Thank you BCTF and the BC Labour Movement

Thanks to the trade union movement for the working conditions that I can enjoy on this Labour Day and a particular thank you to the BCTF for not giving up and not caving in. My students and I will greatly benefit from the reduced class size and the greater level of services that are being restored after having been illegally stolen from them 16 years ago. This is a great example of why we need the protection of unions to prevent the arbitrary decisions of employers. This year I am going from last years 31 Grade 6/7 to a max of 23 Grade 6/7. I have many of the same complex students, but now I have more time for them individually and they will be receiving more support.Thank you.

Tolls, lies and hypocrisy

I love politics and I love policy discussion. I am also not a big fan of lying and hypocrisy. The NDP made a commitment during the provincial election to eliminate the tolls on the Port Man and Golden Ears bridges. The John Horgan NDP government has followed through on that commitment.  The Liberals in their June 22, 2017 Throne Speech also supported elimination of the tolls, and a number of Liberal MLAs supported that.  Now the Rich Coleman Liberals think this is suddenly a bad idea. Lies and hypocrisy. This is all about finding any excuse true or not to oppose what the NDP is doing. The Liberals have truly learned nothing from their defeat, they are the same arrogant and out of touch group that 1,177,142 people in BC voted against in May.

Here is what the Liberals said when they were trying to manipulate another election,

Hon. J. Guichon (Lieutenant-Governor) (June 22) Throne Speech

“Your government has heard the concerns of people who are served by tolled provincial highway infrastructure. Since investments such as Trans-Canada Highway upgrades, the Sea to Sky Highway, the W.R. Bennett Bridge and the Cariboo connector are not tolled, all communities should be treated equitably. With the confidence of this House, your government will move to eliminate tolls on the Port Mann Bridge as quickly as possible.

Your government will also work with TransLink to accelerate the timetable for the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge and to remove tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge.”

Andrew Wilkinson (June 27)

“…that it’s time to reap the benefits. It’s time to see the child care programs we seek, to expand our universities, to deal with bridge tolls, to find new ways to improve the lives of British Columbians. ….We also talked about the elimination of tolls on the Port Mann Bridge. Now, surely, the members opposite can agree on that one since it was their idea in the election campaign. I hear one member applauding — from North Island — which seems ironic, given that there are no bridge tolls there, but none of the rest of them seem to acknowledge their own wisdom by saying that they, too, agree to the idea of eliminating Port Mann Bridge tolls.”

John Yap (June 28)

“We will remove tolls on the Port Mann Bridge as soon as possible and work to remove them on the Golden Ears Bridge.”

Ian Paton (June 28)

“This throne speech commits to eliminate tolls on the Port Mann Bridge as quickly as possible. I can speak on behalf of Delta and being on Delta council that the burden of people not wanting to pay tolls that are funneling through North Delta and Surrey to get onto the Alex Fraser Bridge or to go to the Pattullo Bridge…. This is going to be a wonderful announcement that will, hopefully, thin out the traffic and make traffic more accessible on all the different crossings, rather than people trying to avoid the toll on the Port Mann Bridge.”

Laurie Throness (June 29)

“The removal of tolls on the Port Mann Bridge is a big promise, but this is clearly what the voters of Surrey were concerned about, and we heard that message. Removal of tolls is essentially the paydown of debt on a provincial asset. Again, it’s not a question of ideology but of affordability.”

Renewal & Returning

I have had a lovely break this summer with lots of family, and particularly grandchildren, time.

I am very much looking forward to the new school year with a John Horgan provincial government and a Rob Fleming Minister of Education that is openly committed to supporting public education both verbally and financially.

There are many issues both locally in New Westminster and provincially that will need to be discussed, decided and dealt with, and we need to do that in a collaborative way between all the different groups in education. We need to desperately move away from the top down, no consultation, practices of the last 16 years and move on a more collaborative model of decision making.

We have the implementation of the Supreme Court decision that ended 16 years of provincial eduction wars.

We have the local issue of FINALLY getting shovels in the ground and starting work soon on the construction of a new secondary school in New Westminster.

We have the provincial issue of seismic upgrading all of our schools in BC, one that directly impacts some New Westminster schools.

We have a new provincial curriculum that I believe was rushed into implementation without the necessary discussions about assessment methodologies and any changes in our ways of reporting. There needs to be much more collaboration with the Ministry of Education and School Districts around the province. We need to get away from every district being forced to do it’s own thing and have some provincial discussions about some optional common ways that we could be approaching assessment and reporting.

