New Westminster School District Resources and Supplies

  • For the past couple of years I have been hearing anecdotal stories about the lack of teaching resources in the New Westminster School District- across the District and at all grade levels.
  • Last month, as an individual trustee, I met with the NWTU executive and they claimed that many of the anecdotal stories that I was hearing were true. We have a surplus of funds in the District and I see no need for our students and staff to do without materials.
  • Last week Chair of the Board Slade-Kerr raised concerns about the lack of Math textbooks in her in reaction to the suggestion that the Superintendent would be bring someone to co-ordinate May Day.
  • A couple of months ago Trustee Campbell raised a concern about teachers being forced to pay for their students supplies for new classrooms.
  • Trustees can raise all the concerns that they like but they need to actually move motions to accomplish something at the Board table. This led me to propose these 2 motions for the January Operations Committee meeting.

My Recommendation:

  • THAT the Operations Policy and Planning Committee recommend to the Board of Education for School District No. 40 (New Westminster) that the Board of Education direct the Superintendent to survey all staff regarding resources in the District.
  • I further move that we direct the Superintendent to, in collaboration with both teaching and administrative staff, establish a list of expected materials that every classroom should have to support learning.

December is a time of renewal and looking forward to the year ahead, for a School Board.

We have 11 months until a new School Board is sworn in, October elections in 2018. Over the next 11 months I believe that we need to look into a number of issues. We need to set some real, achievable Strategic Directions.

(1) we need to work at improving our Aboriginal success rates, ours are slightly below the Provincial average and that really isn’t good enough,

(2) we have reports coming back in the new year on food security for our students and student trustees and both are very important issues,

(3) I have been hearing anecdotal stories, which I have reported to the School Board, and believe that we have a huge issue of a lack of resources in our schools and will be bringing forward a motion for January to look into that issue,

(4) I believe that we have a Public Engagement problem/issue. The way that the District attempts to engage the public is both reactive and what I call a “sit and wait” approach, we need to review what could be done and change our structures (I brought forward a motion to that effect in November 2016 and it has not been brought forward yet),

(5) we need to establish an Audit Committee (again one of my November 2016 motions that was never brought forward), but it is also now a requirement of the Ministry of Education. I believe that we want and need outside expertise on that Audit Committee to help the Board review both it’s financial obligations and risks that we might be facing,

(6) I believe the we need both a Duty to Document policy that sets out how and what we need to document on our decision making, so that we are not relying on the memories of trustees, and we need a Duty to Inform policy that requires our Administration to put everything in writing so that the Board, and the community, can make fully informed and reflective decisions based on having the information in writing before us.

As we move forward electing Chair and ViceChair to lead the Board we need to be aware of our duty to represent the students and the community in providing guidance and direction to the Superintendent and District Senior Staff.

Board Meeting Dec 12, 2017

For our School Board meeting on December 12 we have the election of Board Chair and Vice-Chair, as well as elections for BCSTA and BCPSEA Representatives and Alternates.

We have a number of concerns raised by the Canadian Parents for French regarding student needs and specifically for the District to “review the services provided for students in French programs.” I am expecting that this will be referred to staff for a report back to the Board at either the January or February Education Committee meeting.

We also have the SOFI Report (School District Statement of Financial Information). This is,

e) A schedule of remuneration and expenses, including:

i) an alphabetical list of employees earning over $75,000, the total amount of expenses paid to or on behalf of each employee for the year reported and a consolidated total for employees earning under $75,000. If the total wages and expenses differs from the audited financial statements, an explanation is required.

ii) a list by name and position of Board Members with the amount of any salary and expenses paid to or on behalf of the member

iii) the number of severance agreements started during the fiscal year and the range of months’ pay covered by the agreement, in respect of excluded employees. If there are no agreements to report, an explanation is required

f)An alphabetical list of suppliers receiving over $25,000 and a consolidated total December31 for those suppliers receiving less than $25,000. If the total differs from the Audited Financial Statements, an explanation is required.

New Westminster School Board Committee Meeting (Tuesday, December 5)

At our upcoming Committee meeting.

In our usual Operations update,

Budget update

• we have the Business Company in the process of final dissolution

• we have a capital project report that includes the McBride seismic upgrade project and a request from the Ministry Education for up to date enrolment projects.

• the District is starting to renew its Long range facility plan.

We have the results coming back from our May Day consultation process that will now be forwarded, along with the Staff consultattive process we did earlier, to a further public consultation process hoepfully invloving the City and the School Board jointly. I have posted the main statistical table here,

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 6.29.05 PM.pngthe full report is in our agenda package.

We have the continued development of the Value Statements that accompany our new Mission Statement (To enable each student to learn in a safe, engaging and inclusive environment.) and Vision Statement (A place where students love to learn.). The draft Value statements are,

Draft Value Statements

Curiosity – Inquisitive thinking, exploration, and investigation are integral to learning. We strive to have our students graduate from grade 12 as curious as when they first began kindergarten.

