Tuesday, January 29, 2008
A quote from BC Association for Community Living
“Over the past 50 years, families have built momentum and created a ripple effect for a tidal wave of positive change in the Community Living movement by advocating for a better life for their children. From promoting more inclusive schools, to ensuring more appropriate and responsive services, to building more welcoming communities, families have been at the forefront of community change and action. They have been the heartbeat and the engine behind huge social advances in BC and across Canada.”
Well, to sum it up in one sentence - according to the Special Education Inquiry, School District 35 is receiving a failing grade where students with IEPs and ones with specific academic needs are concerned. Due to shortened time allotments and caseloads that are extreme and not realistic, staff are being taxed beyond their abilities. With the most recent decisions made by our Board of Education, it appears there may be even more concerns.
It is possible that the 6-7-8 configuration will enable the district to streamline the programs. This may enable the specialists to be centralized so there is no travel time. It would allow special classes to be formed where the students that thrive in a classroom setting with others of the same ability could “Be all that they can be” to become the stars we all know your students are. It would enable staff to spend time in small groupings, and one on one since staff and students are in one facility. This is the only reason I can see for the district to be doing this. I hope that this concentration of services will not increase caseloads and further tax the staff.
If you read the executive summary on page 1 of the Special Education Inquiry Report and then read the conclusions and recommendations on pages 19 & 20, you have the key points. Of the 16 conclusions and recommendations, 10 were focused on district-controlled issues and 6 on Ministry-controlled areas.
The one that I thought was most important and the one that the school trustees can address is the inequity that the DDM (decentralized decision-making model) causes in terms of serving the needs of special needs students. Funds targeted by the Ministry and perhaps other funds targeted by the district, whether included or outside of the DDM amounts should be a strong consideration in providing for special needs students. The district is currently reviewing the DDM as part of the move to establish a middle school. I hope that in that same review, the district will also look at how to make the funding more equitable and effective when it comes to all special needs students.
Where will they find these funds in an already over-taxed budget? Well…
1. Wake up and realize that the school district is not in the business of making money and to get out of it. Get rid of the white elephant, which is the School District Business Company. This would save approximately $300,000 if not more annually.
2. Refrain from giving funds and donations of materials, resources and staff to outside public foundations. This would generate a savings of over $175,000 dollars annually. Have the Foundation actually make funds that are not drawn from the district in any way. .
3. Direct all ISP funds to direct student services. Approximately 8 million dollars annually according to one trustee.
So, in three simple steps if followed, the school district could have all of the $8, 475,000 to meet the needs of all our students in this district.
This would meet the contractual agreements they have with those International students and at the same time enable the schools to have the equipment and resources they require to allow students with learning differences to succeed. Sound too simple? Well, in reality it is. Step out of your box; stop doing things the same way, and expecting a different result. Stop saying you don’t have the enrolment, when you have waitlists for programs. Stop bellyaching about “ no money.” Make what you have work. Take some simple and easy steps to access and use funds that are readily available, if only you would change your ways. Truly be innovative and put the funds where it most benefits the kids.
Here are some important comments made by the presenters at the Board meeting.
§ Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
§ What is happening in this district is tolerance not acceptance.
§ This is so demoralizing of so many people (staff and students).
§ The policy, in ideology is good, but not its practices in this district.
§ This report … In our view, it describes an inescapable human rights tragedy unfolding in schools today.
§ Due to Special Education Assistant shortages, there is not nearly enough time to meet each individual student’s needs, let alone prepare for future lessons.
§ Educational Rights of special needs students must be addressed.
§ We cannot accept anything less than what is best for our young. They are our future.
§ There is a lack of trust and stability in this district.
The school district’s report paints a positive upbeat position.
I was excited to see the district’s report coming forward and anticipated that it would be giving a complete view of the special needs area in this district. Instead, I am only left with questions and an incomplete report.
One parent’s presentation in response to the district’s report noted the following:
What is missing?
§ Information regarding equity across various categories.
§ Effectiveness of programs in place.
§ Data re gifted; and responses from families of gifted students.
A complete review should have included all parents of students in Langley including and especially those parents of students who are on waiting lists, asking to be on waiting lists or otherwise wishing some sort of service from the special education department. This basic omission was noted to be missing in the 2003 Special Ed review also. The district has yet again omitted this vital area in their review.
What are left are questions:
§ Why were only 25 elementary schools surveyed re school-based teams?
§ Why are there principals who chose not to respond to the questionnaire? [Susan’s note: A total of 32 replied when there should have been 49 - according to Ministry data.]
§ Why were terms like “caseloads” (and variations of) not defined for teachers if there is no consistency, and then the questions asked; otherwise your data is meaningless?
§ Why are the district initiatives and programs not cross-referenced to the Special Needs categories so an analysis of what and how much is being done for which group can be understood?
Some additional house cleaning items for the trustees would be:
1. They must come to the realization that boards are only an additional bureaucracy. If the money used to support the Board (trustees) were instead used to hire an additional assistant to the CEO for the “School Business” (the superintendent), it would be a more efficient use of funds. With the new Deputy Minister, this is a greater possibility than ever before. The Superintendent, as she does now, would determine the best course of action to deliver services. The initial savings the district would realize would be $175,000.00 in trustee wages. This amount could be applied to the new additional Assistant Superintendent’s wages. The Superintendent would be hired by a committee of elected PAC presidents representing each of the registered schools in the district. This is how the public would ensure accountability and fairness for expenditures of the tax dollar. Finally, the PACs would see what an important role they can play in their children’s education politically, instead of being fundraising bunnies.
2. If school boards were eliminated, this district alone would be able to put an additional $50,000.00 dollars into the budget from not having to pay BCSTA fees. I could continue with more items; the point is that the pennies do add up and become millions.
I would much rather see these types of changes be made, before having students’ programs cut and closing of fully-enrolled schools in order to fund areas that do not assist in improving the transition and achievement rates of students.
