DELTA – The culinary arts program at Delta Secondary will keep on cooking.
On Tuesday, the board of education agreed to pass an amended budget, one that leaves out a proposed elimination of the cafeteria teaching program at the Ladner high school, much to the delight of a group of former and current students in attendance at the meeting.
Lori Pilling, the teacher chef in charge of the program, said she was elated.
“I feel proud, so proud of our students and our community for voicing their opinions and being advocates in the process,” she said.
Faced with a $3.2 million deficit and considering a number of measures, the board proposed eliminating the DSS program due to low enrollment.
The move prompted a large contingent of teachers, current and former students, as well as other supporters from the community, to show up at the board’s budget consultation meeting last week to plead for the program’s survival. At that meeting, Pilling presented a petition with nearly 1,000 names.
Trustee Donna Burke said the consultation process works, noting the board aims to engage the community in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. She said the community made it clear how it felt about the district’s culinary arts programs, and she agreed.
Nick Kanakos and Val Windsor both talked about Delta’s funding challenges, saying the dollars coming in from the province don’t match the reality of costs.
Trustee Fabian Milat, who in previous years questioned the district’s administrative costs while enrollment shrank, on Tuesday defended the district, noting Delta has one of the lowest administrative costs in the province. The district will now further dip into reserves.
Dale Saip spoke at length about the district’s much-talked about reserve account, noting the school board at no time made cuts to the operating budget in order to boost the reserve. He explained how the district’s reserve gets its money, noting some of that comes in the form of top-up funding due to low enrollment in recent years, but that money isn’t guaranteed. as well as budgeted expenditures that have yet to occur. He said the district, despite global economic volatility, also works in a projected increase in revenue from the international student program.
Board Chair Laura Dixon said the district has been astute in keeping tight controls of its operations, resulting in stability and the ability to continue many services as long as possible.
“While we have faced difficult decisions in the past that have garnered much attention, it has always been our task to determine the educational benefits of our decisions,” she said.
“We are some 3,000 students smaller than we once were, we face costs that increase faster than our funding, which makes it ever more difficult to stretch our dollars, so we have no choice but to face up to these difficult decisions.
“It is my belief that even if we are not going to be the size of district we once were, the board of education can assure continuing high quality.”