Murray to remain chair of Ridge school board

Murray was acclaimed at a meeting Dec. 11 as the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows district faces a budget crunch

Mike Murray will return as Maple Rige-Pitt Meadows school board chair for 2014.

Mike Murray will return as school board chair for 2014, and lead a group that faces another tough budget year.

In the last school board meeting for 2013 on Wednesday, Murray was acclaimed as chair of the School District 42 board of education.

“I do, with great humility,” Murray said when asked if he accepted the nomination.

“Because this is a super group.”

Murray, who retired as District of Maple Ridge’s parks ad leisure services manager, is now in his third year as school board chair.

Eleanor Palis was also acclaimed as vice-chair.

These positions are elected by a silent vote of trustees if more than one person is nominated.

Murray offered a year in review report, which addressed the board’s fiscal challenges.

In 2013, the board wrestled with a budget shortfall of $5.66 million.

It used a public survey, with 1,000 responses, as well as meetings with partner groups, to guide its priorities in setting the $130 million budget.

There were rental rate increases, which saw community groups – including the Girl Guides, Boy Scouts and minor soccer – driven out of gymnasiums.

There were also 35 positions reduced across the district, and the board depleted its financial reserves by $1.52 million.

“We got it as right as we possibly could,” Murray told the board.

For the 2014 budget session, the trustees will need to address “a potential anticipated shortfall of $4.5 million,” Murray revealed.

“This is not going to be easy.”

Among the highlights in the 2013 year in review:

• a new elementary reporting system that makes letter grades optional;

• improving the graduation rate to 76.3 per cent in 2007-2008 to a high of 90.7 per cent last year;

• development of the Roadmap to Excellence, which sets standards and goals for continuous improvement;

• development, review or revision of 28 board policies, including use of information technology and Trustee Code of Conduct;

• improvement in the summer learning program, measured by the statistic that 71 per cent of summer school students successfully completed the next level of that same subject (did summer school in math 8, then passed Grade 9 math);

• improved reading proficiency with the iPod Project, measured by all students meeting expectations and 27 per cent exceeding. That was an improvement from 17 per cent who were not meeting expectations, and just two per cent were exceeding.

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