The School Board heard that future budgeting would need to include some cuts to maintain the financial health of the District.
Thanks in part to declining student enrollment and changes to the funding model, School District 85 will receive fewer funds in the future, and has begun laying out a strategy to balance this shortfall with minimal impact.
For reference, treasurer John Martin presented managed and unmanaged approaches, the unmanaged approach eating into the fund balance and leaving a deficit by by 2015/16.
In contrast, the managed approach — cutting $200,000 from the budget year-on-year — kept the fund balance in the black up to and beyond 2018/19.
Martin informed trustees that without management a spending deficit was imminent and a “fiscal cliff” loomed, bringing the specter of catastrophic cuts in the future.
Guidelines were also suggested for the cuts needed; to avoid permanent unemployment where possible and to exclude direct cuts to classroom services, for example.
The presentation was a draft form, to inform the trustees of the problems faced, but it was urged that the items discussed be brought to the table in the near future for more formal consideration.
School District Superintendent Scott Benwell explained that funding protection was currently in place so the District was being allocated funds as though it contained approximately 2,000 students instead of a more accurate figure of around 1,400.
“Funding protection is going away,” he explained and echoed Martin’s sentiments that action was imminently needed to avoid serious cuts in the future.
Kelly Amodeo made a presentation to the Board unveiling a new anti-bullying tool as part of the ERASE strategy against bullying.
The newly minted web portal provides a contemporary way for students to report bullying to school authorities.
The portal, accessible through smart phones as well as through computers, allows students to report anonymously if preferred, or to request contact from authorities.
The back end of the portal then submits a report, categorizing the type of bullying, as well as location, time of report and persons involved to Amondeo.
She explained to the trustees that this report was time sensitize, requiring a response within 72 hours or an alert would be raised at the Superintendent level.
The reports could also be aggregated to spot trends in offenses.
Trustees were broadly supportive of the initiative but had some specific questions on the program.
“We know bullying is not reserved for schools, indeed schools are often some of the safest places,” pointed out Benwell,” Are we taking the lead for communities?”
Amondeo responded by saying that while bullying was not restricted to schools, schools are a hub for students and that any bullying that takes place out of school is likely to continue in schools.
Trustee Danita Schmidt echoed concerns raised by teens themselves, that the portal was vulnerable to trolls making false claims. “Do we investigate each claim?” she asked.
Amondeo was confident she could differentiate the real and false reports. “Trolls are pretty easy to spot. It’s a small community, if someone was trolling I’d hear about it.”
Benwell informed trustees he had been approached by the Regional District of Mount Waddington, asking if the School District would be open to support for the workforce strategy. He told the trustees that, while he was in favour, he had not wanted to unilaterally agree.
As an example of the support offered, Benwell suggested that the RDMW could provide work-safe appropriate clothing for kids involved in work experience programs.
“It can be a hard experience [for a student] if the school says ‘We’re going going out in a couple of days, you need this, this and this.’ If a student can’t get hold of those things it can be tough,” he pointed out. The RD’s support would be a good boost for the students, he continued, allowing them all a sense of pride in entering the workplace.
The Board was unanimously supportive.
In their reports, the trustees gave glowing accounts of their visits to Cheslakees Elementary, Sunset Elementary and Woss schools.
Trustee Werner Manke said he was “excited about Cheslakees and the potential that is there.” He also spoke very highly of his visit to Woss saying he was struck by the individual attention given to each student. “There is no other place in the District where students are given so much individual attention.”
Chair Leightan Wishart praised the “dedicated staff” at Sunset, and trustee Eric Hunter said he was “enthused and excited to see where Sunset is going.”