Wednesday January 26, 2022 | LANGFORD, BC [Latest update 12:38 pm January 27, 2022]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
At their board meeting last night the trustees of Sooke School District 62 (SD62) voted themselves a pay increase.
Annual remuneration for trustees will go up to $19,500. That’s up from $16,750 per trustee which came into effect January 2019 in response to how board remuneration must be reported to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
The base-rate raised to $19,500 per year will take place starting July 1, 2022 and go up each July 1 based on the previous year’s Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Seven trustees get the raise:
There are seven trustees on the SD62 board of education. The board makes decisions about education delivery, school facilities, and student well-being as well as being the employer for about 1,830 employees (including teachers, EAs, custodial staff and bus drivers). Budget deliberations each year are a key responsibility.
One trustee is voted as Chair, and one as Vice-Chair (the latest annual elections for that at the board level were in December 2021). Remuneration for those levels is a bit higher, as noted in the January 25, 2022 SD62 board of education meeting agenda. Specifically, there is a step of $1,500 between levels; the vice-chair will be set at $21,000 and the chair will be at $22,500.
Currently the SD62 Board Chair is Ravi Parmar and Vice-Chair is Bob Beckett. Both were elected as trustees in the Belmont Zone (Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Highlands and View Royal voters) in 2018 for a four-year term.
The other five trustees on the current SD62 board are Wendy Hobbs (Belmont Zone), Bob Phillips (Milne’s Landing Zone), Dianna Seaton (Belmont Zone), Margot Swinburnson (Milne’s Landing Zone) and Allison Watson (Milne’s Landing Zone).
The three Milne’s Landing Zone trustees are elected by voters in the District of Sooke and Juan de Fuca area.
Rationale for the increase:
Long-time SD62 Trustee Dianna Seaton brought forward the remuneration increase motion last night, emphasizing that the school district is larger now — in terms of students, staff and schools. The implication is that the workload increases as those factors increase.
SD62 Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull has told Island Social Trends that enrollment and budget are used as a comparable measures between school districts. “The complexity factor is also a driver of compensation for all positions/organizations,” says Cull.
“As our District is very dynamic in its growth, our Board is required to make more complex decisions (new schools/catchment changes/bussing) than a standard District,” says Cull.
“The increase is intended to account for the increasing complexity in decision-making as well as keep pace with inflation and standard salary increases,” the Secretary-Treasurer said.
Previous increases, election ahead:
Other than adjusting in response to the CRA action in 2019, the last regular board motion to increase trustee remuneration was done in July 2016 (to $15,000 base-rate per trustee, $16,000 vice-chair and $17,000 chair).
Seaton also said that the remuneration increase would presumably help attract a more diverse slate of candidates for the next election (which is on October 15, 2022).
Chair Parmar said that in his first year as an elected member of the board he was still a student at the University of Victoria and didn’t realize how much time it would take from his studies to be on the board. He’s been doing alright now, with employment with the BC government, he said during the meeting.
If people have regular employment or income challenges, the rationale was made that suitable remuneration to be on the board would help cover their time and costs.
This is a new direction for elected office, in that historically it has been encouraged in Canadian political service that people participate as a way to help lead their community, not for the pay. However, that has traditionally tended to attract people who are financially comfortable, well-connected and/or in an otherwise-supported retirement.
Months of research:
Apparently the details about trustee remuneration levels were researched for many months, according to Trustee Bob Phillips.
However, the increase was not discussed at Resource Committee or given any opportunity for public debate, but came directly to the board level just last night, it was noted by Trustee Wendy Hobbs.
SD62 Secretary-Treasurer Harold Cull says it’s been the board’s “past practice” to bring personnel matters straight to the board level.
“Other salary discussions continue to be discussed internally with the public reporting out (Executive Compensation and the Statement of Financial Information) acting as the public accountability framework,” says Cull.
Comparison to other school districts:
The average trustee annual remuneration across BC is shown in last night’s agenda as $18,474 for 2021. The provincial average trustee remuneration is shown as having increased each year since 2017 (when it was $15,719).
The SD62 student count is presently 11,661 and is expected to continue growing robustly — by as much as 300 to 400 full-time equivalents (FTE’s) per year. Student population growth has for about 10 years now been driven by housing development in the west shore (primarily Langford, Colwood and Sooke). Housing costs are considered to be relatively more affordable in the west shore and Sooke compared to core areas like Victoria and Saanich, even though the average sale price of a single family home in Langford is now over $1.1 million.
SD62 has 26 schools (elementary, middle and secondary) which are located in Langford, Colwood and Sooke. The schools also serve students who travel in from Highlands, East Sooke, Metchosin, west of Sooke out to Port Renfrew, and parts of View Royal.
Monthly expense allowance:
Also voted in last night was a new monthly expense allowance of $75. That will kick in soon, on March 1, 2022. The rationale was to cover connectivity costs described as “cell phone, Internet, and communications”.
Meetings held online:
Six of the seven trustees participated in last night’s board meeting virtually (from home or office or within the school district building), due to the current spread of the Omicron variant in the ongoing COVID pandemic. Trustee Allison Watson was absent from the meeting.
SD62 board and committee meetings have been livestreamed on a regular basis since early in the pandemic in 2020. Last night there was a motion to make livestreaming available on a formal basis going forward.
Trustee Margot Swinburnson pointed out some of the benefits of livestreamed meetings, including convenience, during weather interruptions, and situations like pandemics.
Swinburnson also suggested that online meetings help support transparency to the broader school community — particularly parents busy with their families who, for many years now, have shown up quite minimally to evening meetings at the school board office on Jacklin Road in Langford.
===== ABOUT THE WRITER:
Mary P Brooke has been following the news of SD62 at the board and committee level since 2014, attending almost all meetings over the years and visiting most of the schools during tours and media events.
Mary’s now-grown children attended schools in SD61, SD62 and SD72.
Ms Brooke was active on Parent Advisory Committees at Margaret Jenkins Elementary (in Fairfield – SD61) and John Muir Elementary (in Sooke – SD62), primarily providing leadership to see infrastructure improvements to sidewalks and parking.
SD62 news archive (by Island Social Trends)
SD62 interrupts winter break with ‘new hires’ vaccine mandate message (December 21, 2021)
SD62 Board meeting: COVID, child care, CUPE input (November 23, 2021)