Monday, April 30, 2007

Langley School District April 24th Education Report by Susan Semonick

Another Long Meeting
Well, I attempted to get some of my suggestions out there. As usual there was not enough time. I had practiced my presentation and was within the time allotment but for some reason the final minute bell went before I got to the fourth page of my presentation. So, as a Board Report thismonth I will include the complete presentation.

There were about 300 people at this meeting. Still a good turn out, even though notice of the venue change to the gymnasium at Langley Secondary was sent out at 3:09 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Consultation and dialogue was the main request from all presenters.

Bradshaw parents understand their circumstance and the reasons for the probable closure of their school. Now, they are trying to ensure that their children are transitioned to Noel Booth along with their French Immersion Program. Some of them are actually relieved that they are the second school of many – at least they will likely be able to relocate to one school instead of several schools, which may become the case for other schools to follow. For, in reality, the last school on the list will not have that option.

The group of Librarians that created the “Library Information Skills Survival Guide” was applauded and recognized for being honoured with the Angela Thacker Memorial Award from the Canadian Association for School Libraries.

The Foundation did a presentation about what the money raised by the Wine and Cheese went to, which was a special needs equipment loan library at Simonds Elementary. Ronald MacDonald House was the main contributor. There was also a donation to Uplands Elementary for hearing impaired equipment. They are a major supporter of the school district and have been for many years even prior to the establishment of the Foundation.

There were 8 presenters - 2 from Bradshaw elementary, 4 from HD Stafford, 1 from LSS, and myself.

Mr. Fassbender was in attendance and he seemed quite disheartened by how the meeting was going.

Update Report on Class Size
There still are classes with over 30 students - one was the French Immersion class at LSS standing at 34. The teacher and administration are in agreement to allow this for, if they did not, some students would not be able to take French Immersion. I guess this is when the dollars come into play and why they cannot split the number and operate at 17 in each class. If they would do some of my suggestions they would have the money to do this.

Aldergrove Elementary Transition
The Aldergrove Elem. transition is going smoothly. The principal from Aldergrove will be the principal at Shortreed next year. Most students have chosen to attend Shortreed next year with about 12 students going to Betty Gilbert and 15 to Parkside.

Proposed 2007/08 Budget
With what appears to be little thought or debate the final proposed budget has been passed. Trustee Burton’s motion to add $35,000 for a psychologist and $15,000 for CUPE training and Pro-D to address staffing changes due to retirements was carried. Interesting that this was done by increasing the hold back amount, which is an amount that no one can really estimate or depend upon really receiving from the Ministry. But then as one trustee said, this is only a proposed budget and the real one will be dealt with when the students arrive in September, and that may be a gloomier picture.

Community Discussion Process for LSS and HDS communities
The community discussion process was discussed and altered and we will have to read it in the board news because the process was disorganized, it was late, and even the Trustees were not really clear about what they voted on.

The Foundation and School District Business Company annual reports were received. Comments are within my presentation.

One Trustee was really disruptive by making sidebar comments and really appearing to be discontent with the manner in which Mr. Burton was running the meeting. Maybe they will be the next chair, hope not. In June, I would hope that possibly Trustee McVeigh would consider this position.

Trustee Bech tried to put forth a motion to dissolve the SDBC, which was defeated along with a motion to look into the cost of doing such. This also was defeated. It appears she is the only trustee at this time willing to look at areas that do not affect the students. We can only hope that if the situation has not improved that the president of the company himself will recommend pulling the plug.

Notice of Motion
Throughout the night the gallery in the bleachers were very vocal in their attempts to get the trustees to rescind the motions passed at the last meeting regarding both LSS and HDS. By the end of a very long and confusing night, they managed to get there part way. One trustee made a notice of motion to rescind several of the motions from April 10th relating to HDS and French Immersion. It remains to be seen what will happen at the next meeting. To my mind this is just giving false hope and is irresponsible.

The following is the presentation I had planned to make to the Board on April 24th. As I stated, I only got part way.

On January 18th 2007, the Ministry of Education sponsored a forum on rural schools.
Representatives from all provincial partner groups tackled ten key questions.
I will address four similar questions in relation to Langley School District’s current consultations, educational issues, and proposed 2007/08 budget.
Question #1
Are there structures we can create or change that will enable the district to increase efficiencies and improve effectiveness, yet maintain a high level of service?
My answer is absolutely. I will elaborate on two changes that could be implemented.
The school district can streamline the structure regarding custodial services by reducing the number of supervisory positions and reconfiguring the shift.
This would provide an economic efficiency of an estimated $60,000 per year – over the course of the next five years this could amount to about $300,000 from the DDM.
Three years ago, a decision was made to add this expense to school budgets at a cost of $3.00 per student - regardless of whether your school had a problem or not. It probably costs much more now.
As I understand it, this position was originally temporary, and created subject to a review.
Last year, when I asked about the evaluation of the validity and effectiveness of having this position, I was told it was too soon to do that assessment. Well, I wonder when will it be soon enough?
If the hours of one supervisor were shifted, would the second of these positions be required?
If the position was created to monitor performance of workers, it has been three years and therefore, shouldn’t the problems be identified and addressed by now?
With the closure of facilities surely this means some of the workload will be alleviated.
Principals should be able to manage the staff in their buildings. This is a communications, staff training and performance issue.
What happened to “do your job and do it well “or “goodbye, you are easily replaced”.
Supervisory staff should be for the safety of children NOT to ensure job compliance.

