Sunday, September 14, 2008

Funding increases to SD 52 still leave Port Ed a little short

Conflicting messages came out this week from the school board offices, with funding advisories that offer some good news and some not so good news.

Early in the week the School District was trumpeting a change in their funding that provided for extra finances that will see the return of some small staffing increases at schools in Prince Rupert.

That positive development in Rupert however didn’t translate into assistance in Port Edwards which still is missing am important support staff position at the Port Ed school, which has become a safety concern for parents in that community.

Details of each development were provided in the Northern View and the Daily News.

Surplus gives teachers, funding back to Prince Rupert schools
By Shaun Thomas - The Northern View
Published: September 11, 2008 2:00 PM
Updated: September 11, 2008 2:15 PM

Cuts to schools and school staff in the Prince Rupert School District will be less significant that originally thought following the infusion of a $249,251 surplus and a $52,000 write-off of bad debts into this year’s budget. Secretary/treasurer Kim Morris presented an amended budget to the board during the September 9 meeting, one which puts the entirety of the additional $301,251 in extra money back into the school system.

The budget now reinstates a 1.0 FTE teacher at Conrad for full day kindergarten, a 1.5 FTE teacher at Lax Kxeen, a 1.0 FTE teacher network administrator and a 1.0 FTE secondary counselor, as well as moving a full time teacher into a full time vice-principal for Lax Kxeen. Roosevelt, Conrad and Lax Kxeen will see child care workers at the school for nine, six and three hours per day respectively. Part-time plumber and painter positions have also been re-instated for the coming year.

In making the initial budget last year the district had cut all school budgets by 20 per cent, but $76,529 of the surplus will be used to re-instate 10 per cent of the school budget cuts.

While the budget indicates a $352 deficit at the end of the year, Morris said she anticipates a small but not significant surplus heading into 2009/2010. Last year the board ended up overspending by $572,237, but the $1,029,314 surplus carried over from the 2006/2007 school year left the district with a total surplus of $433,189, of which

Safety fears hit 'understaffed' school
Questions raised about lack of secretary at Port Edward elementary
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Pages one and five
Thursday, September 11, 2008

Parents in Port Edward have safety concerns about students at Port Edward Community School after it emerged the school was operating without a secretary in the afternoon.

A parent brought the concern to Principal Sandy Pond last week, claiming students were being put at risk without somebody there to monitor the front door and answer the phone while school was in session.

Subsequently, Pond decided to lock the doors to the school during the afternoon, a move that Superintendent Eric Mercer said he found "unusual" and that he decided was not good practice.
At Tuesday night's school board meeting, Mercer answered questions from trustees as to what would be done to address the concerns of parents, stating that students are not at undue risk with the current arrangement.

"I know it seems unfair, but the special consideration that was given to Port Edward during the school closure discussions called for special and creative ways to solve the problem," said Mercer.
"Because numbers have dwindled, services had to be cut, and first and foremost to us is student achievement. Support did take a larger hit because our focus is on classrooms, and it was known that secretarial time would be reduced."

Mercer said that after two consultations between the District of Port Edward and School District 52, it was understood that the onus was on Port Edward to come up with ways to keep their school open.

Trustees agreed that there was a pressing need to get back to the table and discuss the shared responsibility for the school, and hear any new ideas that the Port Edward community had.
"We really need Port Ed to partner with us in any changes that are yet to come, because there's still a lot of empty space there," said Mercer.

"There are other solutions that we can go to, but I think they will be a lot more painful. We were hoping that the District of Port Edward would meet with their public and discuss it with the town, but it became obvious that hasn't happened."

The District of Port Edward Council discussed the situation in their elementary school during the in-camera portion of their regular council meeting on Tuesday night. Port Edward Community School Principal Sandy Pond was in attendance for the meeting, and said the council generally discussed the concerns of residents.

"We don't have any absolute solutions yet, and it would be premature for me to say anything other than we are looking into a few options," said Pond. "The safety of the students comes first, so we're going to do what we need to do to make sure that they are safe and that parents have access to the school when they need to. The staff here are working hard to make it work the way it is." Port Edward Community School has a current enrollment of 61 students in three classes

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