SUMMING IT UP: School District 51 Board of Trustees

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
June 10th, 2010

While contentious issues of conflict of interest guidelines and the composition of the district parent advisory council are still on the table, the School District 51 Board of Trustees dealt with a busy agenda at their last meeting. Major decisions made include proceeding with four full-day kindergarten classes in Grand Forks despite lower enrollment numbers, starting the process of transferring phone systems to voice over internet protocols (VOIP), and allocating some of the $350,000 in operating surplus.


A decision around the board’s proposed conflict of interest guidelines has been delayed until later in the year, probably the fall. Their next step in this process will be a facilitated in-camera meeting with the trustees. When asked about who the facilitator will be, Teresa Rezansoff, chair of the board of trustees, said they could not divulge the name at this time.


“We had tabled it at our last board meeting expecting that we would be able to handle it at this board meeting, but we had somebody that was coming to help the board with it and that person wasn’t able to come until after this meeting. So it will not be handled in an open board meeting probably until August or September depending on when we put it back on the agenda,” said Rezansoff.

Trustees were advised by the Secretary / Treasurer Jeanette Hanlon that there is an unanticipated surplus of $350,000 in the current year’s budget. A surplus Hanlon said was a result of reduced usage in a variety of areas that she cannot be certain are sustainable cost reductions.

The surplus was welcomed since the district is faced with replacing the phone system at Christina Lake Elementary (CLE) immediately. The phones at many of the schools have been slated for replacement as the systems are old and not replaceable. Unfortunately, the system at CLE broke down before the entire new high-speed internet fibre system is fully in place. Hanlon requested that the board approve the transfer of $100,000 from their operating budget to their capital budget to assist in starting the changeover of the phone systems, in particular the one at CLE.

“What we’re looking at for variance of budgeted vs. actual is around 2.3 per cent so we’re expecting $100,000 in salaries and benefits, $220,000 in supplies and $30,000 in revenues over what I had projected to begin with,” said Hanlon. “So we’re looking at around $350,000 in the black. So one thing that we haven’t budgeted for is the phone system and ChristinaLake’s has crashed.”

The entire fibre system will be installed later this year and all schools will eventually be upgrading their phone systems to be internet-based VIOP. This will result in cost savings for the district in both long distance fees and the number of lines needed for schools. There is a potential for some revenue generation as well as the district pursues an agreement with Provincial Learning Network that currently pays Telus or Shaw Cable for service provision. The fibre system is being funded through provincial and federal grants in partnership with the City of Grand Forks and the school district. Hanlon said that the entire changeover of the phone systems will be a minimum of $150,000 while the system at ChristinaLake alone will be $4,000.


Full-day kindergarten


As part of the district’s move to full-day kindergarten by 2011/12, this year’s classes are in the process of filling up. School Superintendent Michael Strukoff said that there were not enough students enrolled to date to pursue two kindergarten classes at Dr. Perley Elementary, while the classes at John Hutton were close to full with a few spaces left. The district could have realized about $95,000 in savings by having only one class for the early years at Perley, but instead the trustees voted to provide two teachers for kindergarten at the school as they had already budgeted for in the 2010/11 budget year.

“It’s our first year out (with full-day kindergarten) and it is a funded piece that we’re not taking from our surplus or we’re not putting there from our other classes, I think that we should stay with the four classes this year,” said Kathy Riddle, trustee.

Strong Start

Director of Instruction Maxine Ruzicka said that the Strong Start programming will be continuing through the summer and into the next year with a modified schedule. Their decisions for the early years program was based on information from the different community’s scores on the Early Development Instrument criteria that identifies vulnerable children.

“After much consultation with early years partners, public health, Strong Start facilitators and the family centre co-ordinator it has been decided to ask for the Greenwood Elementary Strong Start program to be changed to an outreach program,” explained Ruzicka. “It will continue to operate for three days a week at GreenwoodElementary School and two days a week at ChristinaLakeElementary School. Our second outreach program will offer two days at MidwayElementary School, two days at WestBoundaryElementary School and one day at BeaverdellElementary School per week. HuttonElementary School will continue with a five day a week program during the school year and the PerleyElementary School program will be changed to a year round program with four days a week during the school year and three days a week during the summer. Additionally, the Ministry of Education has given us permission to give ChristinaLakeElementary School an additional day a month (10 days) from the Perley Strong Start program.”

Administrative changes

As a result of the cost-savings reductions instituted by the board to balance their budgets, the school board office has lost their receptionist. The board offices will be closed to the public on Fridays in order to allow the staff to manage their workloads. Messages can be left for the staff who will continue to work on Fridays, but who may not be directly answering calls.

Loss of electives at Boundary Central Secondary School (BCSS)

Parent and Greenwood City Councillor Christopher Stevenson asked for an explanation from the trustees for the loss of socials electives at BCSS. Stevenson said that many students planning to attend university must have certain courses and the loss of these electives puts their future in question. Strukoff explained that the school decided not to offer the courses in the next term as a result of low enrollment in those programs.

“A number of those courses are electives. Our understanding is when the school asks for student preferences and course selections, and they submit them that not all the courses that could be offered at the school are offered because of low enrollments. In this particular year, there was a list of courses, such as geography, history and first nations that are not being offered because of very low enrollments. On the other hand there’s been a very strong enrollment in sciences in that school,” said Strukoff. He went on to advise the parents that, although the courses are not being offered this term, they could be available in the next term.


The board approved a number of policy updates including the roles of the board, board chair, vice-chair and superintendent of schools.

The board approved the school growth plans and goals for 2010 – 2011; annual school fees; the ministerial achievement contract; Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy’s literacy plan; and their five-year strategic plan.

“I just think it’s been an amazing amount of work that has gone into it (the strategic plan.) I think it will be really fun instead to be on the other side of this and just looking and adjusting as the five years go by and see if we actually have to go in and do any major changes,” said Rezansoff.


opies of all of these can be found on the website at: http://www.sd51.bc.ca/board/pdf/Agendas/June%202010

References and Links:

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