I was glad to see School District 72 Board Chair John Kerr address the historic budget shortfall for the district this year in his recent letter.
However, I question the board chair’s math skills. It was, frankly, bizarre to see Mr. Kerr claim that one quarter is a “small fraction” when addressing the $100,000 cuts to the district’s literacy program, supposedly still the number one priority for SD72. As a former schoolteacher, Mr. Kerr should know his fractions. One quarter, or 25 per cent, is a significant figure. For Mr. Kerr to suggest that cutting $100,000 out of a $400,000 budget is a “small fraction” is callous and even more out of touch than something “The Simpsons’” character Principal Skinner would say. To complete the comparison, Mr. Kerr seems to think that laying off two of three literacy co-ordinators (that’s two-thirds, or 66 per cent) will not devastate the program. Is he out of touch? No, it’s the children and the parents who are wrong, is what he appears to be trying to say.
Mr. Kerr also claims a copy of the Healthy Schools Framework “has been posted to the district website on our reports and publications page.” However, there is no direct link to this important page on the front of the website, and it must instead be found by randomly clicking through pages to try and find it or by using the keyword search. As for the report itself, there is nothing on the hard-to-find “Reports and Publications” page titled “Healthy Schools Framework.” Perhaps Mr. Kerr was referring to the brief “Mental Health and Wellness Framework” document, a vague overview and vision document featuring one coloured circle, three coloured triangles and no concrete information about how this program will be Implemented or funded other than to say “Schools will create their own school-based mental health action plans.” There are no details about how this will be funded or rolled out, and it’s concerning to see Mr. Kerr championing something that doesn’t appear to exist except as a vague vision document.
Again, I point out that the “Mental Health and Wellness Framework” is based on provincial surveys of students done every four years. The last time data was collected was in 2018. This new framework contains nothing accounting for the unique circumstances of our children living through the worst global pandemic in a century, and the effects that continues to have on their mental health. This initiative needs to be put on hold until the new survey data comes out next year, otherwise it is a waste of our children’s time and public resources.
Finally, it’s good to see that Mr. Kerr welcomes public scrutiny at board meetings, as publicly-elected and taxpayer-funded servants of the public this should never be a surprise or inconvenience to him or the rest of the board. I hope more parents and concerned citizens take him up on the offer as it’s clear the board is not used to public scrutiny. Parents, this is our school system for our children, we owe it to them to participate and make sure our tax dollars are being spent wisely by our elected officials, and the easiest way is to show up and ask questions. It’s the least we can do for our kids to make sure they actually get what they need in the classrooms.