Houston trustee Les Kearns is now vice chair of Bulkley Valley School District 54 after 12 years as chair. Houston trustee Jennifer Williams was elected chair by acclamation. (Chris Gareau photo)

New SD54 chair to deal with potential Houston school closure

Kearns praised for bringing stability to school board

The baton has been passed at Bulkley Valley School District 54.

After 12 years as school board chair, Houston trustee Les Kearns chose to not put his name forward at last Tuesday’s board meeting. Houston’s other trustee Jennifer Williams was chosen to be the new chair by acclamation. Kearns was elected as vice chair by trustees.

Williams will lead the board through some difficult choices. There is the potential of closing Silverthorne Elementary in Houston, leaving the community with one elementary school.

Two motions involving the future of education in Houston were passed at last Tuesday’s meeting. The first was to direct senior administration to explore and pursue the option of requesting financial support from the Ministry for a fixed annex/addition in Houston.

The second was to apply for funding from the 2018/19 Rural Education Enhancement Fund in regards to a potential school closure. Staff and trustees stressed this was not a motion to close Silverthorne — yet.

“This is not a motion for school closure, but in order to apply for these fundings it has to have been discussed, the potential school closure,” said Chair Williams during the meeting.

“The intent of the Rural Education Enhancement Fund is basically to seek money or funding from the provincial government ministry (of Education) to support a school that may be in a position of closure,” explained SD54 treasurer Dave Margerm.

“The board is considering the option of closing at some point. So I think our recommendation as we perceive this is just to engage the ministry and trying to seek some funding either to maintain the school or to use the facilities money elsewhere.”

Margerm estimates the savings from closing a school to be $300,000-400,000 per year in operating costs. SD54 administration has insisted no teachers would be laid off, though administrative positions would be lost.

The purpose of the annex is to have more integration between Twain Elementary and Houston Secondary School, especially with older elementary students.

Kearns not sure on future

Now-vice chair Kearns said after the meeting he was not sure what his future holds with less than a year left until the next local elections.

He did earn praise from sd54 superintendent Chris van der Mark during the meeting.

“I can’t stress enough from a District staff perspective how important it has been to have the stability and consistency and the advocacy for kids that you in your roll as trustee have brought to this for 12 years,” he said.

Kearns took time to reflect as well. His tenure has seen expansion of programming options and some facilities, but it has also been a period of school closures as student populations stagnated and shrunk.

“There’s been some hard times and we’ve pulled together and done better when the problems arose. In almost 12 years of being both a chair and trustee, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I think it’s just time for some new, young leadership. And so I have the utmost confidence in our new leader and her colleagues who will support her in her position and continue to do what’s best for kids because that’s what it’s all about.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

Anne Marie Sam seeks NDP nomination for Nechako Lakes riding

She also ran in 2017 but was defeated by BC Liberal John Rustad

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Vancouver Island family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Most Read