Friday, February 29, 2008

Harper Audio Tape - Harper Conservative's $1 Million Bribe Attempt For Cadman's Vote?

Listen carefully HERE to P.M. Harper's recorded voice interview (you need realplayer - duration 2:31 minutes) with the Cadman book writer, "Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story" by Surrey journalist Tom Zytaruk. Smells real bad to this Editor especially when Harper knew and admits about a financial offer! . Chuck Cadman's wife and daughter now both confirm that they both were told about the so-called $1 million bribe attempt for his vote to bring down the previous Paul Martin Liberal government. An ethics inquiry and police investigation are absolutely called for. So much for the holier than thou Conservative party of Canada. The gods are smiling on St├ęphane Dion!

Below is the written transcript of the portion of author Tom Zytaruk's tape of a 2005 interview with Stephen Harper, then leader of the Opposition, for his biography of the late Chuck Cadman:

Zytaruk: "I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?"

Harper: "I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?"

Zytaruk: "This (inaudible) for the book. Not for the newspaper. This is for the book."

Harper: "Um, I don't know the details. I can tell you that I had told um, the individuals, I mean, they wanted to do it. But I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind, he was going to vote with the Liberals and I knew why and I respected the decision. But they were just, they were convinced there was, there were financial issues. And er, There may or may not have been, but I said er, that's not, you know, I mean, I, that's not going to change."

Zytaruk: "You said (inaudible) beforehand and stuff? It wasn't even a party guy, or maybe some friends, if it was people actually in the party?"

Harper: "No, no, they were legitimately representing the party. And eh, I said don't press him. I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity and, hm, uh and uh, you know, just, you know, if.. if that's what you're saying, make that case but don't press it. And I don't think, er, er, my view was, my view had been for two or three weeks preceding it, was that Chuck was not going to force an election. I just, we had all kinds of our guys were calling him, and trying to persuade him, but I just had concluded that's where he stood and respected that."

Zytaruk: "Thank you for that. And when (inaudible)."

Harper: "But the, uh.., the offer to Chuck was that it was only to replace uh, financial considerations he might lose due to an election."

Zytaruk: "Oh, OK."

Harper: "OK? That's my understanding of what they were talking about."

Zytaruk: "But, the thing is, though, you made it clear you weren't big on the idea in the first place?"

Harper: "Well, I just thought Chuck had made up his mind, in my own view ..."

Zytaruk: "Oh, okay. So, it's not like, he's like, (inaudible)."

Harper: "I talked to Chuck myself. I talked to (inaudible). You know, I talked to him, oh, two or three weeks before that, and then several weeks before that. I mean, you know, I kind of had a sense of where he was going."

Zytaruk: "Well, thank you very much."
...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 28, 2008 - Victoria Ministry Of Education Trip (feb 25)

Monday, 5am. I am up and on my way to catch the car pool going to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Here is part of the group who were there (mouse click picture to enlarge it).

Once in Victoria, we met with others who were all excited that finally someone in government is taking the time to listen. The reason for the trip was to bring to the government's attention issues in special education that are not helping to ensure that students with learning differences are provided adequate services.

We sat in the gallery of the legislature while the Opposition Critic for Education, David Cubberley, put forward questions asking why the Ministry of Education is not addressing the Special Needs Inquiry's recommendations wholeheartedly.

Transcript of Mr. Cubberley's query during question period can be viewed here online .

A small group of teachers and parents were also able to meet briefly with the Minster of Education, Shirley Bond. I was not part of the group, but from speaking afterwards with parents who were there, they were shocked to learn that the Minister was under the opinion that the Langley Board of Education had agreed to speak with the Special Education Steering Committee. It seems there was a significant discrepancy between what the Minister understood to be the case and what the teachers and parents knew to have taken place at the last Board meeting. Apparently, the Minister took immediate action to clear up the matter and I applaud her for that. I am not aware of the result of her attempt to get clarification, but I expect that the LTA and the Board will hear about it soon enough. It was interesting to observe that the Ministry has similar communication difficulties with this Board as parents have had.

One person suggested the new motto for the board is "YES, we are for communication but we don't have to listen or do. We would rather let others make those decisions." I ask, if this is true, they have no purpose so why not get rid of them? Boards of Education have to stand up and be counted. They have been elected to ensure that all students within their district become educated citizens. Any trustee who says that the needs of all students are being met should not be re-elected or elected for that matter. Where are the elected voices for our students?

We arrived home at 10 pm. It was a long day - the weather was nice and the ferry trip gave me time to speak with parents and teachers who actually have to use the system that is in place. It gave me a fairly good picture of where the rubber hits the road.

We, the community as a whole, must recognize that the education system is failing special needs children in the public education system. These children are a growing population of our future. If we do not meet their needs, they will be incapable of meeting ours in the future. The Minister of Education needs to look at the Special Needs Inquiry report and address more than the issue of excessive paper work requirements.

Other news is that after the last board meeting there seems to be avid interest in replacing the current board. I surely hope that a trustee will bring back the motion that was defeated at the last meeting so we can hear the position of all trustees. A motion defeated because of a tie vote should be revisited and a renewal of the motion is entirely appropriate. Not only is it in the best interest of students, this will also help the public to make a decision at election time. It made me make mine. The rumor mill is tuning up and it is only March - 260 days and counting.

Respectfully submitted
Susan Semonick
...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rick Mercer Report - Dedicated to Langley Liberal Candidate - Jake Gray

You will be waiting quite a bit longer Jake!

LFP Views On The Local News Feb 27 - 2008 - Gotta Luv You Letter Writers!

Gotta luv those local letters to the Editors! On one hand today's Langley Times has the Princess & The Pea B & B (formerly Travelers hotel) prominent Langley entrepreneur Wally Martin singing the praises of traffic circles which this Mayor Alberts' council slate of "good Ole boys" just always seem to generate controversy about just about every time without fail!

Wally also previously submitted his opinions in a letter to the Langley Advance on his suggestion that '(Fraser) River water (is) more than needed' and could give us easily tons of unlimited groundwater water resources which presently abundantly feeds our northern boundary aquifers that we are all overlooking and under resourcing for all of Township. Then, Langley's most prolific devil's advocate, political critic & wordsmith craftsman, Blair King, responds as only he can do, to surgically and technically dissect each and every one of Wally's arguments in his patently detailed fashion! Those who debate him dread it. Just kidding Blair. This Editor luvs youe!

You heard it here first! One of the Pona's is definitely going to be running as a school trustee challenging the sitting "infamous gang of 4" . The fact that Lyle Pona has taken the time to write a letter (today's Times - ‘Thought police’at work) condemning the Langley School Trustees hiring of a lawyer to go after overly complainant taxpayers speaks volumes! My hunch is that their daughter will probably run if her mother Dianne Pona (former trustee) does not. Dianne & Lyle were (are?) active, significant and prominent NDP party members. Their political acumen and guidance could just maybe propel their daughter to replace the wildly unpopular "infamous gang of 4" .

Thank you Joyce Justus for your Times letter Feb 22ND that says;

"I would like to know who pays for Mary Polak’s full-page ads in both The Times and The Advance? These ads are usually just photos of where she has been, such as one with a cake at the blood donor clinic, Did she give a pint of blood, or come for the cake?
I have not read anything that was real constructive — about something she has done for Langley."


These bold, big, full page generally page two Mary Polak ads have astounded this Editor as well. They must cost thousands and thousands of taxpayer's money that share no pertinent info other than what essentially Joyce describes. I have ranted on about this before as well. Heck, imagine in Lynn Stevens day, prior to Mary, I was even upset about Lynn's business card sized ads that essentially just used to say "Lynn Stevens Cares about Langley". At least MLA Rich Coleman makes them public service ads with some highlighting individual community members. These Mary Polak ads are extravagant, disgusting, self serving and a waste of our money, period! Bet you will never see any newspaper editorial condemning these ads!