Additional information can be found at:
Special Education Services A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines Ministry of Education.
Special Inquiry Report LTA, CUPE and DPAC
Special need review Report School District #35
Respectfully submitted by,
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Go to www.sd35.bc.ca/future to see details of what the group of approximately 200 interested participants had to say and what they were told.
You can give them further input by e-mailing the school district too.
This time there was no singling out of one particular school they were presented as one entire area. Way to go they have heard from us and moved on certain initiatives.
The district will be collating and posting questions (hopefully with responses to them) soon.
In the meantime, as we wait for the district, I would be interested to hear from those who attended.
What did you think of the presentation?
What are your concerns?
Can you advise any answers to the three questions that the district was asking?
The 3 questions were:
1. What are the most important emerging issues for your school Community?
2. In building for the future in Langley School District, what services programs and opportunities do you want to see for your children?
3. What questions do you still have that you would like addressed? Do you have any additional comments?
What reaction if anything from the information you heard did you have?
You can personally e-mail me here. OR Post your comments for us all to see.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Susan Semonick On Schools - Jan 22, 2008 Board Of Education Report - Another Langley School Bites The Dust
January 22, 2008 Report
There were about 60 people in attendance. About 20 were Murrayville parents.
The Board News is available here and will give you the district’s posting on the board meeting. I will not be repeating what was stated in it. Rather, I would like to address areas they have not covered. There will be supplemental reports on Special Education reviews and one on School closures at a later date.
(a) LTA, CUPE and DPAC– Steering Committee members of the Langley Special Education Inquiry presented a quick synopsis of what they felt were the highlights of their findings. (more details will be given in special report)
(b) LTA – School Reconfiguration – Sharon Von Hollen stated that the LTA wished the Board to slow down and do proper process in regards to the closure of Murrayville Elementary. (We will be doing an opinion piece on this at a later date.)
(c) A parent did a presentation addressing the School District’s Special Needs Service Delivery review and the glaringly obvious omission of gifted students (and their families) in this district report - therefore, they must not count in this district.
STRATEGIC PLAN and Annual Report on Achievement are posted on the School district site. It was mentioned that Langley students exceeded the provincial average by 1% for school completion. What are the plans to make it better? The closure of schools was considered consolidation of facilities.
They made mention of LSS possibly offering a culinary program which is expensive, but they now will have an enrollment that could possibly support the program.
REPORT ON MURRAYVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
#1: That the Closure Review Report on the possible closure of Murrayville Elementary School, be received for information. Carried 4-3
#2: That the Board in accordance with Section 73(1)(a) of the School Act, approve the closure of Murrayville Elementary School, by Closure Bylaw #2008-1, effective July 1, 2008. (Three Readings Required).
Here Trustee Bech at first abstained from voting for third reading, but recanted for she did not wish to delay the inevitable. Two other trustees followed suit and changed their ‘No’ vote to a ‘Yes’ vote. You would think that they would have gotten a handle on the procedure by now. Unanimous vote for 3rd reading and a 4-3 vote carried on the closure motion. This is when two trustees donned T-shirts with the numbers 4-2-3. I did not know how to read that - whether they were trying to be funny or in some strange way showing support to Murrayville parents. A 4-3 split vote on the closure of Murrayville Elementary - not surprising.
I wonder what the district will do with those 35 - 45 students (in-catchment, currently attending elsewhere) that they seem to have missed who may wish to attend HD Stafford Middle. The district may have created a situation where the students will not be able to ‘become all that they can be’ due to its simple inability to accommodate. They may have moved too fast too soon. September will tell us 1/3 of the story; and each consecutive year everyone should be monitoring the levels of success of these students at HDS, surrounding schools, and at LSS.
#3: That the Administration commence transition planning with staff and parents, on the feasibility of relocating students from Murrayville Elementary School to James Hill Elementary School for September 1,2008, while acknowledging individual family preference for student placement. Carried
This is such a farce. These students will have very limited choices of schools to attend. I am sure James Hill will be very accommodating. The principal has now at least 3 principals to confer with on what “best practices” are when melding student groups and the smaller communities together and what some of the pitfalls may be.
#4 Trustee Ross made a motion to change the catchment boundaries of James Hill Elementary to include Murrayville Elementary’s entire catchment. This motion was carried unanimously.
They have not officially changed catchment areas for LSS and HDS, to the best of my knowledge - wonder why?
READING RECOVERY REPORT – 2006-2007
For the first time a longitudinal analysis on how students are faring in the later years after having gone through the RR program has been provided. It seems that the results are positive two and three years out from initial intervention. Teacher training is a full year of study. There is continuous support and in-service for teacher. The program is now taking 12 weeks for students to complete which is an improvement from the 16 weeks that it used to take. It was suggested that perhaps this gradual increase could be attributed to the experienced staff.
SPECIAL EDUCATION – SERVICE DELIVERY REVIEW
Several pieces of information are missing in my opinion. Therefore, I view this report as incomplete. District staff has been requested to submit an additional report that will deal with gifted students, by April meeting. If this is not forthcoming, then the gifted may be left in the dark and cold where the budget is concerned. Someone noted to me that comments made by the Board Chair at the Board meeting, however unintentional, seemed to reflect a perception that the gifted are separate from special needs as the words used were just that “gifted and special needs.” I believe they are special needs and need to be INCLUDED IN the same envelope.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
First meeting for the North Area consultations is January 24, 2008 at REMSS at 7PM. I understand that the Middle School Info meeting at Simonds Elementary will be held on the same night. Does this only entrench the thought that the right hand does not know what the left is doing or did they not think that Simonds parents might wish to attend the consultations, which are open to everyone?
