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North Okanagan-Shuswap teachers’ association president declares loss of confidence in school board

School District 83 Board of Education: (Back row) Barry Chafe, Chris Coers, Michel Saab, Bobbi Johnson, Bob Fowler. (Front row) Larissa Lutjen, Kelly Rowe, Jenn Wilchuk and Debbie Evans.
Image Credit: School District 83
April 21, 2016 - 4:30 PM

SALMON ARM - Tensions continue to erupt in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District as employees, and the teachers’ association, make their frustrations known.

North Okanagan Shuswap Teachers’ Association president Brenda O’Dell made no secret of her lack of faith in School District 83’s Board of Education at an employee group budget meeting Tuesday, April 19. O’Dell told school trustees she was withdrawing from the budget process and walked out of the meeting before it ended. A group of teachers also walked out of the meeting in protest.

“As the president of NOSTA, and the official voice of NOST, I’ve lost confidence in the decision-making bodies in this district, and have no faith in the processes that are designed to provide consultation to the board around the budget,” O’Dell said Thursday. "I can no longer participate in a process I don't believe in."

The board has been the focus of intense public scrutiny in recent weeks after parents discovered $10.5 million was transferred from the operational budget into capital funds over the past five years. Some of the money was used to pay for a $9 million District Education Support Centre and a $1 million building in the district works yard.

Employee budget consultation meetings typically provide an opportunity for employee groups to express concerns and make recommendations to the board. While O’Dell has made a personal decision to pull out of the process, she has stated any of the association’s members are free to participate.

The school board is currently projecting a budget shortfall of $1.9 million for the 2016/2017 school year. Trustees are reviewing a list of cost-saving recommendations, but the teachers’ association is urging them not to make any decisions until the results of a special advisor’s review into the board’s governance practices are released. The review is due back to the Ministry of Education by May 20. 

“Given that there’s been public calls for resignation of both the superintendent and the board, given that there’s over $10 million of questionable spending, given both the board and superintendent have claimed to not have known where the dollars for their new school board office came from, given all those things it’s created a state of mistrust and lack of confidence around this process,” O’Dell says.

Unlike parents, the association is not calling on the board to resign, but insists something must be done to restore confidence.

“We believe they need to find out what’s gone wrong and fix it,” she says. “The lack of trust and faith is the biggest thing right now. We’re not too sure how and by whom decisions are being made. Given that fact, how could the public or the employee groups have faith in the process?”

Three school trustees have resigned in that past month, and at least one has urged the remaining board members to do the same. A byelection is expected to be held in June to fill the seats.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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