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.

May Day public consultation

At the New Westminster School Board Education Committee meeting in November the Committee discussed the public consultation process that the Board had approved at the last Board meeting on October 24.
At that Board meeting in October the Board directed the Superintendent to follow our usual consultative process sending out the recommendations from the May Day Task Force to the public for feedback.
The May Day Task Force was tasked with first consulting our staff “to review the nature and scope of the New Westminster School District’s participation in the annual May Day celebration.” The focus was to be on the pedagogical impact of May Day in the schools. After much discussion as a first step the Task Force surveyed district staff on the pedagogical impact of May Day in the schools. Of the 166 elementary and middle school teachers in New Westminster Schools in 2016‐2017, 124 participated in the survey – a teacher response rate of 75%. From those responses the Task Force developed 3 recommendations to the Board for public consultation.
The May Day Task Force Committee respectfully submits the following recommendations to the Board of Education:
1 For the 2018 and 2019 May Day, celebrations be school‐based celebrations and further recommend that on the 150th anniversary of May Day in 2020, the School District support the May Day Celebration Ceremony at Queen’s Park.
2 The District should discontinue the practice of selecting a Royal Suite. The Board should support the transferring of responsibility for the Royal Suite to a community organization.
3 The Board should endeavour to transfer responsibility for organizing the May Day celebrations in Queen’s Park outside of school hours to a community organization who could then decide how best to continue the tradition. In this way, for example, those community members who are particularly keen to keep alive the institutions of the May Queen and Royal Suite could formulate their own selection methods, costume requirements and ceremonial “duties”.
As it currently stands unless the School Board directs otherwise May Day 2018 will follow the same process as in previous years. The School Board does not usually get involved in how it’s directions are carried out, in this case having May Day, so it would be up to the Superintendent to establish the May Day committee from District (and perhaps community) volunteers, as has been the past practice, and move forward with May Day.
The Superintendent has also been tasked with contacting community groups who might be interested in taking responsibility for the Royal Suite and “organizing the May Day celebrations in Queen’s Park outside of school hours.” This will also help inform the School Board of possible options moving forward.
Lastly at the Education Committee the following motion was passed and will be going forward to the Board meeting at the end of November,
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.
This would be a great opportunity for the City and the School District to move forward with the community and look at al the possible ways to support and continue our May Day traditions.

Digital Portfolios using FreshGrade

At the November Education Committee we had teachers from Spencer present on the use of  Digital Portfolios using FreshGrade to communicate with parents and guardians on what students are doing and how they are doing. FreshGrade is BC based digital platform. Teachers and students are able to post both work and the assessments of the work on FreshGrade and parents/guardians are given access and can both view and comment on the work. Teachers at Spencer, and most of the other schools in the district, are using this digital platform in addition to the traditional report cards that staff are still doing, essentially doing double duty.
While there seemed to be some confusion at the meeting, there are no changes to the reporting or assessing expectations that are set by the Ministry of Education, and there have been no changes in New Westminster, which have to be approved by the Board. FreshGrade does allow and encourage interactions between teachers, students and parent/guardians.
As a teacher in Surrey I have been using FreshGrade for 3 years with my Grade 6/7 classes. In Surrey some teachers, like me,  are using FreshGrade as an alternative to traditional Report Cards. Students, parents and guardians get to see how they are achieving as work is handed in and assessed, as opposed to only getting the Report Card snapshot 3 times a year, and as Superintendent Duncan pointed out, often the information that parents are getting in the Report Cards is already 3 – 4 weeks out of date by the time Report Cards are issued. I find that both my students and my parents/guardians frequently respond to postings, often within minutes of posting. The comments range from encouragement and support to questions of what happened during a particular assessment or assignment to what do they plan to do about their level of achievement.
There are many teachers in New Westminster experimenting with the use of digital portfolios using FreshGrade. These folks are to be commended for reaching out and working on this digital platform to better inform parents/guardians of what and how their children are achieving. We need to be particularly appreciative since these teachers are doing this in addition to the more traditional Report Cards, essentially doing double duty. 
Thanks.

New Westminster School Board Meeting October 24, 2017

This week’s Board meeting is has a number of important issues coming forward.

The closure and final end of the School District Business Company.

The Business Company was an attempt by the School Board to develop off-shore schools in China, principally, to provide the district with additional funds to support the students of New Westminster. It quickly became mired in the politics of the day and it really isn’t worth the time or the energy to review what did and did not really happen. Suffice it to say that in the end just as the Business Company was turning a profit (bringing over $250,000 to the students of New Westminster) the Liberal Government decided about 4 years ago that public school boards could no longer have Business Companies (which they had enabled and encouraged) and that they must immediately be run only by private companies. This meeting should be the final nail in that issue with the formal process of dissolving the Company.

The Duty to Document Policy.

I have talked about this a lot. This is an opportunity for the public to see and understand the choices for the decisions that the School Board makes and have those choices and decisions recorded, rather then just a motion or notation in the Board minutes. Real information. I met with the Deputy Commissioner – Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner back in August 2016 on my own and have reported back to the Board that while the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner would be interested in helping us, that this is breaking new ground and I am not aware of any other School Boards that are moving forward on this policy at this time. Unless something has changed in the past 14 months then I think that we will get the same information back that I reported in late 2016.

The May Day Task Force Report.

I will write more about the May Day Task Force, it’s recommendations and my thoughts later. At this point the Task Force has crafted 3 recommendations for the School Board, and the recommendation is to take these recommendations out to the community for their reaction.

The May Day Task Force Committee respectfully submits the following recommendations to the Board of Education:

  1. For the 2018 and 2019 May Day, celebrations be school‐based celebrations and further recommend that on the 150th anniversary of May Day in 2020, the School District support the May Day Celebration Ceremony at Queen’s Park.
  1. The District should discontinue the practice of selecting a Royal Suite. The Board should support the transferring of responsibility for the Royal Suite to a community organization.
  1. The Board should endeavour to transfer responsibility for organizing the May Day celebrations in Queen’s Park outside of school hours to a community organization who could then decide how best to continue the tradition. In this way, for example, those community members who are particularly keen to keep alive the institutions of the May Queen and Royal Suite could formulate their own selection methods, costume requirements and ceremonial “duties”.

Student Trustee.

While I support the concept of a Student Trustee I am not sure exactly how Trustee Lalji sees this happening. In other districts that have Student Trustees policies were developed that indicated what the Student Trustee would be doing, what the eligibility and qualifications were and how they were elected to that position.  In New Westminster schools we have many students providing many levels and different types of leadership, principally through school based clubs. Unfortunately there does not exist, and has not for some years, an elected school leadership council at NWSS or better yet a New Westminster School  District student leadership council. While the School Board could direct that such a leadership group be established my experience tells me that things that are imposed on people are short lived.