School District 20 – MP’s letter to education minister panned by Trail-area trustees

For one school trustee, MP Alex Atamanenko’s input was welcome, while for another, it was an indication of parochial forces impacting the difficult work of reconfiguring School District 20.

Atamanenko recently waded into the district’s ongoing Planning for the Future process by writing to Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid on behalf of schools in Castlegar and Rossland, which will be on the chopping block if the top scenarios in the district’s facilities plan are enacted.

The letter requests the education minister re-assess urban/rural funding policies, claiming families will move from or be discouraged from moving into the district if a perception exists that rural schools cannot offer quality education.

In his letter, Atamanenko lauds the existing school configuration and claims the current funding formula inflicts “hardship” on rural districts.

He also quotes an unnamed politician as saying, “We cannot afford to have arguments and strife,” over the planning process.

The MP, a former Castlegar area teacher, also promotes the Rossland Neighbourhood of Learning Committee and urges the minister to rework         funding so rural areas can remain “vibrant, innovative and viable places to live.”

Castlegar area trustee Mickey Kinakin was grateful for Atamanenko’s intercession and moved that the board send a letter expressing its appreciation of his action.

But Trail trustee Lorraine Manning was less than supportive of the motion.

“I’m frankly a little disgusted by this. If Mr. Atamanenko is going to work for us, he should be working on behalf of the whole riding.”

After the meeting, Manning added, “Why is he interfering now? Where was he when there were plans to            close Webster and Glenmerry Elementary?”

Scenarios prepared prior to this latest facilities plan looked at closing the two Warfield and Trail elementary schools.

“It seems as if someone wrote the letter for him,” Manning added. “He should be working for everybody in the district, not the few.”

The motion to thank Atamanenko in writing, as with most motions dealing with issues surrounding the facilities plan, was opposed only by Trail area trustees Toni Driutti, Mark Wilson and Manning.