SD 72 to share cut impacts

The School District 72 board of trustees moved a step closer to finalizing a public communication strategy

The School District 72 board of trustees moved a step closer to finalizing a public communication strategy with the approval of a motion to form a sub-committee and begin drafting notifications to provincial officials and Campbell River taxpayers.

The communication strategy, first proposed by trustee John Kerr, was prompted by a series of school funding cuts in the coming years mandated by the Ministry of Education and announced this February.

The cuts come with a mandate that the district find $395,000 in “administrative savings” in each of the next three years, and trustees determined the public should be made aware of the actual and potential impacts of those cuts.

The board voted in its previous meeting, May 5, to establish a communication strategy.

Trustee Richard Franklin began filling in some details of how it would look during the board’s meeting Tuesday.

“I would like to see brought forward at the next meeting a draft (bylaw), an advertisement for the local newspaper, a letter to our MLA, a posting for the district’s web site, and communication to the Minister (of Education) and the premier,” said Franklin.

A letter written by Kerr and presented to the board on May 5 contained an extensive list of budget numbers and impacts to the district and its ability to deliver education to its students.

Kerr admitted that version “is pretty heavy. I would recommend it be less dense, but there is a lot of stuff we’ve become aware of since Feb. 17.”

Trustee Ted Foster, who was the lone dissenting vote to the motion on May 5, remained concerned about the board appearing combative in its responses to the province.

“Reading trustee Kerr’s report, it is to me a very complex document and is very hard to follow. There are many things there that may or may not be correct.

“We are not an elected opposition party to the elected government in Victoria; our job is to be advocates for the students here.”

Trustees all agreed the final version of any correspondence approved for submission to the government be based strictly on fact and not assertion or unsupported projections.

“All the facts, like trustee Foster says, must be 100 per cent correct and accurate,” said Franklin.

“There can’t be anything that’s not true. But as a public school board we also need to be completely transparent with our electorate.”

In addition to the letters to the Ministry and government officials, trustees agreed that information needed to be spread beyond simply the school community.

So it will budget an undetermined amount for media advertising in addition to sharing the information on the district’s web site.

“I’d like to purchase space in our local newspaper so we can get our message out to not only our parents, but to all the taxpayers of Campbell River, to all who contribute,” said Franklin.

And the information will not be restricted to the doom and gloom of budget cuts.

Trustees noted the high standards and programs local educators continue to achieve with the resources available to them, and intend to highlight those as part of the strategy.

“The point is to engage and interest people in how successful we’ve been, and how hard it will be to continue,” trustee Joyce McMann said.

Trustees voted to approve the draft communication strategy, with trustee Foster abstaining from the vote.