By a narrow margin, school trustees approved a plan Monday to cut out free lunches for themselves and staff as part of a broader effort to restructure monthly committee meetings.
The meetings, which typically cover two or three noon hours per month, will be moved to a single afternoon session beginning at 1 p.m., resulting in an estimated $2,500 annual savings on the cost of providing lunch for attendees.
“I really do think the cost associated with the lunches is out of line with public sector spending right now,” said Trustee Tracy St. Claire, who put forward the motion at Monday’s Okanagan Skaha School District board meeting.
The current open-ended committee meeting schedules also makes it difficult for trustees with day jobs, she added.
“What it means is you leave in the middle of your day and you don’t know when you can schedule your afternoons,” said St. Claire.
The motion was approved by a 4-3 vote with Trustees Linda Beaven, Walter Huebert, Bruce Johnson and St. Claire in favour, and Shelley Clarke, Ginny Manning and Linda Van Alphen opposed.
Manning said she was interested in exploring changes, but noted the school board previously voted to move six finance committee meetings to 3:30 p.m. in order to accommodate St. Claire’s schedule, and it would be prudent to allow time for that switch to work “before making more changes partway through the year.”
Van Alphen pointed out that St. Claire isn’t the only board member with a regular job.
“Everybody around this table is doing something,” she said, adding other trustees simply find a way to make their schedules work.
Clarke said she too was agreeable to a different format, but suggested instead that the meetings be held during a single morning block.
The new format could be difficult for staff, said superintendent Wendy Hyer, who proposed the change be implemented for the start of the 2014-15 school year, since administrators’ schedules are already set for this session.
“Any decision the board makes around this, we’ll make it work, but I have to say it’s problematic for this year,” said Hyer, who added having teachers make presentations at afternoon meetings will be costly because substitutes are required to cover classes.
The new meeting schedule takes effect in April.
Trustees were told any staff in attendance would be entitled to overtime pay if the meetings go past 4 p.m.