Advocacy and Trusteeship under siege

School Boards and individual trustees should be advocating loud and long about the needs of their communities for a strong, well funded and supported public education system.

We have seen 2 reports over the past year on the Vancouver School Board both of which seem to have preset agendas that should be of concern to all who support publicly elected trustees for public education. I am not going to comment on what the VSB Trustees may or may not have done, but both of the reports by Roslyn Goldner and Peter Milburn raise serious questions about the roles viewed for School Boards and the publically elected School Trustees. Both of these reports seem to suggest that (1) School Boards should not be advocating for public education and (2) that School Boards should be unquestioning in their acceptance of Senior Administration recommendations. As those who know me will expect I reject both of these suggestions. For a different view see, Crawford Kilian’s Article in the Tyee and and article in the Royal City Record.

 Even with the recent victory in court by the BCTF and teachers for a return to the class size and composition rules our school system will remind significantly underfunded. We still need additional funds to continue to support resources and field studies to make learning more real to our students and to support the New Curriculum. We still need additional supports for our students than what was provided in 1998. There have been cuts to custodial and secretarial time, there are repairs and upgrades to our facilities that need to be done after years of neglect.  The list goes on. We need to continue to pressure the provincial government to provide adequate funding to meet the real needs of your public schools.

I also think that it is the duty of trustees and School Boards to question the decisions of our Senior Administration. Are the decisions in keeping with the expectations of the community, whom we represent? Are they made in a way that is keeping with the direction of the Board as provided through our Policy and School District foundational statements?

Of course I think that it is equally critically important that when we are working towards solutions that we do so in respectful and reasonable ways. But politics, and we (elected school trustees) need to remember that we are all politicians, and that even when it gets difficult and difficult decisions need to be made, it must always be respectful and reasonable, with an open mind listening to all sides. But we also need to be able to disagree both with each other and with our staff. That is where and when the best decisions are made for our children and our community.

So what do School Trustees do?  Well it turns out that it really depends on your point of view. The BC School Trustees Association says,

What Do Trustees Do?

British Columbians elect their Boards of Education to improve student achievement according to the diverse needs of these communities. As locally elected representatives, the trustees on these boards best understand their respective communities’ particular strengths, challenges and demands.

Trustees engage their communities in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. School trustees listen to their communities; guide the work of their school district; and set plans, policies and the annual budget. Reflecting the strength of local representation, boards report back to their communities on how students are doing: boards are directly accountable to the people they serve.

The work of a trustee

School trustees are elected to govern their districts in the interest of improving student achievement. They do this by engaging their communities in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. They listen to their communities, and guide the work of their school district by setting a strategic plan, amending policy as necessary, helping build an annual budget that is aligned with the strategic plan, and reporting back to the public on the progress toward district goals. They hire senior staff, approve job descriptions and administrative objectives, delegate responsibility for administration and day-to-day matters consistent with those descriptions and objectives, and monitor staff and district performance on a regular basis. Working within the policies, regulations and directives set by the provincial government, trustees act as co-governors of the provincial education system by setting the local direction for achievement, allocating available resources, and monitoring local performance.

How can we monitor local performance, how can we monitor staff and district performance without questioning and even challenging staff?

We should be demanding that our Schools Boards and Trustees speak out collectively and individually supporting the community expectations that got most of us elected.

School Board meeting Tuesday, February 28

I have been at hundreds of Board meetings over the years and never had I felt the excitement and support that was generated by the over 100 people who showed up to support the passing of the Sanctuary School Policy. Once again thanks to Mark Gifford for his leadership in bringing this forward and helping top develop the policy. We will, of course, need to monitor the implementation of this policy and we will need the public to come forward when they believe that the policy has not been properly implemented. I know that we are talking about a small number of students in this matter, but it is not acceptable to keep one child from receiving an education, while the adults figure out what to do. So I love the plan of accepting the child and working with the child in a safe environment and leaving the adults to figure out the other formalities.

