Local school district chairs and superintendents met with the Education Minister Dave Hancock this week to find cost savings that won’t have a large impact on students.
Christine Moore, chair of the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division board, said as part of the recommendations the Catholic board has put forward, they would like to keep targeted funding for Alberta Initiative for School Improvements, which is often used for projects such as improving student literacy and learning, as well as keeping funding to reduce class sizes and money for infrastructure and maintenance renewal.
However, she said the Catholic board has suggested there could be a less onerous way of accounting for how students are doing within schools. She said they believe in accountability but there might be a better model that could be thought up or something that didn’t need to be done every year.
Moore said the Catholic division is looking at the possibility of purchasing electricity in bulk, with more boards purchasing it together to get a cheaper rate. At the moment this is done with natural gas. The local Catholic board has also suggested more boards buying provincial licensing for computer programs together to reduce cost.
The school board chairs and superintendents broke into working groups during the meeting to set priorities to reduce costs.
Bill Stuebing, chair of the Red Deer Public School District board, said at the table where he was sitting they strongly supported an approach that would recognize and support local board autonomy so that the province would resist the urge to micromanage the cuts to school divisions next year.
“The priorities in Red Deer are different from the priorities in Calgary and are different from the priorities in Westwind,” Stuebing said. “Obviously there are a lot of similarities, but there are also sufficient differences and what we need, particularly if we are going to be looking at reduced funding, what we need is the maximum amount of flexibility to deal with that.”
Board chairs and superintendents didn’t hear anything firm about what the cuts will be or what the overall strategy of the department will be, which is what Stuebing had hoped for. “I obviously didn’t expect budget announcements (Wednesday), but I expected to hear something a little more concrete in terms of where we were going,” he said.