Another structural change could be to centralize some services and programs.
The days of having at least one of everything at each school is long gone.
The district has recognized this and in recent years has been selective in the location and breadth of programs it has introduced.
We now need to go back and review the programs that have existed for many years that are now faltering for a variety of reasons as times change.
The district should look at consolidating services in certain areas. One area of possibility is in the delivery of special needs services.
What has been suggested are special centres within schools where special needs students could have the benefit of being a member of a class, as well as having access to more resources, and qualified, less stressed staff who have the opportunity and time to work together as a team.
The benefits are more in terms of staff collaboration, increased level of service to students, a reduction of staff travel time, etc., in essence, a better use of the funds the district is spending in this area to better serve individual students.
I am sure district staff is aware of various programs in other districts that are doing well in this regard.
There is much room for improvement in delivering better services to our special needs students.

Question #2
What are the 2 or 3 big things that need to be changed or eliminated?
Many would concede that it is inevitable that more schools will be closed, whether we like it or not.
However, if the district is looking to close schools, then the very least it could do is examine its practices at the school board offices and its association with other organizations – namely the School District Business Company and the School District Foundation.
Specifically, I call upon the Board to immediately cease all transfer of school district funds, all loans, all donations of cash and in kind services to the School District Foundation, and SDBC; AND in addition, to significantly reduce its monetary support to DPAC.
The annual report and financial statements of the SDBC and the SDF that are scheduled to be received for information this evening will not be news to anyone who has followed these tales of misadventure.
The SDBC, established in 2002 has yet to record any significant profit and in fact this year has a net loss of $8,774.
The directors have never received remuneration for their services. If we factor in an honorarium that they would have customarily received, as well as the outstanding loan to the School district, this is far from a success story.
The president of the SDBC acknowledged at the last AGM that this is a critical year for the company.
A trustee noted several years ago that a bake sale would have raised more money than the school district's business company.
Clearly, if nothing changes by the end of this fiscal year it is time for the sole shareholder (Langley Board of Education) to cut its losses and dissolve the company.

The School District Foundation is a far more serious concern, as it not only deals with funding but also with the issue of transparency and accountability.
The district should cease the annual transfer of funds, which for the year ending June 2006 was $75.000 and has increased this past year to $125,000.
It should also cease the provision of staffing to the Foundation that is valued at over $40,000.
The School District has charitable status and is able to issue charitable receipts.
Corporations as well as individuals continue to donate to school districts that have not established Foundations.
What the establishment of the Foundation and the transfer of school district funds to the Foundation have facilitated is the elimination of transparency and accountability.
In essence, as the Foundation and its directors are responsible for how the donations are spent, the school trustees are no longer answerable to the public for how the $125,000 is specifically used.
The criteria and decision-making is outside of the Board of Education and there is no opportunity for the public to question or hold the Foundation accountable for the spending of what were originally school district funds.
If the school district’s own donation, donations from the public targeted for specific school projects like playgrounds, and interest and expenses are deducted, then in 2005/06 the Foundation generated less in corporate donations than the value of the salary of the Executive Director which the school district is donating in addition to direct funds.
This is in effect a net loss venture.
The purpose of the Foundation was to generate corporate donations, NOT to solicit small local businesses that PACs have traditionally looked to for support. This is what Trustee Ross had promised would not happen.
If the district wants to support PALS, Rec’n Reading, Special Needs, etc. then do so and be accountable for where it spends its money.
There should be no decrease in corporate donations as the school district can still issue charitable receipts under its own tax number.
Stop the transfer of school district funds, and staffing and bring back accountability and transparency.
Now, let us address the contribution to DPAC.
The district’s annual contribution of $8,000, although deemed minor by trustees and district staff, is nonetheless funds that the school district does not need to spend – at least not as much.
At the current time, DPAC is financially secure. They receive $2,500 in direct access grants each year.
They also have a reserve of about $20,000 – certainly sufficient funds to maintain day-to-day operations for several years given prudent stewardship.
The school district provides copying services, office space, telephone service, meeting rooms, professional services support, in-district mail service, and some professional development for parents - all at no charge.
DPAC’s average annual expenses are about $6000.00. This includes approx. $1600.00 for BCCPAC registration fees.
DPAC could leave each PAC to pay this nominal fee of $65.00, as was the custom several years ago.
In which case, DPAC would need to generate or use reserve funds of approx. $2000.00 annually to maintain the current level of expenditures.
Elimination or reduction of the district’s current grant to DPAC would seem in order.
I see no reason why parents would not be willing to tighten their own belts, given we all are in this together and it is the students who will benefit.
Question #3
What are the 2 or 3 big ideas that need to happen by 2009?
By 2009, the trustee electoral area for the Langley Board of Education needs to be amalgamated so that each and every trustee of the Langley Board of Education is elected by all the constituents who live in both the Township and the City.
See this link for information and petition.