We also adopted our 2016-2017 Amended Budget Tuesday night. I have made my concerns known that receiving an Amended Budget document at the last minute without it going through a committee process so that we can ask in-depth questions is not acceptable to me. We got the Amended Budget on the Thursday before the Board meeting and it had to be adopted by February 28, so there was no option to delay. We have a Work Plan in our new Policy and I plan to move an amendment so that we get the Amended Budget in either January or early February.

The Board decided to solicit expressions of interest for engagement of a consultant to facilitate the superintendent evaluation process. 

Finally we also dealt we the 2017 – 2018 New Westminster Proposed School Calendar. Please forward any concerns to the Board, we plan to adopt a School Calendar for 2017 – 2018 at our March Board meeting.

The devil is still in the details … and in the funding ….

It’s great for our students and for education that an agreement has been reached, and so quickly (thank goodness for Supreme Courts and Elections) on the restoration of the illegally stripped language from the teacher’s contracts.

This restoration takes us back to 2000 with the language on class size, specialist teachers and class composition, although I understand that class composition will also will be going to a “a provincial joint committee to examine and resolve any outstanding issues related to class composition.”

But we need to clearly understand the resolution of this 15 year battle, and battle it was, is only the beginning of the battle to get proper funding that supports our children and provides them with the levels of services that they need. I am just waiting for Premier Clark to come out and blame all of this on the BCTF. I can hear her now, ‘if only the BCTF had dropped their lawsuit we could have put more money in years ago.’ BS of course. These past 15 years have been all about damaging public education and supporting their elitist friends in the private schools, particularly the elite private schools.

We need to remember, and remind both the public and our members, that teachers paid for class size and composition by giving up a wage increase in the 1998 contract. That wage increase, compounded not only over the past 15 years but over the life of my pension, amounts to tens of thousands of dollars to myself personally and many other teachers.  One of the things that impressed me about the teachers and the BCTF in regards to the illegal stripping of our contract was that there was no desire by teachers to receive personal compensation for what was taken from them. This truly was all about returning services to our students.

We also need to be clear that this does not bring public education back up to where it should be after 15 years of neglect. This restores the illegally stripped clauses from our contract, but it does not add in any new money for the necessary infrastructure to run the system. We still do not have adequate money for resources or field studies to make learning more real to our students and to support the New Curriculum. And we still need additional supports for our students than what was provided in 1998. There have been cuts to custodial and secretarial time, there are repairs and upgrades to our facilities that need to be done after years of neglect.  The list goes on.

As I said in the heading the devil is in the details and the funding. I am looking forward to seeing what school districts will be getting from the Liberal government this Friday, March 10 as our District grant for 2017 – 2018 and then I am looking forward to seeing if this settlement is really going to be fully funded (including the physical space to house the new classrooms), without us having to reduce support or administrative services to pay for the government’s actions. On that I will wait and watch, but, quite frankly, not trust. I need to see the money, and we need a government that will really make public education a priority after this government  has spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars trying to restrict services to children.

New Westminster School Board Operations Committee (Tuesday, February 14, 2017)

At tomorrow night’s New Westminster School Board Operations Committee Meeting, we will be discussing our monthly Financial update (I’m hoping for some idea of how much all of this snow and cold has cost us, as well as a projection of what sort of surplus we might be looking at this year).

As well we will be getting Maintenance and Capital Projects updates, and finally we will be spending some time on our new Draft Policy Manual.

I have said before that I have developed some significant concerns about what role Trustees will play in this District if this new policy Manual is adopted.

The BC School Trustees Association says that the work of a trustee is “Working within the policies, regulations and directives set by the provincial government, trustees act as co-governors of the provincial education system by setting the local direction for achievement, allocating available resources, and monitoring local performance.”

In New Westminster I believe that we, as a Board, are withdrawing from the role of monitoring local performance and having input into how decisions on improving education are made.

