Thursday, December 27, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - Dec 27 NEWS FLASH - School Board Gives Itself 9% Raise

EFFECTIVE DECEMBER 1, 2007, the Board received a 9 % raise - not a bad percentage. They in effect have gone from $15,419 to $16,886 of which some of it is tax free - that’s right folks TAX FREE - with Burton receiving $2,000 more as Chair and McVeigh $1,000 more annually as Vice-Chair. Sad to think that the cost of the raise covers the cost savings of closing South Carvolth. McVeigh has stated in the past that it is not for the money they are trustees. Then I ask, why do they keep taking the raises when it certainly would help the students if they didn’t? That goes for every one of them.

Here is a bit of history:

Trustee Indemnity (Base)
Cost Saving Measures

Before June 2006 the base indemnity was $11,508.00, and they closed South Carvolth at the end of June 2006. Trustees receive raises twice in 2006 and by December 2006 their base indemnity was $15,419.00, which is a 34% raise.

In June 2007, they closed Aldergrove and Bradshaw elementary schools and promptly received an increase of 9.5% effective December 1, 2007. How much of an increase will they get if they close Murrayville Elementary effective June 2008 as is predicted?

On the savings side, the trustees who do receive medical coverage are now only getting 50 per cent of their premiums covered and this will soon decline to zero by December 2008.

Trustees attend around 77 meetings per year or less so every time they show up they are getting at least $219.00. If they were paid hourly their cost would be around 44.00 per hour. At least one of our trustees does the minimum 37 formal meetings and a few foundation meetings that is what is reported to the public so that works out to approximately 75 dollars an hour. Not so bad a gig I guess that is why we have some that continue one election after another and do not expand to other political areas. Chair Burton receives an additional $2,000.00, and McVeigh receives an additional $1,000.00 annually to be chair and vice-chair. They do not appear to do any more than the other trustees do. Remember now they say they are “not in it for the money.” they are there “for the students.” You make your decision at the ballot box. If you believe the above statement is true then vote for them. In 2004, only Trustee Bech asked for a reduction in their pay and her motion was defeated.

Trustees have reduced the amount of meetings they are required to attend and shortened the time they have to spend at them. With the changes to policy 1204, they have also effectively reduced the opportunity for public input as delegations to almost nothing and effectively eliminated question period at many of the recent meetings. This is a time for change.

In regards to these raises, one might be able to argue that the Board has breached their code of ethics where it states:
“They will recognize that the expenditure of school funds is a public trust, and will endeavour to see that ALL such funds shall be expended efficiently, economically, and for the best interest of the students.”

How can they say they have not breached this when the raises will be funded by the money acquired from the closure of schools? The funds will not be used in the classrooms but will be placed in their pockets.

We are looking at a 1.3 million deficit. Where else do they expect this money to come from? Especially since they still intend to continue to donate money to the Foundation, extend a line of credit to the School District Business Company, and accept increases to their own remuneration’s, which happen to be a higher rate of increase than what any of the staff who actually do the work and teach our students are receiving.

We need people who can be unbiased in their decisions with no conflicts of interest, who are able to put time into doing what they are elected to do - to be accountable to the students then the constituents; to keep open minds till all information is collected; to be aware of all the facts and financial costs; and to not be lead but to be leaders.

As an elected officer of the Board of Education policy # 0001 Code of Ethics should be read by all. Some additional excerpts are.

1. They will devote time, thought and study to their duties and responsibilities so that they may render effective and creditable service.

2. They will endeavor to work with each other in a spirit of harmony and cooperation in spite of differences of opinion that may arise during debate. They will observe proper decorum and behaviour: encourage full and open discussions in all matters with their fellow trustees; treat them with respect and consideration; and will not withhold or conceal from them any information or matter with which they should be concerned.

3. They will base their personal decision upon ALL available facts in each situation; vote their honest conviction in every case, unswayed by partisan bias and thereafter, abide by and uphold the final majority decision of the Board.

There has been talk recently of conflict of interest. There is a 130-page document on closure of schools recently presented at the BCSTA (BC School Trustees Association) conference, which addresses this area. If you read the document and the guidelines it discusses, it looks like at least two trustees should not have participated in the HDS vote according to public statements they made prior to it. It seems this Board constantly turns a blind eye to the public concept of what is seen as a conflict and what is not. Even the definition of ‘at arms length’ is straightforward yet this board seems to have a problem understanding the public perception or for that matter the CRA interpretation. When have they listened to the public? Since 2005 election I cannot cite one situation where they have, except when their decision only prolongs an inevitable decision that should have been made in the first place – South Carvolth and Aldergrove are examples....

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