Trustees take an oath to represent and to work in the best interests of ALL of the students in the Langley School District.
The manner in which Langley School Board trustees are currently elected is not consistent with this commitment and the principles articulated in the School Trustee Election Procedures.
If the electoral areas were amalgamated every voter in both the Township and the City of Langley would be able to vote for all trustee seats on the Board of Education
The principles of voter parity and fair representation by population would be upheld.
This issue has become especially critical in light of recent statements made by the public regarding the expected obligations of “City “ trustees.
There is only one school district and all trustees are responsible for all students in Langley regardless of where they reside or who elected them.
Furthermore, the number of trustees for the school district should be reduced by two trustee seats.
This will result in an approximate saving of $50,000 as of 2008 annually that can be used to support students.
Question #4
How and which partners will work together to make these things happen?
The answer everyone in the community should work together.
However, working together does not mean only sharing information, and receiving feedback.
Working together means that everyone feels that they have been listened to, whether the parties agree or not.
Working together means a dialogue and many people feel this has NOT happened.
Although people recognize that the district has tried, your attempts have fallen short and have left many feeling unheard.
Throughout the consultations processes to date, trustees and senior management have stated that they are ready to hear and consider all options. There should be no sacred cows – everything should be on the table. Inclusive of Trustee Indemnities and automatic increases.
I challenge this Board to have the courage to take this first step in a long overdue conversation about amalgamation and reduction of the Board.
In conclusion…
The financial savings once all this is done would serve the students’ overall needs.
We will no longer have to play at being Donald Trumps and dream of making that million (or ten).
We will be able to deliver quality education within a specified budget and run things at the highest level of efficiency with no disruption to students.
We will be able to say we did whatever it took to get the job done.
Watch your pennies and the dollars take care of themselves.
Respectfully submitted by
Susan Semonick...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vecchiato's Voice - April 25, 2007 - Deltaport Opposition Opinion

I have attempted to avoid the Gateway debate, mostly because I made a decision when I was 26 that I would never commute more than 30 minutes (this was south of San Francisco). However, my husband does renovations, and his tool-laden van must go to Richmond, Vancouver, or Burnaby, depending on the project.

When I first started working in San Francisco, I took BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), which took me the 30 miles from my hometown of Lafayette in the East Bay; in a flash of an eye, I was passing through Oakland, then under the Bay, and disembarking right in the Financial District. Rapid is the key word here.

Last month, I went to the Gateway and Deltaport Opposition Rally at Delta Community Hall. I did this partially because Pierre Rovtar died in February, and was passionately against Gateway. The arguments against both projects are numerous, and include increased emissions, not only from cars, but from marine vessels. Accordingly to "Gateway to Global Warming," a singer container ship belches more pollution than 2,0000 diesel trucks. Someone asked, "What about the new jobs that will be created by expansion?" However, the truth is, Canada has a trade deficit with China, and the incoming ships will just increase that deficit.

In regard to Gateway, previous promises were given about congestion being alleviated for 7 years with the construction of the Alex Fraser Bridge; in truth, "it was congested within nine months and has remained that way." Ultimately, too, with both projects, there is farmland and green space loss, expropriation of private property, and continued reliance on the automobile that will result from both projects. The concerns about Burns Bog should be taken seriously. Author Bill Burns penned a book "Discover Burns Bog," explaining the vast amount of carbon dioxide a peat bog can absorb. In short, the bog was referred to as "the lungs of Vancouver."

What about solutions? A group of active citizens under the umbrella of VALTAC are pushing for revival of the interurban rail as a transit solution, and I like people offering solutions. Ideally, surveying commuters to see what percentage would use rapid transit would, perhaps, demonstrate a need for transit, not increased highways. The Lower Mainland has been slower in developing than most North American cities and suburbs. As it will be showcased in 2010, progressive decisions such as less sprawl and better public (and rapid) transit should be a futuristic vision. The present plans seem to be a Gateway to the Past.

If you want to hear the other side of the Gateway/Deltaport story, access it on the following link. Riding pubic transit is cool and very urban chic. Different worlds come and go, and the intermingling with the rest of humanity makes our lives richer. Then, of course, there are people who really like to drive. I suppose I'm not one of them.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Langley, Isn't It Time to Exit Afghanistan?

"In a week when Canada lost eight soldiers and cautiously began discussing an exit strategy with its allies, it's become clear the mission in Afghanistan, as currently constructed, is not winnable." Toronto Star April 14.

Other great quotes from the above linked Star article;

