Friday, November 23, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - Education Board Report

Children with special needs put on your life jackets.

Where to begin? I have to say to the students in School District 35 - brace for a tidal wave. There will be many changes in the next few years. For the life of me I do not see where the district will get the finances to pull this all off especially, if they keep the SDBC going and do not stop all donations to the School District Foundation.

You have the Fundamental Middle School being staffed by teachers who are just getting the training they require to make the middle school concept function.

They are considering placing a stand-alone middle school in the Aldergrove area. Although no official recommendation has been put forth from district staff, those in the know suggest that Betty Gilbert Elementary, which has the smallest capacity of the three elementary schools in the area and I understand has no room for expansion, is being considered for the middle school. In doing this, whichever school is selected, they will reduce the enrolment at Aldergrove Secondary Community School to about 50 % of capacity. Do they have a plan to fill the rest of the building? Remember, we were told it was about empty seats. What about cohort size? This solution does not seem to address this concern, which was one of the key factors put forth in moving HDS students to LSS. A half empty ACSS could mean that possibly DW Poppy will be closed because those families have the ability to transport their children to Aldergrove or LSS. The Township council has just approved the new sewage development in Aldergrove in the hope that it will ignite new interest in this community, which would translate into more people and new students. However, who knows how long this will take. As we have seen in the Willoughby area, it could take several years.

The Board has stated there is a teacher shortage and lack of funds. It has been reported that due to the new funding structure based on courses taken, there could be an approximately 1.6 million dollar shortage in funds this year. So, how can they possibly make this a go without making major cuts in all other schools’ programs? The answer is that they cannot. That is why there will be a significant review of the DDM in the next round of budget discussions. Of course, with increased cuts one could reasonably predict that there would inevitably be many more students dropping out or getting lost through the cracks. The district’s transition rates may not look so good for a while but eventually they could have a better academic achievement and graduation rates as you would be basing result on a greater percentage of students who have chosen to stay or whose needs you are at least minimally meeting. What would not allow me to sleep at night is thinking about all the children lost in order to achieve such results. Every, and I mean every, child should count. Why is it acceptable for the education system see it as tolerable to lose even one student, especially when it can be avoided with prudent fiscal management?

Many things seem to be coming to a head. The special needs teachers have been telling the district for several years now that they need to have more trained staff to be able to handle the case loads. They seem to be speaking to a board that may be following a philosophical dream that will only succeed if we have Donald Trump’s financial backing. The Board of Education is making decisions without divulging or explaining the financial costs involved. What is scary to suppose is that perhaps they have no clue – some of their responses certainly seem to suggest this. They do not have the funds to properly staff the schools we have now. How is it possible that they choose a form of education that requires additional funding to run? Where will the money come from?

Board Meeting DelegationsThere were four delegations.

The Uplands Elementary PAC requested that they also become part of the Brookswood catchment area. It was received for information with no comment from the Board.

The Alice Brown PAC spoke in favour of recommendation #6 to become a feeder school to Brookswood Secondary.

The Langley Teachers’ Association spoke on class size and learning conditions.

Mrs. Illsey brought information to the Board regarding Bill 202, Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act (PCHAD), passed in the Alberta legislature, which addresses mandatory detox of minors with drug addictions.

Final Enrolment and School Growth Plans
Final enrolment numbers received for information. School Growth Plans from 2007-2008 approved by the Board.

Recommendations for Elementary Schools in South Central Langley
All eight recommendations were approved unanimously with the exception of recommendation #6, which was approved 4 to 2. I will leave the public to guess who voted which way. (Trustee Cody was absent. See comments below) A motion to defer consideration of recommendation #6, because there was a new request from another elementary PAC to also include it in BSS’s catchment, was defeated by a vote of 4 to 2.

REC #2 will now allow the District to do all the cuts to all the rest of the school’s programs to afford the middle school dream.

REC #6 - Alice Brown Elementary is now part of the Brookswood catchment area and will not become a K-5 school.

REC #8 - Approved unanimously. Goodbye Murrayville. The process to review closure of Murrayville has already been started and by January the public will know.

Other ReportsReports on the delivery of a middle school program in Aldergrove, seismic upgrade at Langley Fine Arts, the 2007-2008 budget, North Langley consultations and an update on Bills 20, 21, and 22 were received.

Trustee Bech put forth a request that a letter be written to BC School Sports to notify them of the reconfiguration that will occur in Langley and to request that BC School Sports lift the restriction of students having to be at a school for at least one year before they participate in the school sports. Trustee Ross wished the letter to state that it was for only students going to LSS. Superintendent Beaumont stated that a request can be made but the decision rests with the organization.

At the end of the meeting there were some theatrics displayed by one trustee; we will leave it at that. I did hear several comments about it but I will not repeat them.

Stacy Cody was absent. I did not hear why or even if it was mentioned that she had sent her regrets. So, has she resigned since she wishes the Board of Education be fired? This would then require a new election to fill the position unless her resignation is effective after January. It would be very costly to the district and the taxpayer if she does it before then. A resignation in January would save the district $10,000 or more in stipend/expenses and could go to the students instead.

Check out the School District website for the PowerPoint presentations on enrolment, Bills 20, 21, 22 and the report on Delivery of a Middle School Program in Aldergrove. This is a must read for all. It is important that people view at least the Middle School Report from Mr. Etchell. I did request that all these reports be posted and they stated they would be.

Special note: Effective December 1, 2007, the trustees will be eligible for another raise. I wonder if any trustee will put forth that they forgo their automatic raises for this year?

Respectfully Submitted:

Susan Semonick

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