Penny Anderlini, who organized thousands of signatures against any water metering takes issue with Mayor Alberts penchant for his re-writing of history attempts when once again he is caught with his proverbial hand in the cookie jar! She specifically in the Times Feb 24 edition says that the mayor is speaking out of both sides of his mouth (as are the rest of the Council 'Good Ole boys' in this Editor's opinion). Specifically they give the impression that they were on top of this Water Plan when they certainly would have blindly passed the flawed water management plan that called for water metering and a translink kind of water taxation governing body that Cllr. Kim Richter warned us all about first here in LFP. Face it, they are just covering their asses and attempting to re-write history again because they got caught with their pants down! Penny, you are dead on. Please pass the word around to all of the thousands of your captured signatures to vote anybody but ALL the "Good Ole boys" on township council!

Aldergrove community activist Wayne Boylan writes in today's Times critical of the front page coverage afforded by the Times to newly declared Township Mayor candidate Rick Green. He also asks that Mayor Alberts gets equal time as well (hmm...wonder who he supports?). On the positive side Wayne does call Alberts Council a 'Slate' at least which I expect may well cause Alberts perhaps to send in another rare correcting letter! But more frightening is the fact that he essentially thinks any ordinary taxpayer stepping up to the political plate should not get any media play! Think again Wayne. My concern is that there has been obviously far too much partisan political favorites by the Editors and reporters of their personal friends be it former journalists or other partisan personal & political biases that influence their writings. If these professional Editors & reporters have these biases get an LFP or LP political blog of their own instead! Worse still Wayne is that these same professional press sadly ignore those on council that essentially just take up valuable space and time and essentially contribute nothing. The Press should have a duty to tell the public about the lack of performance/capability as well of our elected representatives. Every time one of them gets re-elected I put the blame squarely on the professional local media.

The bottom line is that the local press are at least doing what seems to this Editor to be a stellar job of publishing taxpayers letters. Thanks to this we at least have had some excellent, valuable comments, ideas and discussion for the broader community to mull over especially in this weeks newspaper wasteland! Also it is astounding to say the least at the amount of dissatisfaction with this Mayor Alberts' "Good Ole boys Club"council never seem before especially by many prominent and long term Langleyites as well (except Wayne of course!). I'm looking forward to November 15Th 2008 at around 11 pm to see how many of the Ole boys do lose their jobs! As Brittany sings.... 'bye, bye boys' !
...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 24, 2008 - Board of Education Meeting (Feb 19)

There were about 100 people in attendance. Trustee Hogeterp was absent due to a death in her family. My condolences go out to her and her family.

Presentations

1. Performance by HD Stafford students entitled “Once Upon a Mattress” Tickets on sale now for the musical at HD Stafford Secondary. Go to http://www.sd35.bc.ca/hds/MattressPoster.pdf for full details.

2. There was a presentation on the Trades programs offered in the district. More info can be found at: http://www.sd35.bc.ca/Programs/career_ed/contents.htm

3. The award winning team from Lochiel U-Connect shared two of their recent successes in computer animation and robotics. These students appear to excel in this area. The Lochiel technology initiatives continue to prosper under the guidance of teacher John Harris. The students are trying to raise funds to attend Tokyo for the first Lego League Asian Open championship, April 27th to 29th. Lochiel U-Connect is a distributed learning education choice (home schooling) in our district. For more information on this school go to: http://www.sd35.bc.ca/uconnect

Delegations

1. Langley Special Education Steering Committee jointly requested that the Board meet with them in a facilitated meeting to discuss district issues and how they as a group could address the issues facing special needs children. Having read the Special Education Inquiry report, I have to admit that there are ten district-related recommendations that need to be discussed in this report by this Board and their partners.

A Board motion was made at the end of the meeting that actually deserves separate billing for what occurred is very, very important. (See motion below) It gives the fundamental reasons why the three trustees who voted the way they did to defeat Trustee Bech’s motion should not be re-elected. They do not understand the fundamental basics of their purpose. They have their heads so far in the sand their air tubes are not working.

The LTA is planning a bus trip on February 25th to Victoria to the BC legislature to see Minister Shirley Bond in regards to the Board not meeting expectations of PARENTS, LTA, DPAC and CUPE 1260.

2. Robert McFarlane gave a presentation on what he was able to determine was the financial cost for reconfiguration, since the District still has not been able to produce those figures. What is apparent is that the Board and staff are not communicating the needed information in order for the parents to be able to accept what the intent of the Board’s actions will be on the students. Not one Board member who has voted in favor of the reconfiguration in South/Central has done a good job of explaining the facts that made them vote the way they did, nor what they see as the final results and benefits for the students will be. All they have said is “there will be.” I have heard from many that the only information they have received is long boring gibberish with no content from each of them prior to them voting. They have also received a large amount of inconsistent terms, numbers, stats and opinions from the staff and Board members. Much of the frustration I see is from the inconsistency in the information being given, other than it will be a good thing, with no solid explanation that parents can understand as to how.

3. Tracie Northway did a presentation on Transitioning in School District #35. The purpose of the presentation was “ To share the predominant themes identified by some South/Central Langley families as both motivators and barriers to transitioning to the planned reconfigurations” How has this affected the families? “Families describe experiencing feelings of
- Abandonment
- Marginalization
- Motivation
To protect our children
To see fair and equitable treatment across this district”

She ended her presentation with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

RIGHT ON Tracie. For all the meetings I have attended with Tracie Northway, I must say she is one of the parents who has always been consistent. She cares what happens to the children and strives for understanding of what is truly happening. What do you say to giving Mr. Burton a run for his seat in the next election, Tracie?

4. Rosemary Wallace started with a moment of silence. I took this as a minute of silence in remembrance of what HD Stafford was. What I understood Rosemary to be saying is that they still are worried for their children. They are still waiting for answers and she stated “We the Stafford community are stressed, confused, hurt, angry and frightened with what lies ahead. …… Left in the dark … Lack of space lack of resources… This transition will be difficult … it is challenging for everyone involved. My child is not a number, her sister is not a number her friends are not numbers … I am saddened by this change and see no need for it. … Please do what it takes to make this work. We have gone through enough… We will move forward…”
My comments: Placing a child into a large populous setting, when they are used to a small setting, will be a big change. Yes, the children may be overwhelmed for a bit. What is a reality is that LSS and HDS will now experience what Brookswood, Walnut Grove, Langley Fine Arts, R.E. Mountain and yes even the Fundamental middle have experienced and lived with. Each year the grade 8s, about one-fifth of the secondary school population, experiences a significant transition and most do fine. My concern is when you put such large numbers of children adjusting to the same thing at the same time what will be the fall-out? All the other schools had gradual growth. When will the parents actually see the benefits of what has been done? 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, or for that matter the detriment. In any case, it will be long after this current board is gone.

5. Susan Semonick (myself) - to see slide slow go to pdf found here. I asked when this Board would dissolve the Langley School District Business Company. Since one trustee has publicly stated that they run things as a business, I asked - If this is true, then when will they start making fiscally sound decisions that do not affect the classroom?

I would like to thank all the presenters and delegations that have supplied me copies of their presentations so that I can accurately quote them.

Strategic Plan, Facilities Update

· Competitive trades areas now updated and functional - at LSS, plumbing, carpentry and auto technicians and at ACSS, hairdressing. No cost mentioned.

· APEX alternative programming for secondary students - refurbishing now complete, cost not mentioned.

· Full K-12 program now offered for the fundamental program. Langley Fundamental Middle Secondary will not be a comprehensive school. They have a capacity of 780 but they are not full yet. Which leaves me with many questions, one being who exactly is on this supposed waitlist? If our readers will remember, the whole reason for the expansion of the program in the first place was to be able to clear the waitlist. I wonder if the waitlist for the fundamental program only consists of 10 year olds and younger; but then Coghlan is not full. Perhaps, most on the waitlist are under 5 years old. No one really has been told. Parents are supposed to reconfirm intent each spring, but who knows if the lists are reviewed by the district.

