April 23/14: The Record Off The Record: Special Budget Meeting / Final SD61 Budget Vote

Next meetings:  
Monday May 5 7pm: Education Policy: Monterey Middle School [no policy on agenda]
Monday May 12 7:30 pm: Operations Planning and Policy, Tolmie Bldg Board Room
Monday May 20 7:30 pm: Board Meeting, Tolmie Board Room


Greater Victoria is the 6th largest employer in the Capital Regional District with an annual budget of $195,330,769.00 of your tax dollars (for the coming school year).


You pay nine Trustees approximately $1,200.00 a month, each. Watch for a motion to raise the salaries of Trustees, while SD61 continues to make cuts to comply with Ministry of Education directives, and carries an $8.1 million structural deficit.

Watch for a motion to raise Trustee salaries to resurface. From March 26, 2014 Lined Paper: Ferris: “We should have some kind of mechanism to raise rates by formula annually, as is in place for the Trustee stipend every three years. [Recent proposal to raise Trustee stipend was declined by majority. With new terms for municipal elections going to four years with the November 2014 elections, this will have to be revisited. ” FYI, BC School Trustees Board stipends are tied to teacher bargained raises.]


The Record Off The Record is my personal record of and commentary on Board and Standing Committee meetings in School District 61 Greater Victoria (Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal,and parts of Saanich and Highlands). Official approved minutes of Board and Standing Committee meetings are posted on the SD61 website under the “Board of Education” menu,  (Education Policy Development Committee is posted as “Education Meetings”; Operations Policy and Planning Committee is posted as “Operations Meetings”) generally one month after the meeting. Agendas are posted the Friday before the meeting.

Required reports from In Camera meetings are posted on the Board meeting page as “Section 72 Reports”. “Section 72” refers to Section 72 (3) of the BC School Act which states “ A board must prepare a record containing a general statement as to the nature of the matters discussed and the general nature of the decisions reached at a meeting from which persons other than trustees or officers of the board, or both, were excluded, and the record must be open for inspection at all reasonable times by any person, who may make copies and extracts on payment of a fee set by the board.” Key word: “general”. Any report beyond the basic one required must be done by an in camera motion and majority vote.  SD61 Bylaw 9360.1 states:  In-camera items that may be discussed confidentially include legal, property, personnel and privacy matters as defined by provincial  legislation. [Note, not “are limited to”.]

The public meeting schedule is posted on the District Calendar.  Trustees  are referred to by last name only for brevity; “the Board of Education of SD No. 61 (Greater Victoria) is referred to as “the Board”. No audio recordings are made of Standing Committee meetings, only of Board meetings. [No record of how the audio recording decision was made, or any debate on proposed uses of and storage of the record appears to exist.]  Motions may be shortened but retain the essential wording.

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A. Commencement of Meeting: Chair Orcherton
A.1 Approval of Agenda: Adopted, with additions at C. b) McNally and C. c) Nohr

B. Public Presentations on the 2014/15 Budget: None. No member of the public presented.

C. 2014/15 Annual Budget
The Secretary Treasurer opened the meeting with a review of selected  budget presentation slides (above). The Superintendent reiterated that the entire District was looked at, looking to make the smallest impact on students, for example music programs.[SD61 puts a significant amount of money into optional music programs.] But every reduction has an impact.The Secretary Treasurer addressed the budget reductions presented with the agenda, beginning on page 6.

a) 2014/15 Budget Debate:
Recommended Motions:

i) That the Board approves [sic] carrying forward the $6,300,000 to the 2014/15 school year to be applied against the deficit. /
Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Loring-Kuhanga, McEvoy, Nohr, Orcherton Against:      Abstain: McNally

  • McNally: Abstaining . Can’t actively support the destruction of public education. As the Superintendent said, every cut has an effect.

ii) That the Board approves [sic] the list of proposed budget options for the 2014/15 school year and approves [sic] carrying forward the $53,501 to the 2014/15 school year to be applied against the deficit.    [Two amendments below]

