Sunday, December 30, 2007

LFP Is Two Years Old & Year End Open Mic Time

Two years ago on December 17, 2005 Langley Free Press was born. We are still here and thriving with great columnists like Cathleen Vecchiato, Township Councillor Kim Richter and soon to be Langley School Trustee ( If we can have anything to do with it that is!) Susan Semonick! We also very sadly mourn the most recent loss of Freewoman Muriel Arnason who had also joined us on December 31, 2005 as our second Contributing LFP Columnist. All in all it's been 2 great years of providing the only real fresh alternative public forum for political & editorial opinions, discussion and news about the community with you, the community. Thank you all. Feel free to give us your comments/predictions about any topic on this posting string. YEAR END OPEN MIC TIME! If anyone is even home or sober enough at this time of year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

LFP Columnist Kim Richter, Celebrates 25 year Anniversary with Husband Bob On New Year's Eve

In today's Vancouver Sun (Dec 29) on page B9 celebrating section, an ad re the Richter's 25th anniversary! Why do we publish it? Kim is our publisher after all and LFP is graciously hosted by her. Congratulations, Kim and Bob! Best wishes over the next 25 years. We look forward to posting your golden anniversary here on LFP too!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - Education TIDBITS

Ministry of Education CLASS SIZE REPORT
More than 95% of classes in BC school districts had 30 or fewer students. According to the report, classes with more than 30 students have decreased by close to 66% throughout the province since 2005-06.

Other highlights of the report are:
· The number of classes in the province increased by 28 over last year, even though enrolment has declined by an estimated 7,000 students this year.
· There have been 278 new teaching assistants hired this year, up almost 3.5 per cent from 8,062 last year.
· There are 6,049 classes with 15 or fewer students, up from 5,963 last year, and over 600 more than in 2005-06

Lets hope the large classes that currently exist at LSS and the other secondary schools can be reduced for next year. We should all hope that the classes at least at LSS will range between 22 - 29 instead of 33-45.

Langley Teachers’ Association will be releasing “The Report on the Inquiry into Special Education” Mark your calendars.
Official release date for the report of the Inquiry into Special Education in Langley is:
Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.
Ft. LangleyCommunity Hall

For Parents living with Special Needs Children
Please join BC Association for Community Living for a dynamic and informative retreat weekend. The Ripple Effect II: Exploring the power of advocacy and community development, Tamagawa Centre, Nanaimo, February 15-17, 2008. This is the second of a series of weekend retreats for family members who have a child or family member with a developmental disability.

All expenses will be covered including accommodation, food, transportation and respite.

Application deadline: January 11, 2008

For more information please contact Mitch Loreth at or Laney Bryenton at or by tel: 604-777-9100.

Susan Semonick On Schools - Dec 11, 2007 Board Of Education Report

I was unable to actually attend the Board of Education meeting of December 11, 2007. What I gather from information I received is that it was business as usual. There were about 30 in attendance, excluding people who were there for the music presentation.
The LSS bands performed and their music director spoke about the Jazz band program at the school, which is quite unique by what was said.

The SummerLAND (Summer Literacy and Numeracy Days) program was reported on. SummerLAND is the new name for Rec N’ Reading, Numbers Til’ Noon, and Rhyme Time programs that are offered during the summer at local schools to assist primary and intermediate students who would benefit from extra support in these areas. There was an article in the Langley Advance about it on July 27 entitled “Struggling Students Get Boost in Math.” The cost for this program is approximately $6,000.00 per school. The fees are varied at each school depending upon local sponsorship and this issue is being looked to better ensure equity across the district.

Secondary Literacy
There are now Literacy Facilitators in each of the secondary schools who work with school staff to improve literacy skills in all curricular areas. This new initiative provides support to teachers in teaching literacy skills, not only English, Social Studies, Humanities classes, but also in a variety of classes.

Superintendent Beaumont provided an update on two areas of the Strategic Plan, Early Learning and Drug and Alcohol Education.

Early Learning (Pre-K) is now a part of each school district’s responsibility and the goal is to support and enhance services in the community. There is an Early Learning Steering Committee with representatives from many community organizations serving young families. There are several programs already in place to support parents in developing foundational skills.

Strong Start is funded by the Ministry of Education and is a parent participation program available at Nicomekl and Parkside. The Ministry plans to expand this program.

Ready, Set, Learn is a school readiness program for 3 – 4 yr olds available at all Langley elementary schools. The budget was $82,500

Daycares - There are now 22 Langley elementary schools with day cares and preschool programs offered in them. The district is currently trying to align all the contracts to be similar.

Mother Goose program for children up to 6 yrs. old is available at 4 schools and engages them in songs, rhymes, and stories.

A pamphlet for new mothers outlining the various programs available at local schools for early learners will be included in every Public Health Newborn Kit.

Not sure how much all of this costs but I’m sure it will be shown at the in the proposed budget documents. For Further information go to:

A newly implemented Day Treatment Program is one of the initiatives the district has taken in its three-tiered approach to Drug and Alcohol Education. The district focus is on education and prevention, intervention, and treatment, Ms. Beaumont said.
Project Resiliency is a curriculum implemented in grade 7 and provides 8 to 10 hours of drug-awareness and resistance education.
Project Resiliency Day Program is an intervention program for students who are referred to the 3-day intensive program. It is considered an alternative to suspension and students are automatically referred if they break school rules regarding drugs and alcohol.
D.E.W.Y. – Day, Evening, Weekend Youth program is an intensive 10-12 week program for youth with substance abuse problems. They had 3 modules last year and have one this year with the introduction of the PR day program. They may add another module if needed.

They are looking for public input to name the Anderson site, which currently houses the PASS (Pathfinder Alternative Secondary School) program. I have heard that they have already named the site but are going through the motions of renaming the school to better relate to the location and purpose of the school. I wonder if they will give the community an opportunity of renaming the two new fundamental schools. I also wonder when the Otter Elementary site will be renamed to better describe the APEX program there. According to the Naming of Schools policy #4004, they would also fall within this policy. They all come under the same reason they are using to rename the Anderson site. Does it surprise me they only do one at a time instead of looking at the whole picture? I will leave that to you the public to answer.

Ministry is still working the numbers and the district is still revising and providing additional information to them. It looks like the 1.6 million estimated deficit might go down to 1.3 million. We will find out in January.

The district signed an agreement with TWU to work together in teacher education utilizing RC Garnett Demonstration School and the opportunities it is able to provide for student teachers going through practicums.

Question Period:

The question of their raises was brought up the board was unaware of how much they were getting.