So now, LFMSS is going to fill the school by offering a program that will not be comprehensive and will only offer electives that involve computers (maybe). If this is a middle school as well, then why are these students not offered exploratories as in the middle school model? What happened to the middle school philosophy here? Has anyone heard anything? Is the Board’s stance that in this case it is only a housing configuration and that the 6 – 8 teachers here will not be implementing the middle school philosophy? We now have full schools. There is no cross-utilization of space available for the Fundamental program that is located so close or could there be? They do have a gym now and a science wing. The lower grades will be offered arts, drama, music, and the use of science labs. Use of gymnasium will be limited due to population.



· The new K-5 fundamental elementary has a 450-student capacity. There was no mention of whether this was full or not.

· Relocation of the Pass program, Route 32 (grades 6-8 students), and the Alternative to Suspension program to the Anderson site is now complete.

· Hannah Centre has been moved to Noel Booth.


Middle School program in Aldergrove

There were three recommendations that the Board approved:

1. Receive the report on the delivery of a middle school program in Aldergrove.

2. Betty Gilbert will be a 6-8 middle school and Aldergrove Secondary will become a 9-12 school with Parkside and Shortreed Elementarys as K-5 schools starting September 2009. ( If only all our students had this luxury of time which was all that HD Stafford had started with asking for. Aldergrove area was the first area to have consultations for Building for the Future with a quick closure of Aldergrove. Then a two year transition period time to the middle. This was the recommendation from other districts that have chosen the middle school route.)

3. Establishment of a steering committee to deal with transition issues. They have been meeting with the PACS all along to develop a transition plan for the changes to the schools. It appears to be working well.

Some say that the community was only presented with the options of accepting the middle school concept or closing even more schools. The greatest concerns I had heard at the Aldergrove Consultation meetings was that parents did not want middle schools, but they wanted to know their options. They definitely did not want female Grade 6’s interacting with 16 year olds and older. Now, the Board has approved ACSS becoming a 9-12 school, with an adult education classes offered in the school for the LEC program. LEC only involves 48 students at present ranging from the age of 16 to 20 years.

The middle school at Betty Gilbert will be sharing with ACSS the space for elective instruction like woodwork, sewing, cooking etc. because the school is located just across the field. This means there will now be 11 year olds, in the same facility with students up to 20 year olds. Granted, they would not be in the class at the same time. It appears from the lack of response from parents that they must have been assured that their previous concerns have been addressed. I tried to speak to one of the PAC presidents about this, but our conversation was interrupted by a man that I believed to be the principal, who was more than willing to explain it to me. I am not convinced that what I was told was not a snow job. Unless the district is truly only housing bodies, it does little good to throw out a line of edu-babble so it sounds good, and more, and better, when in reality it will be a minus, because of younger students having more interaction with older peers than any of us would like to think. In my opinion, you cannot prevent interaction when there is familiarity.

Budget

My take on the budget is that the recommended mid-year enhancements to programs and services should include mention of the 9% raise to Trustee Indemnities.

Total budget surplus is $252,714 which staff will be recommending be carried to the 2008/09 provisional budget. Would it not be nice to add to the surplus with an additional $50,000 that could be had if they would reduce the number of trustee seats, or for that matter stop taking raises?

The changes to the Grade 10 –12 funding by the Ministry cost the district $271,706 of budget monies already committed.

According to the report, total revenue for the Feb. 2008 reporting is $151,736,020. The district will not know whether there will be additional holdback funding until probably May but have removed the originally anticipated holdback of over $510,000 from the budget. Anticipated expenses have increased by $1,111.189 from what was projected in April 2007. That amount includes the trustee indemnity increase of 9%. If I have read the report correctly, according to schedule A4.1 the budgeted amount for trustee indemnity is $111,358.00 for this year. They spent an additional of $6,658 on benefits and other costs total $106,015.00. In total, the trustees who will not even talk with partner groups when requested cost are expected to cost the district $224,031; almost the same amount that they made for closing Bradshaw. So, you could look at it as… is this current board, or any board for that matter, worth the closure of a school?

CommunityLINK grants have gone up from $1,755,000 to $1,814,625. I hope the increase in funds means a real increase in services to students.

So have I said it often enough yet? THIS BOARD SEES FIT TO GIVE ITSELF RAISES and run a Business Company that has shown losses WHILE THEY ARE CLOSING SCHOOLS.


Transportation

Two 15- passenger vans have been in use in the district. DW Poppy has a 17-year old Dodge, and Brookswood Secondary has a 6-year old GM. These two vehicles were donated; therefore, no capital costs to the district. As of January, use of 15-passenger vans is not allowed in the district until clearer directions on the safety of such vehicles is provided by the provincial government. How has the district addressed the need to maintain this service and what is the additional cost that was incurred? Perhaps the government should be subsidizing the districts this amount.

Per regulations attached to Policy #3850,

Walk limits, as determined by the District shall be:
K-7 3.2 kms
8-12 4.8 kms
To a bus stop K-12 3.2 kms

With these district limits, I wonder how many families will have one child who will be provided busing and one who has to walk to the same school, since the district now has not one but three middle schools - two 6 - 8s and one 6-12.

I am also curious as to how this walk limit of 3.2 kms to the bus stop will affect the service for students going to HDSM and those going to LSS. How will these district limits be applied to the students in the south of the district?

The other concern is the capacity of the buses. Does a 72-passenger bus carry 72 elementary students (3 to a seat) and only 48 secondary students (2 to a seat)? What about when there are elementary, middle, and secondary students together? Same question for the 36-passenger bus. I have sent these questions to the district. We will see if I get an answer before posting time.

Locally Approved Titles
Five books - Making Sentences, Uglies, Pioneer Sounds, Longman Science text, and The Wave. The last title is the only one that may have controversy due to the Nazism and Fascism content.

Trustee Bech’s Motion re Special Education Inquiry Report
Motioned by Bech Seconded by Cody

“That the Board of Education schedule at least an hour, within two weeks, to meet with representatives of the three partner groups that recently sponsored a public inquiry into the services for students with special needs in Langley.”
3 – 3 tie vote. Ross, McVeigh, and Burton in opposition. (Hogeterp absent)

The main argument from the three in opposition was that the concerns were provincial issues not within their control as trustees and that it was the Ministry’s role to be dealing with the unions on those matters. They did not want to step outside their realm of authority.

Trustee Bech’s question was – The worst that could happen would be that they might learn something.
Tr. Burton asked - on what we should cut to add more money from the budget to special needs?

Here you go, just to start. Readers, please post in comments, any suggestion and I will ensure they are delivered to the Board at the Budget Open House, which is on April 22, 2008. You can also email the district at: budget@sd35.bc.ca

Here are just three suggestions to get taxpayers going.

1. Stop all future raises on indemnity to the trustees until the students' needs are met.
2. Dissolve the School District Business Company.
3. STOP all donations of time, money, and resources to an outside public foundation, namely the Langley School District Foundation. Let it stand on its own merits.

Interesting to note that the Board News put out by the district does not include any mention of Trustee Bech’s motion which I would think was a significant part of the Board meeting and was actual business as opposed to presentations by district staff or students.

The fact that the Board as a whole has decided not to meet with the coalition does not stop the three trustees who were in favor of meeting with the group from doing so as individual trustees. This will enable them to add information to the Board discussions during budget time.


Trustee Comments

Trustee McVeigh spoke yet again about the Wine and Cheese Gala. It sounded like it was mostly district staff who attended. The event made less than $50,000 for the Summerland Program. I wonder what happened to Trustee Ross’s wish to increase business contacts. Have they maxed out Langley’s businesses? Have the number of donors decreased since the start of the Foundation? I was under the impression that we were still booming and that the Chamber of Commerce was happy with development in our area over all.

