Deeper dip into surplus
The Chilliwack school district will dip about $860,000 deeper into its accumulated surplus this year, according to an amended 2012-13 budget presented at a school board meeting Tuesday.
Total operating expenses in the now-$127 million budget have come in a little higher than projected in the spring, forcing the district to whittle down its $5.6 million surplus to $2.4 million this year, instead of the $3.3 million originally anticipated.
The amended budget includes a nearly $1.7 million decrease in education assistant (EA) salaries that appears to cancel out a $1.3 million increase in teacher salaries, but director of finance James Richards assured trustees the district did add the extra 18-plus EAs promised in the spring budget and that, in fact, the district was able to add even more EAs with Learning Improvement Fund money outlined in a different section of the budget.
The nearly-20 per cent drop was caused by an overestimation of the expense in the original budget and by replacement EA salaries being included in the "substitutes" budget line, according to secretary-treasurer Maureen Carradice.
The increase in teacher salaries, meanwhile, was the result of adding teachers in the fall to fulfill provincial class-size requirements, said Richards.
The Chilliwack school district has started to gather feedback for a distribution of materials policy that would govern such things as the handing out of free Gideon Bibles to Grade 5 students.
The school board directed staff in November to draft a policy by the end of March that would outline which materials will and will not be allowed to be distributed at local schools.
At a meeting Jan. 15, superintendent Evelyn Novak asked the district's education policy advisory committee members (from CUPE, District Parent Advisory Council, Chilliwack Teachers' Association, Chilliwack Principals and Vice Principals Association, aboriginal education, school board and the student body) to consult with their respective communities and provide feedback on the policy by the middle of February.
Novak told the Times she hadn't started drafting the policy yet and that the district is still deciding whether it will get input from the general public before or after the draft is presented to the board (likely at the April 9 meeting).
Public gets chance to review
The general public will soon get a chance to have a say on School District No. 33 policies being reviewed by the district's education policy advisory committee.
The committee reviews Chilliwack school board policy on a rotating basis, recommending changes where needed.
At a meeting Tuesday, trustees unanimously approved a plan to put a link on the district website that will allow the public to see which policies are under review and to provide feedback.
Trustee Silvia Dyck, who was behind the motion, said it would allow the public to come up with perspectives and ideas missed by committee members.
"We think it's a good tool for the public and our staff," she said.
Her fellow trustees embraced the idea enthusiastically.
Despite the unanimous support, the link won't be up until September-too late for the district to use it to gather input on its new distribution of materials policy.