Well, another budget was passed by the Turtle River School Division — once again without input, communication or listening to concerned parents and taxpayers.
Last year, the Turtle River School Division board of trustees made the decision to discontinue the industrial arts and home economics courses for all students in grades 7 and 8 in the division.
Despite a petition with more than 350 signatures and parent outcry, the TRSD did not change its mind, and sent a signed letter stating that in January 2012 the board of trustees was informed by the minister of education that the province was discontinuing the Tax Incentive Grant for the 2013-14 school year to all school divisions, and therefore made the decision to try to be proactive and cut the shop and home ec programs for grades 7 and 8 starting in the 2012-13 school year. The amount that was supposed to be cut was $468,919.
The TIG grant was not cut and in fact overall budget funding has been increased by $447,944; without the reinstatement of the seven and eight shops and home ec. courses.
Approximately 40 parents and taxpayers representing various schools in the division attended the public budget consultation meeting on March 6, which we are sure the school board was very pleased to see, as there was standing room only. The request was made to the board to reinstate the home economics and shop programs.
The superintendent stated that the province led them to make the decision to cut these programs and when asked if these programs were cut in other school divisions, the superintendent stated that they were not. When questioned further about the grant and preliminary budget, the chairperson stated that the programs were not cut because of budget, but because they felt more time was needed for the students to spend on math and language arts programs. However, no one there could tell the parents when the students were spending extra time with these core subjects.
Although TRSD does not feel grade 7 and 8 shop and home ec is an important life skill, other divisions do, as Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine is renting a teacher and classroom from TRSD to provide this life skill for their students.
When asked if their budget was set, the chairperson stated that the budget would be passed at its next meeting. When asked if they were going to take in the parents requests into consideration before setting the budget, the chairperson stated that unless something drastic happened, the budget was going to be passed as is. When asked if the attendance of approximately 40 parents all requesting the reinstatement of these programs was considered drastic, the chairperson replied, “No.”
We are not sure if other school divisions are as secretive as Turtle River School Division, but we sure hope not. If Turtle River School Division really wanted input from the public, and to inform the public, the meeting that was held on March 6 should have been held a month earlier. Maybe the only way to get their attention is in a year and a half at election time. Hopefully new candidates will run for the five trustee positions and start running TRSD with open communication lines with parents, students and taxpayers.
The Turtle River School Division preliminary budget can be viewed on the TRSD website. The condensed version of the budget is very vague, and when asked for more details, everyone in attendance was informed that the detailed budget could not be viewed until it was passed.
Approximately 70 parents, students and taxpayers petitioned in front of the school division office on March 12 as the trustees prepared to pass their budget. Despite everything, the budget was passed 3-2, with only the McCreary and Alonsa trustees opposing the unchanged budget.
We felt obligated to send this letter out publicly so that taxpayers and parents that were unable to attend the public meeting (or were able to attend but had to stand out in the hallway because there was not enough room in the division boardroom for everyone in attendance) could be informed about what has been happening lately, as communication between the division and parents, is zero.
The formation of Parent Advisory Councils seems to make no difference, and requests for communication between parents and division board members have been ignored. It doesn’t matter if you attend their meetings or read their very vague meeting minutes, no information can be learned. We encourage anyone that has a spare minute to check out the meeting minutes posted on the TRSD website.
McCreary Parent Advisory
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 15, 2013