Respectfully submitted

Susan Semonick

Susan Semonick On Schools - Dec 27 NEWS FLASH - School Board Gives Itself 9% Raise

EFFECTIVE DECEMBER 1, 2007, the Board received a 9 % raise - not a bad percentage. They in effect have gone from $15,419 to $16,886 of which some of it is tax free - that’s right folks TAX FREE - with Burton receiving $2,000 more as Chair and McVeigh $1,000 more annually as Vice-Chair. Sad to think that the cost of the raise covers the cost savings of closing South Carvolth. McVeigh has stated in the past that it is not for the money they are trustees. Then I ask, why do they keep taking the raises when it certainly would help the students if they didn’t? That goes for every one of them.

Here is a bit of history:

Trustee Indemnity (Base)
Cost Saving Measures

Before June 2006 the base indemnity was $11,508.00, and they closed South Carvolth at the end of June 2006. Trustees receive raises twice in 2006 and by December 2006 their base indemnity was $15,419.00, which is a 34% raise.

In June 2007, they closed Aldergrove and Bradshaw elementary schools and promptly received an increase of 9.5% effective December 1, 2007. How much of an increase will they get if they close Murrayville Elementary effective June 2008 as is predicted?

On the savings side, the trustees who do receive medical coverage are now only getting 50 per cent of their premiums covered and this will soon decline to zero by December 2008.

Trustees attend around 77 meetings per year or less so every time they show up they are getting at least $219.00. If they were paid hourly their cost would be around 44.00 per hour. At least one of our trustees does the minimum 37 formal meetings and a few foundation meetings that is what is reported to the public so that works out to approximately 75 dollars an hour. Not so bad a gig I guess that is why we have some that continue one election after another and do not expand to other political areas. Chair Burton receives an additional $2,000.00, and McVeigh receives an additional $1,000.00 annually to be chair and vice-chair. They do not appear to do any more than the other trustees do. Remember now they say they are “not in it for the money.” they are there “for the students.” You make your decision at the ballot box. If you believe the above statement is true then vote for them. In 2004, only Trustee Bech asked for a reduction in their pay and her motion was defeated.

Trustees have reduced the amount of meetings they are required to attend and shortened the time they have to spend at them. With the changes to policy 1204, they have also effectively reduced the opportunity for public input as delegations to almost nothing and effectively eliminated question period at many of the recent meetings. This is a time for change.

In regards to these raises, one might be able to argue that the Board has breached their code of ethics where it states:
“They will recognize that the expenditure of school funds is a public trust, and will endeavour to see that ALL such funds shall be expended efficiently, economically, and for the best interest of the students.”

How can they say they have not breached this when the raises will be funded by the money acquired from the closure of schools? The funds will not be used in the classrooms but will be placed in their pockets.

We are looking at a 1.3 million deficit. Where else do they expect this money to come from? Especially since they still intend to continue to donate money to the Foundation, extend a line of credit to the School District Business Company, and accept increases to their own remuneration’s, which happen to be a higher rate of increase than what any of the staff who actually do the work and teach our students are receiving.

We need people who can be unbiased in their decisions with no conflicts of interest, who are able to put time into doing what they are elected to do - to be accountable to the students then the constituents; to keep open minds till all information is collected; to be aware of all the facts and financial costs; and to not be lead but to be leaders.

As an elected officer of the Board of Education policy # 0001 Code of Ethics should be read by all. Some additional excerpts are.

1. They will devote time, thought and study to their duties and responsibilities so that they may render effective and creditable service.

2. They will endeavor to work with each other in a spirit of harmony and cooperation in spite of differences of opinion that may arise during debate. They will observe proper decorum and behaviour: encourage full and open discussions in all matters with their fellow trustees; treat them with respect and consideration; and will not withhold or conceal from them any information or matter with which they should be concerned.

3. They will base their personal decision upon ALL available facts in each situation; vote their honest conviction in every case, unswayed by partisan bias and thereafter, abide by and uphold the final majority decision of the Board.

There has been talk recently of conflict of interest. There is a 130-page document on closure of schools recently presented at the BCSTA (BC School Trustees Association) conference, which addresses this area. If you read the document and the guidelines it discusses, it looks like at least two trustees should not have participated in the HDS vote according to public statements they made prior to it. It seems this Board constantly turns a blind eye to the public concept of what is seen as a conflict and what is not. Even the definition of ‘at arms length’ is straightforward yet this board seems to have a problem understanding the public perception or for that matter the CRA interpretation. When have they listened to the public? Since 2005 election I cannot cite one situation where they have, except when their decision only prolongs an inevitable decision that should have been made in the first place – South Carvolth and Aldergrove are examples....

Friday, December 21, 2007

LFP's Take On Water Meters and Quacking Ducks

How ludicrous are Councillor Charlie Fox's statements in Wednesday's Langley Times? Fox was quoted to say: "he didn’t know where the idea came from that the water meters have been considered" and he even further put his foot in his mouth when he also said: "he has never voted for water metering, and has never had the opportunity to say what his stand on the matter is". Sad isn't it? And we had such great hopes for Charlie when he was first elected too!

So Charlie and LFP readers let's refresh the facts as they really are and as they occurred.

As Cllr. Kim Richter was quoted in the same article: “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it probably is a duck”. Charlie, you were an observer to the task force on the draft Water Management plan development and worse still you voted to send the draft water management plan to the two public open houses with, in my opinion, obviously the full intent to comply with the ministerial order to essentially rubber stamp the report for the Minister prior to December 31st 2007 in compliance with the time lines set out for the final report submission by the Minister.

Charlie, why did you not question it before sending it to the public? Charlie, the water meter implementation in the report that calls for installation for EVERYBODY in Langley including every private well was a "core recommendation" in the water plan that you sent to two public open houses without any discussion at all on it! How could you and his Eminence, Mayor Alberts, ever have sent this piece of vague slop to the public in its present format without any discussion whatsoever? You Sir, did have the opportunity to question it! In fact the water meter requirement was the only item that was NOT vague, except for the part of who was to pay for it! You did not even ask that question Charlie, before sending it to the two open houses!

Did you even listen at the meetings you attended? Correction Charlie, you did have an opportunity to give your opinions on the water meter core recommendation in the water plan that YOU voted to OK and send to the two public open houses. Did you even read the final draft water management report? Charlie, face it, Richter is right, it is a duck! Are your comments now intended to be a duck as well?

Readers, let's be clear about it. If Cllr. Richter had not rung the alarm bells on this issue, the attendance at the two open houses on the water management plan would have gone unnoticed and this current Mayor Alberts' majority slate on Township council would have simply rubber stamped the report and sent it back to the Minister for implementation!