  • Loring-Kuhanga: In the March 26 public budget presentation the Sundance closure was shown as part of the reduction / savings options. Why is it not shown in the material we have tonight?
  • Secretary-Treasurer: Was a decision made on March 27. These decisions are the ones that are left to decide on.
  • Loring-Kuhanga: Budget reduction were sold as a package, and the Sundance closure should be in. Voting against the motion for that reason.

iii) Notice of Motions
[Under “Recommended Motions”? These are not  Notices of Motion as they are motions that will be voted on at this meeting right now, and are motions that Trustees have had four days to read and consider.  Notice of Motion is given ahead of an agenda so Board members have time to review a motion’s content and implications. So these are New Business. But whatever, I guess. ]

a) Horsman: Motion to amend a) ii: That The Board approves [sic] using the unallocated budget amount of $53,501 to fund learning mentors at the following schools based on CommunityLINK data: Craigflower, George Jay, Victoria West, Tillikum and Quadra. / Defeated. For:  McEvoy, McNally [had to vote for this, to keep it from getting sucked into the deficit] , Nohr    Against: Alpha, Ferris, Leonard, Loring-Kuhanga, Orcherton

  • Horsman: Motion to amend agenda: Move this this as an amendment to ii) ./ Carried. Unanimous.
  • McNally: Adding an afternoon a week will not be dramatically helpful; could add the entire amount to a school that really needs it: Craigflower, where it would make a noticeable difference.
  • Alpha: Against amendment; want to move the $53,501 forward to the next year’s deficit.Vic West teachers have said they don’t find the Learning Mentors helpful at all, so no point putting the money there.
  • McEvoy: Small amount, but can make a difference; Learning Mentors leverage the $53,501.
  • Ferris: Structural savings and cost savings – ongoing yer after year – no learning mentors in other schools? They functioned without them before and can do that again.
  • Nohr: Support spending this money on Leaning Mentors. They work wit the teacher or with small groups of students. McNally wants the money to go to just Craigflower. Know the composition of all the schools; this is an equality issue.
  • Alpha: Learning Mentors are not Learning Assistance or integration support. They do not work directly with students. Would support if work was with students face to face for example Reading Recovery or literacy or numeracy learning support.Kids need support for their learning that is direct and ongoing. this is very little money, so use it for learning support.
  • Nohr: Learning Mentors come to the schools, yes, but still did work directly with students and did other activities eg modeling for teacher- found it helpful as a teacher.
  • McEvoy: Alpha has changed her tone from 24 hours ago [re the McNally Learning Initiatives motion] … agree with Nohr. McNally needs to think about what could happen to the $53,000 [am thinking about it; it could be scooped by the Ministry of Education in an order to use it for some decreed purpose, like funding seismic upgrading the Ministry reneged on].
  • Leonard: Apply it to the deficit.
  • Secretary-Treasurer: SD61 is $6.3 million in the red and that deficit will grow from there starting next school year. Will start the year with a structural deficit.
  • Horsman: Ministry will grab the surplus so we need to earmark it – put it in the classroom and keep teachers who can help with a wide variety of challenges.

b) McNally: Motion to amend a) ii: That the $53,501 surplus be used to provide Craigflower school with additional Reading Recovery time  and / or learning support time to be decided by the school staff. / Carried. For: Alpha, Horsman, McEvoy, McNally, Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr   Against: Ferris, Leonard, Orcherton [back to main motion as amended ]

