Plan to alter board of education electoral balance being ignored

The Central Okanagan School District’s plan to change the areas its two Westside board of education trustees represent is drawing little interest.

The Central Okanagan School District’s plan to change the areas its two Westside board of education trustees represent is drawing little interest.

Only two people showed up to hear about the plan at a meeting scheduled earlier this week to gather input.

School district secretary-treasurer Larry Paul said only one email has been received about the plan.

The two people who showed up at the meeting only did so because the parent advisory council meeting they were supposed to be at was cancelled. But it is not just the public that seems disinterested.

The Westbank First Nation, the Okanagan Indian Band and Lake Country have not responded to invitations to comment.

Peachland, West Kelowna, CORD and Kelowna have all indicated support, with Kelowna’s support received hours before the meeting.

The board of education wants to change from having one trustee represent Peachland and another represent the rest of the Westside to having one represent West Kelowna and the other representing Peachland, the two WFN reserves and the unincorporated areas of the Westside that are in the Central Okanagan Regional District.

Paul said the move would even out the population represented by each Westside trustee.

Currently, Peachland trustee Moyra Baxter, who proposed the change in 2009, represents just under 5,000 people in Peachland, while her Westside zone two counterpart, Jeff Watson, represents nearly 40,000 people.

The change would mean one trustee elected this November would represent the 29,000 people living in the District of West Kelowna and the other trustee would represent nearly 18,000 in Peachland, on WFN land and in the unincorporated areas.

The change, if approved by the education minister, would go into effect for the upcoming election. Because preparations are coming up for that election, Paul said the clock is ticking on a resolution to the issue of trustee representation.

Despite first being proposed in 2009, the education ministry did not respond to the local request for a change until late last year when it said all jurisdictions in the school district had to be consulted and sign off before the minister would consider it.

Paul said while he was disappointed by the lack of interest from the public, he would forward the local government responses to the ministry.

A new education minister is expected to be announced next week when Premier-designate Christy Clark is sworn in as premier and unveils her new cabinet.

Paul said the school district has until June before he will have to prepare the notice of election and the new boundaries will have to finalized.

The issue, he added, must be resolved so the new trustee boundaries can be advertised and  voters know who they are voting for.

Baxter, who noted talk of a change on the west side of Okanagan Lake has been ongoing for years, said she proposed the change as a compromise when Peachland rejected the idea of having two trustees at large elected on the Westside.

“As the Westside has grown, this (current situation) has obviously become inequitable,” she told the Capital News prior to Wednesday’s meeting.

While the change would alter the formal representation areas, Baxter said she and Watson already cover the entire Westside area as a team, as well as covering their responsibilities in others areas of the school district on the east side of the lake.

Of the nearly 22,000 students in the school district, about 4,500 are on the Westside.

 

awaters@kelownacapnews.com