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school board replies

Audit not needed, school board says Final student count before money committed: Fitzpatrick By Chris Woodall The $1.7 million increase the province gave the Howe Sound district school board will be spent, but can't be committed until the board knows exactly how many students it has, says superintendent Mike Fitzpatrick. He is replying to a district teachers association call for a provincial government audit of the school board. "So where has all the money gone?" Howe Sound Teachers Association president Alex Miller asked last week about not seeing any use made of the money to fund more teachers. The problem is that the province determines how much money it gives a school district based on the number of students it has. The school district has been burned in the past by early predictions of high student numbers only to find there was fewer students on the first day of school, sending the district into a deficit situation that could only be solved by cutting positions or services. "We go by the principals' count in September," Fitzpatrick says. "If the students show up that were predicted, we'll spend the money. But if we spend the money now and don't have the students, it really puts us in a hole." Teachers association participation in the school-based management process would have answered other questions the teachers association has, Fitzpatrick says. The teachers association says site-based management does not work to the benefit of students, but only results in board-wide services — such as a student psychologist shared by several schools — being cut as individual schools look to their own backyard. "The site-based management process is all in the public eye — the PAC groups (local Parent Advisory Committees) are aware of it," the superintendent says. "Had they (the teachers association) participated in our budgeting process, they would have had their answers, although they may not be the answers they would have liked to see," Fitzpatrick says. "It's much easier to be negative or to take pot shots," he says.