They are still looking at a possible shortfall of approximately 550,000 dollars due to the ministry changes in regards on paying for only courses taken not FTE for grades 10 and up. I will quote Mr. Burton commenting on the reason he voted to close Murrayville Elementary “We have one envelope with so much money in it, our role is to maximize our use of the funds in that envelope.”There are many areas requiring funds Special Need, Trades etc… There was no mention of the 9% raise that the trustees received effective December 1st. These funds could have been used for at least one more Rec N’ Reading program at one additional school. Considering they received a 34% raise in the past year you would have thought they would have deferred this.
POLICY #6525 – RETIREMENT AGE
Housekeeping item - This policy was deleted to comply with current provincial legislation.
TRANSPORTATION PRACTICESSenior Management is to provide a report on Transportation practices and vehicles in the school district’s transportation fleet by the February meeting.
That a motion regarding Inter-Ministerial Framework for Addressing Board of Education Mandates, be submitted for consideration at the BCSTA Annual General Meeting in April, 2008.
This is why some provinces are considering nuking school boards altogether as I believe this Ministry will in the near future. Too much bureaucracy. Just pay the superintendents to make the difficult decisions like CEO’s.
After all, as one trustee noted - “This is a business.” All most Boards do is “adjust constantly to the changes dictated to us by the Government.” Who else, if not the Superintendent is more qualified to be “informed and up to date on Government initiatives and current education practices?”
They are talking about merit pay for Superintendents. It’s a thought. At least it would be a better investment than the three-ring circus that we have been witnessing recently at Board meetings.
Well, it seems that at least one trustee is reading our blog, according to the comments made at the very end of the meeting. That is what I am surmising since I Googled it, and it seems that I am the only local blogger referring to “trustee indemnity” and to a 9% increase in remuneration. The trustee gave us a detailed list of what she views as her duties, and the amount of hours she counts as putting in. It seems we have struck a chord. I have reread my report that I believe she was referring to, and will stand by everything stated in it; it was correct and accurate, to the best of my knowledge at the time. It appears that this trustee is one who may do a bit more than what I stated in the newsflash. She stated that she also does not use the benefits offered by the district. I would welcome any of the trustees who frequent our blog to make comment. At least now, they cannot plead ignorance or say that they were not aware of certain positions or details. At least one trustee will have the information to convey to the Board. Thank you for acknowledging publicly that you read blogs.
We have now been informed that the Vice Chair may do more than the other trustees, that according to the report given, warrants her the $1,000 more in remuneration she gets above the others. $17,886.00 is what she stated she will get annually. She stated that she attends 147 meetings in the year, which entails about 441 hours. By my calculation, that works out to about $40.00 dollars an hour. Not bad remuneration considering they were paid a lot less to represent a lot more students in the past. She also mentioned all the volunteer hours she puts in. I am sure many of us community-minded people do too – perhaps even more than she mentioned. I sure hope that the intent of this comment was not that she should be paid for that too? Wouldn’t it be lovely if all the volunteer work would be remunerated? But how crazy is that then - it wouldn’t be volunteer now would it?
The FACT remains that they are accepting raises while they are closing schools and it has been said that there is only one envelope that this all comes from.
I invite this trustee to join me in a “You say – I say” editorial so that we can get to the real core of the issues at stake in the school district. You know my email.
There were several questions permitted but I was unable to hear them.
My question to them was – (in the district’s Special Education Service Delivery Review report) there were only 32 replies from principals recorded. The 17 schools registered with the Ministry that were not mentioned or included in this review - do they not have special needs students?
The answer, to the best of my recollection was: Every time you send out surveys, you cannot expect a 100% return. They do have 49 programs registered as schools with the Minister, but some of these are in fact one building and you have principals with more than one school. IMHO, where school administrators are concerned I would have expected 49 survey returns covering all schools registered with the ministry and nothing less, especially on such a vital subject.
11:05 pm according to my watch.
TIDBITS IN EDUCATION
Starting on January 21, 2008 the SFU Faculty of Education will be launching a TV program on Shaw TV that will bring education issues beyond the headlines to us.
Both practitioners and scholars will be guests on the show to share insights and options about education issues that matter for parents, students, educations and policy makers alike.
Broadcasts will be new monthly with the current month rebroadcasted
Mondays 6:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Sundays 9:00 am – 9:30 am
Sundays 7:00 pm – 7:30 pm
For further information please see http://www.youreducationmatters.ca/...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Letter To The Editor - Jan 22, 2008 - From Mary Hartman - RE: Transit Too Late For Fraser Valley Lost Generation(s)?
The unveiling of the Transit mega-plan will, no doubt horrify those living in the South Fraser Valley, where the services & routes would have ultimately extended east to both Abbotsford & Chilliwack, & now will do so possibly, by 2020 - how about Hope ? The promise includes in total, for all areas,(it is presumed), 600 more buses, which will sadden many when the amount of pollution spews forth into the armosphere & may have been avoided with rail & trolley services. Why should the oldies worry about it anyway, we'll all be underground by then !
What has not been taken into consideration, is the less than far sighted appreciation of the movement of population & businesses, to the South Fraser Valley, as a result of the increasing house & suite prices in & around Vancouver, driving families further & further away. The disturbing, distressing & breaking point of the Transit Plan, is the lack of a rapid rail service to the South Fraser Valley & no hope of ever having something in the near future, even though the taxes collected in & for B.C. are for all the people of British Columbia & not just for Vancouver, the surrounding suburbs & Victoria, which seems to be the opinion of the Premier, as he splashes our money around his domain.
We, in the Fraser Valley are British Columbians & do pay our taxes ! So, how about a decent share of it ! The billions of dollars being spent for 17 days of Olympic Glory. in & around Vancouver & associated areas, won't help the people of the Valley either, what are they getting out of those tax dollars !
It would be interesting to have a sensible estimate of the cost of establishing a rapid rail transit service up the middle of Highway one, from Surrey to join the main line at Cattermole, where the Highway converges without a middle section available & then through Chilliwack to Hope on the established line, with appropriate exchanges etc. As most mayors have already stated, most traffic from the Valley does not go over the Port Mann bridge.