Locally I am looking forward to the new school year on the New Westminster School Board. I believe that the coming year will be one of greater collaboration on the School Board.

New Westminster School Board Strategic Directions (Tuesday, June 13, 2017)

As many of you will know the New Westminster School Board has been working on a Mission Statement and Strategic Directions over the past few months.

School Trustees have been tasked by the Superintendent to review a list of values and refine our personal lists down to 3 values for Tuesday’s meeting.

I would appreciate any suggestions from folks about what values you see as the most important to you that you would like to see reflected by the School District.

I have attached the information that has been provided to School Trustees for this exercise.

June13 2017 Education Committee Meeting Follow up

Values List Strategic Planning Meeting 170613

Strategic Direction – Values – Part 7 -June 13, 2017

May 30, 2017 School Board Meeting

Trustee Responsibilities 

The last couple of School Board meetings have been to finalize the Board’s new policy manual and the new Administrative guidelines. This is viewed by some Trustees as a new world and a new way to approach leadership. But I think that it is a return to the old way of having one person in charge in a non-collaborative approach that we moved away from in New Westminster 30 years ago.

Recently a trustee asked me what it was that I wanted since I was so opposed to what was being proposed. What I want is very simply a more collaborative approach to governing and decision making. An approach where everyone is involved in the decision-making so that it really works for everyone and will be long lasting. Long term change is dependent on the people involved having all the available information and then buying into that change. To begin with it must make sense and there must be good, clear evidence presented of why the change is necessary.  When change is forced on people the change will be short lived, when the only reason given is basically “because I said so,” that change then lacks moral legitimacy. I brought forward over 40 amendments to change the direction of this policy, and I would guess that about 80% were defeated (although some like Duty to Document and Inform and having an Audit Committee) have simply been postponed until the fall.

When we were discussing the Administrative Procedures it was made clear to me that our job, as Trustees, is to approve the Policy, and the Admin guidelines are the responsibility of the Superintendent. We were not asked for, nor are we expected to give our input into how the district is run or how the Superintendent implements our new Board policy. Under this new direction that is considered to be “realm of operational issues” and trustees are to have no say on operational issues. Yet it is how those Board policies are implemented that reflects directly on the School Board and the School District; ultimately it is the Board who is responsible and answerable and therefore the Board must have the ability to engage in ongoing conversations about how our policies are being implemented.  A more collaborative approach would be to raise concerns and issues at a Board meeting, something that we have done many times over the past 30 years. The Board then gives it’s input and unless there is a specific motion directing the Superintendent, then the Superintendent is left with collective input of Trustees and can then proceed as he/she sees fit.

Under the School District’s new Admin procedures (Administrative Procedure 106 DECISION MAKING PROCESS) generally the administrators in this district will consult and listen to advice, but are not required to collaborate. I would like to see a requirement of collaboration, where the people who have to carry out the decisions are part of the decision making process. And yes that sometimes will mean that decisions will take longer, but good decison making cannot be rushed.

Under the new policy as a Trustee I am required to support the Superintendent, without any input or say.

POLICY 2
ROLE OF THE BOARD
4.Board/Superintendent Relations
The Board shall:
4.6 Respect the authority of the Superintendent to carry out executive action and support the Superintendent’s actions which are exercised within the delegated discretionary powers of the position.

And under,

POLICY 3
ROLE OF THE TRUSTEE
A trustee must serve the community as an elected representative, but the trustee’s primary task is to act as a member of a corporate Board. School board trustees collectively and individually have a public duty to carry out their responsibilities and the work of the school board in good faith and with reasonable diligence. Trustees have one overarching responsibility – a shared public duty to advance the work of the school board.
Specific Responsibilities of Individual Trustees
The trustee shall:
2. Support a majority vote of the Board to advance the work of the board and monitor progress to ensure decisions are implemented.

Once this passes tomorrow night I feel I will no longer be supposed to represent the public first,

“the trustee’s primary task is to act as a member of a corporate Board. … [and my job as a trustee is to] Support a majority vote of the Board….”

I totally reject this concept as being anti-democratic. My job as an elected official, at any level, is to represent the public first, second and always. We must always keep that in mind.

