Time for new faces at school board, says CUPE president
The union representing School District 43 support staff is looking for a new slate of school trustees to endorse in the wake of a forensic report outlining the problems that led to last year's $8-million deficit.
Dave Ginter, president of Local 561 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), told trustees at Tuesday's board of education meeting that it's time for fresh faces on the board and new eyes on the books. He said he wants to see a candidate with a financial background running for office.
In an interview Wednesday, Ginter told The Tri-City News that current trustees' long service, although appreciated, may have been a reason they didn't ask questions before passing a preliminary budget that a KPMG audit said was full of risks and incorrect assumptions — and resulted in an $8-million deficit plus job losses.
He also said he's concerned that the board continues to have confidence in the district's senior leadership team even though trustees weren't told about a growing deficit until five months after it was first identified.
"Obviously, the chore I have is to find new trustees," Ginter said.
The longtime union head said he already has interviews set up with six potential Coquitlam trustee candidates but he wouldn't name them. But he said many come with experience in their school parent advisory councils or have attended school board meetings recently.
"It will grow," Ginter said, of the list of potential candidates for the 2014 civic election, which will be held on Nov. 15.
In the 2011 civic elections in the Tri-Cities, CUPE endorsed 24 city council and school trustee candidates, including current Coquitlam trustees Gail Alty, Diane Sowden and Gerri Wallis; the union didn't endorse Coquitlam Trustee Brian Robinson or Port Coquitlam Trustee John Keryluk, both of whom won re-election.
Ginter said an endorsement comes with up to $3,000 in financial support but candidates this year will be asked to undergo some political training. He acknowledged that some of the new faces may be green to politics and could benefit from help from experienced politicians.
At Tuesday's board meeting, Ginter revealed that even he considered running for school trustee until he realized that it's time for new blood. He hinted that he may retire after November if he's successful in completing his "chore."
The deficit budget last year led to $12.1 million in cuts in operating expenses to run schools this year, resulting in approximately 142 job cuts in teaching and support staff.
The audit, the results of which were made available in January, was approved by the school board but originally requested by CUPE and the Coquitlam Teachers' Association.