To further demonstrate the tunnel vision of this "good ole boys club" on Township council, they did not even second Richter's two motions on the water management plan for discussion that were quoted in the same Langley Times article. Specifically, "Later at Monday’s meeting, Richter’s notice of motion, for a referendum on metering private wells, got no seconder. Richter wanted two referendum questions, on well metering and a separate water management board with taxation authority, included in the 2008 civic election." The "boys" did not even want to discuss it at all!

This Editor specifically loved the Langley Times reporter, Al Irwin's closing comment: "Richter told council she hopes some members of council make a New Year’s resolution, 'to start seconding some motions, at least for discussion.' "
Journalistic KUDOS to Al Irwin and the Langley Times on excellent, insightful, relevant, and publicly informative reporting!

LFP's Take On Fort Langley's New Seniors Threshold of 45 Year Olds! Only in Langley Township You Say!

What Ever Happened to the Initial Bedford Landing design Concept?

This Editor remembers the initial and even then very controversial design concept of the Fort Langley Bedford Landing community design that would enhance Fort Langley on the old Interfor lands. It was just a few years ago that I got the impression that the overall design called for a mini village of mixed use that I remember would provide crafts and artists to live above their retail/design units along with a new quaint boutique hotel and patioed bar/grill with a broad spectrum of livability of new families to seniors in a complimentary heritage style Fort Langley setting and wonderful river frontage use.

Well I now see a highly densified bedroom community only, no artists lofts, no quaint mini village boutique hotel, no complimentary Fort Langley heritage setting and now not even a place for Langley seniors unless you are of course the "new age" senior of 45 years old and can afford the high priced units! And now we have also opened the barn doors to 4 story buildings in Fort Langley!

The developer(s) are certainly not to blame because they rightly will do as much as possible to maximize their profit margins and sales to satisfy their shareholders. That is private enterprise and totally correct and proper (within quality controlled limits).

The Langley Township Council on the other hand is totally at fault here in this case. Their job is balance and control. Their job is also to create a vision of the community together ccooperatively with the community (who are their shareholders by the way) and balance out the needs and wishes of the community along with the private profit motivated developers. This Mayor Albert's tired and arrogant council has lost touch with this requirement and more importantly with the community and it's shareholders, we the Taxpayers. When something's tired, it needs to be replaced.

If the developer's shareholders requirements are not met, their senior executives will be voted out and fired at their shareholder's meeting. November 2008 will be this Township Council's public taxpayer's shareholder meeting!

The present Langley Township council led by Mayor Alberts has failed miserably in regards to listening and especially taking care of their shareholder's interest. The clear signs of evidence of this are when they now very often begin to insist that they and their hired professionals and staff know MUCH better than the taxpayer's (their shareholders)!

When you have Township Taxpayers (shareholders) who have not been given proper opportunity to give input and in fact then try to even sneak things by them (in fact or perceived) in total disregard to their wishes, the taxpayers will obviously be angry and vocal. Frustration sets in and is demonstrated by the only thing the public shareholders can do such as interrupt in a council meeting to share their frustration. This is a clear sign of failure on the Mayor's council of poor process reminiscent of the LLT final days in power in the Council chambers. This is not what Cllr. Vickberg says when he calls these people not a good reflection of their community. This Mr. Vickberg is a reflection of your council's arrogance and closed minds. Two council meetings ago Cllr. Vickberg said he considered the new Bedford landing community as one with the upper existing Fort Langley community. Yet he in this Editor's opinion by his actions on this so called Seniors residence essentially ignores the pleas of in excess of 250 long term residents and sides with the ~25 new Bedford Landing residents and the developers. Why?

To make matters worse both Mayor Alberts and Cllr. Vickberg severely and publicly chastised these frustrated resident's pleas for a more public hearing and due process on the matter. The pleas from over 250 Fort Langley residents did not ask for a cancellation of the project. It simply asked for a delay to have more community input and a say in the decision. As one letter writer says this could have become a win-win situation. The Council's arrogance on this matter and others like the 248th street intersection demonstrates that the Mayor Alberts' majority slate on council is tired and in need of serious replacement in the upcoming November 2008 municipal election. The same arrogant decision makjing process is evident on Langley School Board as well.

In the meantime Langley & Fort Langley, in this Editor's opinion have lost a wonderful opportunity to create a unique Whistler type of complete community in the new Fort Langley in lieu of a highly densified bedroom commuting community. Sad, so very sad.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ft. Langley angry at ‘seniors’ deal (The Province, 20 Dec 2007, Page A9)

The 3 veteran Councilors Kim Richter, Bob Long & Mel Kositsky were the only 3 on Township Council to vote against the project.

Ft. Langley angry at ‘seniors’ deal
The Province
20 Dec 2007

People over 45 may be surprised to find out Langley will classify them as seniors if they move into a particular apartment complex. Township council has applied its new definition of old folks — most often 65 and up — to Parklane’s proposed new condos... read more...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Letter To The Editor - Dec 18, 2007 - From Dale Hughes - RE: Council Xmas Finger Gift To Fort Langley

------- Original Message Follows -------
To: Kim Richter & Langley FreePress

From: Dale Hughes
Subject: Thank you for writing to my friend Myrna, she deserved that for her courage to speak out.
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 10:08:08 -0800

I was personally very heartened to see you have integrity and did your level best to make some valid points in our favour last night.
Many thanks to you and your two fellow members of council who saw the angst of the community and made an effort to support us.

Personally I was stunned to see the whitewash by other council members on this issue.
If 25 people (unnamed) are found to agree with a plan that is kept under~wraps and then sprung upon the community who responds with a force of 10 times plus that number in letter and email protest and it is ignored, then there is something terribly wrong with the system.

This process is new to me, that is the first council meeting I have attended.
I am just getting involved in community matters beyond what I could accomplish in my few spare hours of volunteer for artistic and community hall pursuits. I became involved in this protest out of disbelief that such an important new feature for our landscape was being slipped into place by a passing of by~law due to lack of knowledge and input from our community.

The Mayor/council handled our concerns poorly with the exception of the three of you who took a stand on our behalf.

The deferral of this program to January would have been possibly a win win situation for them and for us of the community.

Yes, the Mayor is right in his passionate lecture to the converted on council and his attempt to sway/inform those of us in the audience.

It will not be the downfall of the Fort. Other phases of time have made an imprint upon the Fort in the past and still have been integrated into the community. And then there was a general agreement that this sort of erratic behaviour would be halted and we would begin building on our heritage and reflect the gems in our village to draw others of like mind to our doorstep in the future. Is money the only concern of a council? Why do we elect and pay them? It is our concerns and directives that are supposed to be upheld, not the wealthy corporate interests.

Erosion of public support in a tight community such as ours is a very sad misuse of power and will not be easily forgotten.

