Monday, September 19, 2016

No word from first School Board meeting on long running issue of empty Council seat

The SD52 website still features the class
photo from the 2014 School Board
election, despite the fact that Trustee
Judy Carlick-Pearson resigned her position
in the fall of 2015
With another school year underway fresh starts are the theme for many a student or teacher for 2016-17 across the city.

However for the elected members of the School District 52 Board, there is one large issue that remains unresolved from last November, with the Board yet to announce how they will fill the empty seat around their table that has been vacant for almost one year.

Last week School District 52 released some notes on their first meeting of the new school year held last Tuesday and while they covered a number of topics ranging from Transportation, the launch of the new school year and Capital Budget planning, they did not indicate what plans, if any, that they may have to hold a vote to fill the now long vacant seat on the elected board.

To refresh the memory, the Board found itself one person short in the fall of 2015 after Trustee Judy Carlick-Pearson resigned her seat, a process that should have been taken care of quickly by way of a by-election.

That however became a rather long running issue, with the School District and City Council never quite coming to an agreement on how to approach the election process and the cost that would be required to deliver the goal of a full complement at the School Board level.

The situation dragged on through the winter and spring and seemingly became less of an urgent issue for the School District as summer vacations arrived and everyone took a break for the months of July and August.

A little tutorial on that meandering path of the last year that has yet to lead to a ballot box for parents, guardians and other interested residents can be found below:


June 21 -- SD52 sets schedule for Board meetings for next year, but no update on plans to fill vacant seat
May 16 -- School District says City of Prince Rupert to review trustee by-election issue
April 18 -- SD52 to hold talks with City of Prince Rupert on by-election concerns and other issues
February 17 -- SD52 not impressed with City's by-election plans and cost
February 9 -- Council set to approve Electoral Officers, set in motion SD52 by-election process
January 29 -- Plans in motion to move forward with School District 52 by-election
January 18 -- School District 52 to seek counsel of Ministry of Education over City's by-election delay


December 11-- SD52 and City of Prince Rupert to work towards Board of Education By-election
November 19 -- Judy Carlick-Pearson steps down from School District 52 Board

With school back in session for a new academic year, it is time for the School District to either resolve the situation once and for all, or explain to parents why they have yet to provide for full representation and advocacy for the students of the region.

If nothing else, School District officials should outline for the public just what have been the road blocks that have been put in the way over the last twelve months when it comes to filling the vacant seat.

Still no indication from SD52 as to
when the will fill the now almost one
year vacancy on the Board
By neglecting to return the Board to its full compliment of elected officials, the School District could see many of those same parents and guardians begin to question if a School Board is required at all.

The theme of replacing elected School Districts with a larger administrative board is a topic that comes up from time to time across British Columbia, as the Province and the Ministry of Education looks to find ways to deliver funding and programs to the education system.

One concept was recently offered up by the Prince George Citizen, which suggested what would no doubt be a controversial approach when it comes to oversight on education across Northern British Columbia.

The Editorial page item provided some background on some recent history when it comes to education in the province, focused on how School Boards have had their authority reduced over the years, leaving the process to the point that there is really little for the School Boards to do.

In the Editorial from Neil Godbout, the author floats the idea of of phasing out the current School Board system and instead creating a regional authority much like which exists for Northern Health, removing much of the bureaucracy of the individual School Districts and in effect creating one Super District for the entire Northern region.

The pros and cons of such a concept are outlined as part of the piece and the impact on smaller communities such as Prince Rupert is something that is mentioned. With particular attention offered up towards the the amount of administrative jobs that might be reduced if such a project  was to be ever installed across Northern British Columbia.

The full editorial submission on the theme of failing School Boards can be reviewed here.

For many on the North Coast the idea of surrendering oversight on local school board planning and decision making probably would be a non starter for any conversation. Many parents might be just a little bit leery of the idea that appointed Board officials in Prince George would be aware of local issues that create challenges far from the head office.

Yet by kicking the vacant seat issue down the road as often as the SD52 trustees have to this point, they may be making the case for considering such a drastic shift in approach when it comes to the education system for the region.

If the local School Board can't find a way to ensure that its full representation is in place after a year of dithering on the issue, some might suggest that the option of replacing the entire system may have some merit.

You can review more items of interest related to School District 52 from our archive page here.

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