  • 'Canada's current fighting role in Afghanistan cannot be sustained.'
  • 'First, we are losing. This is not a popular thing to say. Nor is it a reflection on the skill and bravery of Canadian and other allied troops. But it is a hard fact that has to be faced.'
  • 'The Taliban don't have to beat NATO to win. All they have to do is stay in the game, which is what they are doing.'
  • 'Support at home is limited and dwindling.'
  • 'But in this war, there is little evidence of progress.'
  • 'NATO military efforts are serving only to further alienate the people we are supposed to be helping.'
  • it "will take generations to win" – said Task Force Afghanistan's deputy commander Col. Mike Cessford this week.
  • ' many more Canadians will have to die'
  • 'The war on terror could never work and is not working.'
  • 'The gravest mistake made by U.S. President George W. Bush and his allies was to define the response to these terror attacks in purely military terms.'
  • 'History also demonstrates that war, once unleashed by countries seeking to battle terrorism, can have perverse and unpredictable consequences.'
  • 'Bush's ill-fated Iraq war may provide the clearest example of how a military action, ostensibly designed to curb terror, can end up creating more terrorists.'
  • 'In the end, backfire is also the story of Afghanistan. It was the first target of the war on terror. It was also the first place where that war went wrong.'
  • '..some five years later, bin Laden is still at large, while the Taliban control large swaths of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, London and Madrid have been hit by terror attacks.'
  • 'The war didn't eliminate Al Qaeda. It did throw Afghanistan back into full-blown civil strife, reinvigorate the narco-economy and make the West, rather than Russia, a focus of tribal hatred in the country's south.'
  • 'the Taliban is less interested in negotiation. After all, now it is winning.'
Langley, is it time to exit Afghanistan? This Editor believes it certainly is and that we should go on record with Karzai , Bush and Nato that our commitment to Canada's war in Afghanistan will will last no more than another year and a half. It's high time that Canada focus on more desperate real peace keeping missions like Darfur.

The Taming Of The Shrew? - Courtesy of Donna Passmore

Subject: Rare New Species Discovered at Burns Bog: News Release

From: "Donna Passmore"
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2007 18:53:39 -0700

Sorex rohweri was previously thought to be a Masked Shrew

The 85% of Lower Mainland residents who support protection for Burns Bog will find validation in the recent discovery of new – and likely very rare – shrew living in the Bog. Please see attached news release and a copy of the recent edition of Mammalian Biology that trumpet
s this discovery.

Given that Burns Bog is already known to be home to numerous at-risk species, the discovery of one more rare inhabitant should come as no surprise.

It comes, however, at a very important time, as people throughout the Fraser Valley are asking ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice to the Liberal government’s massive transportation expansion scheme, the Gateway Program.

Burns Bog Facts - Wilderness Committee

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Vecchiato's Voice - April 14, 2007 - Dump Sites & Journalism

(Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 6 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)

Firehall Lake is a gem tucked between Noel Booth School and 32nd Avenue. Some days, not a soul is in sight; on warm spring days, a makeshift beach is host to a handful of sunbathers and swimming dogs. Sometimes, we swim alongside them if it's hot enough.

Then I heard about township's plan to fill in this seasonal lake. Langley has an undercurrent of information--the best information is gathered in casual conversation with other residents. You'll never see them again, but somehow, the encounter made a difference. When I discovered the lake fill project, I was aghast. There is aquatic life in there as a portion of the lake remains year round. The water is a combination of rain, run off, and aquifer fed as the gravel pit was dug deep enough to hit the Brookswood/Fernridge aquifer. However, any toxins that would affect water quality aren't to be found here. Future development and roads will do more damage than a small portion serving wildlife.

I wrote to one of the papers, and unbeknownst to me, my letter was printed on their on-line edition, something where most people probably don't read unless they are avidly involved in Langley politics or have too much time on their hands. Or both. A rebuttal was submitted , and this was put into their print edition. Unfair journalism? Yes. Bias? A rebuttal should not be printed if the original letter was on-line. Pick which medium you want to use, but pick one; otherwise, it looks like skewed editorial opinion.

My forte is adjective clauses; my passion, however, is wildlife and ecological preservation. The writer in my opinion did not have the same opinion as myself of the importance of this former gravel pit, essentially questioning it's value, and suggesting that the herons referred to were probably feeding off some endangered species. That should have been a red flag right there. An endangered species in a lake that township wants to demolish with dirt from construction sites?

However, good fortune prevailed. Because of that letter, several naturalists went to the site and inventoried the birds, amphibians and mammals, and plants. They were able to identify twenty-eight species of birds and a long list of native plants. In addition, the presence of Pacific tree frogs were noted as they were astute enough to recognize the distinctive call.

So why fill in a lake that is home to amphibians and birds--both aquatic and non aquatic? Money.

Fill sites get from $45 to $80 per load, and if you get a calculator and fill in an area as large as this seasonal lake, it adds up to a remarkable sum. But one wonders: Why would our municipality need money? Critics may point to reckless spending, or perhaps to poor planning in Willoughby, with too much development that costs the taxpayers money through servicing subsidies and not enough land for park space. Residential development is a drain on any community and needs to be balanced with commercial and industrial. Of course, the new strip malls are apparent, but the problem with commercial is that a few people may make a reasonable salary, but most workers don't make a sustainable income.

But back to the lake. I understand the mandate of restoring gravel or mining sites to their original state. That is great if it is done within a short time period of the original excavation . However, areas such as Stokes Pit, which had not been an active gravel pit since the early '60s, re naturalize themselves. Wildlife moves in and is dependent on the new growth and other
species that take over.

If the mission had been to restore the gravel pit to provincial standards, I am assuming Engineering would have told me when I telephoned. The response, however, was, It (fill) has to go somewhere...and that nobody wants it in their back yard. So the motive was never honourable to begin with.

Now there is talk of putting a playing field there. I think sports are great, but I sure see a lot of empty playing fields at all times of the day. It's not the right place for a playing field, and with the rejuvenated ecosystem, it's not the right place to use as Langley township's new soil
dump site. A little to restore some of the gravel pit? OK. A lot? Not.