You know where I sit with this. A paid school district employee does the work for this foundation and makes about $47,000 plus expenses and benefits. So, did they make $50,000 more for the children or just redirect funds from the students in the classroom to feed specialty programs? How they spend what they “make” is determined by a small group of people who are not elected officials. There are two trustees on this directorship but they are not to hold a majority due to it being a public foundation. When did the electorate re designate those two officials Ross and McVeigh to have carte blanche with about $175,000 annually of education money with no accountability to its constituents? In reality, this is exactly what is happening. What amount of income from outside sources should warrant the cost of this staff? Most non-profit organizations make millions before they start hiring don’t they? At least the ones I have been involved with have to reach a certain income level before any reimbursement or the use of hired staff is considered. To date, I believe this employee position has not been proven to be warranted, especially if you show costs versus actual income from outside sources. The reason they wanted the person in the first place was to generate “profit”, NOT revenue, which does not mean anything if costs are too high. It appears that it probably never will be cost efficient. It is almost a parallel story to the SDBC the money that is being invested that will never see a profitable return.

Question Period

There were 6 -7 questions permitted. They adjourned at 11:05 pm with two left standing waiting to ask questions. I am sorry but I could not discern the exact questions asked.
I know the LTA President stated it was not the LTA asking for a meeting but rather a coalition of partners asking for a meeting.

One parent asked for a meeting and was given the answer – “We do meet with parents.” Not really an answer right?

I asked where the District was in regards to their discussions with Township and City with respect to crosswalks and sidewalks in the hot spots around the district. I had not seen any mention of this in either of the Township or City’s budgets. If it was not in either of their plans, I would think it is very unlikely it would be done. Maybe Kim Richter can give us some insight into this? I was told it is still in the discussion stage - so what exactly is being discussed. I know of an overpass for the RE Mountain area, but I am talking further south than that.


As always respectfully submitted by

Susan Semonick
...

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 24, 2008 - LSS Capacity Presentation (feb 14)

LSS Capacity - Presentation at HDS on Feb. 14th

I listened to Mr. Greenwood’s presentation on capacity at LSS. It sounds as if LSS will definitely be full next year. It will be a larger population for everyone to get use to, not only the students coming from HDS but the LSS students also. If you are looking for a school with a smaller population, that would be D W Poppy or Aldergrove Community Secondary School.

The District does not have any concerns in regards to accommodating the population that will be at LSS. They are expecting no more than 1221 students and according to Mr. Greenwood, LSS will be able to accommodate 1360 students based on their own calculations that include placing up to 30 students in most classrooms. [The MoE’s nominal capacity is calculated at 25 students per regular classroom.] The plans include using the lacrosse box as classroom space, removing the bleachers out of the large gym and placing a divider in to make two classrooms, as well as using the four portables that are on site. The media centre that was located at LSS has been moved to Simonds Elementary.

What is very frustrating for many is that it seems there is no standard of reference being used for all of the information being provided by the district. Depending on whom you talk to, you get different numbers with little to no consistency, as is reflected in recent newspaper articles. No wonder there is little to any trust in what is being said. The district’s staff have to all get on the same page because the inconsistency in information being delivered is making a poor situation even worse. GET TOGETHER PEOPLE - improve the communication. Provide accurate and correct information; know what other staff are saying. Use a cheat sheet – talking points, if you have to, in order to be able to explain why and under which circumstance there will be a maximum of 1150 students at LSS, or 1400, or 1350, or 1220, etc. Get it together people.

In their presentation they mentioned that a percentage of students are expected to drop out of school, a number of students are expected to leave the district and some to return to their own catchment areas. What is sad is that the dropout rate seems to be commonplace and accepted as the norm. When a child drops out of school before becoming an adult I believe this is where ZERO TOLERANCE should be applied and this so-called accepted dropout rate not to be considered the norm.

I have to say that the LSS parents who were present, in particular two men whom I will assume were fathers, did make the meeting a bit tense. It was very obvious that one did not like the other. One student from LSS addressed the audience with her concerns about the volume of students in the halls now, let alone what it will be next year. One parent from LSS who was present seemed to have their focus on discrediting any concerns that were expressed. Good on Tracie for addressing this person and stating that it was really inappropriate what this one particular parent was doing. Shortly after, I had to leave so I am not sure if this parent became respectful of the others in the room.

I would like to thank the parents of South/Central for ensuring that I am kept up-to-date on what is happening and inviting me to their meetings. I hope the perspective I have provided on things has been of help.

The Fundamental Middle Secondary School program will no longer have use of facilities at LSS according to LSS administration. I guess if we are to think outside of the box, LFMSS could do night school for woodworking, etc. (possibly). This means that these students definitely will have the basic of basics in education unless the district finds more money to renovate the seven million-dollar baby. LFMSS students will be left with applied skills courses mostly in the computing and business areas. With all the choices in secondary schools now, I do not think this would be a wise choice for many students. Employers, to the best of my knowledge, are looking for people who are well rounded and balanced to a certain extent in knowledge and experience. I see these students as being at a disadvantage due to parent choice not student need. You do not see many, if any, students jumping up and down to attend Fundamental but you do for Athletics, Arts, Drama, Trades & Technology, Film, Law etc…

I hope that due to the current state of this Board, voters will be able to find replacements who will better serve their public and the needs of our students. We need fresh voices, new direction and people who are not afraid to change the way this Board does business.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan Semonick
...

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 24, 2008 - Special Education Forum February 13th

Attended the Special Education Forum February 13th

Special Ed Inquiry Update

There were 27 parents at the Special Education Inquiry Progress meeting. The Special Education Steering Committee reported that Mr. Gorman, Deputy Minister of Education, and several of his staff received their report with great interest. We were told that what appeared to be most shocking to the Deputy Minister and his staff was that the Board of Education for School District 35 and its Superintendent, Ms. Beaumont, have chosen not to participate in the opportunity to have round table discussion in this matter.

It would appear to the public that the Board is dismissing and ignoring the concerns presented by this Steering Committee and the many parents of students with differing educational needs. According to the report prepared by district staff and accepted by the Board of Education on January 22, 2008, it seems that they feel all needs are being met and they are very happy with themselves. Apparently, approximately 365 students who were previously designated as having special needs no longer have them. They have miraculously been cured and their challenges no longer exist. I wonder, of that number how many are still in school? How many are on the streets?

The Board appears to be wearing rose-colored glasses. Perhaps if there would be proper staffing in the first place we would not have to spend endless dollars on Project Resiliency and Restorative Justice. Don’t get me wrong; I think these programs do serve a need. What I am saying is if there were proper assistance happening earlier, there is a great possibility these programs would not be required as much.

We have cuts in staff time at the school level. Yet, at the district level there are always positions being posted more people at the top to govern than there are to educate if ask me.

As early as 2003, this board has taken the stance of that the students’ needs are being met; if there are problems they can be fixed by more money. It is very clear that regardless of whether you had an endless source of money coming in, if the Board continues to do things the way they are currently doing them, the needs of the students will never be met. I give this Board a failing grade when it comes to ensuring that every dollar possible goes to direct student services and NOT FOR “minor raises for board members ” (their opinion not mine), failing business ventures, and to outside public organizations.

The LTA, CUPE 1260 and parents are planning a bus trip on February 25th to Victoria to the BC legislature to see Opposition Education Critic David Cubberley, and hopefully Minister of Education Shirley Bond, to discuss the Special Education Inquiry Report's recommendations. They will no doubt be raising concerns about the Board’s excuse that the School Act prohibits trustees from meeting with them to discuss the 10 local recommendations in the Report.

Respectfully submitted;Susan Semonick
...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

He’s off and running for mayor’s job (The Province, 21 Feb 2008, Page A8)

Ward defends pathetic "scurrilous" attack accusation, Langley taxpayers angry & Mayor Kurt Alberts not available for comment (hiding out in foxhole?). Looks like this contender will be spelling Langley correctly on his political signage!


He’s off and running for mayor’s job
BY KENT SPENCER STAFF REPORTER
The Province
21 Feb 2008

Former Socred Rick Green is running for Langley Township mayor, promising a heated race with incumbent Kurt Alberts this fall. “I am not mad. There has been a bunch of wrong-headed decisions,” said Green yesterday. Tensions over high property taxes... read more...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 20, 2008 - Parent Congress

PARENT CONGRESS was it what most would think a congress to be?

I heard from someone who attended the Second Annual Parent Congress hosted by the Minister of Education at the end of January. I asked if I could share information given with my readers and was given permission to share parts of it. Here are some excerpts.

