A new lineup of senior managers was unveiled Monday by the Okanagan Skaha School District, which is looking to turn the page on a tumultuous 2019-20 year.
Three of the four new leaders are promotions, while the fourth is an outside hire.
Nothing is official until the start of the 2020-21 session on Aug. 1, but the head of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union already likes what he sees.
“I think OSTU, in my memory, has never been more optimistic about a team we have in the board office that want to work with everybody, rather than stake out their own territory,” said president Kevin Epp.
“We’re looking forward to getting out of this mess together.”
The new hire is Nicole Bittante, who takes over as secretary-treasurer after two years with the Comox Valley School District. Prior to that, she helped the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District right the ship after the entire board was fired by the B.C. government in 2016 due to mismanagement.
Bittante replaces Kevin Lorenz, who parted ways with Okanagan Skaha this spring after losing the confidence of trustees and the school community over a lack of budget transparency, resulting in the district hiring outside financial consultants.
Also gone as of Friday is Wendy Hyer, who is retiring after 11 years as superintendent. She will be replaced by her understudy, Todd Manuel, who has been in the post since February, when Hyer went on an extended medical leave at the same time as Lorenz.
Rounding out the lineup are Jason Corday, who has been promoted from director of instruction to assistant superintendent, and Allen Beckingham, who moves up from a district principal position to become director of instruction.
School board chairman James Palanio said the new group will provide an important source of continuity for the district.
“I think (Manuel) is really comfortable with these people, and he wants the people he has the confidence in – and I agree,” said Palanio.
“I think they are stellar employees doing a great job for the district.”
But while the district’s administration new team is set, it’s still unclear what shape the new school year will take.
The B.C. government, which allowed children to return voluntarily to schools part-time in June, has said it intends to carry on with that model in September. However, it has also asked parents to make backup plans in case the pandemic closes schools again.
Epp said there is “a lot of trepidation” among teachers, who are hoping to hear more specifics of the return-to-school plan from the B.C. government this week.
“I’m crossing my fingers (the government) won’t leave too many loose ends for us to tie up like they did in June,” said Epp.