Such disrespect for our intelligence and our time was not easily swallowed and dismissal of the resulting frustration as rude was unacceptable to me. The apology should not have come from Myrna but rather from the council members using their platform of power given to them, by the public they were now misrepresenting, for our time wasted in airing their opinions instead of devoting their attention to our concerns.

Again, I commend you for your moral stand and valiant efforts to assist us.
I see you recognize it was not easy to garner the level of support and emails and letters that were received by council in this excessively busy time of the year within one week. Perhaps council should take another look at the force of will and number of dedicated persons involved in rallying that amount of support.
I will personally be very aware of the slippery slope of December's use for sliding unfavourable projects under the doorway of our community in the future.

I do hope you and all others in our community will have a restful and happy holiday season.
You three wiser ones well deserve it.

Best regards
Dale Hughes.

Letter To The Editor - Dec 17, 2008 - From Myrna Pfeifer - RE: Council Xmas Finger Gift To Fort Langley

------- Original Message Follows -------
From: Myrna
To: Kim Richter & Langley Free Press
Subject: Bedford Building Development Permit
Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2007 21:40:21 -0800 (Pacific Standard Time)

Thanks for speaking out as you did. It is curious to me how 250 letters received by Mayor and Council, in the busiest week of the year, can be ignored.

It does not give me a lot of hope where the wishes of the people are concerned. 'Bottom Lines' continue to wag the dog!!

Myrna Pfeifer
Concerned Citizen

Subject: Bedford Building Development Permit

The Township Mayor & Council has lost its ears!!

Despite receiving 250 letters from the residents of Fort Langley, Mayor Alberts and his council majority railroaded through Parklane's building approval permit tonight at the regular council meeting.

A large contingency from The Fort sat and endured lectures by Mayor Alberts, Councilors Ward and Vickberg. " history has proven how developments I once lived in were once considered ill-suited to Fort Langley". Mayor Alberts said this to reassure us that whatever he approves must be okay.

Councilor Richter stated that 250 letters were received by Mayor and Council this week, raising serious concerns about the lack of public input into this stage of the development.

No comments were allowed by the gallery at this meeting so when I could no longer sit quietly, I interrupted Mr. Vickberg stating that .."council was not listening to the people it represents."

Sorry, Mayor and Township Council, but when you turn a deaf ear or eye to 250 residents, it is my humble opinion you are not doing your duty and speaking out was my only option.

Merry Christmas.
M.L. Pfeifer

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

250+ Fort Langley Residents Given Township Council Xmas Finger Gift!

Well, no surprise, the Langley Township council except for Cllr's Richter, Long & Kositsky voted to go ahead with the waterfront 4 story Seniors (the good ole boys define seniors as age 45 & up!) condo complex! See previous posting.

Since last week the Fort Langley residents rallied in meetings and actually sent well over 250 letters asking the 'good ole boys' to reconsider approving this condo/apartment complex. This is outstanding participation, considering that it is the busiest time of year and I believe that the whole community only has 500 mail boxes! What the 'good ole boys' seem to forget is that these 250+ signatures could well represent upwards of a 400 to 500 vote count in the upcoming November 2008 election. This can make or break many of these councillors and even Mayor Alberts who it is expected and rumoured will be running against Councillor Kim Richter this time out! By the way Richter's opposition to the plan elicited the only rousing audience applause.

Heck quite a few residents even braved going to the council meeting last night only to be lectured to ad nauseum from the likes of Steve Ferguson, Charlie Fox, Grant Ward, Howie Vickberg and especially Mayor Kurt Alberts. I am told Alberts had a prepared multi page presentation. Under the guise of debate amongst themselves on council, these Cllrs. essentially droned on and on, pontificating clearly only for the TV audience and the chambers audience. Finally an audience member who had enough of this redundant and pathetic self serving lecturing spoke out that they should stop their lectures. Both Mayor Alberts and Cllr. Vickberg severely and vocally chastised the female audience member. Par for the course says this Editor!

On today's CBC radio news at 6:15am Mayor Alberts again droned on about how well and good this decision was. What he failed to state was that there was no adequate warning or even attempt to inform the residents of Fort Langley about the major changes to this complex. He completely ignored the wishes of the in excess of 250+ people. He never even mentioned them at all. He did however say that they got the approval of 24 residents in the Bedford Landing area. So he listened and quoted the 24 people who have lived there for only maybe 6 months or more and ignored the in excess of 250 residents that have lived there for countless many years!

So that is how the "good ole boys" on Township council listen and work for you, the community!
(Visit here again as this Editor will be adding more news and pertinent info to this posting within the next few days.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fort Langley Xmas Surprise: Waterfront 4 Story Building For Seniors If You're 45 Years Old and Up!

The old Fort Langley Interfor lands mill site has a well renowned developer building beautiful homes in what is now known as Bedford landing. They are also now seeking Township council's final approval to build a so-called Seniors apartment building by the river in Fort Langley just west of the Fort Pub on Glover road. This was always planned and envisioned years ago as a place for Langley and especially Fort Langley seniors to retire to and still remain in Langley/Fort Langley.

The issue from this Editor's point of view as well as some other now very surprised long time Fort Langley residents at this past council meeting on Monday is that suddenly just a week or two before Christmas the proposed Seniors residence has sprouted a couple of astounding and unforeseen surprises that were not originally planned or indeed intended!

What changes? First of all it will now be a 4 story building not 3 as originally planned! Secondly the building will be for so called senior adults only and specifically for those 45 and older! Gee, I guess a lot of 45 year olds will now be surprised to find out the new definition of seniors. When asked what the price per unit was, the answer given was a very early qualified guesstimate in the range of ~$300,000 a unit (In the attached rendering one has to wonder what the waterfront/mountain 4th level units will sell for to the 45 year old seniors!) . Now keep in mind that this building will be located right on the Fraser River channel with the Fort Pub building to its east. Also have a look at the architectural renderings of the building. Does this look like Fort Langley style and structure to you? That's what it was supposed to always be. All in all a lot of surprises about the structure and new criteria for tenants.

One cannot blame the developer for maximizing the quantity of units but as one of the opponents to the proposal indicated he called for council to say no and to remain within the 3 story original guidelines. He also said that this was the wedge to perhaps build even more 4 story buildings in Fort Langley.

What concerned the small group of local surprised Fort Langley residents in attendance was that it sure sounded like it would be rushed through just before Christmas on December 10 and now on December 17th by Township council without the vast majority of local residents being aware of these dramatic changes . Councillor Richter moved to table it till at least January with again, no surprise, no seconder. Her intention was to at least give all the Fort Langley community some better notice and to let them know about the new changes to the original plan.