Cathleen Vecchiato

(The attached picture is from Critter Care's Open House. Photo by Sophia Vecchiato.)
One of the jewels of Langley is Critter Care Wildlife Centre, which I first learned about in my Newcomer's packet. The packet gave information about Campbell Valley Park and made mention of this wildlife welfare organization. This non profit cares for injured or displaced wildlife and works on a fluctuating budget, depending on grants and funding.

One of their big events is their silent auction. Not only does it help Critter Care's work, but there are great buys!

PS: Just below are additional Firehall lake photos submitted by reader Blair King. One is an aerial view and the second is the lake looking north.

If you have not attended in the past, please consider Saturday evening, April 28th at 7 pm. The event will be held at the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club, 1284 184th Street, Surrey, BC (between 8th Ave and 16th Ave). Tickets: $30.00 each, and $55.00 for a couple.
Price includes a complimentary glass of champagne, Hors D’oeuvres, Dancing and Cash Bar. Call 604-530-2054 for ticket information. Also see LFP sidebar for ad & link as well....

Gateway Opponents Meeting Courtesy of Donna Passmore

Event organisor, Donna Passmore was kind enough to send LFP the video link of her recent meeting against Gateway. LFP Editor however believes that most of the gateway components are desperately needed. Translink has publicly said that no substantial transit improvements are planned for 20 years or so for us in Langley! We have no other options Donna!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Langley School District April 10th Board Meeting Report by Susan Semonick - Is Respect & Decorum Back?


Mr. Burton started the meeting with an apology to Trustee Bech and to the audience for his comments as chair at the last meeting. Let’s hope the board members can maintain a respectful decorum till June, at which time it should be seriously considered to elect a different Board Chair. Sometimes it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks.

Attendance was at its all time high - probably at least 400+ people. There was a very strong presence from HD Stafford students, along with most of the City Council, past and present, including Marlene Grinell. Dave Hall was also present, passing out written copies of his recommendations to the public.


Mayor Fassbender was the last of the delegates to the Board. He stated that his whole council supported keeping HD Stafford open as a secondary school and that they would help wherever they could. I wonder if this means financial resources, as this is what it will likely take to keep it open as a secondary school. I wonder if he consulted with the rest of his constituents and not just the HDS parents. City Council coming to a board meeting was seen by many people as just a pre-election ploy. It was also a move that put the entire board decision process at risk. That this kind of politics could play a major role in the decisions made instead of focusing on what is best for all students is something to be watchful of. City Council wants to help. Hopefully, they can sit down, put their money where their mouth is, and come up with a viable, long-term solution. School trustees need to remember that they are entrusted to look at ALL students in the ONE school district.

One of the presentations mentioned that there has been a decrease in students, and staff that delivers direct services yet there has also been a marked increase to staff at the board office, with a decrease in achievement at some schools. I would think this was to make them think that maybe the board needs to improve efficiency at the board offices and reduce the amount of funds being used at the board office. I agree and with the minimal amount of information that I have access to, can see some simple actions that could be taken to save at least one school. Just imagine what we, as a community, could come up with if there was full disclosure and transparency. The Vancouver School Board’s proposed budget for next year includes the reduction of at least one district staff, and 3 vice-principals.


Ms. Beaumont’s report titled Outcome of the “Building for the Future – South Central Langley” and all recommendations stemming from the report were approved by either a 5 to 2, or 4 to 3 vote. Trustee Bech repeatedly motioned to defer all of the recommendations in order to slow the process and give the Board more time to gather more information and deliberate on their decisions.


That staff undertake a review related to the possible closure of Bradshaw Elementary School, in a manner that is consistent with Board Policy #5029, that the consultation and review process be completed between April 10 - June 12, 2007 and that the Board in accordance with Section 73(1)(a) of the School Act and related Closure of School Legislation, provide notice of motion that they are considering this closure.

The closure is to be effective July 1, 2007. Not much time for parents and students to adjust if they vote to close at the June 12th meeting.


LSS PAC was dumbfounded. Someone had advised them that they would have opportunity for input on the French Immersion decision but were thrown off balance when the Board decided to vote on FI program recommendations immediately. The recommendations were made public at this meeting and approved by the Board. There was no opportunity for the PAC or the French Immersion parents to address the actual recommendations. Apparently, the Board considers posting the agenda on its website the day before a long holiday weekend adequate notice and gives stakeholders time to prepare. How can this be when hopeful delegations were required to request time to present prior to the posting of the agenda? Again, we see policy #1204 in action. Late FI students at Bradshaw and James Hill will also be affected as they phase out the program. And, yes, this is regardless of whether they decide to close Bradshaw or not. There were again many questions about the consultation process and one parent mentioned that her child would have to change schools at least 3 times before high school to be able to access the French Immersion program on a continuous basis.


Many people present were stating that they see the writing on the wall and that if they did not embrace the middle school concept that Stafford would be closed. Certainly, if they continue to delay the decision, enrolment will continue to decrease and it will be even easier to move HDS completely to LSS with much less disruption. It appears that the district recognizes the importance of HDS to the community and is trying to provide an option to keep it viable. Otherwise, it would be far easier just to close the school.

