up from the 35 hours they are currently paid.

 “When talking to our members who work in clerical positions, they all say they work 40 hours already but are only paid for 35,” she said. “They currently miss breaks, take shorter lunches and work extra unpaid time.”

“We know and understand that there is always sonly so much money to go around, but as equal partners in this district, hard-working partners who have taken the brunt of the years of cutbacks, we would like to see these needs of CUPE staff recognized when the budget is allocated,” Robinson said in conclusion of their presentation.

The Richmond School District is expecting a $1 million surplus at the end of the 2018/19 school year thanks to an employee health tax grant and other savings and grants. The school district also has $8.6 million in unrestricted funding and about $50 million in capital reserves.

The draft budget includes some requests for multi-year funding items and some one-year funding requests.

Multi-year requests include the following: $460,000 to replace the PA systems in schools, which are 12 years old and “failing,” according to a report given to the board of education; $500,000 to replace aging vehicles – this will be in addition to $400,000 spent this year on vehicles; $380,000 for emergency preparedness, which adds to the $350,000 budgeted for this year; $200,000 on video surveillance – the total being budgeted is $600,000 over three years; $190,000 in audio-video support; and $540,000 for playground equipment.

The 2019/20 budget for the Richmond School District is projected to be about $201 million with a net surplus of $1.8 million.

The public is asked to provide feedback on the budget up until April 23 at letstalksd38.ca.

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