So in a nutshell the issues beside the dramatic new changes are also the facts that the vast majority of Fort Langley as well as all of Langley residents were not apprised of or indeed aware of these significant changes to the original plan and that it now appears at least to this Editor that it will probably be rammed through 7 days before Christmas! The old "ram it through before Xmas trick"! I hope not because even this Editor is not yet convinced that these changes are in keeping with the original form and character of the community. Not to mention that this editor is surprised to learn the new Bedford definition of senior is 45 years old!

This Editor thinks that the whole decision should be put off a month or two at least so as to let the community and taxpayers know what the changes contemplated are. Think about it, a 4 level building in Fort Langley by the river! This Editor does not live any where near Fort Langley but I as well as all of the Langley taxpayers covet the unique Fort Langley ambiance and design criteria. All of us should seriously expect this Council to get all of our opinions on this structure first before rushing ahead with it 7 days before Xmas. The busiest time of the year! But then again, what's so different between this and the proposed ground water management plan? The timing matches! Both need much more public input before Council's rubber stamp is put on them. If you are at all concerned about this, email before Monday December 17th 2007. Merry Christmas from your Langley Township council "good ole boys club" !?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How To Honour Muriel Arnason?

Our poll posted earlier while still open for votes, declares the following final results of what to name after former Township Councillor & Freewoman Muriel Arnason;
44% - Council chambers meeting room/presentation center
18% - Langley Events Center
9% - Township Civic Building/City Hall
5% - New Aldergrove Pool
17% - Other with No Suggestions
2% - A street -like 'Arnason Way'
2% - Museum
2% - Spoiled
The above is what YOU suggest and want. What this Council finally decides is another story that I'm sure you will find is altogether different and that I surely will comment on as well! Hopefully because it will exceed my and your expectations!
ALSO Don't forget to Honour Muriel Arnason by attending her services!

Susan Semonick On Schools - Nov 26 HD Stafford Parent Meeting

November 26th HD Stafford Secondary Parent information meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many Grade 12 students will they accept at HD?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully submitted:

Susan Semonick

Thursday, December 06, 2007

‘Sweet’ deal has neighbours riled (The Province, 06 Dec 2007, Page A9)

"Good Ole Boys" On Langley Township Council looking after your Tax Dollars ! But they are good at tax increases !

‘Sweet’ deal has neighbours riled
The Province
06 Dec 2007

Langley Township has sold threequarters of an acre for just $12,000 — in an area where an acre can command up to $400,000. The sale of the township’s right-ofway to local resident David Gilroy was called “ridiculously low” yesterday by neighbour... read more...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Muriel Arnason Service Details

A public funeral service for Muriel Arnason will be held at Christian Life Assembly at 21277-56th Ave (across from the Langley airport) on;

Thursday December 13th at 1 PM.
A visitation can also be attended by the public at Henderson Funeral Home at 20786 Fraser Highway Langley on;
Wednesday December 12th between 6 PM and 8 PM.
The public is invited to both events by her family.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Muriel Arnason Passes Away December 1st 2007 - Passing of a Langley Legend

Muriel Arnason, Langley's longest serving Township Councillor, first female Councillor and first Township Freewoman died suddenly last night. It is with sadness that we report the passing of a legend who will long be remembered for sticking up for the "little guy" and for always fighting the good fight on behalf of the residents and taxpayers in this community. Thank you so very much Muriel. You will always be remembered. Our thoughts and prayers go to her daughter Petrina and to her other family members.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Does Sponsorship/Liberals 2004 = Schreiber/Mulroney/Conservatives 2008?

Everybody is talking about the newly revived $300,000 (or rather $500,0o0) Schreiber affair but meanwhile 4 other key issues to watch that have now arisen out of this core controversy may have even longer and more extensive legs.

Specifically they are:
1) Mulroney/Conservatives wireless telephone industry influences/decisions. (See G & M here.)
2)The McKays/Schreiber connections. (See CTV here. )
3)Scheiber's lawyer accusations about the powers to be in the conservative government that in his opinion tried exceptionaly hard to extradite Schreiber as a political move only. (See Toronto Star here.)
4) Finally the Mulroney/Harper relationship, and their publicly well known new and old Conservative party chumminess and potential influences/conflicts that are very diffilcult to ignore even if Mulroney for all intents and purposes has been declared hot by the ruling conservatives. This declaration by Harper that all should not be in contact with him for the duration essentially makes one wonder why this is even neccessary. Does this mean the contacts were that great?

Mark my word that these together are explosive and you can now bet that the Liberals are targeting an election definitely next spring now that the controversial shoe is now definitely on the other foot! Also the Libs & Cons are NOW tied in all the polls and using the above controversies (actual and/or perceived) will probably create enough of a wedge for a minority Liberal government. Meanwhile the NDP and Bloc say both the past & present Libs. & Cons. are not clean of any corruption. Also the Harperites are in desperate spin control now and are praying that no more new skeletons are found. Actual or perceived!

The real and final question that the Libs feel good about right now is:
Does Sponsorship/Liberals 2004 = Schreiber/Mulroney/Conservatives 2008?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's $500K re: Mulroney/Schreiber Affair, not $300K says Schreiber at House of Commons Ethics Committee

What a couple of weeks of admitted mistakes! Former PM Mulroney says the biggest mistake he ever made was taking the $300,000 cash payment, former PM Chretien says that if he knew about the $300,000 cash payment to Mulroney at the time, his government of the day would have reconsidered paying the ~$2 million slander and libel settlement paid by the canadian taxpayers to Mulroney. I guess this was another mistake? And in little ole Langley, Councillor Bateman finally admits that his so called re-election team made a mistake in advertising a raffle for his fund raising luncheon! Mistakes, political mistakes?

Meanwhile German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, at today's House of Commons Ethics Committee while holding back on most details on the affair due to preparation requirements did reveal a few gems from his point of view. He says that former PM Mulroney/Schreiber affair arrangement was for $500,000 and not just $300,000 paid to Mulroney. Schreiber said Mulroney only got $300k because he did not do the work that he was expected of him at that time. He refused to at this time say what he expected but did say it certainly was not for "pasta". Schreiber also said that he was told that Mulroney "was in desperate straights and needed the money" at the time.. He also name dropped multiple prominent names that it is assumed will play prominently in the committee hearings over the next weeks if not months!

See CBC for a report and see Rafe Mair's column of "vital questions" that he insists should be asked of Mulroney. The whole affair was revitalized by the cbc's Fith Estate newsmagazine report. View the Fifth Estate complete report and timeline at

Schreiber was today's big winner by probably remaining in Canada longer and now going to house arrest as opposed to a detention center. Shreiber easily controlled the whole committee agenda today that was clearly for his benefit. Stay tuned the committee resumes on Tuesday live on TV.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Letter To The Editor - Nov 28, 2007 - From Ed Monteith - Water Management Plan, Bamboozled by the experts again?

