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Okanagan Skaha school board chair responds to Summerland proposal

Okanagan Skaha School District Board Chair Linda Van Alphen.
Image Credit: Contributed
September 19, 2016 - 4:34 PM

PENTICTON - A new concept for school administration put forward by the District of Summerland recently has raised some concerns.

Okanagan Skhaha school board chair Linda Van Alphen says the trustees have several concerns about the proposal, which would see the municipality take over administrative services of Summerland’s schools.

The proposal, released last week, would see a school board model similar to that which existed prior to amalgamation of the Penticton and Summerland school boards in 1996.

Van Alphen says School District 67 is currently involved in a pilot project with the City of Penticton, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and the District of Summerland to investigate services each organization might have expertise in order to share with each other to create efficiencies and save money.

Partial funding is being provided by the province in the amount of $50,000 and a Request for Proposal for a project coordinator will be closing soon.

Van Alphen says senior staff from all four organizations have been discussing the project since last spring. She says the board is aware Summerland took the proposal to Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Peter Fassbender in July.

“The lack of response from the ministry might have said something to Summerland municipal council about the merit of the proposal,” Van Alphen says.

She also notes the British Columbia School Trustees Association and the Union of B.C. Municipalities intend to sign a memorandum of understanding at the upcoming convention which will define the separate roles “in strong language” of educational boards and municipal councils. Van Alphen says the reason behind the memorandum stems from “political interference” when municipal councils in Summerland and Osoyoos vocalized their displeasure with the school closure announcements earlier this year.

Van Alphen says the board has enjoyed mutually collaborative relationships with local municipal councils for years, adding the hope is to continue those relationships.

"Summerland municipal council feel they would be better at navigating the complexity of school district financing and administration, but they say little about submitting an annually balanced budget,” Van Alphen says, noting school boards can’t raise taxes to cover budget shortfalls like municipal councils can.


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