School board chair comments on last night's SD20 meeting

The Rossland News had a chance to speak with School District 20 Board Chair Darrel Ganzert about last night’s meeting and the board’s vote against the bylaw option to keep K-12 in Rossland.

Ganzert said that trustees have voted as they saw fit.

“Trustees listened to their constituents, the areas that they represent, looked at the district as a whole, listened to the public in Rossland, listened to a great deal of information from the staff of the school district... we, trustees, have spent hours and hours learning, understanding and then finally making decisions. My take on it is that, as you’re aware, six trustees did not believe that K-12 is feasible in Rossland and voted for that to be removed.”

Ganzert said that it is the district’s procedure not to have discussion during the first reading.

“I did talk with the BCSTA (British Columbia School Trustees Association) lawyer yesterday about that, to verify about, where does this process come from. It is a school district process that is in place for all bylaws and is common process throughout the entire province. I asked her about debate and she said, “Your bylaw, nor any other bylaw in this process allow debate in the province.”

He said trustees did not connect beforehand to sway their votes.

“Of course, trustees talked about issues with each other, what do you think about this? What do you think about that? But we were advised very early in the process that we could not disclose to each other how we planned on voting, that was just not appropriate. Quite honestly, I believe some trustees were tossing options right up to the last minute. In talking with trustees, some were certainly not sure how they were going to vote that very day.”

If there is no discussion then there is no chance for trustees to convince others of their perspective. How does that affect the vote?

“We did spend many, many hours outside of public meetings discussing the facts, debating to an extent. Certainly, there were people who had strong opinions pointed out what their position was very clearly. But, what it comes down to, is we have no choice but to vote on the bylaw procedure in this case. Certainly during second reading, then debate is expected to take place; then a trustee is welcome to explain why they voted either way on the K-12 situation.”

What about the City of Rossland’s proposal to help fund K-12 in this city?

“I certainly have been asked what does this do for the city council of Rossland and (its) putting out a hand to us. In my opinion at least, it really doesn’t change anything at all in the fact that any motion of the board, any bylaw option, could be rescinded by the board.”

Ganzert said that if something came forward from the city, in sharing resources, then the information could be made available to the trustees and could convince the board to rescind the bylaw. He said there is time for that to happen.

“Absolutely. I think it can go all the way up to September, but I’m not on really firm ground there. But certainly, no action will be taken by the board for quite some time. I do believe that the city council of Rossland has an opportunity to impact that decision.”

Ganzert said he would need to seek some legal advice to get a concrete answer about when it would become too late for the city to intercede.

“If somebody said, I have an apple and I’m going to eat it, well you can’t go back and put that apple together. But in this case, all we’ve said is, ‘we’re going to close it.’

“Has any action taken place to actually close the building? No. When does that take place? I think it stretches quite a ways.

“In the case that new information is presented, the board might, might have to go through the consultation process again. I don’t know. We would need to seek some legal advice, because we want this to be as squeaky clean as possible.”

Trustee Mickey Kinakin put forward motion about running a deficit budget later in the meeting. Ganzert elaborated on this.

“What he also proposed is that we approach the ministry and say: ‘Look, we’re running a deficit budget for this coming year and here’s how we’re planning to pay it back.’ Because, without a plan to pay it back that is legitimate, the (Ministry of Education) will not grant a board the right to a deficit budget, they will dismiss us.”

For the story on yesterday's meeting, click here.

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