I was reminded recently by the President of a teacher’s union that teachers settle contracts with School Boards, not administration. I will continue to oppose this “new direction” of the New Westminster School Board. As I said in an early posting I feel that this new policy directon is a abrogation of our responsibilities and our duties under the School Act. While the School Act allows School Board to delegate authority it nowhere requires us to give up our responsibility and I believe strongly that it is our responsibility to govern by monitoring our employees, particularly our administrative employees, as they carry out their duties on our behalf and on behalf of the citizens of New Westminster.

Student Vote BC 2017

Student Vote provides elementary and high school students with a chance to experience an election.

Understanding democratic decision making starts for my class every September where we discuss how decisions can be made and how they would like to make decisions in the classroom. Of course they are parameters.

  • Class decisions cannot negatively impact anyone in the class.
  • Class decisions must always be respectfully made.
  • Class decisions cannot have a negative impact on either the social or learning situation in the classroom.

We start out discussing how we can make decisions:

      • Dictatorship (I get to make all of the decisions)
      • Consensus
      • Democratic
          • Plurality/First past the post
          • Majority
              • Majority (single vote and if no majority the decision dies)
              • Majority by removing the lowest number and voting until you make a decision that is made by 50% +1

The class chooses, by consensus, one of these ways to make decisions and then we agree that we can always change the process later. 

We set up Class Meetings where people can put items on the agenda and the class can make decisions about them. An example is sitting arrangements in the class. I have told them that I am prepared to let them organize how their sitting arrangements are determined (size of groups, rows, tables, desks etc).

In this way making democratic decisions becomes second nature to them.

In the fall we followed the American election and studied the Electoral College system of electing Presidents, and contrasted that with our current First Past the Post system.

I have had my classes participate in elections since the 1983 Provincial Election and I have been participating in Student Vote since the early 2000s.  Last Federal Election  (2015) my class was part of a video produced by CIVIX reflecting on the Federal Election and the voting process.

Over the course of the 6 weeks since Spring Break my class has been focused on once again on understanding democratic decision making, the different levels of government and what their responsibilities are and particularly on the BC Provincial election and Student Vote BC 2017.

Over those 6 weeks my students have had to:

  • participate in weekly polling,

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 10.08.15 PM.png

  • Develop an understanding of the election issues by setting up a table to contrast the different political parties positions on 2 issues of the students choosing,
  • Prepare an election ad for either one of the political parties or promoting the vote
  • Develop a traditional paper poster or a digital meme for either one of the political parties or promoting the vote.
  • They have had to organize themselves in groups and present to the class on a specific issue that is important to them.

They presented on:

  • Pollution
  • Minimum Wage
  • Childcare
  • Education
  • Homelessness
  • Housing
  • Bridge Tolls

The expectation was that they presented the information on the issues from the 3 major political parties Liberal, NDP and Green and since we are in the riding of Surrey-Guildford they could also include Christian Heritage Party, if they wanted.

Tomorrow is Student Vote day and our school will be voting Grade 3 – 7. Our votes will be tallied and sent to CIVIX and will be released at 8pm Tuesday, May 9, just after the polls close.

I have included a series of examples of the work that they produced.  I am incduing their video ads on Facebook.

New Westminster School Board Meeting Tuesday, April 25

Even with a provincial election we have to earn our pay and Board business carries on.

We have our monthly Board meeting Tuesday night and we have a number of significant items on the agenda.

  • 2017 – 2018 Budget
  • Adopting our new Policy Manual
  • Queensborough Busing Report
  • Audit Committee

2017 – 2018 Budget

We have some significant shortfalls in the School District. Not least of which is that we need to take out of our accumulated surplus (for the 2nd year in a row) $488,000 to keep this a status quo budget.  That means that if we did not have an accumulated surplus we would be cutting services and jobs to the tune of $488,000.  This is nothing more then a continuation of the Provincial governments underfunding of education. While we are hiring more teachers and restoring the illegally stripped language in the School District’s collective agreement with teachers, we are still not getting enough money from the province to cover the actual costs of running the school district.

I am still concerned about the government covering the actual costs of the restoration of the collective agreement. We may need additional portables for classrooms and space for the increase in non-enrolling teachers and I am not sure if the government will actually really fund these. For this reason for this year I support maintaining the status quo and not looking at increasing services, (for example restoring custodial services, including full replacements for custodial absences, additional services to deal with the increasing issues of mental health in adolescents, increased funding to support the Fine and Performing Arts in the school District, increased monies for transporting our athletes and supplying additional resources for teaching supplies and materials). I will relook at things at the end of September when we have classes set, we know what our 2016-2017 surplus is and we have a clearer understanding of the real level of funding that was provided.

