The Fraser-Cascade school board has much to consider as the 2022 election draws closer.
During their March 30 meeting, the board tabled motions to change the structure of the board from seven trustees to five and to ask the Ministry of Education to allow a trustee by-election to fill the seat of the late trustee John Koopman.
The structure-changing motion would have changed the board to two trustees from Hope, two from Agassiz-Harrison Hot Springs and one from Boston Bar. According to board vice chair Linda Kerr, reducing the board by two would save the district approximately $50,000 each year, factoring in stipend, professional development funding and yearly expenses. Kerr added the hope was to help offset the unexpected expenditures to the district due to the pandemic.
The board would need to approve any structure changes by Dec. 31; the next election is slated for Oct. 2022.
The board is set to revisit the structure issue at their next committee of the whole meeting.
Because the issue of the future board structure was tabled, the board also tabled a proposal that would ask the Ministry of Education to rescind Ministerial Order M171. Then-Minister of Education Rob Fleming signed the order on May 26, cancelling the by-election for the vacant Fraser-Cascade trustee position, citing safety concerns during the pandemic. Fleming signed a similar order last March when Arrow Lakes School District sought to fill a vacant board position of their own.
Had the SD78 board passed the motion, the by-election to replace Koopman would have to have happened within 90 days of the Ministry of Education approving the request. Board chair Ron Johnstone said the discussion was brought back on the table now that there have been several by-elections in other jurisdictions that have been conducted within COVID-19 safety parameters.
The last by-election costed between $15,000 and $20,000, according to secretary-treasurer Natalie Lowe. Costs would likely be more this year due to a significantly increased demand for mail-in ballots because of the pandemic.
John Koopman passed away suddenly in May 2020. He is remembered and well-known as a passionate educator and a dedicated advocate particularly for vulnerable students.