Education Committee Report (October 3, 2017)

We had a delightful committee meeting last week. It started out with a presentation from Qayqayt Elementary School. 

2 of the teachers from Qayqayt used a relationship with Vancouver Biennale to use art to develop their relationship with a school in Brazil. It was an example of how art is able to connect both curricular and cultural differences.  It was incredibly inspiring and just one more example of why both the Fine and Performing Arts need to have a much more significant place in our school system.

After the Qayqayt presentation the Board resumed work on finalizing the Board values.

The Board has adopted both Mission and Vision statements,

Mission Statement “To enable each student to learn in a safe, engaging and inclusive environment.”

Vision Statement “A place where students love to learn.”

We discussed the list of potential values:

  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Engagement
  • Collaboration
  • Equity
  • Respect
  • Empathy

The discussion was an example of how School Boards and groups should work, thoughtful and reflective discussion. With Trustees and Staff building on others comments. In the end we concluded with a list of, 

  1. Curiosity
  2. Engagement
  3. Collaboration
  4. Inclusion
  5. Innovation
  6. Integrity
  7. Equity

Of course now that we have developed our District Mission Statement, Vision Statement and Values, what comes next.

We developed these as a Board, representing the public and the education system in New Westminster, but without much input or consultation. I would still have preferred, as I stated at the Board table many times, that we had engaged with both our public and our education partners to be sure that these fully reflected the Mission, Vision and Values of New Westminster as a whole. Engagement with our public and our education partners is a major concern of mine. Over the past few years this Board has seemed to become more isolated from our publics. With many seeming to believe, both on and off the Board,  that all is well if we (1) balance the budget and (2) don’t have angry people attending meetings. The area of Public Engagement is a major concern to me and I see that as an area to pursue over the next year.

So now that we have these I am unclear how these are used to help the system to move forward.  But we did have some great discussions at the Board table getting here.

Operations Committee (Tuesday, October 20, 3027)

There are a number of major issues on this Operation Committee meeting Ops Agenda 171010 Open Package. First and foremost is our Operations update, including our Monthly Expenses and Revenues summaries and our Capital Projects updates. Interestingly this Capital Project update includes the information that the Seismic Upgrade for McBride (either rebuild or replacement) is now ready to go to Treasury Board for funding approval, headlines in the paper to the contrary.

The second major issue on the Agenda is the dissolution of the School District Business Company. As some of you may remember just as some School District Business Companies were becoming profitable for School Districts the Provincial Liberal government established a rule that only private companies could operate off-shore schools. It has been a long wait to conclude this venture that was finally bringing monies into our district.

In an oddity we are looking to reopen a school that has been operating as a location for our Home Learners Program. When we transferred the last students from Hume Park and moved the Home Learners Program in, we had to technically close the school to end the use of it for regular program.

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Finally I am very excited to have my Duty to Document proposal finally make it to a Board agenda. I first proposed this in November 2016, it has been a long wait.

I think that we need both the Duty to Document policy and a Duty to Inform policy that clearly stipulates that all items that come before the Board are accompanied with clear , written documentation,

(1) outlining what the purpose of the agenda item is,
(2) outlining options for the Board consideration, and
(3) making a recommendation for the Board

That would mean no more verbal reports and it would also mean that that the Board has a Duty to Document how and why and not just what decisions were made to preserve the institutional memory of the Board and the reasons for those decisions.

We need to constantly remind ourselves at all levels of government that the decisions we make and the money we spend belongs to the community and public.  The public needs to have information, as do Trustees, before decisions are made to help inform the public of what might happen, of what options are to be considered and allow the public time to influence those decisions. We who are elected to public office can never lose sight of the public’s right to know since we serve on their behalf, in their name, spending their money.

I believe that this is so important for reflective, considerate and transparent Board decision making that if we need to hire more administrative staff to accomplish this I would be supportive. I believe that there is a cost to democratic and transparent decision making, and as one trustee I am prepared to pay for it.

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Supplement to: OPERATIONS POLICY & PLANNING COMMITTEE
DATE: Sunday, November 13, 2016
Item: Requiring Action

PROPOSED DUTY TO DOCUMENT POLICY

Background:
Duty to Document is the concept of providing and preserving the full reasons for decisions that are made by public bodies.

For decades public bodies have relied on minutes of meeting to keep track of what was done and “institutional memory” to remember the why it was done. In this world of Freedom of Information we have seen cultures develop of the destruction of documents to prevent the public from knowing about an issue and an increasingly oral culture has developed in government so that information does not have to be put down on paper or in documents thus keeping that information from the public, obviously forgetting that it is the public’s information and it is the public that we serve, both as elected officials and as administration.

Elizabeth Denham is the former Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia. On October 22, 2015 she released a report called, ACCESS DENIED: RECORD RETENTION AND DISPOSAL PRACTICES OF THE GOVERNMENT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA. In that report she stated,

“Access to information rights can only exist when public bodies create the conditions for those rights to be exercised. Government must promote a culture of access, from executive leadership to front-line employees. If they fail to meet this obligation, the access to information process is rendered ineffective.