When they inquired as to whether an agenda would be provided in advance, they were informed that it would be available at the Congress. Knowing the Ministry, they had expected nothing less than a tightly scripted agenda for the day. Most of my guesses were correct as to what key topics they were keen on having on the agenda, and none were a surprise. Nor was it a surprise that partner group representatives were in attendance, as were many DPAC chairs and politically active parents. It felt like the “regular parents” were few and far between. The Ministry said 115 parents were invited; there were a few empty seats. There was however, a good cross-section of the province in attendance and a fair representation from the various special groups. The First Nations, Francophone, Special Needs (especially a lot of parents of children with autism) were all represented.

The day focussed on four key topics and an introduction of the new Parent Information Network - a joint venture by the MoE and the Virtual School Society.

The keynote was delivered by Silken Laumann who spoke about the power of play and introduced Silken’s Active Kids Movement that is supported and funded through ActNowBC and 2010 Legacies Now Society.

PALS Program (Parents as Literacy Supporters) was presented by co-Founder Fiona Morrison, formerly of SD#35 and now with LiteracyNow, and Dr. Jim Anderson from UBC

The Screen Smart Initiative – a program to help parents manage media and the amount of time children spend in front of any screen was presented by a team from SD#19 Revelstoke and the Revelstoke Child Care Society.
Dr. Art Hister’s presentation was on Healthy Children and the epidemic of obesity and the attendant health issues. Many scary statistics were presented.

There were opportunities to ask the speakers (not the Minister) questions about their presentation. The Minister did however, make comments about the Ministry’s position whenever she felt it was required.

It was clear that the Ministry had a message to deliver. Woven into the information and inspiration/motivation that the speakers shared was the “we can’t say it enough” message that parents and the community had to work on these issues as well, in order for the Ministry, our students, or both (depending upon how cynical you are) to be successful. Obviously, this is a huge economic issue as the cost of health care continues to rise and our population gets older. Most of the parents already understood – no big sell job needed.

It is disappointing that the amount of dialogue about “where the rubber hits the road’ kind of concerns was almost non-existent except for outside of the script, during breakfast, lunch and nutrition breaks. Parents did however manage to get their points across to the Minister as they asked long extended questions, with even longer preambles and explanations, of the speakers.

The good news for me is that I did get to voice the three concerns that I had intended to deliver to the Minister regarding Daily Physical Activity and the Graduation program.

That the Ministry has yet to provide any information regarding whether they will provide an exception for current Grade 11 students in the Grad Transitions program who made plans based on the existing requirements and have completed their 80 hours. Changing the requirements is not fair nor is it respectful.

That the 30 minute a day requirement at the grades 8 & 9 level be changed to 150 minutes a week to deal with school timetabling issues.
That for at-risk students (among others) who struggle to graduate, the finish line just got that much farther.

I would prefer that the DPA requirement be eliminated for the graduation program. It is important to note that there is no teaching involved for students in the grad program. It is strictly bookkeeping. Is this a good use of teacher and/or parent time? Do we want students who have no Dogwood certificate and therefore have limited post secondary options, because they failed to be physically active? Does the Ministry want to see graduation and completion rates decline? Remember, there is no curricula involved – no teaching, just bookkeeping.

The Ministry has acknowledged that this is a long-term endeavour to get students to eat healthy and be active. My question would be then, why are they pushing so hard. Presumably, if everything they intend to do with the program at the elementary level is successful, then by the time those students reach the grad program, the message has been learned. There will never be 100% acceptance; just look at the no-smoking, seat-belt, and child car seat campaigns. The Minister did say that they were working on the specifics right now and I did see her assistant taking notes as I spoke. I hope they will give it due consideration. I also hope that the parents who were there also noted the concerns and took them back to their respective groups. Perhaps some of them will even contact their MLAs and the Minister if they have similar concerns. I can only do my part and hope for the best.

Overall, it was more or less what I had expected. The food was great and I had the opportunity to see familiar faces from across the province and meet new parents as well. Was it prudent use of education dollars – you decide? I would expect there would be the cost of speakers; travel and perhaps accommodations for partner group reps and Ministry staff; Ministry staff time to organize the congress; travel and accommodation for many of the parent delegates; and lastly, the cost of the congress itself (facility rental, delegate packages, meals, etc.) I had decided to transit instead of driving in or availing myself of the overnight hotel room that the Ministry was providing. After all, it is taxpayers’ money since the Ministry was reimbursing participants. My expense claim was less than $12.00.

An interesting diary of the day is posted at this Vancouver Blog Site:

My notations:

I know that Langley DPAC was contacted with a request for 3-5 minutes on their January agenda in order to inform other parents in the district about this concern regarding DPA and the Grad program. Unfortunately, they declined the request, preferring to wait until a school district staff member could be ready with some answers at the end of March. In my opinion, this is a short sighted view of things. Timing is critical. As with the Ministry’s grad portfolio initiative, parents can effect change to Ministry plans so that school districts may not have to deal with implementing onerous, under-developed Ministry ideas, however well intended.

I hear that other partner groups and stakeholders have been more receptive to these concerns and have listened. Most have committed to sharing them with their colleagues. Too bad many Langley parents will only be provided with district’s answers to a situation that may not need to occur had they had the opportunity to let the Ministry know how they feel about it. I encourage all parents to write to their MLAs and the Minister of Education if you have concerns about the additional hoops that your child will have to go through to graduate. It likely will not be of concern for many students, However, as a community, we need to concern ourselves with the needs of ALL students, especially those students who do not have someone to advocate for them. As mentioned, for those students who are working hard but struggling to graduate, this just moved the finish line further away. Is it worth denying a Dogwood and therefore better future opportunities? I leave that for the public to decide.

Respectfully submitted by

Susan Semonick
...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

LFP Views On The Local News Feb 19 - 2008

Wow! The amount of letters to the Editors are more than ever reaching a critical angry mass at the current Mayor Kurt Alberts' slate on council than ever before seen in this mayor's reign. One of them (all of the best letter writer excerpts are shown further below) by a Mr. Rick Green (a busy letter writer of late who has obviously also seen the light of stupid financial management by the current council) seems to even have been angry enough for him to be first to declare today that he will be one of the challengers to Mayor Kurt Alberts' throne! It's a little early to declare but Green probably needs to build some momentum since he's coming from behind as an unknown community commodity! This Editor extends kudos to all those who challenge any of the incumbent good ole boys and their out of control tax, spend and borrow attitudes!

It sure looks like there will probably be quite a few running this November for Council and now for mayor as well! A palace revolt at last! As Mr. Green was quoted to say in today's Langley Advance (which is an understatement in my opinion): "I know we're not getting the best value for money". Green pointed to a number of things like: " ..the Draft Water Management Plan, the purchase of the Redwoods Golf Course, the sale of lands, property tax increases and the general management style as issues." I understand that his website is up at rickgreenformayor.ca .

So now the question becomes: "Where is Richter?". There's a good chance that Green, an old Socred, will split Alberts' vote, clearing the way for Cllr. Kim Richter to come up the middle. This could be a replay of the election that got Alberts elected in the first place. All in all, it's starting to shape up as an engaging municipal election - I can hardly wait for November 15, 2008 to break out the celebratory champagne! The countdown continues (p.s. see sidebar countdown timer)...

Getting back to the letters, this Editor thinks that the all time best letter comes from Glen Tomblin and is a gem that all should share with their friends and neighbours.

"Letter to the Editor - Township council's bucket list:

- Raise taxes so they can continue to spend like a drunk sailor on shore leave
- Buy a beautiful, sound-proof door to make decisions behind.
- Tax the dickens out of rural well owners.
- Then tax rural well owners again, for good measure.
- Buy property at inflated price; chop down all trees except one; declare it parkland; sell it at a loss.
- Raise taxes - blame police and fire departments.
- Hold public hearings on the budget on a Monday afternoon when public is hard at work.
- Raise taxes - blame police and fire departments.
- Cancel Township Page in local papers, then change bylaws so Public Notice can now be done on a rural light post in Aldergrove.
- Put in light post in rural Aldergrove.
- Get council to cut ribbon on light post in "Aldergrove Revitalization."
- Don't let people in Brookswood know Aldergrove got a light post.
Glen Tomblin "

Don't you just love Township Councillors who call taxpayers "scurrilous"? See Rick Green's response to Grant Ward;

" Dear Editor,
Councillor Grant Ward doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good story.


