PORT ALICE— School District 85 Superintendent Scott Benwell welcomed the “fabulous turnout” at Seaview School in Port Alice for the latest in its series of community consultations.
The public meetings seek input on two issues: a strategic plan for the district, and an examination of the makeup of trustees on the school board.
Around sixteen community members, council representatives and parents joined school board members to hear Benwell explain the need for, and function of, a strategic plan.
“We are in need of a statement of purpose for the district,” said Benwell, explaining that the current plan was “somewhat outdated” and due for reexamination.
He explained that a strategic plan provides accountability and a framework for future decisions and planning.
By consulting with the public, the board looks to ascertain common priorities across the district, and use this information to set parameters for future planning.
To get involved in the process, community members can contact the principal of their local school and answer five simple questions on schooling.
“The hope is that, at the end of day, when the strategic plan comes out everyone can see how we got there,” concluded Benwell.
John Martin then took the floor to introduce the topic of trustee makeup. He explained that the topic was ripe for examination, the last changes being made in 1989.
Given the shifts in population since, the trustee makeup no longer accurately reflects the numbers in certain communities, and Martin asked whether changes should be made and, if so, what these changes should be.
Several potential options were suggested, from reducing the number of trustees to redrawing electoral areas and examples of redrawn areas were presented. Martin suggested that a reduction to five trustees would be problematic in terms of fair representation and stated that, in his opinion, choosing five trustees would require elections at large to be feasible.
After a brief question period, board and community members withdrew for small group discussions, seeking consensus on a way forward.
These groups then reported back their collective opinions, with a common consensus that seven trustees were preferable, and that a redrawing of electoral areas was desirable, although opinion differed slightly as to how the areas should be redrawn.
While the drafting of a strategic plan will be an ongoing matter and community members can contact their local school to participate, the issue of trustee makeup is more pressing.
Due to the steps involved in approving such a change, making any proposed adjustments will be a lengthy process, so interested parties are invited to attend any of the scheduled meetings to have their opinion heard.
The next meeting will take place in Port Hardy on Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the PHSS library. Further dates are scheduled for Port McNeill, Sointula and Alert Bay. For more information on the dates or issues see the SD85 website at www.sd85.bc.ca.