Local Fort La Bosse School Division administration and the chair of the school board each weighed in on Bill 64, bringing slightly different perspectives on the broad and deep changes the Manitoba government is planning.
Superintendent Barry Pitz has had discussions with the Deputy Minister of Education Dana Rudy along with superintendents throughout the province.
In an interview on Wednesday, he sounded matter of fact and said, “It’s very evident that things are drastically going to change.”
He said FLB has always tried to involve parents at the school level with parent advisory councils.
“In some schools we don’t have participation, and we want participation. So, I’m hopeful there will be more participation with the education reform.”
For three years, the school board and administration have had difficult budget decisions due to changes imposed by the Manitoba government. Prior to the announcement this week, Pitz had sent a document detailing expenditure reductions made by the Board of Trustees to limit ‘direct cuts’ to the classroom. Since 2018:
- Board of Trustees reduction to minimum number of Trustees - half the Board was eliminated
- Board meeting schedule reduced by half
- Professional Development budget eliminated for Board of Trustees & Sr. Administration
- Technology Depart Restructure – one full time technician eliminated
- Assistive Augmented Tech Assistant – position eliminated
- Numeracy Coach - position eliminated
- Operations Building Manager - position eliminated –
- Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Coordinator - position eliminated
- Jr. Kinder Program (Oak Lake/Elkhorn/PVCS/BLCS) eliminated
- Alternative Education Program @ 3 high schools eliminated
- Bus Replacement Budget eliminated
- School Maintenance Budget line significantly reduced
- Support Staff work schedule reduced
- Accounts Payable Position merged with existing position
- School Based Budgets reduced
- Technology Replacement Budget significantly reduced
Following the virtual meeting with his colleagues and the deputy minister, Pitz said the mood showed uncertainty about the roll-out of the plan. The plan won’t begin until the 2022-23 school year. He does not know what his role will be but says, “The new reform will require support.”
CHAIR OF SCHOOL BOARD
Gary Draper is the longtime chair of FLBSD Board. His reaction was one of dismay at the changes proposed in Bill 64: “I’m seeing a new system being created that is being appointed by the government.”
He said not only will the Provincial Education Authority be in charge of decision making for every school, but there’s no specific criteria laid out for the directors of the provincial authority.
“At this point they don’t have to have an educational background to be a director of education. That is really scary.”
He said, “The new process will begin after spring break in consultation with parent councils. It looks like we’ve got one new school year (after this school year) to operate and then things will be changed after that.
“They also did say that as well as school trustees and school boards being eliminated, secretary treasurers and superintendents’ positions, as they are currently known, will be eliminated. But there will be new positions created to help within the new structure…”
Under the current system, boards of trustees in the school divisions make the decisions based on the information they get from the parents, parents’ councils and staff.
He also foresees the restructuring costing, not saving, Manitobans.
“The last time we had amalgamations (school divisions amalgamated about 20 years ago), Drew Caldwell sold Manitobans on the fact that it was going to save $10M by amalgamating school divisions. But when the dust settled it actually cost the school divisions $20M in ongoing costs because when you amalgamate divisions together you average up staff contracts to the highest level. You never average down.”