There’s been a number of principal changes in School District 20 (SD20) this year.
Vice principal jobs have been restored to three of the larger elementary schools and two longtime high school principals have flipped their positions from Trail to Castlegar or vice versa.
“Back in the day this district had a few vice principals at elementary schools,” SD20 Superintendent Bill Ford began. “But when the board was forced to cut back those were some of the first jobs that got cut, so it’s nice to be able to give back a little bit.”
Glenmerry and Fruitvale elementary schools will have new vice principals as well as Kinnaird Elementary School in Castlegar. As far as principals, longtime SD20 teacher Bev Kanda will fill the role at Webster Elementary and Webster’s former principal Brian Stefani is moving into that position at Twin Rivers in Castlegar.
Then there’s a principal switch for the high school grades — J.L. Crowe’s David DeRosa is leaving after 13 years and taking on Stanley Humphries in Castlegar for one year while Aaron McKenzie, Stanley Humphries former principal, is coming to Trail.
The shake up keeps school operations fresh, says Ford, mentioning that some B.C. districts mandate how long a principal can stay at one institution although SD20 has no such rule in place.
“Everybody has their strengths,” Ford told the Trail Times. “They come in with their passions and skill set and they make an impact. Over a long period of time, you need to keep things fresh and moving so this happens across all 60 school districts.”
For the first time in decades, enrolment grew last year, which led to additional funding in the SD20 budget. Student growth combined with a $359,000 influx from the province gave the school district board more leverage to add up to 55 new teaching jobs for the coming year in tandem with the vice principal roles.
The board directed energy on the leadership positions because a succession plan is not presently in place.
“We recognize that in our school district, within the next five to seven years, about 40 per cent of the current administrative team will be retired,” said Ford. “So we need to start building capacity and we need to have people ready to take on principalships — that was one of our drivers.”
Consideration was also given to the fact that the number of grade school students is growing — in other words, elementary schools are getting bigger.
“So we have principals that are alone in those buildings trying to manage,” said Ford. “And it was becoming very challenging. So for those three larger elementary schools, the vice principals will be teaching most of the time, about 80 per cent, but they have 20 per cent release time to help with the administrative tasks,” he emphasized.
“And we think that’s going to add value to both the teaching and support staff as well as the kids and their families.”
After the BC Teachers Federation settled a long and drawn out court case with the province in 2016, partly over classroom size and inadequate teaching resources, the board was tasked with hiring new teachers using $359,000 the ministry forwarded earlier this year.
“As we move into September, we will have hired between 50 and 55 teachers,” said Ford. “Which is a lot but that’s a combination of TTOC (Teachers Teaching On Call), which most know as substitute teachers, and we’ve hired class teachers,” he added.
“The number is kind of fluid right now, but what I can say is that we have hired everybody that we needed to hire to be in front of kids for next week.”
Besides three new vice principals and more teachers, Ford noted other “give backs.”
“Because of the restored language [BC Teachers Federation court case] we are adding divisions to our schools, so there is more staff and our schools are getting bigger,” Ford clarified. “So we’ve increased secretarial times for example, and custodial time as well.”
While the additions are welcome and positive, Ford acknowledged a “but.”
“After years and years of cuts, giving back a little makes everybody feel so good,” he concluded. “Keep in mind, that even though we were able to give back, when you look at the years of cuts we are nowhere near where we used to be.
“So it is a good news story, but there is a little asterisk there for sure.”