Public can comment on education budget

Summerland and Penticton residents are invited to offer their thoughts on the Okanagan Skaha School District budget.

The public will have its say next month on the budget for Okanagan-Skaha School District 67.

Monday afternoon the Ministry of Education released the preliminary operating grants for the 2012/13 school year.

Early indications are that the district will face a funding shortfall.

A public budget meeting is scheduled for April 4 at 7 p.m. at the Penticton Secondary School library. Everyone is welcome. On April 5 a budget input survey will be available on the school district website.

The board also discussed a new rental policy for facilities. The district is reviewing its policy on rentals of school district facilities and grounds. The committee supported graduated fees with lowest rates charged for student-related activities and highest to private and commercial activities.

On Feb. 24 and 25 School District 67 was host for the Provincial Wrestling Championships at the South Okanagan Events Centre. More than 600 student athletes, coaches and parents attended.

At Monday’s meeting the board also issued a statement about the stalled negotiations with teachers:

“The Board of Education for School District 67 has always valued the work that all of our staff do to ensure our children are well educated.

“Our board continues to advocate for more money in the classroom, to look for ways to improve our revenues through entrepreneurial programs and to reduce costs by creating efficiencies wherever possible. Our goal is to improve the overall educational experience of every student in the district.

“For the past year our designated bargaining agent, the British Columbia Public School Employers Association, has been in negotiations with the British Columbia Teachers Federation with little movement or compromise on either side. Our board would have preferred a negotiated settlement and in fact we supported a motion to that effect at the recent BCSTA Provincial Council.  Bill 22 sets out a process for mediation to address issues important to both the BCTF and the employer. We are hopeful that both parties will take a reasonable approach and seek agreement through mediation on the full range of issues brought to the table.

“The board is aware that individual teachers in our district want very much to (and do) provide world class teaching to their students and like all professionals want improvements in their working conditions. We are hopeful that no matter the outcome we will continue to have the respectful, supportive relationships with all of our staff that we have enjoyed over many years.

“Our board commits to continued advocacy for the highest student achievement of our children.”