School districts do think outside of the box

As chair of the Saanich Board of Education, I disagree with the assumptions made in the March 25 PNR editorial.

As chair of the Saanich Board of Education, I disagree with the assumptions made in the March 25 PNR editorial, Look outside of the classroom. The writer has indeed used a tired, old cliché in implying that boards haven’t done their financial homework in looking for savings.

In fact, for the past 10 years or more, Saanich school district has not only looked outside the box but under, around and on top to deliver better services at lower costs.

The editorial advises trustees to stop griping about budget cuts and come together to share resources. To set the record straight, in order to balance budgets in the face of funding shortfalls for the past decade averaging at least $1 million per year, Saanich school district has:

• Entered into shared services agreements in 20 different areas ranging from shared procurement  and purchasing to sharing administrative positions with neighbouring districts (transportation, energy efficiencies) to worksafe administration, to benefits buying, to audit and legal services, and more.

• Increased revenues through developing a robust international student program and distance education opportunities.

• Closed five schools.

• Reduced administration costs and instructional services.

• Increased enrolment through offering career and athletic academies that attract students from private schools and neighbouring districts.

• Downsized operations and maintenance.

Year after year, as our record clearly shows, trustees have been creative, diligent and prudent in managing successive funding shortfalls from the provincial government. To imply otherwise is to ignore the facts and minimize the challenges of maintaining strong and vibrant public  schools in this province.

Victoria Martin, Chair, Saanich Board of Education