The 2013 Dry Grad Committee last week approached the Sea to Sky School District board of trustees seeking the waiving of fees for the use of Howe Sound Secondary School for a recent fundraiser and reconsideration of a policy making Dry Grad a non-school-sanctioned event.
Speaking to the board on the committee’s behalf, Diana Geller last Wednesday (March 14) said the committee was surprised when it received an invoice for $611.63 from the district for its use of school facilities for its recent Trivia Night fundraiser.
In a written request to address the board, the committee said the expense “was not budgeted for” and represented about one-quarter of the profits from the event.
“Our mandate is to provide a fun and safe substance-free event for Howe Sound Secondary ’13 Grads, in order to prevent injuries to our grads. This benefits all of our students and is a positive reflection on our community,” the notice stated.
Geller said the committee has questions about which fundraising events are subject to the payment of rental fees, saying committee members have heard those staging similar events in Pemberton have not been charged.
The group has so far found the explanation given for the charges, and for the decision to disassociate the school district from Dry Grad, unsatisfactory, she said.
“We fail to see how these policy changes make planning more effective,” she said.
She added, “It’s hard not to receive the policy changes as a vote of no-confidence in the operation of our committee.”
The board took no action on the committee’s requests to waive the Trivia Night fees, to allow the committee to meet at the school free of charge and to reconsider its policy of separation from Dry Grad. The request was referred to staff and will be considered at a future meeting, board chair Rick Price said.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Price told The Chief that most dry grad committees elsewhere choose to be non-school-sanctioned as it allows them flexibility to operate their events without having to adhere to district-mandated staffing, transportation and safety policies.
If the district were to allow the committee to use the school newsletter or school email as a communication tools, it might leave the mistaken impression that it’s a school-sanctioned event, Price said. If something untoward were to happen at an event parents believed was district-sanctioned, it could leave the district legally liable, he said.
Price said the requirement for a rental fee be paid for Dry Grad committee meetings merely requires the filing of a rental-fee form and payment of a nominal fee — perhaps as little as $1, he said.
He added, “We want the activity to take place — just not as a sanctioned school event.”
A local supporter of roller derby asked the board to consider allowing practice for roller derby on school gymnasium floors in Squamish.
Bryan Raiser said he had approached Rick Hume, the district facilities manager, with his proposal. Hume said he had some concerns about the idea but advised Raiser to raise the idea with the board, he said.
Raiser said roller skating on wooden gym floors is allowed in some other school districts in B.C. using “skid-free” roller skates. Raiser, who has volunteered as a referee at Sea to Sky Sirens roller derby events, said the sport’s growing popularity leads him to believe the sessions would be popular, particularly with youngsters.
“I find it difficult to believe that an 8-year-old girl on non-marking roller skates is going to do as much damage as full-contact wheelchair sports,” he said, adding, “and make no mistake: I have nothing against wheelchair sports.”
If allowed to use the gyms, Raiser said derby backers would fully expect to pay gym rental fees.
Price asked Raiser to put his request in written form, including a list of schools where roller skating is allowed in gymnasiums, so that staff and the board can make an informed analysis and decision.
District hierarchy changing
A change in the District 48 hierarchy is in the offing, partly as a result of the pending retirement of two high-ranking officials.
John Hetherington, Sea to Sky District secretary-treasurer, is retiring this May, while assistant superintendent Ian Kent plans to retire in December. As a result of Hetherington’s impending departure, the board has decided to move from a “dual” leadership model — with the superintendent and secretary-treasurer on equal footing at the top — to a “CEO” model with the secretary-treasurer reporting to the superintendent.
Price said B.C.’s other 59 school districts all run on the CEO model. Over the next few weeks district faculty and staff will be consulted for their thoughts on how best to divvy up duties under the new model. Officials hope to have at last a formal draft of the new structure and job descriptions before the board starts whittling down its list of candidates for the positions, he said.
The board voted unanimously to adopt a 2013-’14 school calendar that includes a two-week spring break beginning with the week of March 17, 2014.
The process of drawing up the calendar took several months and included consultation with faculty and support staff as well as a parent survey that included questions on whether a one- or two-week spring break was preferred and whether the break should be in March or tied to Easter in April. In the survey, a slight majority of Whistler and Pemberton parents voiced support for the two-week option despite the fact that parents working in the hospitality industry have difficulty getting away in March.
The Ministry of Education has granted districts the authority to adopt school calendars for three consecutive school years beginning with the 2014-’15 calendar. District 48 officials have said they plan to start the process in the fall of 2013 to give all involved ample chance to provide input.