The future arrangements as outlined by the Translink plan for the lack of services to the Fraser Valley allow a Brass Monkey's share of the $14 billion dream. Who are we ? The lost generation ! The many oldies in the Valley who have worked hard all their lives to help make Canada what it is today should be appreciated & have their lives made more enjoyable. The younger generation living in the area & have to travel long distances to earn a living should also be considered, seriously.
January 22 / 2008....
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The first information meeting on transitions and opening of the HD Stafford Middle School was held on January 14th at 7 pm at Uplands Elementary. Mr. McCuaig, the principal for HD Stafford Middle School (not official name change yet) and Mr. Kozlovic, the vice-principal provided information, listened, and responded to the many of the questions posed. The two administrators have spoken to five PACs so far and Uplands was the first school to hold a public information meeting.
Only about 20 parents were in attendance. Notice of the meeting was sent out on the Friday before the Monday meeting. One parent asked if they could get the schedule for the meetings at other elementary schools due to the late notice. Mr. McCuaig, the new middle school principal, stated ‘yes’ and that anyone was welcome. Meeting information would be released by school newsletters or arrangements may be made with the school district to create a new website for the middle school.
This of course, if history repeats itself, will not happen until it is too late, although we may be surprised. For a district that has spent millions on technology, it is sad to see this type of efficiency shown. District Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Lenarduzzi, had been asked at the last HD Stafford parent meeting to post information on the district website and there is still no signs of any Transition newsletters being posted or any update information from Ms. Wright. Maybe it is time to invest in people who know how to integrate and utilize the systems effectively, instead of what we appear to have. Good communication continues to be a skill that district personnel have not yet conquered. It is also time the staff and Board of Education of this district to remember their scope of view. The groups of people that they think are directly involved in this transition may not encompass all those who truly are affected by these changes. The district should be widening the scope of the people that they are providing direct communication to (newsletters, invitations, etc.)
The long and short of this is that if you wish to hear what is intended to be offered at HD Stafford Middle and are considering enrolling your child in this school, attend one of these meetings. The next information meeting will be held at Simonds Elementary. The date was not provided at this meeting.
There is still no set plan on when and if there will be parent representation on the decision-making committee. I certainly hope they do not consider that meeting with just a few PACs could possibly touch all areas of concerns. They should be meeting all at the same time.
It would seem that Mr. McCuaig plans to visit all directly involved elementary schools. They mentioned five schools in total before February 1st. The last time I counted, there are seven elementary schools involved with this and should be involved in the information sessions. If any of the elementary parents have time to advise when the next meetings are, let us know and we will try to attend and send out a report if any new information is forthcoming. Parents could also post your comments here on this posting if you are so inclined. Any questions you would like answered would be good to post in comments also.
POINTS of INTEREST
General School Operations
§ The middle school will be a closed campus. This means that the students are to stay on the school grounds once they arrive, until the end of the day.
Parents, if you do not wish your child to leave the school grounds during the day then it is VERY IMPORTANT that you DO NOT sign the form that allows them to do so. For those parents with good forgers I would check with the school about 2 weeks after the start to ensure they are not able to leave if that is your wish.
§ Approximate start time is between 8:30 to 8:45 am with an end time around 2:45 pm.
§ Class sizes will be around 27 – 28, hopefully. They are expecting approximately 720 students to attend.
The Ministry sets the nominal capacity and I expect it will not change unless there are significant modifications to the facility. Currently the operational capacity is 850. Mr. McCuaig stated that he would like to see a cap of around 750. I would guess that is what he feels is manageable with what staff they will have. So according to the numbers mentioned, the capacity will be determined to be less than it is now, which at present is 850. Listening to what was said, I would think the district is considering reducing the operational capacity.
According to the enrolment figures provided by the district for last year, there could be as many as 772 in-catchment students who should be eligible to attend HDS in September 2008. This is more than the cap of 750 being suggested. It makes me think that they have missed a few students in their calculations or that they are expecting a greater flight from the district and/or the school catchment area.
A reduction of the operating capacity for HDS could cause major problems for in-catchment students who are currently attending elementary schools outside of the HD Stafford catchment area. Right now, there are about 295 of these students who over the next 8 years may be affected. A very rough calculation suggests that somewhere between 35 to 45 students of them will soon have to make a decision about where to go for grade 8 this September.
If enrolment at HDS is capped, these students may be highly surprised that, in certain instances, they effectively could be displaced from HDS because there might be no room for them. They may have little choice. Now wouldn’t that be ironic. This would also be true for the few students attending from out-of-district. The 30-35 or so students living outside of the HDS catchment area but who are attending HDS feeder schools would find themselves in a similar situation this fall (about 249 students over the next 8 years).
The parents of these current grade 5 –6-7 students have to take stock and look 3 years into the future, and determine whether they want to place their children into the middle school system now so their children are up to speed with their peers in terms of Fine Arts skills which would be enriched at HDS. Or, do they wish to just plop them into HDS for the one grade eight year and then have them go to Grade 9 at LSS ill prepared or at a disadvantage. This is because the closest K-12 schools in Langley will probably all be full and will not be able to take many out- of -catchment students, leaving parents with DWP, Aldergrove, Distance Learning, home schooling, private schooling, or going out of district as some of the options remaining. Parents will have to look into the future and consider what they feel is best. IMHO, I believe, for these students, if Fine Arts is an interest for your child, the sooner you can get them into the HDS with its Integrated Arts program the better and parents should consider going back to your catchment area NOW rather than later.
Pedestrian crossings at 208th St, 43rd Ave., 203rd St. and several other areas were brought up as creating dangerous travel areas for the walk to school. It appears that the City and Township will have to kick it up fast to have these pedestrian walk ways in place before September when schools start. The increased volume of traffic will be monumental, especially for the first month of school start. Let’s hope we will not have to wait for a deadly accident to occur before something is done in the hot spots.