Adopting our new Policy Manual

I have made my position well known about my opposition to our change in Policy. I believe that the School Board is surrendering it’s responsibility to monitor and govern the School District and placing too much unfettered authority into the hands of Senior Administration. I believe that we should have a more collaborative approach to governance with Trustees constantly questioning/discussing/collaborating about the decisions that our senior staff are making in following Board policy, not just the once a year that is in this new Policy direction. I will not be supporting the adoption of the new Policy Manual, and will continue to question Administrative decisions and will continue to press my fellow Trustees to change this approach.

Queensborough Busing Report

We didn’t seem to get much interest in this. I have long believed that this School District should purchase and run a couple of buses and use them for field trips, sports teams and fine arts programs. If we had done this we could be running a morning shuttle to both Queensborough and to Fraser River Middle. But no-one else seems to be interested and all I hear from our trustees around the province is don’t ever get involved in busing if you don’t have to.

I suspect with the low level of returns and involvement that we will not be entering the busing business this year.

Audit Committee

In November I brought forward a motion for the Board to consider the establishment of an Audit Committee made of School District Staff, Trustees and external experts to help make sure that the financial decisions that the Boards was making and that the reporting of information to the Board and Public was clearly understandable and transparent. Waiting 4 months has allowed events to overtake my motion. In one of the last acts before the election was called the Ministry of Education instructed School Boards to establish, by June 2018, Audit Committees.  I have changed my motion from wanting to set up an Audit Committee to an enabling motion directing our Superintendent to come to our Operations Committee next month and give the Board a timeline for establishment and adoption of an Audit Committee. I have included my original motion and rationale as part of this new enabling motion.

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Supplement to: OPERATIONS POLICY & PLANNING COMMITTEE

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Audit Committee

Background:

We need to establish an Audit Committee to help oversee the finances of the School Board. In the past decade we have had 4 different Secretary-Treasurers. In the first 3 situations we started off great for a couple of years, but then something happened and we ended up in unanticipated deficits or surpluses. Deficits or surpluses not authorized by the Board.

In June 2012 we ended the year with an unanticipated Unrestricted Operating Deficit of $2,790.052

In June 2013 we ended the year with an anticipated Unrestricted Operating Deficit of $4,898,109, if the Board and the new Secretary-Treasure had not acted when we did the deficit had been projected to be $5.6 million.

In June 2014 (we ended the year with an unanticipated Unrestricted Operating Deficit of $813,400.  The Board did not authorize, nor did it have any knowledge that we were recovering $4 million of our deficit our that year.

In June 2015 we ended the year with an Unrestricted Operating Surplus of $749,348, and I am not sure how much of that was anticipated and how much was unanticipated, but I do not believe that the Board made the decision to make the $1.6 million savings in that one year.

In June 2016 the School Board ended the year with a Unrestricted Operating Surplus of $1,365,020 (that is the total of last years surplus of $749,348 and this years surplus of $615,672). In addition the Board has a Board restricted Contingency Fund of  $500,000). That 2015 – 2016 Surplus of $615,672 was will within the expectations of a $400,000 surplus that the Board was anticipating.

Currently the Board has not yet been informed about the anticipated Surplus for June 2017.

We seem to be back on track now.

But I do not think that the School Trustees have the necessary expertise to review the work of the Secretary-Treasurer. We accept the Secretary-Treasurer’s information as correct and accurate but we have no ways of ensuring that the information is correct and accurate.

In the recent Milburn Report on the VSB Recommendation R#14

“The VSB create an Audit Committee, including in the membership of the committee external experts to provide recommendations on various strategies, financial situations, risk management scenarios, and other complex issues.”

My Old Recommendation from November 2016:

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 establish an Audit Committee, Chaired by a Trustee, of external experts to provide recommendations on various strategies, financial situations, risk management scenarios, and other complex issues.

 ***************************************************

My new motion simply reads,

Recommendation:

THAT the Board of Education for School District No. 40 (New Westminster) direct that the Superintendent report to the May Operations Committee on a proposed process, including timelines and composition for the establishment of an Audit Committee.