  • McNally: Many of us have been out to support Idle No More and other Aboriginal rights actions by attending rallies, and some of us attended Truth and Reconciliation events in our city, as I did; we like posts on Facebook and retweet on Twitter.  We know that the Craigflower student demographic is predominantly Aboriginal. I have volunteered at an after school program [as I don’t want to take a GVTA / CUPE job by volunteering in the classroom], and observe in a speech pathology small group. I have spent a lot of time at the school. Now we need to put our money on the line and dedicate this money as a small part in redress for cultural genocide.
  • Horsman: In favour.
  • Alpha: Agree.
  • McEvoy: Superintendent, what is the process if this money went to Craigflower?
  • Superintendent: Principal and staff would discuss.
  • McEvoy: Absurdity of what the Minister is doing. Boards now fear having a surplus.Support.
  • Leonard: This isn’t a surplus; it could reduce the $600,000 in cuts. This is like a Christmas present that’s an empty box.
  • Loring-Kuhanga: In favour; have spent time with students and staff and know a lot of the families there.The other five schools have similar needs but will get more results in one school than by spreading it over five.Extremely high needs at this school.
  • Orcherton: Concerned about spending so the Ministry doesn’t get the money. We haven’t even determined if we accept all the motions; putting cart before the horse.
  • Nohr: Have had several considerations of the options so we’re quite clear. This is a significant sum for that school and those students.

Amendment carried, so back to main motion, as  amended: That the Board approves [sic] the list of proposed budget options for the 2014/15 school year and approves [sic] that the $53,501 surplus be used to provide Craigflower school with additional Reading Recovery time  and / or learning support time to be decided by the school staff.

  • Loring-Kuhanga: Change wording to “allocate to”. / Unanimous approval.
  • Leonard: Too prescriptive. Motion to amend: “additional support to be decided by staff”.
  • Alpha: In favour. Autonomy piece is important. But Reading Recovery has been shown in research to be b very effective. The staff will figure it out.
  • Ferris: The Superintendent shouldn’t have to explain that to school staff.
  • McEvoy: It would be good for the Superintendent to reflect the discussion at the Board.But autonomy lies with the school.
  • Vote on Leonard’s amendment: / Carried. Unanimous.

Main motion as amended, again (final wording by McEvoy fixed the subjuncitve): That the Board approve the list of proposed budget options for the 2014/15 school year and allocate  $53,501 to  Craigflower school for additional  support, to be decided by the school. / Carried. Unanimous.


c) Nohr:That the Board eliminate BCSTA fees [Vancouver School Board’s fees are $80,000: p 16 VSB Budget presentation April 2014 ] and apply the additional funding to student support which will be determined by senior administration in conjunction with the GVTA. / Defeated. For: McNally, Nohr  Against: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Loring-Kuhanga, McEvoy, Orcherton

  • Nohr: The BCSTA is ineffectual. NDP K-12 Education Critic Rob Fleming recently sent out a letter with content that we never hear from the BCSTA.There have been many missed opportunities for real outspoken advocacy. Letters and discussions are ineffectual. There has been no positive substantive effect on learning for students. Co-governance doesn’t exist. Issues are stated too carefully to raise public  awareness. BCSTA could do an effective media campaign regarding issues in schools but don’t. Doing the same thing and getting the same result.
  • Horsman: This would be cutting ourselves off from the only advocacy network we have and is the wrong way to go.BCSTA is our only joint voice on provincial bargaining.The BCTF operates differently; has a mandate to advocate for members. The BCSTA is a coordinating body.Letters from Boards are the legal way to lobby. At BCSTA meetings Trustees have direct access to the Minister and Ministry officials. BCSTA would be stronger if everyone went to the meetings.This is notice of a one year process to withdraw from the BCSTA so doesn’t take effect immediately.
  • McEvoy: BCSTA has been functioning for 110 years. Provides professional development opportunities for Trustees to learn.As former President know that President has to balance needs of all Boards. Horsman has demonstrated long service [Horsman has been Trustee on SD61 Board since 1986].
  • Loring-Kuhanga: Of two minds about this.Been a Trustee for five years and understand the difficulties faced by the President with Boards on the left and Boards on the right. Recently there have been improvements in in advocacy and in publicizing issues in social media.
  • McNally: Agree with Nohr’s analysis and recommendation that  Trustees band together in another way, and divest from BCSTA. Trustees generally are dong the will of the Minister of Education, who is the Honourary President of the BCSTA.The person who is destroying public education in BC is our Honourary President! In favour of motion.
  • Ferris: There appears to be some confusion about the role of a School Trustee. Regarding McNally’s comments, if you’re going to change people, you have to sit and talk to them and change by increments. Running away doesn’t help.BCSTA has done a good job of training Ministers. People there try to explain to him that  the initiative won’t work.We keep trying to explain.
  • Alpha: Won’t support. We have one association, the BCSTA. Reform shoudl be in the future. We need solidarity right now.The Minister will look for cracks to exploit.The BCSTA is better than not being joined together at all.
  • Orcherton: A number of possibilities from us. Two of our schools will be presenting at the BCSTA AGM. Not every voice feels represented.We have to stay and talk with other people. Had some success with former Minister McRae on cooperative gains.
  • Nohr: Live down the street from the Minister. Stay and talk has brought us to the disaster we’re in now. It’s time to step away and do some form of grassroots organization.Funding for our students should not be a divisive issue at the BCSTA . There is too much equivocation.