If the Board goes with the middle school configuration it will mean even more elementary schools will be forced to close. With most parents saying they wish to maintain the concept of small neighbourhood schools close to home, why in heaven’s name would they want 5 to 6 elementary schools being affected and have at least 4 closing. It is possible to have secondary students fully accommodated at LSS where their fine arts, football and AVID programs can all be moved. It would become one of the most well rounded schools in the entire district offering many career choice opportunities, extraordinary athletics program, as well as a focus on academics and fine arts to its students.

LSS is the secondary school with the most excess capacity. You would think that it should have been the one on the block. But because of the amenities available at the school and nearby facilities; and the fact that it chose sports as a focus, which falls within the healthy schools and Legacy 2010 initiatives, it has steered clear of the proverbial axe’s path. Because the Board chose to make decisions regarding the relocation of LEC prior to these consultations and without consideration of the impact that it may have in limiting options in the South/Central area, LSS wins. Was it planned? Your guess is as good as anyone’s.


The proposed budget was approved for first and second readings. There is an approx. $18,000 increase in the cost for trustees. With their indemnity increase that will come automatically in December 2007, I wonder if they have budgeted enough? Maybe we will have to close another elementary school. $135,000.00 is going to BCeSIS. To date this system has been put in place in some districts with no local protocols, nor assurances that the “Patriot Act” will not apply to the information stored. Look what happened to health information tapes. Just imagine the market would be for information on children and his/her weaknesses and problems accessible to literally anyone. You would have the location, full name, family history, medical history, behavior problems etc. all in one file. What a gold mine for those who use this type of information for unacceptable reasons. To its credit, staff has chosen to move forward slowly with this initiative. I hope the district will have strong guidelines and protocols in place before the system goes online in the district and will revise or bring new policy forward for public input well ahead of time. Interesting to note that unlike many other boards in the province, this board never even brought the signing of this agreement with the Ministry to a public board meeting.


A recommendation to the Board could be to make all elementary schools K-8 in the south central area and all students going to the 9-12 configuration at LSS. The Comox Valley School Board has voted to alter the district grade configuration to a K-8, 9-12 model. This decision is the culmination of a long series of community conversations about education, and answers the longstanding call for the district to be consistent in their grade structure and to deal with declining enrollment. This keeps the transition for students to only one time. As well, there appears to be plans for a “school within a school” concept with the grades 6, 7, & 8 students in a middle years/school program at each of the K-8 schools.

Next board meeting is April 24th and I will be doing my budget recommendations then.More information is contained in the BOARD NEWS that can be found at SD website.

Vecchiato's Voice - April 12, 2007 - Brookswood Tree Committee

Last year, five Brookswood and one Fernridge resident agreed to join a task force facilitated by Kurt Houlden and attended by Councillor Vickberg. The task force was based on a delegation by residents who shared a significant stand of trees with neighboring lots where a new owner (absentee) cleared the entire lot. Arboreal assessments were made by a professional and the consensus was that if the stumps were pulled up, it would negatively impact all the adjacent properties.

When the committee met, Mr. Houlden gave us a scale of 1-10, with 1 being no township intervention and 10 being a strict by law. The 6 members, ranged from 2 to 9, with an average of 6.5%. This would require a lenient bylaw without permits and an education program to make residents aware of the impact they had on one another's property.

The conclusion reached by the group was to have a bylaw which echoed building codes and setback, thus disallowing clearing within 10 feet of the fence line. If clearing was done, then the stumps would have to be ground, not pulled, in order to keep roots beneath the ground. Many roots are supporting septic fields as well as other trees.

This committee and Mr. Houlden's facilitation allowed for a wide range of input, but never were permits discussed, and the only property mentioned in the proposal was the 10 foot perimeter. I also suggested that the decimation of our avian population be addressed as frequent clearing of a single parcel in the nesting season has led to noticeable species decline in the area.

Upon receiving the final version which was presented at the Open House, I was surprised to see a proposed by law that would not be suitable for the Brookswood community. The consensus reached was based on safety and the negative impact clearing has on a neighboring lot.

Please note in today Times, the editor says that "a bylaw..will pit neighbors at each other's throats." In truth, those of us who value the nature of habitat and understand the provincial and federal nesting bird legislation have endured countless clearings. The impact has been the disappearance of many species, the dislocation of flying squirrels and owls, and a decline in the songbird and pileanted woodpecker population.

A permit to remove problem trees that have gone into foundations or septic fields should not be in place, and was never approved by the committee. the bylaw submitted to the public has caused unnecessary strife among residents. The need for a permit was mentioned, but please note that in Maple Ridge and Saanich, residents may remove 3 trees per year without a permit. This leniency is on the honour system. Punitive measures would be a result of not following protocol of neighbor consultation or maintaining a 10' set back.

