Linda Van Aplhen
Okanagan Skaha school board chairwoman Linda Van Alphen
Posted: Monday, June 13, 2016 9:09 pm
Nothing less than a personal letter from the minister of education will convince one local school trustee the B.C. government is genuine in its offer to pay for a special adviser to review the process used to close three schools in Penticton and Summerland.
“My statement says the minister of education has not made the offer to appoint and pay for a special adviser and that still has not changed to this day,” Okanagan Skaha trustee Barb Sheppard said at a board meeting Monday night.
“So, at this point, the moment School District 67 receives a written offer to appoint and pay for a special adviser form the minister of education, I will respectfully make the motion to accept his honour’s offer at the next public school district board meeting.”
An earlier version of her statement, which was sent to some parents over the weekend, was referenced in an article in the Monday edition of The Herald that suggested a letter from Penticton MLA Dan Ashton confirming the offer may have been enough to convince her to accept the special adviser’s help.
But it wasn’t, nor was separate confirmation Monday from superintendent Wendy Hyer, who told the board the deputy minister of education had indeed made the same offer to her.
Hearing that, trustee Bruce Johnson motioned to accept the deal.
“I see this as a free, outstanding offer to review the process and to get a new set of eyes on it,” said Johnson.
“It would certainly build a lot of confidence and trust with everybody at no cost. Perhaps it would turn into a win-win situation.”
However, board chairwoman Linda Van Alphen and the other five trustees stuck to their guns and voted 6-1 to pass up the offer.
“I think I have been as clear as I possibly can be from the very, very beginning with this whole process. I believe it’s been a solid process and I know there are people that don’t believe that. But you know what? That’s your prerogative,” said Van Alphen, who noted the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson is already conducting a parallel review.
Some parents, particularly those in Trout Creek, have called for the special adviser due to concerns about the school’s late addition to the chopping block and the board’s apparent unwillingness to consider alternate measure to keep the doors open. Parents on the West Bench have expressed similar concerns.
Schools in those two communities, plus McNicoll Park in Penticton, are all due to close June 30. The board’s next scheduled public meeting is in September.
A special adviser is currently at work in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.
The appointment followed the resignation of three trustees there in April after the Salmon Arm-based district revealed its new $9 million office was funded in part from operating funds meant for classrooms.
The adviser’s report is complete, but has not yet been released publicly.