GUEST COMMENT: Previous facilities plan had considerable merit

Re: School plan decision was unanimous choice, Letters, Oct. 25.

To the Editor,

Re: School plan decision was unanimous choice, Letters, Oct. 25.

In my humble opinion, the Nanaimo school district facilities renewal plan that was passed by the 2006-2008 board of trustees was not a “financially and educationally unsound plan” as the letter writer states.

This was a plan that would have, if its approved project agreements were not turned down by a 6-3 vote on Jan. 14, 2009, by the current board, provided some optimism and renewal in the school district both financially and – more importantly – educationally.

Apparently, the letter writer’s definition of “unanimous” excluded counting the votes of trustees Brennan, Dale and Neary, who voted in favour of the plan’s project agreements.

The most significant aspect of the plan (other than the potential $87 million in construction work that would have occurred in our community) was the positive impact of ongoing annual savings in operational funding for the school district’s educational programs for students.

Obviously, when you move from an organization serving well over 17,000 students in 1999-2000 to an organization serving about 14,000 students now,  the amount of space (i.e. schools) required for this service would drop significantly.

I think the “devil in this detail” (to use the letter writer’s term) would be the 3,000 fewer students needing service. To use a medical analogy, why would you run two half-empty, old hospitals in the community if you could create one new, improved hospital serving the same number of citizens in a modern, more effective, less costly to maintain facility – and use the annual operational savings to provide even better service to citizens?

There exists the sad irony of the current board of trustees turning down the district renewal plan’s significant annual operational savings as they started their term, then having them regularly stating in the past few years that “there is not enough money”.

If this was not so sad, it would be laughable.

It is interesting, too, that the report our management team of the day brought forward as an attempt to support the school district and improve the quality of service to students for years to come was approved at every level of the Ministry of Education, yet Ms. Humpherville tells us she knows that it was “seriously flawed” in its details and that it continues to be supported by people “repeating tired and discredited myths”.

Would not the Ministry of Education ‘catch on’ to the flaws in this plan in their multiple analyses and numerous levels of decision-making before agreeing to expend significant funds from the provincial treasury?

The letter goes on to say “we have the current board to thank” for the situation in which we now live. While we may disagree on everything else on this topic, I must agree here with the writer, (other than trustees Brennan, Dale, and Neary – who were outvoted 6-3) for this sad state of the district as it struggles to meet the needs of every student it serves.

This is highlighted even more today as the B.C. Ministry of Education announces $353 million in funding for new schools across the province – nothing for Nanaimo students.

This plan is “done” thanks to the decision of this board of trustees and I do not see it coming back to life. This is unfortunate for all students being served in Ladysmith and Nanaimo, and for the professionals who work so hard each and every day to support these students without the additional funds this plan would have provided each year.

Although I have no hope of this plan coming back to life, I have not forgotten the magnitude of this funding decision and will very much keep this in mind on Nov. 19 when I exercise my democratic right and cast my vote for nine school trustees.

J. Phipps