Future development should be a concern and should be considered as 1/4 acre lots are being purchased by development interests. Observers have noted that there is a lack of balance in allowing Willoughby to be cleared with impunity, while Brookswood residents are held accountable. In truth, Township should be looking at the big picture of the Fraser Valley. With the potential advent of Deltaport expansion, according to "Gateway to Global Warming," "the emission from marine vessels .... have already iincreased 205 wsince 2000...A single container ship belches more pollution than l,000 diesel trucks." While lip service may be give to global warming and the airshed of the Fraser Valley, each community has to be accountable to its residents now and in the future. If steps are made to ensure that Brookswood will not be razed as Willoughby, then we can be assured that the form and character echo Brookswood's current ambience and environmnetal integrity, the reason many property owners bought here

Cathleen Vecchiato
Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 6 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 ...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Onward To School Closures - Here We Go ! - by Susan Semonick




Recommendation #1: That the report on the Outcome of "Building for the Future - South Central Langley", as attached, be received for information.

Recommendation #2: That staff undertake a review related to the possible closure of Bradshaw Elementary School, in a manner that is consistent with Board Policy #5029, that the consultation and review process be completed between April 10 - June 12, 2007 and that the Board in accordance with Section 73(1)(a) of the School Act and related Closure of School Legislation, provide notice of motion that they are considering this closure.

Recommendation #3: That staff bring forward a plan for additional consolidations, closures and boundary changes for Board consideration and report to the Board no later than October 2007.

Recommendation #4: That secondary French Immersion programming in the South and Central schools area be located at Brookswood Secondary School and that Langley Secondary School complete its obligation to current French Immersion students and effective September 2007, not register a grade 8 French Immersion class.

Recommendation #5: That Bradshaw Elementary School complete its obligation to current French Immersion students and effective September 2007, not register a grade 6 French Immersion class.

Recommendation #6: That James Hill Elementary School complete its obligation to current French Immersion students and effective September 2008, not register a grade 6 French Immersion class.

Recommendation #7: That staff bring forward a plan for Board consideration no later than January 2008 to consolidate elementary French Immersion programming in the Brookswood Secondary School catchment area for September 2008.

Recommendation #8: That staff develop a plan, with community discussion, regarding the establishment of a grades 6 – 8 middle school at H.D. Stafford School for September 2008 including the resulting implications for elementary schools, to be brought forward for Board consideration no later than October 2007.

Recommendation #9: That staff develop a plan, with community discussion, regarding the establishment of a grades 9 – 12 secondary school at Langley Secondary School for September 2008 including the resulting implications for elementary feeder schools, to be brought forward for Board consideration no later than October 2007.

Recommendation #10: That the middle and secondary schools in the South and Central area develop compatible timetables for September 2008 allowing for the greatest possible maximization of staff and student resources and opportunities and that the compatibility take into account similar timetables elsewhere in the School District.

Recommendation #11: That staff examine the feasibility and sustainability of district programs in the South and Central schools area, including, but not limited to: District Behaviour, Special Education, Trades and Alternative Non-Traditional Programs, and report back to the Board no later than January 2008.

There are so many presenters wishing to address the board that there is a waitlist. I was going to do a presentation on Budget recommendations and was requested to move to an alternate date of April 24th. That is the problem with Trustee Burton's changes he made to policy 1204 and another reason I see the board as ineffectual due to them approving it. He in essence has limited the peoples voice.

The entire agenda can be viewed at the Langley School District site here.

Place of Meeting:

Brookswood Secondary Time 7:30 p.m. April 10th.

20902 – 37A Avenue, Langley, B.C....

Monday, April 02, 2007

Public Education Achievement & Adaptability Editorial by Susan Semonick

Judging by the content of the presentations from delegates to the school board at its March 27th meeting, it seems that there continues to be a misunderstanding by the public (perhaps denial) that this is an issue about the quality of any of the schools. The issue, as has been stated over and over again, is student achievement and how the district can continue to maintain and/or increase the levels of support for ALL students so they can succeed.

The situation is that enrollment is declining all over the world. Yes, there are pockets of growth, but these are anomalies in the overall picture. Many school districts last year underestimated their decrease in enrolment and ‘lost’ even more students than they had anticipated. Yes, houses are being built in Langley. But they are not generating the numbers of children that they would have several years ago. Since funding is directly tied to student enrolment, the district will be getting less funding even if funding rates increase slightly. Given the expected rise in health costs, the percentage of the provincial budget to be spent on education will likely decrease.

The district is not making the best use of its resources by maintaining empty seats in classrooms, or allowing programs that are not cost-effective to continue as they are.
There are students’ needs that are not currently being met that need to be met, and resources have to be used wisely to provide the best that you can. It takes money to provide services and somehow the district must find ways to be cost-effective, just as any business or household needs to do.

It is NOT about which schools are good. Mr. McAvoy has already stated parents believe that each of their schools is good.

Taking a look at overall enrolment of the district and at each school as was presented is not, while simple, a practical look at how to create efficiencies. It is more complicated than that, and the district has communicated this but it would seem not well enough.

