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SALMON ARM, B.C. You know your community is in trouble when an elected official declares that the children who attend your schools could live with a little less cleaning and a little more dirt, says Adale Koski, a member of the North Okanagan Shuswap school district staff.

The president of CUPE Local 523 was reacting to recent mutterings of a school district board member as he attempted to justify major cuts to custodial, special education and transportation staff at North Okanagan schools.

We live in a time of super bugs and contagious viruses that can threaten the safety of children in our schools, Koski said. It is ludicrous to suggest cutting the very staff who protect those children from such harm.

While Koski is quick to point out the negative health impact of staff cuts in custodial, special needs, transportation and secretarial work, she is also concerned about the impact on the local economy.

,p> Every business and community organization in town will feel these cuts, said Koski. Small businesses need to think about the people who wont be shopping or stopping for a meal when they dont have the money or they have to take another job to keep up with the basics.

The resulting loss of wages, benefits and pensions will affect families and small businesses in North Okanagan communities, she said. The board needs to consider how these cuts, resulting from the provincial liberal governments cuts to education, will hurt the community as well as local schools.

And who will be volunteering when all the front-line workers whose hours have been drastically cut or wages reduced have to go out and find a second or third low-paying job. Only a few will benefit from the hardship most of us will suffer.

CUPE members are frustrated at the way school trustees made the decisions on school cuts. There is no real consultative process with stakeholders, including CUPE members, parents, and teachers, she said. Instead, trustees take advice from administrators, who take advice and direction from the provincial government. No administrators have been cut in this process other than the principals of two schools slated for closure.

CUPE will be at the board meeting on June 10 with some alternative budget proposals. We encourage community participation to stop the board from jeopardizing students health and well-being to satisfy Victoria, Koski said.


Adale Koski, CUPE Local 523 President, (250) 309-3779.