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

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