Democracy depends on accountable government. Citizens have the right to know how their government works and how decisions are made. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”) enshrines this right, promoting openness, transparency and above all accountability of government activities.
Citizens can only exercise access rights when proper record keeping and retention is followed and the law providing access to records is respected. This requires that government:

    • appropriately create records;
    • understand and respect the distinction between a transitory record and a non-transitory record;
    • preserve all records that are potentially relevant to an access request once the request is received;
    • respond in an open, accurate and complete manner to access requests;
    • and dispose of records only where there is legal authority to do so.”

In this increasingly complex world I believe that we have a duty to be much more transparent and much more forth coming, not just informing the public about our decisions, but the reasons for those decisions, and the options that were considered.

In late August 2016 I went over to Victoria to meet with the Deputy Commissioner of Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. I went over as an individual Trustee and made it clear to those that I met with that I was acting as an individual Trustee, and that I was preparing information to take forward to the New Westminster Board of Education to propose developing a Duty to Document policy. They are very willing to help the Board of Education develop such a Duty to Document policy. They suggested that we could look at a couple of different areas that already have some Duty to Document policies. They suggested both New Zealand’s Public Records Act  and the New South Wales’ State Records Act. Both of these Acts require public offices and their local authorities to create and maintain “full and accurate records” of the activities of the office or activities.
As well the Government of Canada, in it’s Policy on Information Management  states,

6. Policy requirements

6.1 Deputy heads are responsible for:
6.1.2 ensuring that decisions and decision‑making processes are documented to account for and support the continuity of departmental operations, permit the reconstruction of the evolution of policies and programs, and allow for independent evaluation, audit, and review;

This is all about access to the reasons for decision making and making that information available to the public that we serve. I see this as happening in two ways. The first way I am proposing is that we alter our proposed Board Policy by requiring staff to present information in writing, in the form of Backgrounders, in our packages prior to our meetings. In a different document that I have forwarded to Trustees I propose altering Policy 7 Board Operations, by adding a Duty to Document and Inform section before decisions are made, requiring,

Policy 7
BOARD OPERATIONS
6. Notice and Agendas

6.3 (1) Duty to Document
All items on the Board agenda must be accompanied by a Backgrounder
(1) outlining what the purpose of the agenda item is,
(2) outlining options for the Board consideration, and
(3) making a recommendation for the Board
All presentations must be attached to the Board agenda when it is distributed. If presentations are not attached, the presentation will be postponed.
No decisions can be made by the Board without proper and full written documentation. The Board Chair and Vice-Chair are responsible for ensuring that the proper documentation is attached to Board meeting agendas when they are distributed.
No verbal reports, material or items may be added to Board meeting agendas without the unanimous consent of the Board.

To move forward on such a policy the Board would need to determine what areas we would expect and apply such a process. It could be all areas and all items for Board decisions or it could be specific areas and items that the Board deems most important for the historic record and for public information. Once the Board has determined what areas need to be documented then I would be prepared to bring forward the Policy amendment that is noted above.

Recommendation:

THAT the Operations Policy and Planning Committee recommend to the Board of Education for School District No. 40 (New Westminster) that the Board develop a Duty to Document Policy on the Duty to Document Board decisions and retention of School District decision making records, and that the Board determine what areas and/or what items should be specified in such a policy.

 

Education Committee (Oct 3)

This Tuesday’s Education Committee meeting continues our visits to district schools and program sites and includes a presentation from Qayqayt Elementary school on Cross Curricular Learning.

As well the Board will continue and perhaps conclude our work on Mission, Vision and Values statements.

We have adopted the Mission and Vision statements:

Mission Statement “To enable each student to learn in a safe, engaging and inclusive environment.”

Vision Statement “A place where students love to learn.”

and we need to continue and perhaps conclude with our Value Statements.

Superintendent Pat Duncan has said

“Values clarify our collective commitments – How must we behave to create the School District that is reflected in our Mission & Vision. For every value we identify, it should be possible to point to many examples from all corners of the School District of that value in action.”

We had the potential Values up on our website all summer and will be sharing that feedback on Tuesday.

The list of potential values has been reduced by the Board to:

  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Engagement
  • Collaboration
  • Equity
  • Respect
  • Empathy

For me the number one Value both for our district and for education generally is the need for real collaboration, between all of those engaged in helping to education our children. Real collaboration should not impede decision making, it should aid in making those decisions not only the most relevant but the most thoughtful. I have found that all too often decisions are made in education without talking to those that have to deliver the services to the children. This has been particularly evident at the Provincial level where for many years Ministers of Education have made decisions in Victoria, often times, without even asking if it is possible to accomplish their decision. Whether it be Daily Physical Education, Student Information Systems, haphazard Curriculum Implementation or at various Districts buying computers, iPads or other technology for schools and staff (without asking either are they needed or what we would like) all too often decisions are made away from the people who have to implement those decisions. For decades the New Westminster School District has been an incredibly collaborative district.

