School board rejects council’s bid for further meeting

School District 68 turns down council's want for another meeting prior to Thursday

School District 68 has rejected Ladysmith council’s plea for a further meeting to discuss the future of schools in the town.

This Thursday, February 6, SD68 will decide the future of Ladysmith’s elementary schools and determine which will close in the near future.

Mayor Rob Hutchins wrote a letter to the school board back on Jan. 10 asking SD68 to “take part in a facilitated joint meeting with council and members of town staff at the earliest convenience and prior to the board’s final decision.”

“The purpose of the meeting would be to review the issue of proposed school closures in Ladysmith with the desired outcome of identifying and discussing challenges, concerns, opportunities and goals, and at the very least, arriving at a mutual understanding and acceptance of the similarities and differences in our respective positions,” wrote Hutchins in the letter.

“Ladysmith council firmly believes that such a meeting would benefit both parties and support the board of trustees’ stated goal of ‘developing and implementing meaningful public consultation processes, and effective partnerships and government to government relationships.'”

Despite council’s bid for further talks before Thursday’s decision day, SD68 turned them down.

Dot Neary, SD68 chair, wrote the response letter to Hutchins and council.

“It is the intention of the Board of Education to make a decision on the proposed school closures in the Ladysmith area at its meetings on February 6. The Board of Education considers that it has not only satisfied all legal responsibilities for consultations with the public on the proposed school closures, it has also provided extensive opportunities for consultation including the extension of the consultation period,” wrote Neary. “On behalf of the Board of Education I am able to confirm that the board has received significant public input including input from the Town of Ladysmith to assist it in the difficult decisions that it has to make with respect to the proposed school closures. As board chair I am able to confirm that the board will seriously consider all public input including that received from and on behalf of the Town of Ladysmith when it makes its decisions on February 6.

“The board’s decision to not agree to your most recent invitation for a facilitated joint meeting was informed by the past involvement and past representations made by the Town of Ladysmith for board consideration on the proposed school closures.”

Neary’s argument is that there has already been enough talk and views presented by council and the community alike.

“During the April-June consultation process the Town of Ladysmith met with Trustees and District staff on June 10, 2013 to review the proposed school closures. In addition, during the consultation process representatives of the Town Council attended and spoke at the public forum on June 17 in Ladysmith. As well, the Town Council sent a letter about configuration of the Ladysmith schools to the board on June 18,” she wrote.

Neary also pointed out that the Ladysmith Working Group held seven three-hour-long meetings and two public forums back in November with the mayor and town planner being members of that group.

Neither Neary or Hutchins were available at press time.