As a resident of Langley Township, I am sitting at my keyboard almost in a state of disbelief as I keep thinking about the township's headlong rush to solve the problem of our diminishing aquifer levels. Compounding this disbelief, is the direction that our council is about to take when they decide that metering our private well water will be front and center when solving this long and predictable downhill slide regarding the state of these aquifers. Then, as if this enormously important decision needs nothing in way of more inteligent input, our council is presently scheduled to ram this through by December 31st of this year. Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see what you get, when you don't pay attention to who you vote for at municipal elections. If you own a well, be sure to attend last open house on this issue, at the Murrayville Firehall from 4 to 8 PM on november 29th You should then try to filter the bafflegarb from the reality of what's about to happen.

The Sunday Times (Nov.25th) has a quote from Dixon-Warren, the township's engineering department's groundwater specialist. He states that the water management aim is to establish guidelines for preserving both the quality and quantity of groundwater. Let's stop and think for a momment right there. Why? Because the TOWNSHIP itself has failed to do this, and continues to do so on a daily basis. They have done this time and time again, when they have allowed poorly planned development practices to destroy our forest ground cover, which retains our rainfall, which in turn allows clean water to filter into our aquifers. They have turned a blind eye when their development methods have allowed water to go from rooftop to rain gutter, and then to storm sewers and ditches, where it is lost on a fast track to nowhere useful. Flash floods in ditches and streams give us strong evidence of this after every heavy rainfall.. Dixon- Warren then goes on to say: "You can't manage it (water) unless you know who is using it and what is coming in and out" Well exactly my dear Doctor Watson, but let's get to the cause of the illness, and that is the township's poor planning and engineering practices sitting right there front and center. Methods of water RETENTION has never entered their minds I can only assume, yet in the State of Florida it has been a comon practice as far back as I can remember, and that's over 50 years. Such inteligence and foresight was perhaps never considered, and now the township has chosen to treat the symptom of this ailment (diminishing supply) rather than the very blatant cause which is located at the front end of the supply and consume cycle. Open your eyes Mr. Mayor and council et all. Look right across the road from the City Hall behind London Drugs, and you will see enough water wasted with each flash flood, to feed every well in the township for at least a month or more. It can no longer be absorbed and held by the vegetation that you have reclessly allowed to be destroyed by the gung-ho development on the south slope of the willoughby escarpment. Nice going guys !

A township manager involved with the water resources stated very loosely in the same article that the township "Expects" the provincial government to pick up the cost of water meters estimated at between $1000 and $2000 dollars. Hurry up with a firm promise here, because we only have until the 31st of December before this headlong rush to a huge blunder becomes irreversable. Most private well owners already have $20,000 and more tied up in their water systems and also have maintenance costs added as well. Charging for additional hardware for the water delivered from these facilities will be adding insult to injury.

Before I go on any further, let's turn our eyes towards Darth Vader, who lurks manacingly at the source of this messy controversy. Darth is of course is a symbol of none other that the Ministry of Agriculture. Remember them? You should, because they have already brought us misery via their letter of the law enforcement of the Right to Farm Act. Oh yeah, they are very friendly to the environement. NOT ! I'll just remind everyone how they have ignored our envirnment regularly each time they confuse INDUSTRY with REAL FARMING, and readers can assemble their own list. You might begin with with mushroon composters , and how their leash seems to get longer with every passing day as they are excused for the foul air they create in abundance.

At this moment there is every reason for the township council to slow the process, before starting with the metering of private wells. That procedure would be a costly, and a very large and complex program to implement fairly. There are far too many contributing factors to the diminishing levels of our water tables, and a fast track will contribute nothing sensible when prioritizing solutions. Let's start first with the worst offender among the others, and that is without a doubt the entity that holds the reins of this runaway horse. Yes indeed, it's the township itself. I'm sure that Confusious once said: "Check horse's mouth before looking up other end for problem". (LFP Editor's note - see 3 part Richter report for more)

Ed Monteith

Good Morning Langley! - So Just How Stupid is Stupid? Council Sells OUR 3/4 acre land for $12,500!

In another classic Mayor Alberts and slate move last Monday (Nov.26/07), they approved the sale of ¾ of an acre of land close to the Salmon River for $12,500 to one of the neighbours next to this land. They did this after hearing a delegation from another neighbour to the land who offered to pay Council $25,000 (double the money!) right there and then for the same land. He even offered to bring out his check book at the council meeting as a sign of his good faith!

When questioned by one of the councilors (yes-you guessed it by Councillor Richter - who else?), this second neighbour said that he had not even been offered the chance to buy the same land. But he would. Right then and right there. Councillors Kositsky, Richter and Long (the veteran team, aka the smart group) opposed the sale because they thought that in light of this new information it should be sent back to staff for more research. However, Mayor Alberts staunchly opposed this idea and the rest of the Jeniuses on Council followed his lead.

So ¾ of an acre in the Salmon River Uplands is sold for $12,500. What’s the average property assessment value around there – something like $750,000 per acre? What a deal! Meanwhile, the Township is busy buying property in Willoughby for parks at probably a lot more than $12,500 per acre (like try $1 million per acre).

Why is there such a disconnect with this council? Get ready for another tax increase – I’m not sure they even know how to add.

P.S. You wanna laugh or rather cry even more? This Editor has heard that the proposed 2008 Township tax increase is starting off this time at 7.5%. Any bets that the raffle meister, Cllr. Jordan Bateman scores a hat trick with his 3rd consecutive year's motion to increase our tax bill by another 4.95% ? Lets see ( I'm betting he won't move it this year. He's clued in so he'll probably get Cllr. Fox to do it!). That would be 15% compounded over 3 years! Even more historic than before! But of course to these financial Jeniuses this makes perfectly good sense, especially when you sell off ¾ of an acre anywhere in Langley for $12,500 and still fight off even higher bidders!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - Amalgamate, Amalgamate, Amalgamate

I do agree with Mr. Bysouth and Mr. Woode. Amalgamation would better utilize our tax dollars by cutting down on the cost of politicians thereby leaving more money for services without increasing taxes.

There is one thing though that people should realize - that even though the school district is considered a single area, right now no voter has a say on who will sit in each and every seat on the Board.

There is no voter parity. The voters in the City who are determined to change the make-up of the Board at the next election do not have the power to make that change as they can only vote for two of the seats, not all seven. And yet, as we have seen this past year, it is the decision of those trustees who they CAN NOT elect who can make the difference in their children’s education. Is this right?

