SD 42 management has shared in cuts, says chair

Less management needed, CUPE says admin not lean enough

The management of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District says it has taken its share of budget cuts in recent years, times of restraint, but union officials aren’t buying it.

Management was criticized numerous times during the recent budget process for not taking its share of the $5 million in cuts in 2014-2015.

Heather Upton-Brown, a school secretary and CUPE member, was one of many who leveled the charge.

“The one thing that is on everyone’s mind – not one excluded management position was cut,” she said at the public meeting for budget feedback. “The only job cuts at the district office were CUPE, five in total. Not one excluded clerical employee was affected.

“Since we have declining enrolment and less staff, we need less management.”

There were 14 CUPE full-time equivalent (FTE) positions and 9.43 Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association (MRTA) positions cut in the 2014-2015 budget.

But district staff has countered that administration is actually the employee group that has endured the greatest cutbacks, when considering budgets going back as far as the 2008-2009 budget year.

It was one of the issues that board chairman Mike Murray addressed in his budget-night speech last week.

“One of the concerns we’ve heard is that the proposed reductions are not evenly distributed throughout the organization. But when we look at the history of budget cuts, we see that all of our employee groups have been impacted over the past five years,” said Murray.

He referred to a staffing levels chart that appears to support his claim.

The biggest hit has been school-based principals (including vice-principals), which have dropped by 15.65 per cent since the 2008-2009 school year. Next was exempt staff at 10.14 per cent, followed by support staff at 7.73 per cent, and lastly teachers, which have dropped 6.21 per cent.

Grouped by job category, over the same six-year time period:

• principals, vice-principals and union exempt staff were down 13.29 per cent;

• members of the Maple Ridge Teachers Association were down 6.21 per cent;

• CUPE staff have risen 3.73 per cent.

“All areas of the school district’s operations have been impacted,” asserted Murray in an interview.

He noted that 1.5 FTE exempt staff were cut this year, including the position for an IT analyst this year.

Because management is a small employee group compared with teachers and CUPE, even one cut has a large statistical effect on the percentages.

He pointed out that some managers are doing double duty. For example, Joanne Rowen has been both the principal of Pitt Meadows elementary and the principal for French programs in the district – two positions that were collapsed into one.

“We’re not fat at all. That’s one of the observations I made when we first got into office,” he said.

Former superintendent Jan Unwin would send him emails that were time stamped at 5:30 a.m.

“I can tell you that’s pretty typical. Flavia [Coughlan] secretary treasurer] has been burning the candle at both ends too.”

“Our management is lean and quite efficient. And works very hard.”

George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, agreed the managers are hard working – he has found them at the board office at 7 and 8 p.m.  But he is skeptical of the management cut stats, and doesn’t think non-union staff have taken their share.

“Take a statistics course, and you know that you can portray numbers in a way that supports what your end goal is,” said Serra.

He suggested that some research be done, comparing the size of School District 42 management to that of comparatively sized districts.

“It begs looking into.”

CUPE local president Leslie Franklin said if the board’s “mantra” is to keep the cuts as far as possible from the classroom, then it makes sense to cut senior management and exempt staff, rather than people who work in the schools.

“A lot of those positions don’t deal directly with the classroom. They’re never face-to-face with kids.”