My letter raising the issue of airport lease rates was not misinformed, and it was not a "scurrilous" attack. Councillor Ward demonstrated arrogance and complete lack of respect, especially as an elected official, by calling me scurrilous. I am quite surprised that a sitting member of council would resort to name-calling toward a taxpayer voicing his opinion - someone who, along with many, is tired of watching the endless number of misadventures of this council managing our public assets.

My letter was not an attack on airport management; it was an outline of the kind of management structure that should be in place to maximize the return on investment for the taxpayers of the Township.

An operation the size of the Township airport should have an airport board or authority, supported by a well-structured business plan, that reports to the mayor and council.

Airport manager George Miller, as I understand it from a number of people, has done a great job. Unfortunately, he can only manage in the environment that he is given by council.

The 24-cents-per-square-foot lease rate is a quarter of the going market rates - Boundary Bay, as an example. I find it interesting that Coun. Ward says it is competitive.

In fact, we lease out at a quarter of market rates, and a lessee takes advantage of that opportunity: builds, and gets market rates. Who loses? The Township taxpayer.

As Coun. Ward notes, the economic impact now, inclusive of the new expansion, is very significant - that is my point. Can you imagine what it would be if we were getting market rates?

Just think of the revenue that could help the Township taxpayer get fresh GVWD water into Aldergrove, decrease the size of our annual tax increase to our taxpayers, or build needed public amenities, like a swimming pool in Aldergrove.

The lease terms of 20 years, plus five-year options, at the 24-cent rate is not reasonable by any business comparison.

Nobody suggested that the model for our airport was wrong, nor questioned how we are positioned operationally with airports of similar class throughout the province. That has nothing to do with the issue of lease rates and management structure.

As for my motivation, it might come as a shock, but as a taxpayer, all I want to see is an elected municipal government being responsive and responsible to the taxpayers of the Township. Nothing more and nothing less.

Does a year-old story in a regional newspaper make airport lease rates a non-issue?
Is the purchase of The Redwoods Golf Course, the purchase of the Bedford House Restaurant, the Dickson Pit land sale, and six years of out-of-control taxation and spending also off limits? No.

I have done my homework. My only wish is that Coun. Ward, the mayor, and other members of council had done theirs.

Coun. Ward's letter does nothing to change the facts or help the Township taxpayer.
Rick Green, Langley "

Heck even the Mayor himself popped out of his foxhole with another inane letter himself supporting his fellow mime councillor Ward where he pontificates about everything except the real facts of losing millions on the aiport leases. See our previous stories here and here.

Speaking about Alberts & Green see this following letter about rewriting history again on water taxation first broken here by Kim Richter;

"Dear Editor,
Congratulations to all those who fought the Water Management Plan (DWMP) and won [Water metering flushed, Feb. 5, Langley Advance].

But Mayor Kurt Alberts should stop trying to rewrite history. It is thanks to Langley Township residents who reacted so strongly in opposition to the Draft Water Management Plan that we took a giant step forward in defeating the wrong-headed beast. In particular, all of us who live with the frailties of wells must thank Penny Anderlini and her many volunteers who spent dozens of hours collecting more than 3,000 names on a petition that was presented to council. Without them, the plan would be in Victoria now, getting ready for implementation.

In the afternoon meeting, council was presented an oral staff report dealing with the status of the WMP, and obviously feeling the heat. Members of council voted to eliminate core recommendations which dealt with implementation of water meters, initiating a fee structure, and the establishment of a water conservation board (or taxing authority, in everyday language).

But that is not the end of it. There are other recommendations. Staff will be implementing a public process to present a revised DWMP over the next number of months, so be sure to attend and review the other recommendations which will form a part of a proposal.

Looking back on the process that this mayor and council put the residents of the Township through over the DWMP has to infuriate any reasonable-thinking taxpayer. It was arrogant of the mayor and council to send it out to the public in two open houses between Nov. 5 and Dec. 15, with the intent to adopt it and return it the Minister of Environment by Dec. 31.

Those are the facts, regardless of how Mayor Alberts wants to rewrite history.

A March 20, 2006, council meeting called for approval by the provincial cabinet in late 2007. On July 17, 2006, Barry Penner made a ministerial order for it to be submitted by Dec. 31, 2007. A March 5, 2007, special council meeting set it to be submitted to the province by December 2007. A June 25, 2007, special council meeting decided the final plan was to be submitted to the province by December 2007. At the Nov. 5, 2007, council meeting, the draft plan was presented along with the process of open houses and a Dec. 31, 2007, deadline to be in Victoria.

At the Feb. 4, 2008, special council meeting, staff applied for an extension of the Dec. 31, 2007, deadline.


Will somebody tell me what part of Dec. 31, 2007, Mayor Alberts doesn't understand?
At the Feb. 4 regular council meeting, after the very well-presented Anderlini petition, Mayor Alberts again tried to rewrite history by saying he didn't know where the Dec. 31 date came from, because there never has been a deadline.

What? Does Mayor Alberts have a hearing or reading problem? I have to ask him why he would and how he can ignore the facts.

Rick Green, Langley" -- Told you he wrote lots of letters!


People are hearing about the 5 year 5% tax plan too;

" Dear Editor,
I would like to know why Mayor Kurt Alberts and his council deem it appropriate to increase taxes at a higher rate than inflation, and then mandate future hikes for coming years. Is this council able to predict future spending?

The last time I checked, most companies budget on a yearly basis. Township Council has lost touch with reality, and I think it is time for some new faces.

Tony Kirsten,
Fort Langley "


Finally two more happy Langley Township taxpayer especially with Cllr. Grant Ward;

" Editor:

Councillor Grant Ward’s contention that letter writer, Rick Green’s attack on the Langley Airport management is unwarranted is correct. The airport management is to be commended for negotiating such a sweetheart deal on behalf of the airport with the Township.

Unfortunately, it was at taxpayers’ expense and that was the motivation of Green’s letter.

The fact is that Township council was negligent in their fiduciary duty by signing 20-year and 40-year lease rates at 25 per cent of the current market value. While Councillor Ward states that the airport revenue contributes annual revenue of $250,000, the fact is that the lease signed by the present council reflects a loss of $1 million per year for the next 20 years.

The bottom line is that the incumbent Langley Township council has to go. We need change in next November’s municipal elections.

Ed Wiens, Langley "
...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Letter To The Editor - Feb 14, 2008 - From Paul Richard - RE: Support Plastic Bag Phase out

Students support plastic bag phase out

Representatives of a group of environmental students from Kwantlen University College spoke in favour of the motion to phase out plastic bags in the City of Vancouver, and presented a petition to that effect.
The petition collected over 700 signatures in support of a tax to discourage the unnecessary use of the bags. While the motion does not refer to a tax, the intent of the petition is the same, said Ashley Bangsund, a spokesperson for the group. "We asked for a tax because we thought it was one of the ways to reduce the excessive use of the bags", said Bangsund, "But we support any measure, including this motion, that produces the same final effect".
The petition was created as part of a class project in the environmental program they were attending at Kwantlen. The student group, called BABE for "Bring A Bag Everywhere", quickly garnered support among the public in Vancouver as well as from SAFE (Students Active For the Environment), the environmental club of Kwantlen student association. The signatures were collected in June and July last summer, but the on-line version of the petition is still active and the public can add their say at http://ipetitions.com/petition/bringabageverywhere/
The students pointed out that billions of bags end up in litter every year worldwide, and that Canadians consume 55 million new bags per week. They added that hundred of thousand of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
Paul Richard, the faculty liaison for SAFE, also spoke in favour of the motion. Richard pointed out that, far from being a minor issue in waste management, plastic bags represent a huge problem. "Phasing out the bags has a huge symbolic value as well", added Richard. "People are hungry for leadership on environmental issues; phasing out the bags increases awareness of how wasteful these are, and this motion shows that our politicians can have a positive influence and restore hope in a solution."
For information contact
Ashley Bangsund 604-221-8546
Paul Richard 604-599-2556
...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 13, 2008 - North Langley Second (feb 11) Consultation Meeting

Second North Langley Area Consultation Meeting

There were approximately 100 people in attendance. There was a heavy contingent of staff in those numbers and I think more teachers. There were not more than 10 parents at any given session I attended.

