Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Langley School District Special Report by Susan Semonick - Wine & Cheese Anyone?

(Susan Semonick is a previous DPAC President and a community activist working for the betterment of the Langley School District- EDITOR-LFP)
January19, 2007

Well, it’s official. The School Board is now looking at closing Aldergrove Elementary without even considering looking in their own backyard first.

The first meeting in the round of consultations for the South Central area of the school district was held on Jan.18th. People who attended were told that the average household incomes for most in this area were in the upper end of the scale. I wonder where the 48.19% of the families in the Township with annual household incomes below $50,000.00 (2003 Census data) are, and how they feel when one trustee is reported to say that the $50,000.00 in savings, which a reduction of two trustee seats could generate, is not a significant amount. http://members.shaw.ca/amalgamateschoolboard

On December 6th, the School District Foundation had their AGM. The interesting thing is that they are still receiving $75,000.00 from the ISP (International student Program) program. Moreover, the School District donates the services of one of their employees, as an Executive Director of the Foundation, at a cost of $41,941. I suspect the Foundation also uses office space and supplies donated by the District. On their statements, there is no accounting for these contributions that I could see.

There is another concern that is more of a question of ethics. This is that the School District does not allow parents or parent groups that are fundraising for student related activities to advertise alcohol-related functions through the schools, or use a school’s name in advertising these kinds of functions. The District even created a policy to disallow such conduct. Yet, the Board permits the Langley School District Foundation to advertise a Wine and Cheese function on web space on the school district’s website which it provides to the foundation - again at no charge that I could find recorded. The school district even expects students to take advertising home for this obviously alcohol-related function. The organization is called the Langley School District Foundation. Does that not cover all schools in its name? How much consideration did the directors, and in particular the trustees on the foundation board, give to doing this and how it would appear to students whom they are supposedly supporting? At what cost do they chase the almighty dollar?

To date, the only thing different by establishing the foundation is that we now have an employee costing close to $42,000 dollars assigned to do the work that normally volunteer directors would do. I still have not seen any events or initiatives that the district wasn’t doing or couldn’t do prior to the foundation’s creation.

When the foundation was created, I questioned the possibility that the foundation could go into areas that would take away from PAC fundraising. One trustee even personally guaranteed me that the foundation was being created to access corporate partnerships and would not be taking away from traditional PAC fundraising sources. The notice that was sent via district mail regarding the Wine and Cheese asked for donations and participation from individuals and local businesses. If individuals and local small businesses are not the traditional revenue source for PAC’s then what is?

The SDBC (School District Business Company) had its annual general meeting on January 18th. They reported a net loss of $8,774.00, and at fiscal year end have $63,247.00 owing to the school district on its $100,000 line of credit. The president of the SDBC did state that 2007 would be a critical year for its operations. The District originally committed approximately $300,000 dollar for the in-house development of products, which it anticipated that the SDBC could market for the school district. Since then the district has transferred to the SDBC the rights to the World Kids series of materials. The original projections for anticipated revenue from the sales of this material were reported to be 160,000 in 2005 and $288,400 in 2006. The SDBC realized a zero net income in 2004, $214 in 2005, and a net deficit of $8,774 in 2006. Clearly, a business plan gone awry. A plan, by the way, that when a member of the public requested to review it, the directorship declined to reveal, claiming it contained information which could give away any edge it may have to possible competitors. The SDBC has one inactive subsidiary and anticipates that there could be another subsidiary created in the coming fiscal year.

Let’s hope that if another year of loss occurs, the sole shareholder (the Langley School District) will decide to dissolve the company and chalk it up to “not their line of business”.

Susan Semonick

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