b) 2014/15 Annual Budget Bylaw:
Recommended Motions:

i) That the Board agrees [sic] to give all three readings of the 2014/15 Annual Budget Bylaw at this meeting. Motion to be carried unanimously. / Carried. For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard,  McEvoy, McNally, Orcherton   Against: Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr

ii) That the Board 2014/15 Annual Budget Bylaw in the amount of $195,330,769 be read a first time, read a second time, read a third time at this meeting. And that the Chairperson and the Secretary Treasurer be authorized to sign, seal, and execute the Bylaw on behalf of the Board.

The first and second  readings were called by the Chair, but because  of lack of unanimity on the  vote, the final reading and vote went to an email Poll Vote.

Results of the Budget Bylaw poll vote: / Carried. For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, , Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton   Against: McNally, Nohr   Abstain: Loring-Kuhanga

The Budget was reported to have carried unanimously, but the results of the Poll Vote on the Budget Bylaw were not reported publicly. The Budget Bylaw is the most critical vote, as if it failed, the entire Budget would have to be revisited as it could not be sent in to the Minister of Education. [School Act: “Adoption of budget 113  (1) A board, by bylaw (a) must adopt an annual budget on or before June 30 of each year for the next fiscal year,…”]   Most of the text of my letter was printed in the Times Colonist, May 3/14.

On April 28, the School District 61 budget was described as having carried unanimously. There is the budget vote, and then there is the Budget Bylaw, separate votes. I voted in favour of the budget so a “surplus” could go to a school to enable hiring additional learning support personnel. Use of the “surplus” in that way was something I initiated via motion.

But the term “surplus” is misleading. School District 61 has an $8.1 million structural deficit, the ever-widening gap between what SD61 spends and what is received in funding. Accounting rules make it possible to create the annual balanced budget required by the School Act, while carrying millions in deficit.

Following the budget vote is a vote on the official Budget Bylaw so the budget can be sent to the Ministry of Education. I voted against all three Bylaw readings in one meeting, which needs unanimous agreement, so the final vote went to an email “poll vote”.

I voted no in that final vote. I do not agree with closing a school this year, or with the cuts required since 2001 (which included closing many other schools). The cuts are direct results of underfunding and offloading of costs to School Districts by the Province. The latest backtrack on promised funding means that many Districts must hold off on school seismic upgrading. This is typical of the capricious funding decisions Districts deal with throughout the year.

Recently a colleague said Trustees have had an effect on Minsters of Education via numerous pleading letters, and that the Ministers just don’t understand what effect their announcements have. They do understand; the agenda is clear: destruction of an excellent public education system. That is why I voted “no” on the final and critical vote to send the budget to the Minister of Education.

D. Advocacy Letter to the Minister


E. Adjournment: 9:30 pm

Playfair Park Garry Oak Ecosystem restoration

Playfair Park Garry Oak Ecosystem restoration

About Diane McNally