In the western democracies the role of elected officials has always been to take the information presented by knowledgable professionals and use our knowledge of the community and our personal philosophies from which we were elected by the public to determine the directions that should be taken. Elected officials are not elected to sit back and simply agree with administration or simply accept administration’s recommendations. We should be discussing, challenging and having our professional staff make decisions within the desires, wants and needs of the community, based on our, the elected officials, knowledge of that community. Otherwise why elect anyone?  Why have Trustees?

Trustees give direction through the development of policy, through the collective will of the Board. Then we need to hold our Senior Administration accountable for how they implement that direction. Currently under our new policy direction that accountability will only happen once a year during the Superintendents evaluation. I believe that it must be constant. That we should be constantly reflecting on how are our employees are carrying out the direction of the Board for improving education in New Westminster.  It should be done at every Board meeting and at every Committee meeting, we need to be constantly asking:  how are we doing and what do we believe needs to be done?

NW School Board (January 7, 2017) Sanctuary Schools Policy

This past meeting was an Education Committee meeting for the New Westminster School Board. It was the presentation of the Safe and Welcoming Schools For All policy that was the highlight. After much discussion and some concern expressed about the possible “unintended consequences” of people sneaking into the district and international fee paying students (who contribute millions of dollars to NewWest Schools, the School Board unanimously adopted the Sanctuary Schools Policy (I will update this with an amended copy when I get one). If my notes are accurate then this is what the beginning of the policy will look like,

New Westminster Sanctuary Schools Policy

The New Westminster Board of Education takes pride in its commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all children and families who are ordinarily resident in New Westminster, including those with precarious or no immigration status.

1. OBJECTIVE

To uphold the Board’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all students who are ordinarily resident in New Westminster, including those with precarious or no immigration status.

2. POLICY

2.1. All school age children who are ordinarily resident in  the school district, including those who are with precarious or no immigration status in Canada, are entitled to admission in school.

It was an incredibly moving evening with members of our community talking about some of the struggles they had to overcome to be able to leave their countries and move to a safer place in Canada, and in our community, New Westminster. Of concern was the comments that some of them made about being in New Westminster for months and being denied the right to put their children in school. I give special thanks to Mark Gifford who brought this forward and led the committee to develop this policy. For over 30 years as a Trustee I was told that there was nothing that we could do with children who were not legal immigrants to Canada and that enrolling them in our schools with not be legal. It took the addition of Kelly Slade-Kerr and Mark Gifford to the New Westminster School Board to move this issue forward to this exciting resolution and I will be forever in their debt for that leadership.

This should mean that, as of the adoption of this policy (hopefully February 28), when anyone goes to a New Westminster school to register their child for school the only answer will be yes.

Below is a copy of the amended policy.

NEW WESTMINSTER SANCTUARY SCHOOLS POLICY

The New Westminster Board of Education takes pride in its commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all children and families who are ordinarily resident in New Westminster, including those with precarious immigration status or no immigration status.

  1. OBJECTIVE

To uphold the Board’s commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all students who are ordinarily resident in New Westminster including those with precarious immigration status or no immigration status.

  1. POLICY

2.1.      All school age children who are ordinarily residents in the school district, including those with precarious immigration status or no immigration status  in Canada, are entitled to admission in school.

2.2.      The personal information of enrolled students or their families shall not be shared with federal immigration authorities unless required by law.

2.3.      The Board shall not permit Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials or immigration authorities to enter schools or Board facilities unless required by law.

2.4.      All public school employees and volunteers shall be informed of this policy, and it will be communicated to requisite stakeholders including immigrant communities.

  1. SPECIFIC DIRECTIVES

The Board will implement communication protocols and admission procedures in accordance with these requirements.

3.1.      This policy and relevant provisions of the School Act will be communicated annually to all school administrators, school office staff, and school teachers. Such materials will also be prominently displayed in school offices, admissions offices and on the Board’s website.

3.2.      The Board will provide orientation and training for all staff regarding the policy in order to promote expertise and sensitivity regarding the needs of students without immigration status in Canada.