Hopefully the district will survey the parents now to identify all areas of concern since all the students will be heading to one destination all at the same time - some to catch buses to LSS, some attending the school, and some students who will be traveling the streets to the elementary schools in the area. Since older brothers and sisters may not be in the elementary school there will be more traffic in all areas affected, at least for a while until people can determine the best way to get their child to school whether it be by bus, car, or walking with friends etc.
I would say that for the first month it would not be advisable for students to use their bikes until they get familiar with the traffic flow and best route for themselves. It would be a good idea for all parents and students to do dry runs well before school starts and ensure you leave lots of time the first few weeks after school starts.
After school programs were mentioned, especially for the grades 6 and 7’s. Many of the parents are concerned in regards to the distance students will have to walk and also, they do not wish to have children coming home to an empty house. The same problem will have to be overcome for the elementary children who may get out earlier than the middle and secondary students.
There was a suggestion that the secondary students would have an earlier pick up time to catch the bus for LSS to reduce amount of traffic merging in one place at the same time. If the middle and secondary schools ended earlier than the elementary schools, then older siblings may be able to pick up their younger brothers and sisters. However, later start times for the middle and secondary schools would be academically better for older students according to reports on teens and sleep. I hope that they will weigh the pros and cons. Earlier start times means less chance of before-school activities but it would enable older siblings to tend to younger siblings after school. On the other hand later start times could mean that older students would be able to do before-school activities.
Playground area - there is none at HDS. The principal thought that the District would get and install some, but parents know that the Ministry does not fund playgrounds as a normal part of their funding and past experience has been that the district does not either. I doubt that there is surplus equipment from the schools that have been or will be closed that would be politically safe to move to the middle school. What should be done is a transition PAC should be formed now so that they can take advantage of all the government grants currently being offered. With the recent vandalism problems, I am not sure if library books would not be a better bet. Students can still keep active without equipment.
On another note, for any elementary school PACs that will be receiving direct access grant money for students who have left the school, they should consider allotting those funds to library books or playground equipment at the middle school. It would be easy to calculate the amount you can give which is $20.00 per student or any portion of it. The transition PAC could be responsible in contacting these PACs and asking them to consider this. Hopefully, since DPAC was almost invisible during all this, it will step up and help with communication between these PACs since that is one of their main functions.
Library books - There has been no plans set but it is a hope that all elementary schools will check their libraries and deliver to HD Stafford those resources not required for K-5 students. In turn, HD Stafford would send any materials to LSS that is not needed for grades 6-8 students.
Cafeteria - They are looking at creating a lunch eating area because there is no cafeteria at this time. So, kids get ready to bag lunch for this year at least.
Staffing - Postings for a few key positions will be announced in the next several weeks. Closer to March, LSS and HD will be posting the rest of the positions required for this new middle school and the growing secondary school. The teacher postings will be relatively specific. The hope is that they will be able to acquire only teachers who actually want to be there.
Middle schools are a new concept for both administrators. I guess this means both the philosophy as well as the configuration. There will be one principal, and one vice-principal, for the 720 some odd students. They are both very excited about this new endeavor and are looking forward to overcoming any challenges. The District has no option but to make this successful.
Staff are taking examples and ideas from other middle schools that are located in Coquitlam, Saanich, Cowichan and Chilliwack. Some of these districts are different from us in that they had lots of money and a different configuration so our administrators will be creating a unique program with early adolescence as a focus.
§ Core teachers function as both a homeroom and classroom teacher.
§ The teachers will move between classrooms, not the students.
§ Homeroom for 80 minutes. Elective (exploration) classes will have “outs” but students will have to check into homeroom first. (Delay to class)
§ One teacher will teach most of the core coursework.
§ Children will be exposed to approximately four or five teachers per year who will be working collaboratively using the pod concept.
§ There will be about120 students per pod. The grades 6 and 7’s will be in smaller pods than the grade 8’s. The Principal stated that the best way to think about the pod concept is as a mini school within a school.
Foundation GOALS for the middle school
A: Self-Learning Environment
B: High Academic Achievement
C: Welcoming and Caring Community
D: Uniquely designed for Early Adolescence
E: A place that “everyone” can be proud of - parents and children to have a positive outlook.
Programming and Curricula
§ Integrated Fine Arts will be found in Social Studies, Math and English.
§ There will be a Dance program.
§ A Music program is pending (I understood it to be more of a staffing problem than anything else),
§ Intramurals sports will be offered during lunch as long as they have teachers willing to be coaches. (It cannot be a requirement when hiring.)
§ District hockey will not be offered to the Grade 8’s attending this school.
§ There will be leadership opportunities. Grades 6-7-8 Advisory classes, which will be 20 minutes in duration, will be offered.
§ Montessori will not be offered.
§ Hearing program will not be offered. Currently Uplands has three children in the Hard of Hearing program, with one new Kindergartener this coming September.
§ AVID will be offered at LSS which (according to the staff postings) will have trained AVID teachers only. Since the District is not currently offering any AVID training, I guess the teachers who specialize in this would be maintained.
§ LSS will be running an intensive fine arts program rather than an integrated arts program. Two levels of intensity MAY be offered at LSS.
§ Students in the Intensive Arts program at LSS will not have to select only one major area of focus but instead may select at least two possibly three fine arts areas to work in.
A parent asked whether students in this Intensive Arts program could graduate with a Fine Arts Dogwood diploma and the answer from the principal was “yes”. I did not think there was such a thing so I had someone check to make sure and as far as they know there is no such thing as a “Fine Arts diploma” and it is not part of Ministry policy. I hope that if staff will be going around to all the elementary schools by February, that they spend the time to get their facts correct before then.
Hopefully, I have accurately reported the details that were provided at the meeting. As I said, please post any corrections, comments, or other info on this posting.