It was stated at the last Board meeting that approximately 400 Aldergrove parents have expressed their concerns about placing a middle school program in a Secondary. They are now looking at a stand alone 6-8 middle in that area. We will not know until the new year but it certainly looks like the trustees will listen. Yet, when well over 700 parents stated their concerns about a middle school in the city nothing was changed. Why? Could one of the reasons be that those people do not vote for the majority of the Board? There is a way to correct this and there is still time before the next election. Go to and sign the petition. If there is enough renewed interest, I will send it by May to the Minister of Education.

Wishing voter parity

Susan Semonick

Monday, November 26, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - District Foundation Annual Report – A Comedy of Errors or a Tragedy?

My night reading was a colourful 16-page brochure, which the Langley School District Foundation put out as their Annual Report. I thought it would help put me to sleep. It did not. What it did was leave me with a lot of questions and a headache. The booklet read like a cheap whodunit that disoriented you with constant back and forth of changing time. Unlike a good mystery that skilfully takes you to a satisfactory 'aha’ ending, searching for clues or facts in the report was like being led through a showy maze and getting lost while stumbling along the way over more than a baker’s dozen of spelling and grammatical errors littered throughout. At the end, you end up with no resolution and only red eyes. One would think that an organization associated with an educational group such as a school district would pay more attention to the fundamentals of writing.

Annual Reports often have two functions. There is the legal requirement to provide financial reporting and a summary of the past year’s activities. The glossy, colourful versions are also an organization’s calling card, its public face or foot forward if you will. This year’s annual report for the Langley School District Foundation does a disservice to the numerous volunteers and donors who have chosen to give of their time and resources. At the very least, I would expect that the names of the generous donors be correct. This is a sign of respect and appreciation. The corporate donors would not complain but they do take notice. The Foundation has several people in business as directors so they should understand that the corporate name is extremely important and that a lot of thought, time and resources have been put into creating a corporate image, which includes the company name. It is disturbing to note how many of these have been misspelled in some way (15 at last count, before my eyes got tired) including that of the Foundation’s largest benefactor, McDonald’s (with an apostrophe please), and even Campbell Burton & McMullan (with the ampersand, and evidently with or without the comma) which just happens to be the Chair of the Langley Board of Education’s firm. I am not sure if ‘Paddlewheelers’ that have apparently also supported the Foundation is a riverboat cruise company, a pub, or a liquor store but it would be nice to give acknowledgment to where it is appropriately due and not elsewhere. The School District spent so much money on behalf of the Foundation on a colour brochure that one would have expected that they would have invested in a spell-checker and an expert proofreader. This is not being fussy; it is about respect and professionalism in conducting business. There are many other charities to donate to; the competition is fierce. Why would you not want to cultivate good relationships and present yourself and your donors in the best way possible? Do you not learn this in Basic Business 101?

I compared the information presented in the brochure with the audited financial statements and had more questions than answers. If you told me that the annual report was a piece of fiction, I might not argue with you right now. The numbers do not seem to add up.

Let us start with the obvious. As I said, the report seems to be purposefully vague about time. First, the Foundation was officially established in November 2001 and yet the report refers to 2005-06 as its first year. It may be the first year for the establishment of certain events but that is not how the annual report reads and I find this, once again, disrespectful to the directors and many others who worked hard to establish the Foundation in 2001 and continued to develop it for many years. After all, the Foundation reported assets of over $692,000 at the end of the 2004-2005 fiscal year.

Second, while the annual report is supposed to report activities of the past year, it often reports out past activities and success to provide context and history. This is fine if you are clear and exact about what happened when and how much was raised in each time period. However, this is not the case when you read the Foundation’s report. Stories of successes, those of the Foundation AS WELL AS those of other organizations, and endeavours not a result of direct Foundation activities, are sprinkled liberally throughout the report and make it look like the Foundation has achieved more than it really has. One is never quite sure whether the amounts reported are for this fiscal year, a past year, a one-time revenue or a cumulative accounting of revenue and grants. I am developing a begrudging awe of the Foundation’s ability to cast a wide net, attach itself to numerous other activities, and present a kaleidoscope of its padded successes.

Third, the numbers that are provided about the two events that the Foundation does actually conduct do not match the figures contained in its audited financial statements. It is interesting that the usual information, balance sheet, income statement, etc. are not included in the annual report as is customary. The reader is, instead, directed to a website to find this information. The annual report states that the wine and cheese gala raised $74,000 and golf tournament raised $55,000. However, if you look at the financial statements, the net revenue for the wine and cheese is $12,590 and the net revenue for the golf tournament is $16,660. Even if you add in the other donations recorded for the past year of $18,860, this only totals $48,110 not the stated $129,000 for the two events. The numbers do not even match the reported revenue for last year, so it would be difficult to suggest that figures refer to different fiscal years.

The only reason the Foundation can state that it provided schools with $60,000 in grants is because of the transfer of $125,000 of school district funds to Foundation coffers. There is no doubt that SOME of the programs that are supported by donations, as well as redirected school district funds are worthwhile. The Langley School District, like many others, is fortunate in having generous corporate as well as individual donors. However, some would question why a few of these programs like the Reading Recovery Conference for Teachers could or should not be funded by district or other outside funds. As I have said repeatedly, there is an issue of lack of accountability regarding these monies, and decisions that should be made by trustees and not Foundation directors.

Apparently 70% of it’s funds raised is “earmarked” for particular school programs and incentives and 30% goes towards an endowment fund. Again, the numbers do not add up. It seems that a good portion of the transferred $125,000 is being “held” in this endowment fund for future use. What about the needs of current students?

As far as I have researched, it does not appear that the school district records the wages of the Foundation’s executive director as a donation, nor does it appear that the Foundation records it as a gift in kind or pay for it and include it as an expense. Why would they? Then it would show that there is actually a net loss and that the cost of running the Foundation is greater than the donations that it receives, if you do not include the huge transfer of funds from the school district, which I do not.

Why do donations to PACs need to be funnelled through the Foundation when the school district is able to issue charitable receipts directly? Again, is it to paint a pretty picture for the Foundation? See page 11 of the report. Much of what the Foundation did was simply provide charitable receipts. There was no direct fundraising by the Foundation; the schools and/or PACs did the work. Nonetheless, it looks good on the income statement.

Why are the two trustees and the secretary-treasurer of the school district reported as “at-arm’s length” when they in my opinion appear not to be? Until this past year, the Foundation did not meet the criteria for being a public foundation. They do now, and that is good but why did it take so long to comply?

As I said, there are too many questions and inconsistencies. The Foundation’s Annual Report is a pretty presentation, full of inaccuracies and errors, that confuses more than it explains.

A parent has asked for copy of the Foundation’s charity return that it would have submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency. Perhaps I will be able to find out why my math does not seem to be the same as that of the Foundation.