3.3.      A thorough communications plan will be developed to share this information in immigrant communities.

3.4.      The appropriate instructions for staff and public information materials concerning admission procedures will be revised to reflect the above policy. Such revisions will also be included in all training and orientation programs for staff and community agencies who have responsibilities in this area.

3.5.      All student registration forms, including electronic databases, which refer to immigration status in Canada, will be deemed strictly confidential.

3.6.      All student registration forms, including electronic databases, will provide clearly stated options for any family which does not wish to share proof of immigration status as a means of establishing that they are ordinarily resident in New Westminster.

3.7.      Where there is a need to verify a student’s name, home address, or date of arrival in Canada, and where the usual supporting documentation is not available, the Board and schools will accept combination of tenancy agreements, utility bills and/or letters from lawyers, medical doctors, religious and community leaders and others confirming their personal knowledge that the student is ordinarily resident in the school district.

3.8.      Schools will continue to comply with current Ministry of Education requirements in the case of students for whom ELL funding claims are made, but will not disseminate students’ personal information.

3.9.      An independent or third-party based complaints mechanism will be set up to hear from families who have been denied admission based on immigration status and appropriate accountability measures developed to ensure that no child is turned away.

3.10.    There will be an annual review of the implementation of these policies by Board of Education, which includes input from community organizations and stakeholder groups represented in the development of this policy. 

SD No. 40 (New Westminster)

Adopted: 

New Westminster School District Mission and Vision Statements (Part 5)

The School Board is meeting tonight (Tuesday, February 7) to discuss a new Vision Statement for the District. Here are the ones that we are considering tonight (6:51pm).

Comments?  Suggestions?

 

These draft statements will be discussed at the February 7th, 2017, Special Open Board Meeting scheduled from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM.

Below please find the draft vision statements for further discussion:

 

  1. To inspire each student to reach their full potential.
  1. A place where the learning of every student contributes to a more inclusive, generous and sustainable world.
  1. Every student has knowledge and relationships to adapt and thrive in a complex changing world.
  1. Shaping the future by providing a welcoming, caring, and inclusive School District that creates a sense of belonging and purpose.
  1. Engaging schools that build our students strengths, interests and talents.
  1. Ignite passion for learning.
  1. To prepare learners to be empowered to reach their full potential to become tomorrow’s leaders.
  1. Every student graduates with confidence prepared to contribute to a global society.
  1. Every student graduates prepared to make a difference in the world.
  1. Every student graduates capable of realizing their full potential.
  1. Each student finding their passion
  1. A Learning Organization
  1. Creating a Climate of Possibility!
  1. Creating a Climate of Possibility for Each Student!
  1. Creating Possibilities for Each Student!
  1. Connecting Possibilities for Each student!
  1. Increasing the Life Chances for Each Student
  1. Inspiring Every Child’s Passion to Learn.
  1. Inspiring Each Child’s Passion to Learn.
  1. Inspiring Each Child’s Passion
  1. Each Student Graduating with Purpose and Possibilities
  1. Each Student Graduating with Purpose and Life Chances
  1. Inspiring Each Child.
  1. Inspiring Each Student.
  1. Inspiring Learners.
  1. Inspiring All Learners.
  1. Passion and Purpose – each student – each day!
  1. Meaningful, purposeful and relevant learning for each child.
  1. Meaningful, purposeful and relevant learning for each student.
  1. Personal, meaningful and relevant learning for each student.

New Westminster School Board Mission Statement (Part 3)

I am anticipating that the New Westminster School Board will be adopting a new Mission Statement on Tuesday, January 24 or perhaps adopting it and then sending it out for consultaton and feedback (which has been the practice for the past 35+ years). There are 4 choices and I would appreciate some feedback on which one people prefer.

1. To engage each student in personal, meaningful and relevant learning.

2. To engage and enable each student to learn in a caring environment.

3. To inspire each student with relevant and safe learning experiences.

4. To engage and enable each student to learn in a caring and inclusive environment.

Tuesday, January 24 New Westminster School Board Meeting