TID BITS ON EDUCATION
From the Ministry of Education…
B.C. High School Students #1 in College-Level Exams
British Columbia students taking college-level courses while still in high school placed first in North America according to the results of the latest advanced placement (AP) exams. The AP Program allows students around the world to pursue college-level studies while still in secondary school. Students with high AP exam results receive credit for first-year college or university courses, which can save them time and money when they start their post-secondary education.
· BC’s average score for all AP exams is 3.65 (out of 5). This is an all-time high for British Columbia and the highest average of any Canadian province or American State.
· Canada’s average score was 3.40, compared to 2.88 in the United States.
· Internationally, more than 16,000 schools participate in the AP program, including 145 BC secondary schools. Worldwide, close to 1.5 million students wrote more than 2.5 million exams. In BC, 4,554 students wrote 7,175 exams, comprising more than 37 per cent of all the AP exams written in Canada
From the District…..
Names sought for PASS/Route 32 School Site
Langley School District is looking for a name for the old Anderson school site, located at 20381-66th Street. The school site is home to the district's PASS (Pathfinder Alternative Secondary School), Route 32 and Project Resiliency programs. At its December 11 meeting the Board of Education passed a motion to begin searching for a new name for the school.http://www.sd35.bc.ca/news/080114-school_name.pdf ...
Thursday, January 17, 2008
This Editor still strongly questions and feels we should get back to peace-keeping, education and development as opposed to any forced attempt at our, or rather George Bush's version and definition of peace-making, which is simply put just combat and destruction.
Canadians have been all but de-sensitized by this Government support of ultra conservative macho politics and falsely believe that our war in Afghanistan will ultimately make a difference. History proves these types of war do not make a difference. Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, etc.
The main point of this comment is that the 77 deaths is not the only tragedy. How about the countless injured and permanently maimed young men and women that this government does not publicise statistics on. Why? Read this buried newspaper recent article re just yesterday's 7 injured young Canadians, in one day alone.
What is the real ratio of injured and severely injured to actual deaths one wonders? 10 to 1 , 20 to 1, more? This could easily amount to 800 to a couple of thousands of injured and maimed young and naive veterans that will have to live with physical reminders, small and great, for their whole life. This is because of their youthful idealism that have perhaps also succumbed to the lure of the current exciting Rambo Canadian military television and print ads!
"Fight Terror!" & "Fight Fear" & "Fight Chaos" & "Fight with the Canadian Forces - Join Us." The word "fight" is used in the 30 second recruiting video over 8 times. It's the common thread most used word on the Canadian forces website & video. Should it be so in our Canada? I personally think not. It should go back to "Peace". It should never have changed in the first place. How about peace and peace-keeping 8 times in a 30 second video instead? Obviously not with this Harperitic view of Rambo military politics!
The bottom line is that Canadians and LFP commenters are far too de-sensitised to this what I believe is at minimum questionable and pointless violence and mayhem. If it was closer to your home with your own son, daughter, brother, sister, parent or family member would you think any differently perhaps? Or is it simply just so distant from your personal life and environs that that you simply don't think enough about it to really care about it. Or is it my country right or wrong? This Editor votes wrong!...
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
From: Ed Monteith
To: Langley Free Press
Sent: Friday, January 04, 2008 9:56 PM
Subject: Letter to the Editor
MORE PAINFUL TRUTH
It was indeed interesting to read Matthew Claxton's editorial in the Jan 4 edition of the Langley Advance, and to see that he, unlike most members of the township council, does not just repeat the message handed out by the bureaucrats at township hall about the very controversial water management plan.
Mr. Claxton's article shows that he has put some thought into the matter and proves this by adding a few suggestions. While I don't agree entirely with these suggestions, it does reflect the fact that there is an awful lot to discuss yet, before we the residents of this township rush blindly into something that we don't know all the facts about, and which is likely of no benefit.
Since we know and understand that the loudest objection to the plan involves the metering of private wells, I suggest we have a look at the whole well water supply scene in the township. To do this let's start with the facts that are available to us on the Langley Township web site. In 2006 township residents and businesses were sold water from the township wells to the tune of 9.33 million gallons per day! Yes, that is a lot of groundwater! There was a charge for this of $272 per year per residence, while business establishments were charged 53 cents per cubic meter. Now add to this the fact that almost every drop of the above amount of water was flushed into the township sewer system where it was treated and dumped into the Fraser River by the 82,000 or so residents who used it in 2006.
By contrast there are only about 5000 private wells in the township, and nearly every drop of water from these wells is treated by a septic system and returned to earth perhaps 100 or so meters from where it was extracted. Nature then does what it has done for millenniums. When nature does its job properly, that water can be reused. So the question is an easy one. Who's sucking our ground water into extinction?
Given the problem of our diminishing water is probably a fact, I ask everyone to think seriously about whether there is any merit in the pending water management plan, or should it be scrapped, and a new page begun. Think about how you would begin to solve it. As you do so, I hope you will see it as I do, and that is that the township itself is draining our aquifers at an alarming rate, and metering private wells will do little if anything to change that fact. It's even likely that the flow from township wells will grow as well, along with our population growth! I think that we have been led into a blind alley.
There is only one solution for both the short and long term in my opinion. That solution is to reduce our dependency on township wells, and phase in water from the Lower Mainland water sheds as quickly as we can afford to do so. If we don't take this bull by the horns, the situation will only worsen. I urge all township residents to watch this issue very carefully. It is my opinion that poor judgment on the part of some members of council, could easily commit us to something very costly, and give us nothing of value in return.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Vecchiato's Voice - Jan 13, 2008 - Civil Transparency - Help, Participate & Advocate For Political Process Change In Langley
Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham once wrote that in a democracy, government stays visible; citizens lives stay invisible. Of course, he was referring to the draconian measures with the Patriot Act and the government's unbridled ability to spy on citizens without good reason. Although the events that triggered such legislation are worthy of action, the Patriot Act has become a blanket permission slip for government to use or misuse it.
