The Delta School District’s 2018/2019 budget may not include any staff reductions but that doesn’t mean the district can ignore cuts that were made in the past, CUPE Local 1091 president Patti Price said.
The proposed budget would see a small surplus this year, as well as increased funding for teachers, inclusive education and maintenance staff.
“Every area of district services has taken hits over the last number of budgets, and staffing numbers have continued to be reduced year after year,” said Price, speaking at the Delta school board meeting on April 17. She is the president of the Delta School District’s support staff union, which covers clerical, custodial and maintenance employees, as well as education assistants and shop stewards.
“The stress these reductions have caused are evident in the number of employees who are away on medical or WorkSafe leave, and on the number of employees who are choosing to retire earlier than expected,” she continued. Custodial and education assistant staff “are stretched to max capacity, and you can see how lack of staffing replacements has, and continues to, take its toll on these workers.”
Price noted that although the budget includes monetary support for teachers, inclusive learning and maintenance departments, its does not specify exactly what that money will do. She hoped that full-time and consistent work would remain front of mind when the funds are distributed.
Parent Samanta Palomino also spoke at the April 17 meeting. She was present at last year’s budget discussion, talking about the importance of reducing the workload for education assistants in the district. She echoed her sentiments again this year.
“Last year’s vote to unanimously cut the services of 28 education assistants, discriminately affecting our most vulnerable population, had me worried for the direction in which our community was moving,” she said. The budget recommendations last year would have seen 28 positions cut, however, trustees decided to cut 23 based on enrolment and have salary for five full-time equivalent staff given to the department.
“This school year we have been, and were, understaffed,” she continued “This [experience] … gives us some very valuable information in how we can be better prepared.”
She suggested the district place greater importance on creating inclusivity for vulnerable students in the school district, hiring qualified teachers and support staff, and cultivating a sense of safety and belonging for students.
Palomino and Price were the only two to speak at the board meeting, which was intended for school board trustees to hear the public’s opinion on the budget. The school board will reconvene on Tuesday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the school board office (4585 Harvest Drive) so the trustees can discuss and vote on the budget.