For me the second Value both for our district and for education generally is the need for real accountability.  Accountability that includes giving both the decision makers and the public real and full information to ask questions and base decisions. I believe that such accountability comes from a Duty to Inform and a Duty to Document (this item is coming forward to the October 10 Operations Committe meeting), so that everyone, at either a District, Provincial or Federal level have all of the information to make real and informed decisions. Whether it is making Provincial decisions on Site C, ICBC or BC Hydro, or making local School Board decisions on why Schools are at where they are in the development or redevelopment queue or why Budget allocations are being made in a certain area, we need to have real and timely information to make those decisions and engage in those discussions , both at the Board table and, more importantly, in the public. We need to constantly remind ourselves at all levels of government that the decisions we make and the money we spend are not ours, but belongs to the community and public.  The public needs to have information before decisions are made to help inform them of what might happen, of what options are considered and allow them time to influence those decisions. We who are elected to public office can never lose sight of the public’s right to know since we serve on their behalf, in their name, spending their money.

Consistency Needed – September Board Meetings

You know if I plan to Blog about the New Westminster School Board I need to be more consistent.

Since my last Blog post the New Westminster School Board has met 3 times (Education Committee (Sept 12), Operations Policy and Planning Committee (Sept 19) and a full Board meeting – which I missed(Sept 26)).

My goal is to be reporting before and after every Board and Committee meeting and I will endeavour to better meet that goal.  I am reminded with the Duty to Document and Duty to Inform concepts that it is information that the public needs to have before decisions are made to help inform the public of what might happen and allow them time to influence those decisions. We who are elected to public office can never lose sight of the public’s right to know since we serve on their behalf, in their name, spending their money.

I will report on all 3 of the meetings here and will work on separate Blogs for each in future, starting with this Tuesday’s Education Committee.

Education Policy and Planning Committee (Sept 12)

We have started a process of travelling around to the difference schools for the Education Committee meetings. This is a beginning attempt to re-engage with our public.

We had a delightful presentation from the Tweedsmuir staff regarding their Outdoor Learning Space. The story about developing the space was incredibly inspirational. A true collaborative effort between the students, the school staff, our CUPE support staff and the community (who kept it alive and growing over a very long and hot summer).

We also discussed our Board annual work plan. The Board work plan is to give staff directions around what information the Board wants and when it should arrive.

We also approved Trustee School Liaison Assignments and Committee Assignments, leaving assignments virtually unchanged for the upcoming year with a couple of minor changes acknowledging that Trustees should not be the liaison at their child’s school, although I must admit that I can’t recall who changed, and unfortunately I cannot find it in the minutes.

Operations Policy and Planning Committee (Sept 19)

Most of the September Operations Committee meeting is always taken up with the Board receiving the audited Financial statements. The Board finished the 2016/2017 Financial Year with a surplus of about $254,000, giving us a total of an unrestricted accumulated surplus of $1,619,557, plus a Board Restricted Surplus account for $500,000. According to our Policy 19 (RESTRICTED AND NON-RESTRICTED SURPLUS FUNDS) expenditure of such funds is restricted to the following items on a 2/3 vote of the Board;

Policy 19 RESTRICTED AND NON-RESTRICTED SURPLUS FUNDS

2.5.1 The incurring of new cost pressures in a fiscal year that were not known at the time of budget development that are in excess of$150,000;
2.5.2 The payment of severance (wages and benefits) in excess of $75,000 upon termination of a non- union employee without cause;
2.5.3 The settlement of any legal action that is not covered by the School Protection Program;
2.5.4 Initial one-time cost outlays for new educational programs;
2.5.5 Extraordinary unknown utilities cost-pressures;
2.5.6 To cover monies owed as identified by the Deficit EliminationPlan.

This was in response to BC governments who made budget changes to School Boards mid-year and didn’t fund them. Since it was established in 2014 we have never had to use the funds.

We also confirmed that Richard McBride and Lord Tweedsmuir were 1 and 2 on our Seismic Mitigation list.

Board Meeting (Sept 26)

I was unable to attend the Board meeting so the following are from both the Board Agenda Package  and comments from other Trustees and staff.

The Board approved the Education Committee recommendation to establish both Mission and Vision statements.

Mission Statement “To enable each student to learn in a safe, engaging and inclusive environment.”

Vision Statement “A place where students love to learn.”

The Board approved 5 Year Capital Plan, Financial Statements and the District Work Plan as presented.

The Board also agreed to send out a second Queensborough Bussing Survey, this time in a variety of languages. Some Trustees felt that the previous survey as not able to reach the Queensborough parent community due to it being in English only.

And of course Superintendent Pat Duncan announced his plans to retire from the District December 31 of this year. I certainly wish Pat well and I have enjoyed working with him.

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.