Pro­gram­ming con­cerns board

Near North short funds to have high school stu­dents spread over three schools

North Bay Nugget - - FRONT PAGE - JEN­NIFER HAMIL­TON-MCCHARLES

Jackie Young has been told to im­prove pro­gram­ming at North Bay’s three pub­lic high schools.

But Young, the Near North Dis­trict School Board’s ed­u­ca­tion direc­tor, also has been told there’s no money to do it.

“The chal­lenge is we’re in a hold­ing pat­tern, yet we’re still hav­ing to ad­dress pro­gram­ming needs,” chair­man David Thomp­son said dur­ing a board meet­ing Tues­day night.

“We’ve asked Jackie to find cre­ative ways to make this hap­pen and ob­vi­ously the teacher fed­er­a­tions will be part of this dis­cus­sion.”

Af­ter more than an hour dis­cussing the next steps, there were more ques­tions than an­swers.

Thomp­son went around the ta­ble ask­ing trus­tees for their thoughts and ad­vice.

Does the board move ahead with con­sol­i­da­tion, put every­thing on hold or move cer­tain pro­grams to other schools, such as Arts Nipiss­ing to West Fer­ris from Wid­di­field?

Trus­tee Miche­lina Beam pressed the com­mit­tee to make a de­ci­sion and move for­ward. But her plea fell on deaf ears.

“I want a clar­i­fi­ca­tion about what will hap­pen to next year’s Grade 9 stu­dents,” Beam said. “Our schools need to know what the plan is.”

Beam then pro­ceeded, vis­i­bly frus­trated, to ask about Arts Nipiss­ing stu­dents and whether Grade 9 stu­dents slated to at­tend Wid­di­field will now at­tend Chippewa.

“We just can’t do noth­ing,” she said. “Three high schools are too much. We have to do some­thing about school con­sol­i­da­tion.”

She asked thomp­son if there were any funds in the board’s ac­counts to pro­ceed with con­sol­i­da­tion.

Thomp­son di­rected the ques­tion to Liz Ther­rien, the board’s direc­tor of busi­ness.

Ther­rien told trus­tees they have to be care­ful be­cause the board has lim­ited ac­cu­mu­lated sur­plus and faces a deficit bud­get.

If they want to use some of the board’s sur­plus, trus­tees bet­ter get gov­ern­ment ap­proval, Ther­rien ad­vised.

“In the past,” she said, “the board has used ac­cu­mu­lated sur­plus for one-time hits, but not ongoing ex­penses.”

Ther­rien said us­ing any sur­plus funds will con­trib­ute to fi­nan­cial pres­sures, es­pe­cially at a time when the board has lost its top-up fund­ing and there’s con­cern elec­tric­ity rates and snow-re­moval rates could in­crease.

Trus­tee Louise Sargent called the sit­u­a­tion a huge con­cern. But it’s the board’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure pro­gram­ming for Near North stu­dents, es­pe­cially in the higher grades.

Trus­tee Harry Fry said the board is at a stand­still, un­sure when the prov­ince will pro­vide fund­ing for cap­i­tal in­vest­ments.

“We can’t sad­dle an­other board for the next four years,” he said.

Trus­tee Corine Green said she had hoped there would have been a bet­ter out­come and ad­vised the com­mit­tee to pause on any de­ci­sion.

Thomp­son re­minded com­mit­tee mem­bers there are 15 days left be­fore the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion and ques­tioned what they want to do?

Sargent said the board has a process that needs to be fol­lowed and if fund­ing doesn’t come, the board will have to wait.

She ac­knowl­edged it’s a Catch 22 sit­u­a­tion.

“But if we con­tinue to wait, stu­dents will not be get­ting the courses they need.”

Young is ex­pected to re­turn to the com­mit­tee within a month with some ideas.

Young

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