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COMMENTARY · 29th October 2010
Merv Ritchie
The School District, Coast Mountains #82, has taken exception to the title of the article regarding the potential closure of Roy Wilcox in the Kitimat, Whitesail neighbourhood. SCHOOL BOARD DEVASTATES WHITESAIL DUE TO SPECIAL NEEDS

Although many, including the board, were offended, so was the author when he heard the claims made during the presentation.

“The reality is that this year, we had a balanced budget, but the demand because of our special needs population and because of some composition issues, etc., we literally had to kill another $600,000 above what we have to meet the needs of the kids. Not the facility, not everything else but to meet the needs of the kids,” said Spidel.

It is true, the government is not funding the education system appropriately. In the Premiers address to the Province the evening after the article was published, Campbell acknowledged the problem of inadequate resources being delivered to teach our children. He promised to bring every Grade 4 student up to Grade 4 standards, this after ten years of being Premier cutting steadily at every educational service.

Our only regret is the inability of all media in British Columbia to deliver hard factual information to the general public, not our determination to refuse to serve up calm, smooth pablum.

No one, certainly not the Kitimat Daily News is blaming the children. It is all the responsibility of the Government who refuse to address the issue, the Board for failing to take deliberate and forceful action against the funding problems and mostly the vast majority of the adult population for letting this situation develop and persist.

It is this last group, the adult population, that lets the Premier off the hook. He can only do what the people allow him to do.

We only tell the story and sometimes it is a difficult story to tell. We will not, however, conform to meet "socially acceptable" rhetoric.

The problem is due to a lack of funding. The board identified the Province insufficiently funding the needs of the special needs segment of the student population as being the major and the most significant factor in this funding shortfall. It was this lack of funding, more-so than the declining population, which was identified.

We would prefer to see Schools closed, and in fact even all but the one which could house every student in Kitimat, as was detailed by the interviews. This so that every child could be delivered the adequate resources for a full, proper and excellent educational opportunity.

Better yet, adequate funding for individual attention to students, both ahead and behind the class average, with every educational facility opened and staffed to deliver world class education. Some third world Countries can achieve this, and even offer free Post Secondary and University education, yet the best Province in the Western World cannot.

Readers may have been offended, but it is at the Province, the Board and their neighbours they should direct their angst, not the messenger. And it was School Board Officials who made these statements, not the Kitimat Daily.

Below is a complete copy of the text of the letter.

October 27, 2010

Kitimat Daily Online
29 Halibut Street
Kitimat, B.C.
V8C 2K6
Email: walter,,,

Attention: Walter McFarlane, Kitimat Editor

Dear Mr. McFarlane:

In addressing the article published in the Kitimat Daily Online on October 27, 2010 entitled School Board Devastates Whitesail Due to Special Needs, it is of great concern to the education community of parents, students, staff, and trustees, that any member of our community would state that special needs students are the cause of a school closure. Students are our most precious resource and an inclusive education model is a foundation upon which we deliver instruction each and every day.

There is no question that funding challenges combined with a declining enrolment across Coast Mountains School District No. 82, and in Kitimat directly, make for many difficult decisions on the part of the Coast Mountains School District Board of Education. We have unique student needs across our entire School District and we make every commitment to meet those needs as best we can. This current year, the Board has committed additional funds out of dwindling reserves to address our legislated requirements on class size and composition, and to meet those specific needs brought forward by our teachers and administrators. Our responsibility is to serve our students in the best possible way and to direct funds toward the services that support children in the classroom. This means we have to examine other functions within the District that will enable us to maintain levels of service for all our students. The efficient use of facilities is just one of those functions we are examining. Unfortunately that means looking at school closures as a means of maintaining those critical levels of support for our students in the classroom. Every child deserves the best we can give them, and as a District, we are committed to making sure we make the best decisions we can to ensure that our students are taken care of.

If there is a direction for a finger to be pointed, it is at Victoria for not recognizing the unique needs of our School District and not funding us in a manner that will enable us to meet the legislative requirements as well as the needs of those individual students whom are in our care.

The article in the Kitimat Daily Online is an unfair representation of our challenges and a direct insult to our education community. It is not the way we speak about our students, and it is not the way we operate within the education community.

Yours truly,
Barry Pankhurst
ChairBoard of Education

Copies to:
Ms. Nancy Tormene, Principal
Roy Wilcox Elementary School

Parent Advisory Committee
Roy Wilcox Elementary School

Mr. Merv Ritchie, Editor
Terrace Daily Online
Don't Shoot The Messenger
Comment by Steve Connolly on 30th October 2010
Walter's answer is a good one. The Kitimat Daily
was simply presenting the facts and what was said.

It will be inevitable that all the schools will fold into one ... given the dysfunction of Kitimat's
leaders to even start addressing the economic downfall in a team-oriented and organized manner. The only question is when.
Get off your high horse.
Comment by Mike Forward on 29th October 2010
I simply cannot understand your position on this one, Merv.

It is one thing to dish out the facts with respect to the government and a lack of funding. However - by your own admission - the headline was intentionally set as an attention grabber to get people talking.

That is pathetic tabloid journalism.