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REPORTING · 21st April 2014
Walter McFarlane
"WE'LL GET BACK TO YOU"
- School Chair Art Erasmus

“Trustees on School Boards best understand their respective communities, particularly strengths, challenges and demands. Trustees Engage their communities in building and maintain a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations,” said School Trustee Linda Campbell quoting the British Columbia School Trustee Association.

“I will regard the well-being of every student as my primary obligation. I will work to bring a positive change to all students and the education system,” said Campbell, this time quoting the Trustee Code of Ethics.

The School Board met before angry parents on Wednesday, April 16th. Last week’s announcement that the students of Kitimat City will be moving to Mount Elizabeth Middle and Secondary School has gotten negative feedback from around the community.

“Over the years, bullying, harassment, gender issues, mental health and addiction and working environment issues have driven students from the mainstream high school to KCH. Why? Because KCH provides students a safe learning environment, free from stress, judgement or harassment, so their education and graduation are not mythical or a dream, but a reality. We would be in a much different place should there have been consultation and collaboration between all partner groups including our board because closing down a school or moving a whole school program of this magnitude may have been done with nothing but good intentions by management. However, rushing this through for September, 2014 with only 8 weeks left in our school year without the support of those who will be impacted the most has been nothing but divisive and devastating and seen in our community as a step backwards and not a move forward,” said Campbell.

A number of parents wished to speak to the board during the question and answer period. Trish Parsons wanted to speak to the board at the next meeting. She wanted to know if the School District Trustees made the decision to close the school or if it was made by the superintendent.

She was told by School Board Chair Art Erasmus that it was not a part of the agenda so they could not speak to it. He said the Trustees should have enough information to study the question before they could provide an answer.

Parsons asked if KCH was a school. She was told they will get back to her on that. She told them her child’s future was in jeopardy and in order for her to present to the School Board, she needed some answers first about who she should be presenting to. She was told she would not get an answer at the meeting but they will contact her.

Another parent wanted to know how they were supposed to know that they were supposed to get on an agenda. She asked where it was written. Erasmus replied it was in their policy book.

“I hope you can sleep with yourself at night with the decision you have made. It’s terrible. It breaks my heart with what you guys are doing. For two and a half years, my son has not been able to go to school, and now he’s comfortable and happy and this is crazy,” said one parent.

Erasmus was asked if there was anything in the policy book which allows emergent issues to come forward. Other school policy books have ways for parents to ask the chair to wave policy and allow parents to present. Erasmus said that has never come up and he will get back to them on it.

The parents asked for a trustee to put such a motion forward because this was an urgent matter to them. “This is an urgent matter. It’s not something that can wait until someone can get back to me and say: ‘yes Trish, you can be on our agenda in another month,’” said Parsons.

She was told she could be on the agenda. She had to get this to them a week before the meeting. She asked for a voice, she was declined because it was not on the agenda.

One parent said she sent two emails to Superintendent Nancy Wells which were not responded to. Erasmus stated he understood they were upset; he looked forward to the presentation in May. He was told he was not following the mission statement in this case.

Someone asked if it could be put on the agenda because it was raised from the trustee report and there was a choir performing at the beginning of the meeting which was also not on the agenda. The response to the latter was the choir took place before the meeting.

Parents argued the schools track record. They argued that there are students who would not be successful at Mount Elizabeth. They argued this is an urgent matter. Tempers flared. The school board was told parents emailed them to include them in this meeting and these emails were not responded to.

A parent asked if it was possible to have another meeting to get answers prior to May. They were told they will get back to. They were told other people wanted to be represented at the School Board Meeting but it the Terrace School Board office was not a good meeting place and the time was not a good meeting time. The response was this was the usual time and place for a school board to meet.

They were asked more questions about Kitimat City High but all the responses were they will have to get back to them. The questions would be answered next week. The school board was asked to care about the children. The response, they do care.

The board and trustees were asked to come to Kitimat to answer questions from the students. “We are willing to negotiate that and coming to Kitimat…” started Erasmus but the Parents interrupted, keying in on the word ‘negotiate.’

“Kitimat City High is a school and simply because the administration in the school has decided to call Kitimat City High an alternate program and pick up a group of students and move them back where they came from that you can just get this moved through real quick. My understanding, as a school, you must consult. In your criteria, and it was read out by Linda Campbell here, that each of these students are individuals, they’re important and this school boards plan is to communicate with the people and this has not happened, and this is why you have this room full of people who are very upset,” said Parsons.

“We’ll get back to you,” said Erasmus.

Further questions were turned down and with a slam of the gavel, the meeting was closed.