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Penticton MLA says he hasn't considered school board amalgamation

Some school trustees are worried local boards of education will be easy pickings as the B.C. government looks for ways to cut costs.

They’re concerned one of the recommendations from the ongoing core review of government services will suggest reducing the number of boards for the 60 public school districts across the province.

“It is essential that we firmly establish the critical importance that locally elected boards of education play in the system and dispel the myths of easy economic gains that amalgamation or regionalization would bring,” B.C. School Trustees Association president Teresa Rezansoff wrote in a letter to members.

She said the BCSTA considers the core review “a top priority and an important call to action for boards of education as co-governors of B.C.’s public education system.”

The BCSTA intends to commission a study to analyze the cost of its members’ work that it will submit to the government, and embark on an external relations campaign to make its case to the public and politicians.

Bruce Johnson, chairman of the board of the Okanagan Skaha School District, said he isn’t worried about the outcome of the core review on the board or education funding.

“It’s just that we want to be proactive and we want to get our message out there for what our district and other districts are trying to do.”

Johnson said the B.C. education minister told trustees at a conference earlier this month that boards should continue to seek efficiencies and revenue-generation opportunities.

“He was very blunt that the funding we’ve been receiving is pretty much what we’re going to get and there’s no magic wand and no pot of money,” said Johnson.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton, who is a vice-chair of the cabinet working group on core review, said a specific money-saving proposal related to school boards would originate in the Education Ministry, and so far, “that hasn’t come to us.”

“I think, personally, as what we did in Penticton, everything should be on the table,” Ashton added.

The former mayor said he hasn’t personally considered the idea of school board amalgamation,

However, he did say that he “always appreciates local input,” and also believes “there are huge opportunities to look at stuff regionally.”

Recommendations from the core review are expected to be finalized by the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year, with completion of the process by the end of the 2014 calendar year.

 

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