We thought trustees with the Okanagan Skaha School District learned their lesson the hard way, four years ago.
In 2014, only weeks after being elected to the start of a four-year term, trustees (Bruce Johnson excluded) gave
superintendent Wendy Hyer one of the richest raises in all of British Columbia. The public was outraged.
According to the Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report, which was made public at Monday's board meeting, Hyer saw her salary increase again to $185,000 in 2018 — $17,000 more than the previous year or eight per cent.
The optics are poor.
Not withstanding the fine work of Hyer, the school board is cutting back on services for special needs children, supplies and programming, while facing a $1.7-million deficit. They overspent last year and
students are suffering this year because of it. All the while, they're sitting on millions of dollars in reserves, presumably to one day build a new board office.
Hyer’s 8% raise also comes at a time when senior staff is preparing to charge kids to take the bus.
Worst of all, the board was told Monday that the graduation rate for Aboriginal students has declined in the district. This is due, in part, to the elimination of a full-time Aboriginal principal in the system. The board cut that position this year in an effort to make up for overspending in 2018/19.
Shame on the trustees, shame on senior management.
But, according to secretary/treasurer Kevin Lorenz, everything is fine. This is just standard procedure.
The stonewalling happened again at this week's meeting. When our reporter
attempted to ask trustees about Hyer’s 8% raise, it was like the movie, “A Quiet Place,” where none of the protagonists could speak because they would be eaten alive by extraterrestrials.
Newly-elected chair James Palanio shut our reporter down and wouldn’t take
questions because the Hyer raise wasn’t on the agenda. (It was, however, in the agenda package, which in our opinion, makes it an agenda item.)
So seeing that the board won’t speak, we will.
The teachers and CUPE staff went on strike to receive a 1% pay raise. The
superintendent’s raise should be identical in per cent to what staff receives.
Comparatively, the top-paid high school principal is Chris Van Bergeyk at Peh-Hi, who last year earned $133,695.
With education being team focused, the superintendent shouldn’t make anything beyond 10% more than the highest-paid principal. Yes, the job is hard, but try being a teacher or principal.
It’s the principal who deals day to day with issues such as teen suicide, depression, bullying and anxiety. It’s the principal who has to keep 100-plus staff members happy. It’s the principal who gets to deal with distressed parents. When something goes wrong, it’s the teachers and principals who get blamed, not the suits at the board office. Never mind the many extra hours required to supervise student activities and attend special presentations by the students.
This issue is totally out of control. Trustees are brainwashed by their CEOs, not just here, but right across the province. It all starts at Trustee Academy where the training comes not from former trustees, but retired superintendents. The superintendents attend the trustee conventions — but it’s not the other way around.
The provincial government needs to step in — much the way former premier Gordon Campbell did when his government froze administrative wages — and restructure pay scales so it’s reasonable and fair for all parties. For every additional dollar senior administrators earn, that’s one dollar less that’s going to children.
— Valley editor James Miller