Ms. Beaumont stated that there were about 140 parents who attended the first consultation meeting.

The evening consisted of an introduction, a choice of three sessions from a selection of five topics, and a brief conclusion. How can this produce a complete picture for the parents? Yes, they may not be interested in all of the topics but need all information to provide informed input. Consultation works better when everyone has the same information.

At each session there was a presentation from staff on the specific topics then a question period. There were no roundtable discussions or “table talk” as indicated on the agenda, at any of the sessions I attended – not even in the wrap up. Mr. Burton thanked us for attending and stated that the trustees who were present were there to listen to what the parents concerns and questions were. The one absent trustee had not advised the Board or district staff of the reason for their absence. According to Mr. Burton, it was expected that every trustee was attending as they had not heard anything otherwise.

At the next meeting on February 28th at REMSS, Mr. McAvoy’s report will be presented. Presumably, the public will have an opportunity to respond to the report. There was no mention of a complete report for the district as whole. Wonder when that will come?


MIDDLE SCHOOL

I did not listen to this session but this is what I heard from several people who did attend….

A very general overview of adolescents during these years and the organization of a middle school were provided by Mr. Lenarduzzi. One person said that what was disappointing was that there was no clear explanation of how exactly a middle school differs from what is now being provided. The presentation listed areas of focus that middle schools would address but there was no acknowledgement of the fact that most of what was listed is already happening in the schools. Another comment I heard was that if they were a grade 6-8 teacher, they might have been offended; and if they were a parent who was new to the school system, they might believe that many of the things listed like assessment, social problems, etc. were not being dealt with in classes right now. There was no mention at one session that there were economic concerns related to the middle school configuration although I heard that it was mentioned in another session on middle schools.

Questions were asked about research on middle schools and the audience was told that there was research to support varying points of view and that the source of the research should be considered. Parents asked about the likelihood of a middle school in the Walnut Grove area and in the Willoughby area. I believe the answer was that it would not be likely in the Walnut Grove area anytime in the near future. Apparently, it sounded like it might be a consideration in the Willoughby area - perhaps even an IB middle school; but the timeline was for sometime in the next few years depending upon enrolment growth.


INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE

The International Baccalaureate session had several questions recorded on their sheets.

They handed out Booklets that the International Baccalaureate Organization 2007 published titled 1) The IB Primary Years Programme, 2) The IB Middle Years Programme, 3) The IB Diploma Programme, 4) IB Education for a better world.

The students require 10 hours more of community service than students not in the program. A question was asked whether a student’s grade point average would drop because this is a more challenging program. The answer I understood was no. I was later told that the program has a different grading system.

I asked the question: Do the IB Students get short changed if they go into university with the ability to take the 2nd year courses? Do they then have trouble getting first year courses in their 2nd term? The answer was no and the students who have a diploma from the full program do get credits for first year courses.

My thoughts on this were, since they are going to have 2 new schools on the slope, I wonder what the chances are that there is one K-5 elementary IB and one 6-8 IB middle school offering? Either at HD or one of the new schools close to RE Mountain.

FACILITIES AND DEMOGRAPHICS

Much of the info on facilities was about the artificial turf playing fields, soccer and rugby fields, and the three large gymnasia that will be available for use to RE Mountain students during school hours at the Langley Events Centre. The district has leased the property that has the playing fields of artificial turf to the Township for a $1.00 per year. There was no mention of how long the lease was. This facility is expected to be ready for BC’s 150th Birthday – although it will not be completely ready until early 2009. The school district is still in negotiations in regards to use of facilities and land and other terms of the lease. “Partnerships” for the Events Centre are suggested to be anywhere between $125,000 to 3.5 million dollars.
As an after thought, I wonder what the additional time it will take for the students to get to gym classes, especially during inclement weather? I would expect at least a 15 to 30-minute extension to time tables to enable students to access the Events Centre.

RE Mountain is expected to have a population of 830 students next year with it going up to 860 in 2009.
They are hoping to receive the capital funding for a 450-seat expansion. They are expecting ESL students to have an impact on both RE Mountain and WGSS. The ISP students in that number will not displace any in catchment students.

The deteriorating condition of the WGSS track came up and there was a bit of discussion with no answers except that the Township is not interested at this time in discussing the track. They will not allot the property to make it an 8-lane track. The condition of the track is now at the point of being dangerous. The district will have to take action to solve the problem. One parent suggested making it a dirt track. There will be no track at the RE Mountain facility. If the WGSS track in not repaired and just removed the community will be left with only the track near LSS with a track facility at McLeod Park. Much of the use, or misuse, as I have seen strollers, bikes, etc. on the track, comes from the community as well as from the school. Students use it only three-quarters of the year and mostly during school hours. If the township invested money to build it, it should also invest in its maintenance and refurbishment before building new facilities. Why is pool maintenance is in the budget but not track maintenance. Do we not have any township councilors living in the WGSS area?

There is on going discussion with Township in regards to traffic HOT SPOTS including 80th Ave. and 200th St. There will be an overpass on 200th St. and 66th or 70th Ave. seems to be some indecision on the part of the Township in that area.

There are presently 3 areas that could be sites for new schools 199th St. and 70th Ave.
210th St. and 83rd Ave. and 206th St. and 68th Ave. The district is looking at acquiring one more piece of property for future expansion.

Topham is maintaining its enrolment and West Langley is on decline with the other four elementary schools showing strong enrolments. They anticipate that there will be about 300 – 350 open seats in Walnut Grove to accommodate any students from the Willoughby slope in the interim before getting the two new elementary schools built. The expectation is to have two if not three more elementary schools in the next five years. However, the idea of a middle school has been floated about. As of next year RC Garnett will go up to grade 7 with an expected enrolment of 363 the school has a capacity of 335. Therefore they are expecting to use one if not two portables or “modular units” to accommodate the students. This will probably be the solution for LSS and HD Stafford for the next few years. My question is where do they expect to put these portables? Tear up the new playground just put in at RC Garnett?

Willoughby Elementary is expected to have an enrolment of 482 students with the capacity of 475 they are expecting to use one portable there too. I have the same question - traffic and lack of space; where are they going to put it? The Township and the Board of Education had better get their act together fast before an accident happens. Right now, the traffic around the school is dangerous for students from what I hear. What will happen with all this growth and over capacity issues? The district is aware of the traffic issues and hopefully they will be worked out sooner rather than later but parents should keep on pressing the issue to let both of them know the urgency of the situation.


TRADES AND CAREER PROGRAMS

Various district career and trades programs available at ACSS and LSS were presented. They stated that there were only 18 students permitted in the Piping class and at the present time, there is not a waitlist. There is a selection process and the district is looking for students who truly wish to put in the effort required for the trade they are interested in. Hairdressing, Carpentry and Automotive Service Technician are available at ACSS. Piping/plumbing is available at LSS.

It was mentioned that they offer trades at two of the schools to spread around the accessibility instead of only concentrating them in one school like ACSS. Then the question was asked - if that was true, then why are there no trades programs in the linear schools when they have the population to support such ventures. It was stated that these programs are more geared towards working with semester schools. It is possible though with a strong staff and student commitment to make it workable for a student in a linear school.