Lapham's observation, however, points to a key issue in Langley politics. I know it seems like an incredible extrapolation to go from 9/11 to local politics in this once rural community. However, democracy is democracy, and the assertion of government's visibility is the mutual issue.
A few township constituents met early last week to inventory viable issues that may become points to ponder in this election year and to air our concerns. However, the meeting was planned before Kent Spencer's article in The Province appeared, and the article itself just exacerbated some trying situations, or perhaps gave evidence that the lack of government visibility is not only the nightmare of paranoids, but a reality.
My own personal dilemma with this continuous "in camera" meeting stuff is the pattern that the secrecy takes. Having been active in the 32nd Avenue gravel pit issue and the botched Brookswood Tree By-Law, then hearing from Pacific Land Group who's contracted with Matcom to fill 18 sites, it seemed that staff and council--or any parties aware of plans for such an extensive contract--shouldn't be hiding behind political doors. The most contentious gravel pit is right in a neighborhood with a school, residents, firehall, and also is accessible via Noel Booth. The decision makers who meet privately and don't share their agenda at taxpayer's expense, remind me of some sort of anachronistic Divine Right of Kings, or perhaps the Church before Vatican II when Catholics did not read the Bible.
Regarding the same issue, I was told that there was no public input on Parks. And I ask, Why?
A number of similar issues have been pointed out to me and others, and Kent Spencer's column was rather like icing on the cake. So how do you promote change from within your own community?
The best thing I can think of is get a group going. Not a selective, private group, but one that is open to people who'd like to see some alterations in "business as usual." If you're happy with the status quo, don't bother meeting. However, a level of frustration rumbles among a lot of people who live here, and whether staff is running council or council running staff, I haven't a clue, but the outcome doesn't work within my own expectation of people who are supposed to serve the common good of the community. I believe each reader should test how current affairs resonate within, and if you find an alarm bell going off, or a case of severe cynicism rearing its head, you might be a viable conduit for change. The door is open for any residents who would like to see some change in the process, so do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com or telephone 604-533-0173. Even if you choose not to, each of us should ponder, "What do I want to see in my community?" before dropping anything in the ballot box.
The issue of transparency, which has become front and center, should be a clear warning to anyone who cherishes democracy. As an English teacher, I have the opportunity to analyze and read 1984 over and over again, and it's scarier than anything Stephen King could dream of. Remember the slogans? IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and WAR IS PEACE. The principles of double speak, and the idea that keeping people ignorant seems to be an asset in today's manipulative world of politics, and it goes along the same lines that people get shut up because they jeopardize authority's option to, well, exercise authority. There is some truth to the matter that decision makers prefer constituents who are glued to the TV watching "ER" or "Friends" reruns. Opening dialogue in the community is perhaps what is needed. Most everyone has an opinion on what they feel about local government, and those who put forth effort write letters or meet with others obviously want change. Changing the TV channel with the remote doesn't count.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I did the math and, by my calculations, that is $21,308.33 per acre or $5,327.08 per quarter-acre. Now that the Township has set this precedent of land value in the area, I am fully expecting a reassessment of my 2008 property assessment from the government of B.C.
Since we are living on a quarter-acre of land in Walnut Grove, I expect that the land value will be corrected to $5,327.08 — not the $303,000 that the government says it is (not including the value of our house).
Everyone in Langley should send a letter to the mayor, thanking him for setting this precedent and thus reducing the property tax that we must pay in July.
Thanks Mayor Alberts," .
Dickson Pit Land Sale Process Flawed & illegal? Never mind questionable or PROPER! - LFP Editor
Land-sale ad challenged
BY KENT SPENCER STAFF REPORTER
11 Jan 2008
A controversial land sale by Langley Township could be overturned because it did not follow the law, says a lawyer. Municipal-law specialist Jonathan Baker said yesterday the sale of 38 hectares to a wealthy family could be subject to a court... read more...
Large Langley land deal goes down in secret
Langley Township land sale has a boggy smell to it
Thursday, January 10, 2008
We are taking bets it won't and if it by any rare chance is, I'm betting it will be probably deep sixed by the 'boys' sending it to staff for their input.
This motion is the right thing to do. It still would allow for solicited and unsolicited alternate conditions and submissions similar to the Dickson Pit final deal. But it would have been out in the open first and very transparent with all interested parties/purchasers and especially the public aware of it. Sounds right? Correct? Betcha the 'Good Ole boys' won't agree!...
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Letters to the Editor of THE PROVINCE re Dickson Pit process fiasco! Can you guess which letter is a Mayor Alberts supporter?
Public land sales should be done in the open
09 Jan 2008
For 30 years, the Fraser River Coalition has protected the Lower Fraser’s dwindling wetlands, now only 11 per cent of their original size. We have repeatedly pressed for public involvement before, not after, the fact. A short notice sandwiched between... read more...
REAL ESTATE I Prices in many areas have doubled since 2002 Average single- family valley house up 92% in five years
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Today's The Province Main Editorial
Langley Township land sale has a boggy smell to it
08 Jan 2008
If you think local municipalities are supposed to be open and accountable to the people who pay their freight, you should be worried by a controversial land deal just approved behind closed doors by Langley Township. It involves a prime, 38-hectare... read more... The Province newspaper News
Meanwhile Mayor Alberts who was not available for THE PROVINCE initial breaking story has suddenly of late been heard on media outlets including the VANCOUVER SUN article where he now claims that: " the deal protects the wetlands on the site, while securing revenue for the Township." Yeah right. The Township needs this money to pay for all the other secret and stupid sundry land deals in Langley Township like the Bedford House restaurant/bar land deal and the golf course land deal and on and on. What else don't we know about wonders this Editor?
