Donors wanting to offer funds for a new scholarship created in the memory of Jassi Sidhu ran into problems donating to the Ridge Meadows Education Foundation.
Foundation chair Dave Rempel was shocked to find the organization’s support from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School Board had been lost to a funding cut years prior. It eliminated accounting services and maintenance of the foundation website. So the potential donors ran into links that didn’t work.
The foundation provides scholarships and bursaries for School District 42 graduates, and oversees funds worth approximately $750,000, said Rempel. They have had 35 scholarships, but more will be added next year.
As both a trustee and a foundation member, Rempel said operating the foundation separately from the district means the Education Ministry cannot access funds.
“If it’s in a trust the government can’t touch it.”
Rempel was a trustee on the school board when administration recommended the cut that eliminated the funding support, but said staff didn’t flag the impacts of that cut for trustees before they voted on the budget.
“I never would have supported it,” he said, adding he was sure other trustees would not have either.
Rempel said he will work toward re-establishing the relationship between the foundation and the school district.
“I want this to go back to the way it was.”
He said four people he knows of have contacted the school board office to donate to the Justice scholarship, but hit a dead end.
“There are quite a few people who want a memorial, or recognition for Jassi, and want to donate that scholarship,” said Rempel. “I think it’ll get good support from the community.”
The school district discontinued supporting all outside, independent organizations when it faced several years of significant operating budget funding shortfalls, according to senior manager of communications Irena Pochop.
“Our support of the Ridge Meadows Education Foundation specifically was discontinued as a part of the 2014/15 budget process, when the school district implemented $4.2 million in funding cuts,” she said.
The value of the district’s in-kind support for the foundation amounted to between $30,000 to $50,000 per year, which would be the approximate equivalent of one custodial or one educational assistant position.
“As we are entering a year of financial uncertainly with potential revenue losses and additional costs related to COVID-19, we are not contemplating supporting any outside organizations at this time,” added Pochop.
School board chair Korleen Carreras said the board has been asked to meet with the RMEF about the issue, and she will wait to hear what they propose.
“We’ve had a really good relationship for years,” she added.
Jim Longridge, a retired principal of Pitt Meadows secondary, wanted to start the Justice scholarship in the memory of his former Pitt Meadows secondary student Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, who was murdered 20 years ago on June 8.
She graduated in 1993, then was murdered in the Indian state of Punjab, allegedly for marrying without her family’s blessing.
Beginning with the grad class of 2021, a scholarship will be awarded each year in her memory.
Longridge wants it to be called the Justice scholarship, because “we have been seeking justice for Jassi for 20 years, and we haven’t achieved it yet.”
Jassi’s mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and uncle Surjit Singh Badesha, were accused of orchestrating her murder and the attempted murder of her husband Mithu. They were extradited to India in January 2019, and are currently in jail awaiting trial.
Cheryl Ashlie is the foundation secretary, and anyone wishing to donate for a scholarship can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org