The Okanagan Similkameen School District board has invited Town of Osoyoos Council to explain an Osoyoos plan to keep Osoyoos Elementary and Osoyoos Secondary schools open.
But it has no plans to sit down with the Save Our School Committee (SOS) — a grassroots community effort struck to resolve the potential school closing — says Board Chair Marieze Tarr.
The problem is the Town of Osoyoos doesn’t have a plan and although Council has accepted the invitation, Mayor Sue McKortoff is wondering at the timing and the agenda.
“All we got was an (email) asking us to come to a meeting on March 9, the day after the public meeting,” explained Mayor McKortoff. “They wanted us to figure out how they could save $500,000 on doing a four-day week.”
The mayor said she believes School Board members mistakenly assumed she and other Town Council members were part of the SOS committee and that “we had come up with something.”
Town Council Monday sent a return missive to the School Board, wondering at its own capacity to provide such an answer and indicated it was more interested in “hearing new program options and solutions proposed by the Board.”
“Council respects the financial complexity of delivering regional education, just as there are financial complexities to delivering multi-faceted local government service,” explained Mayor McKortoff in the letter.
Ms. Tarr, however, said she understands at least three of the Osoyoos councilors are familiar with the SOS four-day school week proposal.
“It came from that committee and three council members sit on that committee so our expectation is that some of them must have some discussions about how that number came about,” said Ms. Tarr.
“Our numbers show about $200,000 (in potential savings). That is why my letter asks if they could possibly explain to use how they got to a number of $500,000.”
Ms. Tarr added she did not expect the School board would sit down directly with the Save Our School committee.
“They have not approached us for a meeting and at the moment we’re not planning to have a meeting with them,” she said.
Brenda Dorosz, the Osoyoos parent who organized SOS said she’s not surprised the committee is being snubbed.
“They don’t like me; I’ve been excluded from a couple of meetings already,” she said. “We don’t have a very good working relationship, but if they want to be mature adults about it, we need to sit down at the table and have a discussion.”
Mayor McKortoff said she and her colleagues would attend the meeting — and have indicated so to the School Board. However, she also appealed to the Board to “work with all the Councils and communities in the region to explore other methods of costs saving.”
The Town is expecting letters of support from other town and village councils within the school district, she added.
“Council looks forward to a constructive meeting that enables both governing boards to respect each other’s roles and responsibilities to their common constituents,” the letter concludes.
“These responsibilities include working toward shared interests that relate to personal development and education opportunities for all youth through quality education and community experiences.”
That is a position with which both the school board and SOS committee appear to agree.
“We need to have a stakeholders group and we need to sit down and come to solutions,” Ms. Dorosz said, adding SOS should be part of that effort.
“The mandate of the school board is education and providing quality of education for children,” said Ms. Tarr. “Our mandate is not attracting more students or more families to town — that would be the mandate of the Town.
“My thought would be that we could collaboratively work together and come up some solutions.”