SchooledI haven’t paid a lot of attention to the School District 20 debate over the Planning for the Future document. I read through the recommendations when it first came out (I think in 2008 for Part 1), but aside from the tax requisition that is obviously part of the issue, we homeschool our kids, so I have a fairly unbiased position on the issues of closing schools down or changing the use of buildings.

The preferred recommendations from staff all saw Trail as the only community not impacted with the loss of a school facility. (The school district basically covers the area between Castlegar and Trail, through Warfield to Rossland). So when the board voted against adopting any of the recommendations, and instead passed this motion, “That the Board consults with its communities to develop educational priorities for our students in order to incorporate this information into our Planning for the Future process and that the Board postpone the currently scheduled public meetings.”

This motion passed 5 to 3, and now, it seems that the three board members who voted no, feel that halting the process somehow deserves the attention of the province and have written a letter asking for intervention. The Castlegar Source has a copy of the whole letter, which finishes…

We three trustees – 1/3 of our board – are requesting assistance from your ministry for:

  1. Ministry intervention on Planning for the Future of S.D.20.
  2. Dissolve present board of Trustees
  3. Removal of Board Chair

This letter is written in the best interests of all students of S.D.20

In some of the comments, there is an inference that the delay is merely an attempt for five trustees to get their way through “might”, rather than making the”right” decision. My comment on the site is copied below.

This isn’t a political party, it is a board made up of trustees from various communities that, (I think it is safe to assume, but correct me if I am wrong) prior to this issue had no affiliation. You say “outvoted by might”, others would say “regional democracy”.

The system may not be perfect, but running to the province for intervention shows fracture rather than the strength that we need to ensure that the region continues to receive its share of provincial funding and services.

I can’t wait to see what the Province’s response will be… Hang on, it will probably be the same as what the City of Trail received regarding the East End Sewer Service – essentially, that the Province has no desire to step in, and that communities should find a way to work within the existing legislative and governance structure.

I’ve heard it said that the best negotiations are those where everyone feels that they have lost something. I’d guess that this process will only end when that state is achieved.

I’d rather that no one loses anything, but it seems pretty unlikely in this situation, so, as with many other issues we face as communities, we need to compromise as communities. Maybe the “right” solution on paper, is not the right one from the community standpoint – losing a school is bigger than just counting heads or seats or however they do it, the school provides many ancillary benefits to a community, whether it is kids spending money in the shops of the community, or parents picking their kids up and doing the groceries. Or perhaps it is as simple as the sense of ownership and place that students feel when they are part of a community. It stands to reason that most kids going to school in their own community would feel more ownership over the community and be more inclined to value it.

As with many of the costs we will face in the coming years, the cost of education is not likely to go down, and we will be forced to be smarter in how we spend the scarce resources that are thrown our way. It isn’t wrong for these communities to be concerned about the future of their communities and the students and schools they represent. What is wrong is attempting to pull the plug on any meaningful dialogue because those asked to sacrifice have decided to make some noise about it, and it appears that you might not get your way.

Kyra Hoggan, editor of the Castlegar Source sums it up nicely…

If I were a ministry rep, I would think the whole region is Deliverance revisited, and be unwilling to risk the political ramifications of interacting with any of us.

We’re sending a message – that engaging with us at all, in any way, at any time, and for any reason, is sheer folly … possibly even political suicide.

This makes ‘crying wolf’ seem utterly benign.

Rarely have we seen, in my opinion, such a gross and irresponsible violation of the public trust.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

2 replies on “SD20 Negotiations”

  1. Excellent post! You wouldn’t consider sending it as a letter to some local papers, would you?

  2. There is a problem with Democracy

    Thanks to Alex Atamaneko, M.P. for this courageous article in the Castlegar Source:

    Ironically, Canadians in general, and more curiously, folks in the Kootenays appear to be more & more willing to stand aside and look away, as our hard won democratic traditions, (for which Canadian have fought and died — and continue to fight & die today…) — are eaten away by a global rightwing, corporate-driven agenda – fuelled by greedy bureaucrats and embraced by self-serving politicians.

    Ironic, because of the regional delusion, that Kootenay folks are independent thinkers and tolerant of diversity, — even political opinions!

    Federally, where is the civil discussion of the relative merits of the war in Afghanistan. Of course, we support our troops — but where is the discussion of what, or who is motivating the mission and why?

    Mr. Atamaneko has effectively discussed the basic violations of Canadian Human Rights — of Free Speech and Assembly, that accompanied last summer’s G20 Summit in Toronto, where the use of police echoed some the questionable role of the police and the military around the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler.

    To what degree are Canadians prepared to give up their Human Rights, in silence, to enhance the comfort level of Bureaucrats and Politicians who are parading on the International Stage at the Canadian Taxpayers expense?

    Provincially, have we forgotten the years where there were only two voices in the British Columbia Legislature offering alternate views to the corporate-drive ‘slash & burn’ policies of the provincial neo-liberals — including an 8 billion dollar tax cut for corporation and the wealthiest citizens, financed on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens — the poor, the sick, the elderly and the disabled.

    The ‘protesters’ should have been applauded not chastised.

    And municipally, until the recent metamorphosis ’of the “born-again democrats” on Castlegar City Council — who leapt in front of the parade to protest Healthcare & Education cuts – while at the same time using public dollars to promote the bizarre plan to saddle home owners including, low income, senior and disabled residents with a 25 year property tax increase. — it was considered ‘business as usual’ for our local ‘rubber stamping’ politicians to belittle , malign, demonize and harass anyone who dared to give voice to suggestions that the Community might do better by openly considering ALL points for view in a process of arriving at sustainable decisions and progressive actions around all issues facing the Community of Castlegar.

    Quite simply Democracy must be practiced and defended – and those who dare to speak out deserve & need our support and protection, whether we agree with them or not … or the Freedoms for which Canadians have fought and died, yesterday, today & tomorrow, will be lost.

    Raymond Koehler

    4363 Broadwater Road,
    Castlegar, BC V1N 4V7

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