The New Westminster school district's secretary-treasurer is off on a medical leave for an undetermined amount of time.
Brian Sommerfeldt went on leave in the last week, and assistant superintendent Al Balanuik will be acting secretary treasurer in Sommerfeldt's absence, board of education chair Michael Ewen told The Record.
"At this point, we anticipate (he will be off) about a month," Ewen said. "It will be what it will be."
Balanuik has a number of skills for the job, including a master of business administration, Ewen said.
But the longtime school trustee noted the impact Sommerfeldt's absence would have on senior level staffing.
"We are already one or two percentages below the province average for district administrators," Ewen said, noting that New Westminster has spent less on senior administration than many other school districts. "It's one of those things we need to do something about."
Hiring new staff doesn't seem to be an option for the school district given that it has a $2.8-million deficit from last year and is making a number of cuts to try to balance a projected $2.1-million deficit for this year.
Ewen said at this point he's not sure how the district will beef up staff at the senior level, but noted it will be a problem if one or two more senior administrators is unable to work for whatever reason.
Still, he added new hiring, at this point, "is not likely."
"We need not just a financial contingency, but a personal contingency," he said.
Ewen wouldn't comment on Sommerfeldt's medical condition because it's a "personnel matter," he said.
Last month, New Westminster's district parent advisory council raised the issue of voting on a motion to request that Sommerfeldt be replaced, but didn't vote on a motion.
Instead, the parent council decided to confer with the individual school parent council and then determine how to vote on the contentious issue.
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