School board makes cuts

The Okanagan Skaha School District is cutting jobs to deal with a budget shortfall of almost $1 million.

The reductions, made after the district received feedback from the public and stakeholders, add up to 10 full time equivalent positions, but five are by attrition.

"It's never nice to have to cut, but the process was a good one and allowed for concerns to be brought forward," said secretary treasurer Bonnie Roller-Routley. "However, it is still a budget where layoffs need to occur."

The school board approved the preliminary operating budget for the 2014-2015 school year at their meeting on Monday.

When originally calculated earlier this year, the district announced that it was going to be facing the shortfall of nearly $1 million.

To balance the budget, the district staff prepared a plan to deal with the shortfall that was then presented to its stakeholder groups and the public for input and feedback.

Upon receiving the input, adjustments were made to address a number of concerns.

Chair Bruce Johnson said they got three messages loud and clear. The first was don't cut secretaries' hours at small schools and the second was don't cut the behaviour teachers who help at risk students.

The last was don't get rid of the gifted program for grades one to 5.

The full time positions to be eliminated include one vice principal, one delivery driver and one maintenance position.

Other reductions impact clerical, custodial and teaching positions.

Alison Reigh, unit 67 chair for CUPE local 523, said the bulk of it is CUPE members, largely clerical and some custodial and maintenance.

"CUPE is disappointed the bulk of the cuts were aimed at their members. This is going to impact our members' lives, as well as services to our students," she said.

Okanagan Skaha Teachers' Union president Leslea Woodward said there will now need to  be a lot more fund-raising by parent groups to ensure some programs continue.

She too was disappointed cuts had to be made, but recognizes the board is in a difficult position.

"The government needs to start funding public education, so school boards shouldn't have to say we are cutting programs for kids," she said.

The five positions that are by attrition are positions that are currently empty and won't be filled or where the district has had people resign or retire that won't be replaced.

Johnson expressed appreciation and gratitude to the public, partner groups and district staff for their contributions to the consultative process.

"Thank you to all those people who gave of their time, expertise and energy to help us contend with this shortfall," he said.



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