A sign at Fraser-Cascade School District 78's District Education Office in Hope.

On the Oct. 4 school board agenda

Concerns towards Telus, NITEP in trouble, meeting date change and censuring a trustee.

Concerns towards Telus

Fraser-Cascade School District 78 (SD78) will express concerns and ask that cell service antennas and equipment not be installed near Silver Creek Elementary School.

Telus is conducting consultations and has requested for public input.

Trustees shared their concern about radiation and public perception should a cellphone tower go into the proposed location at the northeast corner of Silverhope and Flood-Hope Roads.

The discussion started with trustee Cindy Ferguson presenting the dangers, from mild to severe, although she cautioned that “somewhere in there lies the truth.”

She noted that radiation can harm young children more than an adult, and that cellphone companies are targeting a younger generation.

She countered that Health Canada has not found any conclusion on the effects of cellphone radiation.

After Ferguson’s presentation, trustee Ron Johnston noted that the possibility of radiation harm should motivate SD78 to write a letter to keep the cellphone towers as far away.

Trustee Tom Hendrickson expressed his regrets that Health Canada cannot be relied on, but warned about negative public perception of having a cell tower outside the school.

“If you are getting half the people going to Silver Creek perceiving that there’s a possibility that damage could be done, whether accurate or not, [then] the school may be half vacant,” said Hendrickson.

Trustee John Koopman then probed SD78 assistant superintendent Kevin Bird’s IT expertise, which revealed the flip-side.

Bird noted that radiation comes from the cellphone itself, and the poorer the reception, the more radiation a cellphone would output.

“The difference between having a tower that’s closer and a tower that’s far away, is a huge difference in power from the output of the device,” said Bird. “So having more towers is actually a better thing if the concern is the radiation.”

Koopman also argued that SD78 should consider that Health Canada has taken the position of cell radiation not having harmful effects.

“The tiebreaker in this whole conversation is the latest statement from Health Canada,” said Koopman. “In the end, what is the law of the land telling us?”

This invited Hendrickson’s retort that Health Canada might not have the accurate information.

“I’m old enough to remember the tainted tuna scandals, you know,” said Hendrickson.

Trustee Heather Stewin recused herself from the discussion and trustee Rose Tustian was absent.

NITEP in trouble

The Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NITEP) at Seabird College has low enrolment and could lead to its closure.

They currently only have six students and NITEP needs another 17 students by April or the program will be cancelled.

Trustee Hendrickson asked why students do not attend.

SD78 superintendent Karen Nelson noted that some students do not have the prerequisites to attend, they face financial challenges, and transportation challenges to Seabird College and to Chilliwack, to take University of Fraser Valley electives, pose challenges.

SD78 is actively trying to solve these problems by hosting open houses and finding solutions to transportation.

Financial statements released

SD78 has approved its Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) for the 2015-2016 school year.

The SOFI lists out information such as the names of employees who make $75,000 and above, trustee renumeration, expenses and suppliers who earned more than $25,000.

The document is currently available from the SD78 website as part of the Oct. 4 school board agenda.

Meeting date change

The next SD78 board meeting has been changed to Oct. 24, 7 p.m. in Hope’s District Education Office.

The meeting was originally scheduled for Oct. 25.

The school district is trying to avoid having a late board meeting on Oct. 25 because board chair Linda Kerr, superintendent Nelson and secretary-treasurer Natalie Lowe have to attend a meeting on Oct. 26 in Vancouver.

Trustee actions condemned (by Erin Knutson/Black Press)

Fraser-Cascade School District 78 (SD78), in a special closed meeting held Oct. 3, voted to formally censure trustee Rose Tustian for making disparaging comments in public meetings regarding an employee of the Board.

“The Board takes seriously the need to ensure a respectful work environment,” states school board chair Linda Kerr in a press release.

The press release added that SD78 will make no further comment “as this matter involves confidential personnel matters.”

The press release noted that comments Tustian made were contrary to Board Policy #6215 (Respectful Workplace) and Board Policy #1080 (Trustee Code of Ethics), which emphasizes the implementation of a safe, professional, and trustworthy environment that is free of discrimination.

Clarification

In the SD78 board meeting of Sept. 13 article in the Sept. 22 edition of The Hope Standard, it was stated that SD78 has an accumulated surplus of $14.4 million. That surplus includes the capital and operating portions of their budget. Out of that, SD78’s operating surplus is $4.9 million.

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