Sunday, December 09, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - Nov 26 HD Stafford Parent Meeting

November 26th HD Stafford Secondary Parent information meeting

To start, there were about 60 people present. By the end of the meeting, about 100 people, inclusive of students, were in attendance. I believe the weather may have been a major factor in the attendance. Being from Manitoba this bit of snow is nothing.

There were no real answers given to the parents. Until the district gets the numbers regarding who is staying and who is going where, for all grades, it seems no firm decisions will be made.

What was stated was that all the courses currently offered at HDSS and all the courses currently offered at LSS would be offered at LSS. I also understood Ms. Wright to say that all the courses currently at HDS will be offered at HDS during the regular course planning in January and February. What classes each school ends up having will be dependent upon the enrolment. Parents and students need to understand that ‘offer’ does NOT mean ‘will have’. If there is not sufficient enrolment in classes at either LSS or HDSS, or they cannot find a way to combine classes, then those classes will not happen. No numbers were given in regards to minimum requirement(s) to teach or have a class.

They will offer curriculum at both schools but until the numbers are in, they cannot assure the curriculum will be delivered in September. They will try to have a finalized course selection catalogue before the end of January. Mary Wright, who is the retired past principal for WGSS, has been contracted to do this.

One parent did state that according to the IEP process that a child that has one should be allowed at least a year to transition, with the littlest of disruption of staff as possible. So I guess we will not be following that? I suppose they can argue that this is an ‘unexpected transition.’ Regardless, let us hope that they do everything possible to ensure what is best for these students.

There were questions about catchment areas but there were no clear answers. I guess that having two schools offering grade 12 within the same catchment area is a first for the district. Does this mean that LSS students can now take advantage of lower class size in grade 12 at HDS? If having a Grade 12 offered in a middle school is educationally sound, why would it not be offered to the whole district? Would any student in the district be able to take advantage of this? The School Act does state that if it is offered and there is space available, a student will not be denied. WOW, what an opportunity. A letter from Cheryle Beaumont herself states,

“All students in grade 11 at HDSS may attend Langley Secondary School next year. This includes grade 11 students who are attending HDSS but do not live in the catchment area. These students may register in grade 12 at LSS without requesting a new cross-boundary permit. The LSS facility will be able to accommodate all the current HDSS 11 students.”

There was no mention of the grade 8, 9 and 10 students, who would be in grades 9-10-11 next year. So, do they have to file for cross-boundary if they do not live in the catchment area?

How many Grade 12 students will they accept at HD?

Transportation has been guaranteed between HDS and LSS at no cost to students or parents so the 12’s from LSS could easily be transported to HDS.

By November 30th, students are expected to hand in the orange form “School Preference for September 2008” to Mr. Kozlovic in the office so that the staff can start plans in regards to class configuration at LSS and HDS. Or, to at least see what may work with the numbers estimated to enable them to advise students what may be feasible for them to offer or NOT. The form actually states due November 22, but I understand this has been extended to the 30th. Hopefully all the forms have been handed in by now. This form is not going to Ms. Beaumont but will remain in the hands of Mr. Kozlovic.

There was discussion around the LEC program and the four portables that are ordered. In regards to the numbers of students and classrooms for this program, people were told that because some of the classes are in the evening the actual number of students would not affect LSS’s capacity of 1025. It was stated that the 9-12 students would not be housed in those portables; they are for LEC students.

According to the information given at this meeting, it appears that to run a middle school the teachers do not require any special training at all. However, the district will offer a summer training program that the teachers can choose to take if they are interested in this area. This is not what the people involved in the consultation meetings were told.

Human resources will be working with LTA to iron out the staffing requirements once numbers have been determined. About 40 percent of the audience was undecided about what they were going to do. An estimated10 percent had already decided to leave the district, and have taken steps to do so.

I understand that the district will have a problem if they hire a teacher now to teach a class and it does not materialize. I expect that there will be more lay-offs than perhaps necessary in June and that some teachers will find jobs in September. This is all part of the upheaval for the district. It is not only students who are affected.

It is interesting to note that all the changes surrounding middle schools and teachers is happening when the district is in the midst of negotiating with the LTA regarding contractual language about middle school teachers. Right now, it seems that a grade 6 or 7 teacher is an intermediate teacher and a grade 8 teacher is a secondary teacher regardless if they are teaching in a “middle school”.

I requested that the letters, other correspondence, and updates regarding the transition be posted on the School District website so that the whole district can be kept up-to-date on what is happening, as the district has a tendency to directly notify only parents they believe will be affected. There are, however, parents and students who are watching what is happening in the South Central area and are considering it as an option for their children. I do not think there are many but there has been expressed interest.

There was talk of the BC Sports regulations. Apparently, parents have discussed this with BC Sports and they are in discussion with them on how to best handle this. Mr. Kozlovic will be assisting them. I hope that this part of the transition can be handled with the least bit of stress for the students involved. This issue is best left to the people directly affected so that there is less chance of misinformation. I do not think Trustee Ross’s comments at the last board meeting, of limiting their request letter to only students going to LSS, was thinking of the students and the programs they are in. This is making judgement of what is needed without knowing the facts - surprised? NOT. Hopefully the politics can be left out of this situation completely. Let BC Sports, coaches and the parents of the athletes handle it.

There was a handout about Graduation requirements provided by the school administration.

Yes, that is right - I was left with many more questions than answers, folks. Sorry about that. I will keep you updated as information is forth coming. Although, if you will remember my request for financial numbers on the facilities report on completed projects, I am still waiting on that even though the board chair told me they had them almost two months ago. So my question is did they have them or not?

Respectfully submitted:

Susan Semonick

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