This is an opinion on the Foundation’s Annual Report that was produced using school district funds that could have been better used for direct student services.
I would like to make it clear that I am not against the Foundation. What I am opposed to is the school district’s contribution of grant and endowment monies, office space, web space, an employee and office supplies without accounting for all of it. In times when we are closing schools and disrupting people’s lives all in the name of finance, the school district should ensure that students’ basic needs are met before addressing the fluff.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Richter Report - Nov. 23, 2007 – Additional Clarifications on the Water Management Plan (WMP) - Part 3

I think perhaps some clarifications are in order based on your written comments and phone calls to my earlier posting about the proposed draft water management plan.

First of all, I was not on the planning committee. I was appointed by Council as one of three council observers to meetings of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC). As observers, we were not allowed to sit at the SAC meeting table. We were required to sit in the background and to not interfere in the discussions. (Although we could ask questions from time to time).

The SAC met 4 times: March 22, May 1, June 14 and November 14, 2007. I attended 3 of these meetings (March, May and November). Councillors Fox and Ferguson each attended 2. There was a 5 month gap between the last 2 SAC meetings during which time the Interagency Planning Committee wrote the draft report. The SAC did not see this report until a week before their meeting on November 14, 2007. This meeting was from 2 pm to 8 pm with a half hour dinner break. The purpose of the meeting was to go through the 44 recommendations in the draft report. Some members of the SAC were not present at this final meeting so their input on the report recommendations was not obtained. One member of the committee had not even had time to read the report prior to the meeting. Another member showed up half way through the meeting.

The Interagency Planning Team (IPT) consisted of staff members from the Township Water Resources Department, the BC Ministry of the Environment, and the BC Ministry of Agriculture. The IPT met 22 times over the past year. There were no members of the public, the SAC or Council present at their meetings. The IPT, with the assistance of an external consultant, wrote the draft report.

Members of the SAC represented 13 different organizations/groups in the community such as commercial agriculture, hobby farms, environmental stewardship, developers, industrial users, drillers, health authority, DFO, and private well owners. To my knowledge, SAC members were chosen by the Interagency Planning Team (IPT). There was no public call for participants and there was no approval of membership by Council.

On November 5, 2007, a 4 page staff report came to Council (Report #07-194). This report contained a summary of the draft (IPT) Water Management Plan and requested that Council receive the staff report (not the IPT draft report), and authorize a final meeting of the SAC as well as two public open houses. Council was informed in this staff report that "a copy of the Draft Water Management Plan is available for viewing in the Clerk's Office". So Council did not actually read the draft IPT report until after they voted on the motion because Council did not receive a copy of the IPT report to read until the following week.

In addition, the staff report to Council highlighted only 16 of the IPT's 44 recommendations. It did not note that 24 of the 44 recommendations were considered "Core Recommendations" or that the "Core Recommendations are considered central to the plan; removing any one of them will accordingly jeopardize the integrity of the plan and meeting the objectives consistent with the Ministerial Order". (p.2 - IPT draft Water Management Plan [WMP] report)

Furthermore, the staff report to Council said that "The planning team envisions a dedicated governing body overseeing the implementation of the is envisioned that the body will be non-profit, self-funding, representative...The Province is currently undertaking a study to look at options for water governance bodies across BC" [Editor's italics]. There was no mention of this being a Core Recommendation which in fact it is (p.38 - IPT draft WMP report).

At the November 5, 2007 Council meeting, I asked several questions about the costs incorporated in the report and about this proposed governing body for water. I was informed by the Township's General Manager of Engineering that this was a work in progress and that there were no specific answers to my questions. (Why is that? How can you write a report and not know what the answers are?). At this same meeting, I also raised concerns about pushing this report through to the public just before Christmas.

Secondly, if this is just "a work in progress" and "hardly a firm document with binding resolutions" as some suggest, then why the rush to get public and Council approval on it prior to December 31, 2007? Why does the IPT draft WMP state that this is "currently in Step 3 of a 7-step WMP program which includes legislative and non-legislative steps" (p.10 - IPT draft WMP report).Why is Step 4 a provincial Order in Council? Step 5 an Implementation Regulation? And Step 6 = Compliance and Enforcement? (p.11 - IPT draft WMP report). Why did the public Open House materials show in big cardboard print last night that 2007 was for public input and that 2008 was for implementation, regulation and enforcement?

Thirdly, this process has not been driven by a committee of community stakeholders as has been suggested. Rather, it has been driven by the bureaucrats who even went so far as to choose the volunteer members of this committee of community stakeholders.

However, I do want to make it very clear that the volunteers in question did an excellent job within the scope that they were given. They were informed, committed and passionate about the topic of water. They gave 24 hours of their time and experience and expertise but they did not write the report. They were only asked to comment on it and do so at one meeting (November 14, 2007).

Fourthly and finally, I absolutely remain committed to protecting groundwater. I always have been. I live on the Hopington aquifer. I have for 22 years. I have a private well and a septic system. Like thousands of others in this Township, I pay for the upkeep of these by myself. I do not get municipal assistance for them. I value the water that I have and I take care of it. My husband and I have been Township “Water Wise” participants. We have gone door-to-door in our neighbourhood talking about how to protect private wells and maintain septic systems.

I chaired the 2002 Water Resources Management Strategy public advisory committee that recommended a 20 year/$20 million comprehensive action plan for the management of groundwater resources. Under this plan, $1 million per year would be spent on protecting groundwater. This plan was approved by Council in 2002 and I have assumed that it was implemented as planned. So, I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when I read in the draft IPT WMP (p.1) that these efforts have not been enough. Apparently more “provincial regulatory tools” are needed (like a “Conservation Board”?).

I do not oppose protecting groundwater but what I do oppose is the creation of another bureaucracy in order to do so. What I oppose is sitting in a public advisory meeting as an observer and listening to provincial bureaucrats say things like: "There is no legislative mechanism to charge for groundwater use but local government can charge for the provision of service which in this case is the protection of quality and quantity of groundwater. You're not charging for water but charging for service".

We probably do need metering but we do not need a separate, appointed, taxing authority to run it just because this is a way to get around things from the provincial government’s perspective.

Am I passionate about protecting groundwater? You bet! But not at the cost of another bureaucracy.

I hope I've answered some of the questions that people have raised as a result of my initial post. Thank you all for taking the time to write and voice your concerns. This is a very important issue and I appreciate hearing from you. Please go to the last open house on Thursday Nov. 29 (4 to 8pm) at Firehall #6 and voice your concerns there so all of council can hear them.

Editor's Note: This is Part 3 on the WMP. See Kim's initial post at Part 1 and another post at part 2 on the WMP.

Susan Semonick On Schools - Education Board Report

Children with special needs put on your life jackets.

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

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

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

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

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

Board Meeting DelegationsThere were four delegations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully Submitted:

Susan Semonick