Collaboration– We strive to develop purposeful relationships where we choose to cooperate in order to achieve shared goals and consider each other in our decisions and actions. Genuine collaboration encourages introspection of behavior and communication.

Engagement – Learning should be meaningful, purposeful, and relevant to each student. We strive to have students and teachers who are attracted to their work, persist despite challenges and obstacles, and take visible delight in accomplishing their work.

Equity – We believe in the principles of equity – all decisions shall be fair, impartial and free from bias or favoritism.

Inclusion – We value, respect and support the needs of every individual and strive to ensure the conditions are in place for each student to exceed their full potential.

Innovation – We value the intellectual habits of mind, such as openness, levels of ideation, autonomy, exploratory behavior, and convergent and divergent thinking. We celebrate the implementation of innovative and creative ideas.

Integrity – We value honesty and truthfulness as demonstrated not only by our words but also by our behaviours and our conduct.

We have a SOGI update. SOGI stands for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. I am very proud that the The New Westminster School Board was one of the first school districts to develop a policy around Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The SOGI Policy is meant to include and protect all people in our district regardless of how they identify their gender identity.

New Westminster School Board Meeting Report (Nov 28, 2017)

School Board meeting Report from Tuesday, November 28 Board meeting.

May Day

The Board received a letter from City Council asking the Board to maintain May Day as is for 2018 and further “given the timing of the May Day Task Force report, City Council does not believe there is enough time to engage the community in the changes being proposed before the 2018 May Day Celebration. We recommend that for continuity and clarity, the School District continue with May Day in the same format undertaken in 2017. This will provide more time for a thorough community engagement process and allow for opportunities to explore all options to address the School District’s operational challenges surrounding this event.”

The Board received Trustee Cook’s motion from the Education Committee,

THAT the Education Policy and Planning Committee recommend to the Board of Education that the school board invite the city to partner in a public consultation to determine the future observation of May Day and the recommendation from the School board May Day Task Force be forwarded to this process.

and my amendment,

and that the School District retain the current format for May Day in 2018 while we work with the City Council and the Community to more fully explore issues and options for the continuation of May Day.

Both motions were passed.

I look forward to receiving the Task Force recommendations consultation report on Tuesday, December 5 at the Committee meeting and then forwarding that report, plus the report we received from the internal staff consultation, to this the City and exploring hopefully a School Board/City consultation process. I have written previously about my lack of faith in what I characterize as the School Board’s “sit and wait” consultative process.

The Consultation Report is included as part of the Open Committee Agenda, I have included the main statistics table from the Report here,

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 6.29.05 PM.png

Student Trustee

The question of a Student Trustee has been referred to staff for comment, there was some discussion about the timing of that comment, but it will be coming early in the new year. I personally am hoping that this will lead to a formal process in the School District that will have student involvement and engagement in issues that concern them throughout the District.

Queensborough Busing

There was some confusion about the Queensborough Middle School/Queen Elizabeth PACs developing their own petition on the request for the School District to provide busing for Queensborough NWSS students.  The School District’s  second survey received 50 responses slightly more then the 47 we received in our first survey. There was some discussion about the need to take the printed file into a school, and this was clarified that had been the Board direction. This has still left some Trustees unhappy that we are not providing busing service for Queensborough NWSS students. For me this presents a dilemma that we would be providing a service to one part of the School District that we are not prepared to provide throughout the district. Over the years I have proposed the School District get involved in providing busing to students, but the Board has never been interested. I am told that busing tends to be a costly, and other trustees around he province tell me, a controversial issue. None the less I would be happy if we simply tried a pilot project busing students from Queensborough to NWSS on a cost recovery basis. Perhaps in the new year we can set up a system for for a couple of months to test out the real interest. But it would have to be at a cost recovery basis, and I have no idea what single trips might cost. Staff would have to (1) come up with a solid proposal to bus students from Queensborough to NWSS, (2) cost out that proposal and (3) then see if the parents from Queensborough would really be interested in paying for this service.

Portable at the Board Office

The Board Office is already too crowded and not able to accommodate all of our District Staff. The decision was made that there would be a Portable placed behind the Board Office to accommodate the movement of staff from other locations and provide meeting rooms.

I was not supportive of that decision, since I was informed by staff at Fraser River Middle School, it would take away play space that is at an extreme premium at Fraser River Middle School.  I was also concerned that the School Board lacked a long term facilities plan that included finding permanent homes for our District staff not housed at the Board office. We were told that such a plan is in the works.

The Board supported the placement of the Portable.

School Board Community Engagement

The School Board tends to use what I consider to be an antiquated process for community engagement and the result this time has caused some serious angst among some people regarding our May Day consultation.

Currently the School Board tends to use what I call a “sit and wait” approach to public consultation and seeking public feedback. It is essentially a passive approach hoping and expecting that people will come forward either to Board meetings or respond to our information as it is circulated to PACs and employee groups in the city.  I don’t believe that this has worked particularly well, or has served our community particularly well. 

