A year after eliminating the sole staff position responsible for sexual education, the school board is still taking heat for its decision.
Trustees for the Okanagan Skaha School District have received three letters since April from parents and social service agencies concerned about how the programming is being delivered to students in Grades 6 to 10.
One of the letters, from an unidentified group of parents of Penticton Secondary School students, noted its disappointment with the “disjointed” delivery this year of the Family Life program, at least part of which was taught by a third-party contractor.
The parents questioned the contractor’s qualifications to deliver such important material, and urged reinstatement of a Family Life teacher position “even in these very difficult financial times.”
Last spring, the school board eliminated the position, which would have been made vacant by a retirement, to help offset a budget deficit. This year, rather than having a single Family Life teacher deliver the material at all schools in the district, the responsibility was left to principals.
At the school board’s regular meeting Monday, Trustee Linda Beaven asked staff to compile a summary from each principal explaining how government-prescribed learning outcomes were met this year.
“Because it’s so varied, it might be kind of interesting to see how different schools handle the situation,” Beaven said.
That report isn’t expected back until at least the school board’s next scheduled meeting in September.
Superintendent Wendy Hyer said “different schools use a different service delivery model depending on whose on staff,” but was unsure how many schools had contracted out Family Life lessons this year.
“I wouldn’t even say they’re contracting it out,” she added.
“I’d say I’d have to look into it a little more before I made a comment.”
Trustee Ginny Manning, who chairs the school board, said she’ll await the Family Life report in the fall before discussing the possibility of reinstating the position.
“At this point, I really couldn’t comment,” she said.
Both the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society and the South Okanagan-Similkameen Violence in Relationships Committee have also written to the school board in recent months about the changes in the Family Life delivery model.
Manning is not surprised concerns have lingered.
“This is a sensitive issue, and I think any time you change the way things are done, people are more interested and people want to know it’s being done in a way that’s beneficial,” she said.