Nanaimo school district has to send its approved budget to the Ministry of Education by June 30.

Nanaimo school district has to send its approved budget to the Ministry of Education by June 30.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board to make decision on budget

Idea to nix deputy superintendent position scrapped

A bid to nix a new deputy superintendent position at Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has failed in the lead-up to the final approval of next year’s budget.

Nanaimo school trustees will be asked to do three readings of the 2018-19 annual budget bylaw and adopt it tonight, June 27, with a June 30 deadline to send the budget to the Ministry of Education.

A number of trustees liked what they saw in the budget at a recent business committee meeting, including chairman Scott Kimler who doesn’t believe it gets much better.

“We’re not closing any schools, we’re not laying anybody off, we’re actually bringing people on, we’re putting $4- million to help support students. I don’t think there’s anything not to love about this,” he said.

But three trustees, Tania Brzovic, Jamie Brennan and Noah Routley, opposed recommending the school board pass the readings and adoption for the bylaw.

Routley, for example, said he’d liked to have seen more emphasis on education assistants, support staff and a reduction on wait times for assessments and Brzovic said she struggled with the issue of the deputy superintendent, pointing out she reviewed policies and there are concerns. However, she also said there are good things in the budget, good increases in some areas and she’s glad the district kept its community school coordinators.

Brennan put forward a motion to nix the deputy superintendent position, which was created this spring as part of a senior management reorganization.

Brennan said if it’s the will of the board to have the position, that’s fine, but he thinks it needs to be done publicly.

Stephanie Higginson, trustee, said she struggled with the motion because she feels the time for the discussion has passed, but said she agreed process and policies were not followed in the creation of the position.

“Which makes me sad, or upset or whatever the right term is because I think if proper process had been followed we wouldn’t have to have this yucky feeling about a position,” she said. “It is in our policies that we should be included in the position and there hasn’t been a board vote on this position, nor was the board included in the process for filling a position.”

She later said if the superintendent wants to change policy, there’s a process for that, and that’s where people are struggling with it.

“Some members of the board feel disrespected by the process that happened and that’s understandable … me included, people are allowed to feel that way. But I think that replacing one disrespectful action with something I also find is subverting process when we’ve had two months of budget discussions doesn’t fix the problem and I think it actually creates a bigger problem,” said Higginson, who hopes there’s discussion about policy going foward.

Trustee Steve Rae said the board is setting itself down a “slippery slope” when it hires a superintendent, holds that person accountable for the success or failure of the district and then tells him how to do his job.

“If we overturn this position I think it would be an embarrassment to the district,” he said. “I think we would send a message to other people who would want to come and work here that they should be very careful because the board is playing with the trains and so I vehemently oppose this motion.”

Superintendent John Blain told the board the deputy superintendent was discussed in open and closed meetings in April and at no time did the board call a halt or suggest staff should. He also said there were no motions when he reported the change in model, the board accepted the report and from the rationale he presented and without any direction, he chose to move forward.

If the board went back to a status quo management model, Blain said he believes the district would have to add a position and it would increase the budget by about $155,000.

Only Brzovic, Routley and Brennan supported the motion regarding the deputy superintendent, which was defeated.

The board now has to pass three readings of the budget and unanimously adopt it. If trustees are not in agreement, a second meeting will have to be held.

The budget includes nearly $4 million in initiatives, including expanding focus schools from four to 12, and $58 million in teacher salaries.

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