Summerland pushing for control
of local school board

Proposed pilot similar to Made in Osoyoos solution?

Local support to keep Osoyoos Secondary open was massive, but now another community is looking to take the lead to provide for better local control of its schools.

While the Town of Osoyoos looks for a “broad sweeping type of discussion” about education with provincial leaders, the nearby District of Summerland has a more pointed agenda.

It wants to set up its own local school board — and plans to ask the provincial government to allow it to do exactly that.

“Recognizing that further steps are required throughout the province to reduce the administrative costs of school delivery, Summerland’s council has approached the provincial government with an idea for a pilot project,” Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman said as his Council met Tuesday.

“The proposed project would merge administrative services of the municipality with the administrative services of a new, local school board.”

The pilot would create a local school board in Summerland that would integrate municipal and School Board services such as finance, administrative and works staff, equipment, facilities, etc.

The expectation would be to reduce operating expenses by reducing two separate administrations to one.

If the rhetoric sounds familiar, that’s probably because Osoyoos Council last spring suggesting something similar as it worked to keep Osoyoos Secondary School open — albeit on a much smaller scale.

In April, the Town proposed to commit up to $15,000 in operational and manpower services (mowing grass/snow removal) at Osoyoos facilities and discontinue charging water and sewer fees — at a savings for the school district of $35,000 — beginning in the 2016/17 fiscal year.

 

It also pledged to ask local taxpayers to pony up $1.056 million over three years to provide an educational grant to the Okanagan Similkameen School District.

Later this month, Mayor Sue McKortoff and several councilors hope to sit down with Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Mike Bernier at this month’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities gathering and chat about “the whole of what happened with the school closure” — especially the mechanics of the vote required to close a school.

The Town also wants more details on the funding program that’s going to keep Osoyoos Secondary open for at least two more years.

The Summerland pilot project, if approved, might make much of that conversation irrelevant.

Mayor Waterman said if Summerland were selected to undertake the pilot project it would develop “a model that other communities could follow potentially decreasing administrative costs and channeling school funding into the schools.”

In April, trustees voted to close Osoyoos Secondary. That decision as reversed, however, in late June when $490,000 in additional funding was made available through a provincial Rural Education Enhancement Funding initiative.

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