Throughout 2015 and 2016 the City reviewed their Public Engagement tactics and adopted a new public engagement strategy in December 2016.

I believed, and still believe, that this could form the basis of a School Broad reflection on our Public Engagement practices. I forwarded the following motion to the Board November 13, 2016,

THAT the Board establish a board based education partner and community Task Force to review the current School Board public engagement and make recommendations to the Board on how to improve our engagement with the public.

This motion has not been brought forward yet.

I firmly believe that we need to move away from our antiquated and ineffective engagement process and we need to (1) review what the City did and (2) establish our own process to more effectively engage with our community.

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In my Backgrounder to my November 2016 motion, Public Engagement in the School District, I said,

Background:

We have had some challenges regarding engaging our public. Typically at School Board meetings and at our Committee meetings we get between 0 – 4 members of the public.

Recently the Board has discussed restricting Trustee attendance at both School PAC and the District DPAC meetings, to only those times that the PAC or DPAC request an elected Trustee.  This may or may not be a good idea, but I think that the Board should review the work that the City of New Westminster has done on engaging  the Public,

“The City recognizes the need to respond to the demand for high quality public engagement—not as a nice-to-have—but as a central component of how the City does business and delivers services to community members.”

and develop our own strategies to better engage our communities.

In the past the School District has had:

    • Community based committees
          • Education
          • Social Responsibility
          • Finance
          • Operations

The Community based committees were not very successful and after they struggled with quorum issues they were amalgamated into Education and Social Responsibility and Finance and Operations.  Once again they struggled with quorum and were eventually dropped, to be replaced by different variations of our current structures, Board Public Committees, with flexible rules to allow and encourage public participation.

For many years the School Board also had a District Advisory Committee. The committee was a broad based committee composed of members of the public, members of the parent community and members representing a wide base of community organizations (including the Labour Council, Chamber of Commerce and service organizations). The purpose of the Committee was to review School Board policy initiatives.

    • District Advisory Committee.

DAC was comprised of representatives from various schools in the district, as well as representatives from a variety of local organizations interested in making a contribution to public education in New Westminster;

• Some of the organizations participating in DAC during this time included the West End Residents’ Association, Douglas College, the Hyack Society, the New Westminster Multicultural Society, and the Presbyterian Church, among others;

• The central goal of DAC was to provide a range of perspectives reflected through the diversity of its membership to the school district with respect to its ongoing educational and operational programs and services;

• An additional goal of DAC was to review draft policies of the school district as well as to explore new initiatives for the Board’s consideration;

  • A key determinant in the formation of DAC was a desire on the part of the school district to forge closer and stronger relationships with its community partners which would lead to a stronger, more robust and vibrant school district.

(From a Backgrounder from Superintendent John Woudzia Feb 9, 2010)

I think that before the Board makes any decisions about District engagement we should discuss with our community and education partners how we might better engage them.

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I think that the recent May Day consultation process, as well as the Board decision to develop a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement and District Values without significant staff and public engagement, have all been pretty clear examples of the Boards current lack of commitment to real and in depth staff and community engagement.

New Westminster School Board Meeting Tuesday, Novemeber 28

It is a fairly light agenda tomorrow, but with a few  important issues.

May Day

The first issue is a request from the city to work with the School Board on May Day with a “thorough community engagement process and allow for opportunities to explore all options to address the School District’s operational challenges surrounding this event.”  To accomplish this the Council has requested that the District continue with the “same format” for May Day in 2018. This request parallels the motion coming from the Education Committee,

THAT the Education Policy and Planning Committee recommend to the Board of Education that the school board invite the city to partner in the public consultation to determine the future observation of May Day and the recommendation from the School board May Day Task Force be forwarded to this process.

I certainly support the direction suggested by the City to allow for more time to the Board, Council and the community to explore the issues of May Day and examine all of the challenges that the School District staff have identified. We will be able to add to that with the results of our community survey.  I plan to move an amendment to the Education Committee motion that will read,

“and that the School District retain the current format for May Day in 2018 while we work with the City Council and the Community to more fully explore issues and options for the continuation of May Day.”

Student Trustee

The second issue tomorrow is the Student Trustee issue that Trustee Lalji raised. While most trustees were very supportive of the concept of a Student Trustee on the New Westminster School Board, the Committee was undecided on how to proceed and formally asked our Senior Administration for formal comments and I am hopeful that these comments from Senior Admin will present to the Board a blueprint for a formal engagement process with our students leading to a Student Trustee.

Portable at the Board Office

The District is in the process of putting a Portable at the Board office to provide more office and meeting space. To do this we must take play space away from the Fraser River Middle School. To me that is not a reasonable solution. 

I have a motion on Tuesday’s agenda to take a step back and rethink this decision, let’s plan ahead rather then moving piecemeal.

That the New Westminster Board of Education direct the Superintendent to postpone purchasing and deployment of the portable for the Board Office until there is a comprehensive plan in place, approved by the Board, for the placement of non-enrolling district staff.