In my commentary 4-18 of June 15, entitled How To Save The Sauble School Without Costing The Municipal Taxpayers a Dime I quoted this sentence from the current agreement between the school board and the town:
Either party hereto shall have the privilege of renewing this agreement for a further term of 20 years upon the same conditions as are contained herein [emphasis mine]
I argued: that the agreement in place for the last 19 years is very favourable to TSBP residents; that the renewal clause above allows TSBP to unilaterally renew the agreement for another 20 years; that once the agreement is renewed the school board will have no reason to shut down the school operation; that renewing the agreement for another 20 years is in everyone’s bests interests; and that TSBP should use the unilateral renewal option.
The matter was discussed in the June 17 council meeting. An alternative proposal was on the agenda. It was to offer the school board a 5 year agreement in which TSBP would pay a lot more money to the school board than would be required if the current agreement were to be unilaterally renewed for 20 more years.
Councillor Bowman asked why we didn’t just unilaterally renew the current agreement.
Jim Turner stated that TSBP does not have the right to unilaterally renew the agreement, and John Close agreed with him. Jim Turner said the agreement gives us the “privilege” of renewing unilaterally, but that a “privilege” is not a “right”, and so we do not have the “right” to unilaterally renew. Mr. Tuner argued that the agreement cannot be renewed without both parties agreeing and signing off.
Mr. Turner and Mr. Close are wrong. While the agreement does say “privilege”, it is crystal clear that in the agreement the word “privilege” means “right”. The agreement is crystal clear that TSBP can unilaterally renew the agreement for 20 years. Contrary to Mr. Turner and Mr. Close, TSBP does not need agreement or permission from the school board.
In my commentary I also indicated that renewing the contract (unilaterally) for 20 years is to the benefit of students, parents, and other taxpayers. I argued that the school board will be contractually bound to pay most of the school operating costs for another 20 years, and so could not save any money by taking the kids out of the Sauble school and bussing them elsewhere. I argued that if the kids were taken out of the Sauble school and bussed elsewhere the costs to the school board would actually go up, mostly because of the added bussing costs.
If the agreement were to be renewed, I can’t think of any reason why the school board would even think about stopping the school operation.
But even if I am wrong, that is if the school board were to threaten to pull the kids out and bus them elsewhere, the town could just do what it is doing now to stop it from happening. The town could just give the school board a yearly grant. There is nothing in a renewed 20 year agreement to prevent council from giving the school board the cash to keep the school operating as a school. Renewing the agreement for 20 years does not tie council’s hands in any way.
So it makes sense to renew the contract for another 20 years. It keeps all options open, and closes no doors.
Agenda item 8.15 in the July 2, 2014 agenda (ADM48-2014 Extension Agreement for Amabel-Sauble Community School) has a third proposal.
The proposal in the July 2 agenda package is to offer the School board a six month agreement.
This is a bad idea. Because if the Town signs a six-month agreement the very favourable 20 year unilateral option disappears.
Signing a six month agreement would be a great disservice to everyone – taxpayers, students, parents.
I recommend that TSBP (unilaterally) renew the current agreement, for 20 years.