Youth care workers at risk in District 69

School district employee says the students will lose out if trustees cut jobs

There was an emotional plea to save child and youth care worker positions during a special meeting to adopt the 2012/13 preliminary budget for School District 69 (Qualicum).

After the board adopted the budget they took questions from the public and Thea Stavroff, a child and youth care worker was brought to tears when she spoke about the need for the positions in the schools.

No final decisions have been made about cutting the jobs according to Gillian Wilson, director of instruction for the district, but she said there is potential for youth care workers to be eliminated. She said it will be based on need and currently they are looking into increasing counseling at middle schools.

Superintendent Jim Ansell said job cuts in this area have nothing to do with budget cuts.

He said it is part of a staff review process they do every year when they assess student support services.

He said staff have met to assess what is needed and currently they feel there would be better support for students by having full time counsellors on hand.

“People close to the work make the decision.  We have to decide where we get our best bang for our buck.  Do we maintain a full level of counseling or maintain youth care worker positions,” he said.

Stavroff said she wasn’t asking the board to protect her job, rather to protect students.

The youth care worker who has spent 20 years in the district assisting troubled youth said many students in middle school are going through a confusing time and it is the one’s who fly under the radar that youth care workers are there for.

“Their eyes are open to the world at that age.  They experience confusion, depression and anxiety.  What will be there for the kids when their support is eroded,” Stavroff asked.

Trustee Barry Kurland, a former middle school teacher assured Stavroff that the issue will be looked into.  He said he is still haunted by the student suicides that occurred when he was a teacher.

“It’s not over yet.  I am going to do what I can.  If we have middle schools we need youth support workers,” said Kurland.

Board chair Lynette Kershaw said she was surprised to learn that the positions may be cut and said Stavroff made some valid points.

She stressed however that even though they have approved the budget it doesn’t mean it is set in stone and can’t be changed especially when it comes to child welfare.

“There are few things I need to look into.  Who is funding the child and youth care workers?  Where does the money come from? “

Ansell said the budget doesn’t become final until February so changes can me made up until then.

A grant of $511,000 from the learning improvement fund put into education funding by the government through the enactment of Bill 22 is money Ansell said that can be used to add support where there is a significant gap of meeting the needs of students.

“It is additional support to ensure that the best possible learning environment exists in classrooms,” he stated.

The funding will be allocated once it is determined where the money can best be used as a benefit to classes and Ansell said that perhaps the money could be used to pay for child youth care workers.