The Chilliwack school board is being tight-lipped about its response to a ministry of education request for B.C. school boards to find savings to pay for salary increases for support staff.
In a Dec. 3 letter, Education Minister Don McRae asked all B.C. boards to find savings of 1.5 per cent in this year's budget and another 1.5 per cent in next year's. The letter stipulates that the savings must not negatively impact educational programs or transfer costs to the public.
At its last board meeting of 2012, the Chilliwack board voted to add a special public meeting to its schedule Jan. 14 to discuss ways to address the minister's request, which would cost about $300,000 in the first year.
At an in camera meeting on Jan. 7, however, trustees voted to cancel that meeting and communicate with the minister of education in writing, according to superintendent Evelyn Novak.
She said the board originally voted to meet publicly to discuss the issue because it appeared to be a budget item but decided to deal with it in camera after deciding it was a collective bargaining issue.
At the in camera meeting, the board directed staff to craft a response to the minister, Novak said, but she wouldn't elaborate on whether the Chilliwack board had found the savings or decided to join other B.C. boards and the B.C. School Trustees' Association, who have written letters opposing the minister's request.
"I will leave it to the board to respond to that," Novak said. "I don't know whether or not it's going to be shared at the [Jan. 22] public meeting. All I can say is the board has responded via letter to the minister."
However, board chair Louise Piper, a City of Chilliwack CUPE employee, told the Times she had removed herself from the discussion because of a conflict of interest, and vice-chair Walt Krahn emailed the Times to say he would be unavailable to answer questions until Sunday because he is teaching in Prince George.