There are also apprenticeship programs available with Kwantlen University College, UCFV, Vancouver Community College and Langley College. There are a fair number of WGSS students who have taken advantage of the Dual-Credit Programs. Some programs being offered are bricklaying, small engines, horticulture and welding. They are proposing to offer a cook training program at LSS for 2010. This is not the same as the chef training electives offered at ACSS and WGSS. I wonder, since the ACSS population will be further gutted, why the suggestion of making it the district’s Trade school is not being done. They plan on offering another specialty in the future at LSS when they have already advised there will be at least 4 portables in use. Where will they accommodate the classroom displacement from the cafeteria being built for the Cook Training? Why are they not using one of the schools that already have the facilities? Is that not what the province wishes them to do, maximize the existing facilities, not build new?

The reason Ms. Beaumont gave to the HD Stafford community for not building a cafeteria was that most districts only have one cafeteria program and that Langley was lucky in that it already had two – ACSS and WGSS. I ask, then why are they spending more money on a cooking facility at LSS? Why not utilize what we already have and better utilize the facilities we already have? The north area of the district has very few district trades program and yet it has a higher student population. Don’t our students need similar opportunities closer to their homes as well?


SPECIAL EDUCATION

Again, I did not attend this session and will rely on the parents I spoke with.

I understand that a brief overview of the various provincial, district, and school-based programs available were listed on a handout. As well, other initiatives and professional development opportunities for teachers in order to support special needs students were mentioned. They also talked about how many district special education staff and school staff for special education they had. However, at least one person felt that the information was somewhat misleading because they stated how many staff or teachers, but did not say how many FTE (full time equivalent) this equaled – and this is a considerable difference in some cases because many teachers work part-time.

There was a lot of concern about the time it took to get students assessed and access to the various programs. Parents were told that some of the services were very specific and others were ones that parents could ask for. This gave rise to a very good question that I understand a parent asked – how can parents ask for services that they are not aware exist for their child? I was told that the district person did acknowledge that this might be a problem and that they could do better. I hope they get working on this quickly.

General Comments

Several people left throughout the evening as they felt that the evening was useless. Others I spoke to who stayed said that they did not understand how this was consultation as they were not being asked any real questions. They also were confused as to what questions they were supposed to be asking and what kind of input was being asked of them. As I said earlier, there was no table talk at any of the sessions that the people I spoke to attended, except for one session even though that was clearly the intent of the evening as it was on the agenda. I don’t think that the process is true consultation when no one has all the information, only parts of it. How can we give good feedback if we don’t have the full picture, or at least the fullest that we can get? Those parents who did not go to the middle school session may not be aware that a middle school could be a consideration on the Willoughby slope so how can they give input if all they know from the facilities and demographics is that there are three elementary schools planned for that area? If neither of those two groups attended the IB program session, then how are they to know that an IB middle school program exists and could be an option? Again, how can they give input if they are not made aware?

One parent mentioned that no questions were asked about timetabling or coordinated scheduling between schools even though “everyone” knows that it is being considered as a possibility. I guess those changes are going to be made regardless of how people feel about it.

Consultation - did it meet your expectations? Google the definition and see if that is what you got.

Go to www.sd35.bc.ca/future to see the presentations and comments.

As of noon today Feb13. They had only two of the 6 presentations posted so would think it should be done by Friday.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vecchiato's Voice - Feb 12, 2008 - Looks, Talks & Walks Like A Slate

IF IT LOOKS LIKE A SLATE, TALKS LIKE A SLATE, AND WALKS LIKE A SLATE....

It must be a slate. That is my feeling from the Times editorial's reference to the mayor's endorsement of 2005 candidates. Choosing to endorse other candidates, as the mayor did, and having a group of taxpayers, South Langley, support you are not comparable commodities.

What distresses me the most with the mayor popping his head up like a prairie dog in Kansas is that he portrays the pacifist, willing to work with others to build a strong community. My own feeling is quite different. I am sure that he works with others if and only if they do what he says. This reeks more of despotism than democracy.

If, in fact, the peaceful community-minded approach was practiced at council meetings, then why are people silenced by having their mikes turned off? It seems to be a way of shutting up what you don't want to hear.

I have to say that I am tired of the razor-edged rhetoric that spews out of that monstrous hall. When a group of us addressed the political aspect of retaining more trees, the mayor's sarcastic rebuttal was, "What trees do they want to save?" After becoming a Canadian citizen, I mentioned this enormous change I'd embraced to our mayor during a council meeting break. He stared at me point blank and said, "Why are you telling me?" I had just been endowed with the right to vote in this country, and my highest level local elected official tosses a redundant question at one of his constituents. How can a leader expect to lead by intimidation? We are not enlisted as Marines here, where degradation is often a military motive.

To further examine the phenomenon of slates and "groupthink," consider a conversation I had with Councilor Ward last year. Although I have nothing personal about most people on council, I was surprised when we were discussing residential development. I stated that it does not pay for itself. He countered that it does, and the topic did not seem open to discussion. Less than 8 months later, he votes to increase my taxes to pay for additional fire and police services. Additions to existing services are components needed when a community grows. Development has 12 servicing components, from sewer and lights to fire and crime protection. The cost of development is astronomically high, but the biggest of the game players manages to make tidy profits, lucrative enough to donate money to the Vancouver Art Gallery and other artistic venues. I am not against philanthropy, especially in the arts, but when I am picking up the tabs for the servicing not covered by development cost charges, then I have to see what a crock of crap this kind of philanthropy is.

And they, and the many people who work for the various levels of government, need to remember where their bread and butter comes from. The mere mention of the word slate seems to raise hackles on the back of many necks. However, the majority of our council seems to choreograph their voting prior to public meetings. There have been some who deviate from this normal practice on occasion, and may have taken the time to consider the issue in detail prior to council meetings. However, most of the time, they are so snowed with reams of paperwork that I doubt there is time to do any in depth analysis. This begs the questions: who is authorizing this snowing of paperwork? Who is running the show here?

Having just watched the primaries in the States where I vote as well, I felt jazzed, as enthusiastic as when Bill and Al won. On that night in 1992, I was at Democratic headquarters in San Mateo, California, and the air was charged with something akin to absolute joy. Having younger, cooler candidates enter onto the political scene offered promise, much the same way that Obama offers hope to those who would like to see change.

So spiral up to a suburb north of the 49th parallel where municipal politics are hot issues because so much power has been delegated to them through the local government act. Local government has been contingent on apathy. It's machine works when as few people as possible get involved. Keep them busy and they won't bother us. Raise their taxes so they have to work more and will be too tired after picking their kids up from dance to even bother. Let them line the cat box with the local papers and they'll never see our Township page or give a rat's ass about the development projects and its long-term effect on their lives.

Enough anachronistic politics. It's time for change.


Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for many years. She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and a community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities. Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor-LFP...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 11, 2008 - Are Our Schools A Business?

Board of Education - Business or Not?

However much any school trustee(s) feels that the work of the Board of Education is to run the school district as a business, it is not. The following story illustrates why public education cannot be run as, or considered, a business. Mr. Vollmer has kindly given us permission to reprint on Langley Free Press, his article entitled "The Blueberry Story" originally written and copyright in 2002.

Respectfully submitted by Susan Semonick


The Blueberry Story: The teacher gives the businessman a lesson
"If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in business very long!"

I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of inservice. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.
I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous in the middle1980s when People Magazine chose our blueberry as the "Best Ice Cream in America."
I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging "knowledge society". Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement!
In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced - equal parts ignorance and arrogance.
As soon as I finished, a woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant - she was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload.
She began quietly, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."
I smugly replied, "Best ice cream in America, Ma'am."
"How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"
"Sixteen percent butterfat," I crowed.
"Premium ingredients?" she inquired.
"Super-premium! Nothing but triple A." I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.
"Mr. Vollmer," she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"
In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap. I was dead meat, but I wasn't going to lie.
"I send them back."
"That's right!" she barked,"and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it's not a business. It's school!"
In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, "Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!"
And so began my long transformation.
Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night.
None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when, and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission and active support of the surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.
Copyright 2002, by Jamie Robert Vollmer
Jamie Robert Vollmer, a former business executive and attorney, now works as a motivational speaker and consultant to increase community support for public schools
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