Friday, January 26, 2007

January Langley School District Board Report - Special Report by Susan Semonick

Public School Board meeting - January 23, 2007

CORRECTION NOTE: We have been informed that Trustee Paterson attended a Transportation meeting and not a VALTAC (which unfortunately was also spelled wrong in error) meeting as previously submitted. The correction has been made and highlighted in red in the posting body. Sincere apologies for the error. LFP and the posting author stand corrected and appreciate the correction advice and apologize for our misunderstanding of the comment and for the incorrect quote and any concerns arising from our error.

TRUSTEE ACTIVITY AND COMMITTEE REPORTS

Trustee Bech on holidays will be back for February.

Still no report from the Community School Connections Ad Hoc Committee which Trustee Hogeterp sits on. She did give relevant information on the other meetings she attended.

Trustee Paterson mentioned celebrating Christmas and New Years and attending a Transportation meeting but did not mention the relevance this has to the education and achievement of students.

REPORT ON THE OUTCOME OF "BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE - ALDERGROVE AREA"
Trustees approved four recommendations that were developed as a result of the consultation report written by Mr. McAvoy. The recommendations include a notice of motion that the Board is considering the closure of Aldergrove Elementary. The consultation and review process is to be completed by March 27, 2007.

Anyone see the writing on the wall? Closing this school is estimated to save $400,000 annually. What did the closure of South Carvolth realize? The recommendation states “Should the District wish to dispose of (or lease out) surplus properties in the future, the Aldergrove site would be of greater real estate value than other Aldergrove school sites.” It foreshadows that “it may be a possibility or necessity to amalgamate elementary schools further within a reasonable period of time”.

A school-based committee that includes a PAC representative will discuss issues related to a closure. Tentatively scheduled are:

March 12, 2007 - Public meeting at Aldergrove Elementary School re possible closure

March 27, 2007 - Public Board Meeting – Presentation of Closure Review Report and
Board decision on closure.

The second recommendation was to bring back to the Board by October 2007, a report re the “examine the feasibility and sustainability of district programs in the Aldergrove area, including but not limited to: French Immersion, the District Behavior Program, Trades and Alternative Non-Traditional Programs” This will be something of great interest for all parents.

Also going back to the Board at the same time is “an educational and operational implementation plan for the delivery of a middle school program in Aldergrove, for a combined middle-secondary school located at Aldergrove Community Secondary School, for the 2008-2009 school year”
Ms. Beaumont gave four reasons for the middle-secondary school recommendation.

1. Allows maximization of capacity utilization at ACSS. A separate middle school would have eventually left ACSS emptier.
2. The students would only have to attend two schools, not three, throughout K-12.
3. District programs like French Immersion program would be able to be sustained.
4. Degree of capital expenditure would be minimized in facilitating a middle school.

I wonder though, the documentation I have read states that the Middle school philosophy is important and middle schools must be implemented for the right reasons. To have success it is suggested not to dual track as this has a low success rate.

Interestingly enough, rationale #2 would become invalid if recommendation #4 which is that “Aldergrove Community Secondary School and D.W. Poppy Secondary School develop common secondary timetables with a goal of implementation for September, 2007 and that those timetables allow for potential compatibility with other secondary programs in the District.” comes into effect. Some students would end up attending three schools anyway. It sounds as if busing will be a major component in this unless these courses can all be delivered online. It will be interesting to see how DW Poppy parents and students will feel. There was mention that the whole district should do this, which would mean that all schools in district would become semester. Maybe this will be one of the choices (semester and linear timetables) that students currently have that will be changed in the new Strategic plan. First consultation for the strategic plan will be February 26.

Two of the reports are to come back to the Board at the start of the consultations in the Walnut Grove area. Hopefully, no critical decisions will be made prior to the conclusion of ALL of the consultations. After all, this is ONE district and the decisions made in one area would affect and possibly limit the options in the other areas. Unfortunately, the district did not really take an all-encompassing approach to these consultations, as D.W. Poppy and its catchment area including Fort Langley Elem. were not explicitly included in any of the areas to be examined.

Many school districts have closed large numbers of schools in their districts. Prince George School District went through the consultation process and closed 16 schools all at once. They took a district-wide approach and many parents are happy that at least some degree of uncertainty has been removed for the next few years.

