Just after the names of the nine new School District No. 20 (Kootenay-Boundary) trustees rolled out of the ballot boxes, there was already a call for their reduction.
Hot off his win as one of Trail’s SD20 trustees Saturday, Mark Wilson reiterated his desire to see the board of trustees’ size reduced from its current nine.
Now, with veteran trustees Mac Gregory and Bev Maloff out in Castlegar, and Vince Morelli out in Beaver Valley, Wilson thought the board could be ripe for change.
“With the new people coming on board we could be looking at changing the way we are looking at our school (board) structure,” he said.
Both incumbent Trail trustees, Wilson and Lorraine Manning, were able to fend off challenger Terry Hanik in a close race for the two Trail trustee seats. Wilson finished the highest out of the trio with 1,191 votes, with Manning edging out Hanik by 21 votes, 980 to 959.
Although official results were not available as of press time, the four-horse race in Fruitvale (Montrose/Area A) for two trustee spots fell to two newcomers: Darrel Ganzert and Kimberley Mandoli. Incumbent Morelli and a fourth candidate, Dick Bilenki, were not elected.
Wilson was excited to see those new faces on the board, with Ganzert a former teacher and Mandoli a former board member.
“So they will all come in with the new ideas that we need,” he said.
Toni Driutti won by acclamation for the region of Warfield, part of Area B (RDKB) and part of Area J (RDCK).
It was the same story over in Rossland where Gord Smith was acclaimed for the second time for the single seat that was open.
As well, Mickey Kinakin was acclaimed as the trustee from the Regional District of Central Kootenay area’s I and J.
And across the rest of one school district there were some surprises, with incumbent trustee Bev Maloff failing in her bid to retain her seat, losing out to Jo-Ann Bursey and Jennifer Carter. Maloff was acclaimed in the last election. Former trustee Mac Gregory did not let his name stand in the 2011 election.
Wilson explained the total of nine trustees was a holdover from the days of amalgamation, there was no reason to continue now with so many trustees in a district that had so few schools (13), while a city the size of Surrey had 125 schools and only seven trustees.
Wilson noted that SD20 has 4,000 students while Surrey has 66,000 students. Last year a motion to reduce the number of SD20 trustees presented by the incumbent councilor was defeated, seven to two.
“We had some trustees who were in for over 20 years and they came in with amalgamation. For them to vote on reducing the trustees didn’t work,” he said Sunday.
Although Wilson was buoyed by the fact he has received another three-year mandate as trustee, he hinted that each area in the school district was facing problems with facilities, and that there could be school closures in the coming months.
The school district house needs to be set in order, said Wilson, in operating the best programs they can, but they will have to look at the situation in Rossland. The city has two schools but doesn’t have the population to fill them, he said.
“You hate to take a school out of a community, but when you have emptier buildings, it’s costing you in another part of the school district,” he said. “So we will be looking at one school closing for sure in Rossland. We just don’t have the population to maintain two schools up there.”
Under the new funding formula from the Province, school districts are funded for the number of students they have, not the number of schools (as under the previous system).
“(Closing schools) is a long term solution to a declining enrolment,” Wilson said. “We know what we have to do, it’s a matter of doing it.”
In Castlegar, where they have Castlegar Primary — a kindergarten to Grade 2 facility — right next to Twin Rivers Elementary — a Grade 3 to 7 school — the school district will likely close one and house the grades all under one school roof, said Wilson.
“The time has come; we can’t keep talking about it, the money just isn’t there,” he said. “This is what I’m hoping for with this new group, that, ultimately, we can get the best education system we can for the kids, instead of just having it come down to one community versus another. We’re supposed to be one district.”