Only days after closing three schools due to a projected budget shortfall, trustees with Okanagan School District 67 spent $13,564 to attend a B.C. School Trustees Association’s conference in Vancouver.
Six trustees along with superintendent Wendy Hyer and secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller Routley attended the annual general meeting April 14-17 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Vancouver, according to information provided by the district upon request.
This came on the heels of the board’s decision April 11 to close West Bench Elementary, Trout Creek Elementary and McNicoll Park Middle School in Penticton.
Of the six trustees in attendance (Bruce Johnson was absent due to health issues), Summerland trustees Julie Planiden and board chair Linda Van Alphen claimed the most in expenses — $1,985 and $1,964, respectively, which included an additional night in a hotel.
Planiden’s expenses included $808 for hotels, $314 for travel and $242 for miscellaneous, while Van Alphen spent $808 on hotels, $318 on travel and $217 on miscellaneous.
Penticton trustee Shelley Clarke’s expense claim includes $570 for travel.
Van Alphen defended her added expense, noting she, Planiden and Ginny Manning (who had one night paid for by BCSTA because of serving on a standing committee) arrived one day earlier due to meetings on the Thursday morning.
“At times, some trustees have expense accounts that are significantly higher than others,” Van Alphen said. “I believe this would be dependent on what their specific assignments might be at the provincial level and the meeting that they have a responsibility to attend.”
It was the second of two recent BCSTA conferences for school trustees, the earlier coming in November when SD67 spent $12,937 for what was dubbed the BCSTA Academy.
Over six months, the board spent a total of $26,501 on the two conferences.
Retired teacher David Perry, a former mayor and one-term trustee with SD67, was critical of the board’s spending in a letter to the editor published April 16, suggesting only the chair needs to attend.
“Such irrelevant workshops as ‘Public Education and the Social License’ and ‘Damned Nations: Greed Guns and Armies’ are on the agenda. Nothing on ‘School Closures,’ ‘Government Underfunding,’ ‘Supporting parents of closed schools,’ etc., which are the real issues trustees have left at home,” Perry wrote.
Figures for Okanagan Similkameen School District 53 are presently unavailable but The Herald has requested them as well.
Like their counterparts to the north, SD53 closed Osoyoos Secondary School before heading to Vancouver. SD53 took six trustees plus one staff member to the convention.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened at a time when we were closing a school,” said SD53 vice-chair Sam Hancheroff. “That’s part of our job. We go to conferences to discuss with other school districts what they’re doing. We had the Education Minister there and everyone was asking him the same question everyone else was — we need more money.”
SD53 chair Marieze Tarr defended the spending, noting, “The money that is provided for (conventions) comes out of the board’s governance so it’s out of a different pot of money and that’s budgeted for every year.”
The following is a list of expenses for both conferences for Okanagan Skaha School District 67 trustees.
BCSTA annual meeting
Julie Planiden, $1,985
Linda Van Alphen, $1,964
Shelley Clarke, $1,869
Bill Bidlake, $1,721
Ginny Manning, $1,623
Barb Sheppard, $1,322
Bonnie Roller Routley, $1,560
Wendy Hyer, $1,516
Bruce Johnson, $1,719
Bill Bidlake, $1,634
Julie Planiden, $1,504
Barb Shepard, $1,455
Linda Van Alphen, $1,405
Shelley Clarke, $1,291
Ginny Manning, $1,249
Bonnie Roller Routley, $1,503
Wendy Hyer, $1,173