Trustees discuss budget process, communication

A social justice poster project, changing the budget committee process, clarifying trustee communication between meetings, and discussing motions coming up at the next B.C. School Trustees’ Association meeting were all part of the The Board of Education School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap) Committee of the Whole meeting on Friday Oct. 23.

Sexual Orientation Gender Identity (SOGI) – Sexual Health teacher Amy Witt reported to the Board about a social justice poster project which she is working on. Witt said she noticed a poster when she was in Nelson, that was the work of a local artist and was being displayed on many of the businesses.

“I was really moved by the fact people were willing to state their philosophical supportive beliefs for all people.” Witt said she was going to buy a poster and then she wondered about possibly doing something similar for the school district so that the marginalized and at risk people in our community and schools would see they are welcome.

She talked to the artist who was happy to adapt the poster for Witt to use for free. Witt said her idea was to do the adaptation and see if people would buy the posters to place in their classrooms, businesses or wherever to have a visual for people to know it is a welcoming place. Witt said she is considering selling some of the posters, with funds raised going towards something to support marginalized students.

Trustees expressed support for the project and some possible additions. Witt is continuing to work on it and will bring it back to the Board.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to be able to tell our marginalized kids that they have support in the school, a supportive board, and a super supportive leadership team. We are saving lives.”

A discussion around the budget process was held with many trustees expressing support for changing and streamlining the process. Trustee Quentin Bruns commented, although very thorough, the current budget committee process sets unrealistic expectations and sets people up for disappointment. “We ask them for their wish list and then reality kicks in after that.”

“I’d much rather we have our facts on the table and more realistic discussions. I think that would be really helpful.”

Superintendent of Schools/CEO Peter Jory commented typically school districts don’t know what their funding will be until the Friday before Spring Break. He said discussions with the Deputy Minister suggest they need to be extra cautious to face upcoming challenges. “We need to make sure we are not making any budget decisions until it is budget time. We still want to hear from partner groups to get the big ideas and main priorities. Where people feel are the biggest needs.”

Secretary-Treasurer Alanna Cameron suggested the Board look at starting with their Talking Tables consultation first to get the big ideas. She suggested then staff would get together to use the input to create a draft with realistic numbers to take back to stakeholders for further consultation.

A draft timeline, with budget committee meeting dates determined so that those taking part know what the commitment will be, will be developed and presented at an upcoming Board meeting for discussion.

The Board held a brief discussion on trustee communication/transparency, which was listed at their working session as a topic for a Committee of the Whole meeting. Board Chair Amanda Krebs opened the discussion stating the motion passed at the previous Board meeting setting up a weekly communication between the Superintendent and Trustees, will go along way to addressing this.

Trustee Marty Gibbons also raised that trustees should look at the Watson Report at least once a year to ensure the Board was staying on track, and should limit in-camera sessions to personnel, legal, student discipline matters and property.

The Board also spent time discussing the motions that were being put forward at the BCSTA meeting and gave input to trustee Tennile Lachmuth, who will vote on behalf of the Board.

A recording of this meeting can be found on the website. Please click on this link and then open Committee of the Whole.