EDITORIAL

From left, Shelley Clarke, Barb Sheppard and Linda Van Alphen all voted against a special financial adviser offered by the provincial government to the board for free in 2016. Now they are facing a financial crisis. They should do the right thing and resign.

Unless the elected trustees and senior staff are willing to come clean on what’s happened at the school board office this year, there needs to be a mass resignation at the conclusion of the Feb. 24 public meeting.

Somehow — whether the fault of previous employees or present staff — budgeting was not done properly and there is a $1.15 million shortfall in the 2019-20 school year, which includes a $370,000 operating deficit and $780,000 in reduced government funding due to an unexpected decrease in enrolment.

Now, on top of all that, principals have been told to come up with additional cuts to the tune of $377,000 to offset a projected deficit. Some of this could conceivably come from fundraising money for projects such as school trips, dry grad, equipment repairs and band instruments.

This school year, programs were slashed, special needs students weren’t getting the support they deserve and a full-time Aboriginal education district principal was eliminated.

Kids simply aren’t getting the services and support they deserve, and sadly, in many cases, it was the kids who need support the most.

It’s frightening that principals and teachers are unable to speak publicly. There’s a culture of fear, one similar to the Republican Senate which didn’t vote to impeach Donald Trump because they were scared. For a board that promotes anti-bullying and a safe workplace, we can’t understand why they’re silencing their employees.

Most offensive is that nobody is willing to admit there’s a problem. Trustees sit at meetings like The Sphinx as the secretary-treasurer offers non-answers and the superintendent grins. They consider this accounting snafu to be nobody’s business.

Well, they are sadly mistaken. A full forensic audit must be conducted by the Ministry of Education. Trustees must be willing to examine the amended budget (scheduled to be discussed on Feb. 24) line for line. All parents need to attend the public meeting and ask hard questions. Write to the Minister of Education. Email MLA Dan Ashton. Phone your trustees and don’t accept, “The chair speaks for the board” as an answer.

In this same school year, parents will be asked to pay for a busing fee, yet only 18 months earlier then-trustee Ginny Manning said the board’s philosophy has always been to provide the service in hopes of getting as many at-risk students to attend school and graduate as possible.

The board screws up and parents and students have to pay for it.

In June 2016, Ashton offered a special adviser — at no cost to the board and local taxpayers — who would review the books and help get SD67 back on sound financial footing.

All of the trustees on the board at the time — with the notable exception of the late Bruce Johnson — turned Ashton down. They were offended, believing they were capable of looking after their own books. Apparently, they’re not capable.

Trustees who were on the board that supported turning down the financial adviser include Shelley Clarke, Barb Sheppard and Linda Van Alphen.

All were re-elected in 2018 and all three must now do what’s in the best interest of children: resign.