WCPS board divided over funding allocation policy

Board votes by a slim majority to authorize superintendent to decide on in-school funding allocations.

A lengthy discussion over the proposal to abolish the Wolf Creek Public Schools’ (WCPS) site-based school funding allocation policy split the board as some trustees wanted to abrogate the policy immediately while others wished for more time to review it, despite the fact that it would force superintendent Larry Jacobs to delay the individual school budgets by a month.

“That’s easy for me to do, but you’re going to face a riot,” said Jacobs in reference to the decision to drop the long-standing policy.

The board of trustees did, in the end, repeal the policy in favour of giving the superintendent more power to control how schools allocate their funding through an administrative procedure at its Wednesday, April 1 meeting

Trustee Bob Huff was adamant the policy should not be abolished before the board was given more time to review it and seek the opinions of other WCPS staff.

“I don’t think we can change a culture that’s been in place for years in 10 minutes, that’s a concern to me. I understand there are budget realities but those budget realities were created last week,” said Huff, referring to the provincial budget.

Huff challenged that the board will only seek staff opinions when it is advantageous to the board. “I’m concerned about my integrity as a trustee,” he stressed.

“We have a policy and I think it behooves us to review it. We may find Policy 17 is outdated, but I don’t think we should be held under the gun,” he added.

When the motion not to review the policy was put to a vote Huff and fellow Lacombe trustee Barb Walker voted against while trustees Lorrie Jess, Trudy Bratland and Donna Peterson voted for it. Trustee Pam Hansen was absent.

After the vote, Trustee Jess called for the policy to be repealed and have Jacobs create an administrative procedure that would give him more authority over school funding allocating.

Jess, Bratland and Peterson were in favor while Walker and Huff were opposed.

The board’s policy was set to limit how schools can shift funds between different departments to encourage a responsible and appropriate in-school budget administration. However, Policy 17 gave little authority to anybody to regulate how schools were allocating their funds, according to Superintendent Larry Jacobs.

Peterson and Jess felt by getting rid of what they believed to be an inefficient policy, they were doing what is best in the interest of the students.

“I’m likening this to the government,” said Peterson. “We have to live with the consequences.”

Jacobs says when schools realize their funds will drop due to the government’s budget, internal funds will need to be moved around to suit the schools’ needs. “I have no authority. They could cut EAs (educational assistants), they could transfer the funds to different departments, whatever they want.”

“I have confidence in them. They are not going to do something irrational,” said Huff.

With the repeal of Policy 17, the WCPS board is moving away from site-based decision making, a concept that has stood in the division and across the province in education for years.

‘That decision-making is running right up the wall of the new budget,” said Jacobs. “There should be some ability at the site to make decisions that reflect the school community,” he added. However, he admitted limitations are needed.

Within the last year, the board reviewed Policy 17 and Huff wants to know why its seeming inefficiencies were not brought to the trustees at that time. “I’m not convinced that what we’ve had is inefficient,” he insisted.