The district is trying desperately to avoid closure of a secondary school. How long are they going to try to move or add programs, change boundaries, try to attract more out-of district students, and otherwise “think outside the box” before they admit what they already know they will eventually have to do. A future-looking option might be to close not only one but two secondary schools in anticipation of the decline right now. Remove any portables needed as enrolment declines over the next couple of years. This will create stability. The Willoughby area will need a new secondary school. That’s where the students will be and where plans are in place to locate one. The Ministry will not fund it until the excess capacity issue is addressed. Why not address it sooner and get the new school built sooner? Technology changes quickly, communities change over time as well. We need to recognize this, accept this and deal with it. This is an opportunity to do it by design NOT by default. That is why municipalities have community plans. They affect people too... the school board could learn something here.

Operating Budget Update, for January, 2007

Finally, something to sink your teeth into, even though it is only a teaser. The district did not receive the million dollars in holdback that it was anticipating and had budgeted for as their share and therefore have to make it up somehow. It did qualify for and received an unexpected supplement for a decreased enrolment of 1.6% this year. All said and done, they ended up with a projected deficit of $981,224. This deficit will be offset by an increase in revenue from the International Students Program and other investment income, as well as taking $75,944 from the unrestricted surplus from last year.

The Board approved $390,000 in one-time only expenditures from 2006/2007 unallocated funds. The breakdown is as follows:

Second semester course fees 90,000
Restorative Action/Counseling 25,000
Recruiting/Advertising – Human Resources 30,000
Trades Programs – equipment needs 25,000
International Baccalaureate Program 35,000
Allocations to small schools 65,000
Snow removal equipment and supplies 30,000
Portables (maintenance & refurb.) 40,000
Allocation to Foundation from ISP Program 50,000

Portables costs may only be $15,000 in the end. There was a question as to why there are 6 portables at Mountain Sec. when we have empty schools. I believe the chair may have missed the point that the parent was trying to make and that is that they should not be supplying portables to schools but should be moving programs to other locations that would be able to accommodate them. The choice program could be accommodated elsewhere. I believe the parent may have been thinking of HD Stafford since he is a parent from there.

The $30,000 for Human Resources, I suspect, is in addition to the considerable amount already allocated in the original budget proposal.

In regards to the Foundation…
I actually have the 2001/04/17 recommendation where the board stated that any fund-raising initiatives to be considered are not intended to displace or interfere with any established school based or PAC initiatives. At tonight’s board meeting they allotted yet another $50,000.00 from the International Students’ Program to the School District Foundation. So that makes $125,000 from School District funds this year. I wonder if that amount will be subtracted when the Foundation reports out on revenue generated since they didn't really generate it. The School District generated it through the ISP program. Not sure if you have to add the wage for the Executive Administrator in the grand total. The Board was not clear about that when I asked tonight. So, in reality, I wonder if there is a deficit after you account for the costs that the District has incurred or “contributed” in fundraising activities.

They did not mention anything about the additional costs for trustee raises. I guess the 34% raise for Trustees was included with the monies for the Teachers 2% raises. Politicians get 34% and Teachers get 2%. Sound right to you? So, any help spreading the word about amalgamation would be appreciated. http://members.shaw.ca/amalgamateschoolboard/.

2007-2008 BUDGET CONSULTATION CALENDAR

The Calendar for budget consultation was received. Should be posted on the district’s site soon. This meeting has traditionally not been very well attended. It would be nice if more of the public would go and hear where the district is spending our money. Tell them how you feel and what you think.

Other Educational Items

The following are excerpted from Emery Dosdall’s Education Report of Jan. 5th and may be of interest to those concerned with the future of education in BC

Excerpt #1 – re BC Progress Board’s report entitled “Working Together to Improve Performance: Preparing BC’s Public Education System For The Future”
Dr. Jago’s report provides several recommendations on how various components of the provincial education system can be changed or modified to improve student outcomes. A key suggestion underlying all of the report’s recommendations is... ”Working together, rather than at cross purposes, is something that we, as British Columbians, can do to ensure a better future for our children, our schools, and the province as a whole. After all, it is for the sake of the kids.” If all partner groups focused on the children’s achievement as a common purpose, imagine the success we could have in our province.

http://www.bcprogressboard.com/index.php

Excerpt #2 - Comments from Deputy Minister Emery Dosdall “Last year in the Throne Speech, reference was made to the need for “Transformative Change” of the education system. These reports will obviously be major considerations in any change agenda. Also the Premier in a year-end statement indicated that a priority of government will be to focus on improving education in 2007.

So 2007 promises to be an exciting year with changes to the system as we know it. But the real excitement comes from your ability to ensure that learning is alive and well in your school, in every classroom and for every child. Expanding the life chances of our young people is the real challenge and the real excitement in education.”
(Susan Semonick is a previous DPAC President and a community activist working for the betterment of the Langley School District- EDITOR-LFP)Respectfully submitted by Susan Semonick
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