Nanaimo’s community school coordinators are off the chopping block next year.
Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools, which originally proposed cutting all but one community school coordinator from next year’s budget, is now suggesting a one-year transition.
School district staff have presented more than $4 million in initiatives for next year, including seven additional child, youth and family support workers and expanding “focus schools” from four to 12, with supports like a half-time literacy coordinator and full-time principals to help children with literacy.
Initially there were also cuts to four community school coordinators, which help with special events and community programs, while a fifth was slated to become a grant writer for the district.
The move was considered part of a redesign of how the district uses its Community Link funding, which the province provides to help vulnerable students. The coordinators’ hours would instead go to child care workers, according to superintendent John Blain, who noted some of the coordinators’ program initiatives “may go,” unless outside agencies handle them.
A new plan was pitched April 11 after district staff heard cuts seemed rushed and a transition was needed.
“We are suggesting that for one year we go to contingency to maintain the other four [community school coordinator] positions as they are and we walk through the year and create an analysis … .as to how we’re doing in both areas, the focus school model and how that is working itself through with the community school coordinators,” said Blain, adding if the board chooses to maintain the positions it can move them back into the budget or make a different decision. “It gives everyone an opportunity to take a breath, have a look at where we’re at and what the next steps are.”
Blain said there would be role changes for the coordinators, which they are aware of, but did not elaborate on what those would be. One coordinator will still be covered by Community Link money as a grant writer.
Trustee Stephanie Higginson said she’s happy to see at least the transition there.
“It’s interesting in all the years we’ve been doing this, I don’t think I’ve had as much input from the community on a position being cut as I got feedback on our community school coordinators, which shows how important they are to the community and engaging students,” she said.
Committee chairman Scott Kimler and trustee Tania Brzovic both said they lost sleep over the news of cuts.
“I am seriously a huge, huge believer in community schools. I worked for a year at Georgia Avenue school as a sort of link between the main school and community schools so I do know what they can do and the value they bring,” said Brzovic, who told staff there’s obviously work they have to do on their own, but they’d be wise to create an opportunity for input from those who believe in community schools.
Kimler said he’s “very relieved” to see the positions and people will be kept and schools will benefit from them, though he also said he wrestled with the fact that he doesn’t know what the coordinators or child and youth family support workers do and recommended trustees hear more about the positions and learn from them over the next year.
Committee members recommended the board approve the operating budget in principle on the basis that about $4.3 million in budget initiatives are included and no substantive changes are made unless added or eliminated by the board.