This Editor is also aware that occupants on the adjacent property that purchased this Dickson Pit public land also contributed in total up to ~$1875.00 to both sitting Mayor Alberts election campaign as well as to sitting Councillor Ferguson's election campaign.
How many more controversial land deals has this Mayor & Council done or are still negotiating/pending in secret? And why?
It's time to unelect this Mayor's silent slate on council. Enough is enough. Time for a major change on Langley Township Council. Let's definitely start with the Mayor!...
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Yes folks read all about the latest of many hot and heavy land deals that this Township Mayor and Council are doing below in today's two page spread THE PROVINCE on this specific 38 hectare "Hush-Hush" township taxpayer land sale.
Local resident neighbour Larri Woodrow in regards to this most recent hush-hush land sale is quoted in THE PROVINCE saying, "Why wasn't there a public auction? There's got to be a reason. There are dozens of questions and no answers, ....Something's really wrong."
Former Township Councillor candidate Glen Tomblin is quoted in THE PROVINCE saying, " Unusual land deals are usual in Langley... Land deals always come through the back door," He is also quoted to say, "These guys on council are costing us millions of dollars."
To read the full story go to this actual newspaper article link of THE PROVINCE which is a 3 story spread on page A8 through to page A9. This article has 2 great great pictures describing the actual property that was sold by Township council. To see the actual THE PROVINCE front page top heading story title go to this actual newspaper article link. To see the two same simple to read main articles link without pictures link here and here....
Friday, January 04, 2008
The will to please all parties is off kilter, however, in the Township of Langley. Most noticeably is the recent approval of high rises that slid in under the last minute wire prior to Christmas holidays. Major decisions in December and in the summer when many people are absent tend to host the most contentious issues with an outcome already decided. Case is point is the preliminary Campbell Heights Open House held in August over 5 years ago (BC almost seems to shut down in August, as Europe is rumoured to do).
Although planning did revise some of the by-law in the past month, the final version did fly through with only two abstentions: Councillors Richter & Bateman. Personally, I am not against high rises as long as they are buffered from single family homes or townhouses and that we as a community get something in return. Undoubtedly, the development community was pleased with the by-law and Smart Growth would applaud. But what about addressing the loss of this temperate rain forest's biodiversity, wildlife habitat, narture pleasure it brings to us each season, and more current and perhaps critical, offsetting carbon emissions to achieve an element of neutrality. However, by placating the development crowd, the local residents and the taxpayers end up scuffing their heels, disgruntled, unheard.
The time to hash out amendments to each neighborhood plan is now, and a mandatory application of bonus density is the solution. Bonus density is a development formula assigned by the Local Government Act. According to the document, the purpose of allowing high density and leaving green space in return is so that 'amenities obtained should benefit the area where the development is located. Increased density can result in higher numbers of people who place higher demands on community amenities, such as day care or open space. The amenity is provided to maintain or improve existing community livability and quality of life in the area that takes the higher density.'
In the past, when bonus density has been used, the bonus areas have not been in the general vicinity of the development, but in the far reaches of the township where land is cheap. Earlier in 2007, a developer proposed donating playground equipment instead of land for green space. The tragedy, I believe, is that council even considered this proposition, which makes me wonder if they understand the issue at all. With high density and the ensuing bonus, land cost will not matter. What matters, I believe, is the quality of life for residents. So few amenities for the myriad new townhouses and single family homes on the hill are available. Even the construction of the future Sportsplex is an example of excavation excess and neglect. The amount of land cleared far surpasses the square footage building and parking needs. It seems easier to build if you clear everything first. But decision makers need to see there may be more benefit to retention than demolition.
Surrey estimated that 50,000 trees have been lost to development interests. One resident pointed out that 'little sticks and ornamental shrubs that developers throw in are not adequate replacements for our magnificent urban forest(so).'
Perhaps a better incentive is to consider the three parties with a vested interest in any development: the property owners, the developers, and the community.
Recently, the Langley Times devoted half a page to the issue of battling greenhouse gas emissions. Frankly, I don't care if you are an Al Gore fan or not. Case in point is: cars, trucks, heating, among others, all increase CO2 or CO2 equivalents (a.go. methane). Journalist, Al Irwin mentioned the ability of trees to offset carbon, which could very well provide an incentive rather than punitive measures as suggested in reports in the Vancouver Sun.
Small trees such as streets trees and the numerous species planted in new front yards have little capacity to absorb a vast amount of CO2. One study showed that nine ornamental trees offset 1/3 a tank of gas per year. However, a 147 cm (58) diameter tree holds 3206 kilograms (7,068 pounds) of CO2. Most of the conifers in Brookswood and the Milner escarpment, for example, are far larger than a mere 147 centimeters. A 231 cm (91)-diameter western red cedar in our yard has the capacity to store 2,686 kg (5,919 pounds) of carbon and 734 Kg (1,614 pounds) of carbon dioxide. The average car, according to the EPA spews 9 pounds of carbon and 33 pounds of CO2 into the air each day, so the invisible labor of a single tree or an entire forest is worthy of approbation.
Our yard is host to approximately 40 trees of varying species, with western red cedars being the most prominent. In the 10 years we have lived here, our quarter acre is becoming an island amid cleared properties. Although the Brookswood Tree By-law was an excellent example of excluding the public's input (the committee's recommendations were not the foundation of the by-law), the need for a bylaw could become obsolete by giving incentives for preserving second-growth trees, both conifers and deciduous.
You cannot please everyone all the time, and this ushers back the dilemma of people pleasing. A good school principal will take each party's concerns into account and try to compromise. My experience is that little compromise on behalf of residents has occurred, except in cases where taxpayers were notably vocal (the sale of township land to the Baptist Church, for example). I dont think Township needs to totally abandon some of its modus operandi, but to soften it with the blessing of compromise may provide political longevity, a method to neutralize carbon dioxide, and even more promising, development that doesn't raze the landscape but lets the landscape do the work.