It is about having fewer students in Kindergarten each year to replace the grade sevens leaving. It is also about how many students are at each school, at each grade in the school, and in each program. It is about having the ‘right number of students’, not ‘enough students’, to maintain a robust and sustainable program that does not unnecessarily put an economic drain on the combined resources of all schools. It matters less whether you have 300 students in a program. Rather, it is more important to have those 300 students properly distributed at each grade and to have class sizes that are economically viable. It gets more complicated when these programs are within schools that have multiple programs that need to be sustained as often classes cannot be combined. Program attrition rates, enrolment rates in elective academic courses and upper level courses, etc., to mention only a few, are all factors in having the ‘right number of students’ and being able to provide a range of courses while being fiscally responsible. Providing a teacher for a class of 15 students is far more expensive than providing one for a class of 30, and can’t be sustained for a long time without negatively affecting other areas in the school as well as the district. Program size, cohort size, and overall school population have an impact on being able to provide quality services. This is what I think the district is trying to manage and manipulate in order to do more for ALL students. If your child is in one of these small classes, of course you don’t want things to change; but that small class happens at the expense of other students in the district who are not getting the services that they need to succeed.

Looking at cost per pupil at each school is also more complicated and not fair. It is reasonable to expect that school funding take into account the number of special needs students and student populations that are disadvantaged or at-risk, etc. These factors skew the numbers. But, it is not reasonable to expect that the cost of running a program at one school to be significantly higher than running the exact same program at another – not when there is a solution, however much you may not like it. Nor is it reasonable to maintain more facilities than are required. In my mind, optimum utilization is 100% plus just a little more if you can squeeze it out – at home, business, and for school districts. The fact that district staff is looking at all options including maximizing utilization of facilities to 110% is not a bad thing. They would not be doing the job that they are supposed to be doing if they did not. Considering the closure of facilities that are expensive to maintain and are no longer useful at their present location in favour of establishing a facility at a new location where one might be required is good strategy and part of long term planning. Anyone who has played Monopoly, Risk or other strategy games can understand this.

Some of the arguments for keeping a school open were focused on the benefits of small schools. School size research finds evidence to support both small and large schools for a variety of reasons and contrary to a presentation given, an increase in social problems is not necessarily an expected outcome of large school size. The bottom line in all of the research is that school size is not the most significant factor to student success and is nowhere near the top of the list. Socio-economic situation and teacher quality are what counts and the district can direct resources to address one and ensure the other. This is what the money that the district is wasting on empty seats should be used for. Placing students in one school instead of two, if possible, can free up money to provide for a full time librarian, more learning resource time, special support programs, a full set of computers instead on half a set, etc. This is not a one-time savings but an annual one – over five years the savings are in the millions.

I am continually reminded that many people do not realize what we have gotten used to having and how much we do have for our students. In other districts, students have bussed or ferried more than two hours to school every day for a long time. We know one district that has closed more than 16 schools all at once and many others that have closed more than just a few. I read that the Ministry is actually helping teachers and districts adapt to the one-room schoolhouse again. They couldn’t even field a sports team let alone have games against other schools because of transportation issues. Oh, and we can’t forget school boards that have mismanaged funds to the point where they have a millions of dollars owing to the government with debt repayment that runs until 2010.

Fewer students means less funding – for most every district in the province. Yes, the bottom line is money. It’s what we use to ensure student achievement. If we do not use it wisely and are not able to pay for what students need, don’t expect student success.

Closing a school is not only change for one school community but for all the other school communities that will be receiving a large influx of students. Change can be an opportunity. The world is constantly changing faster than many can handle. Adaptability, the ability to cope with uncertainty and respond constructively to change, is listed on the Employability Skills 2000+ as one of the skills that people need in order to progress in the world of work and beyond, and it drives one’s potential for growth. I hope parents will embrace whatever change may come and model for students how to adapt positively to uncertainty.

Susan Semonick

Langley School District Special Report by Susan Semonick - Education in Respect & Decorum?

Standing Room Only Crowd Witnesses Verbal Sparring - Students Now Well Educated


Unfortunately, the communications equipment was not working in the boardroom AGAIN. Therefore, most in attendance were unable to hear all that was being said. Strange that the district has put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the system and it still is not working. This has been going on for at least 4 years now. Get rid of the people who do not know what they are doing and get people who do. If it is as simple as knowing how to operate the system, I suggest that at the next Pro D day, they have all of the staff who attend the Board meetings trained in the use of it. The district has sunk enough money into this horror story that it is time to do something productive. I would even volunteer to take the training since I’ve been at almost every meeting since 1996.


There was an interesting presentation by Mr. McFarlane, a parent from HD Stafford.
He addressed the Building for the Future report that some people believe suggests HD Stafford is the secondary school that should be considered for closure. Mr. McFarlane’s presentation gave food for thought. It showed that if you target ‘optimum capacity’ instead of ‘110% capacity’, there is data that could suggest there would be no need for any closures. The target that was suggested was about 90% of physical capacity as optimum. This would require changing catchment boundaries. His presentation implied that large schools and schools at over-capacity have increased social problems (bullying), as well as a less desirable environment for socio-economically disadvantaged students. The presentation also included three options for consideration other than closing HDS.

There were a few presentations from parents of French Immersion students who were wishing to have the LSS FI program remain where it is. Apparently there are many FI students from Surrey attending LSS, as Langley’s FI program does not require that Math and Science be taught in French.

An HD Stafford Secondary teacher did a presentation about the importance of HDS and what the school has to offer. The most significant point made was that their students had a high level of academic achievement. That is a good way to argue your point. The other side is the high percentage of students who are actually involved in extra-curricular activities compared to the other schools.

The LTA is concerned that if the Board decides to go ahead with plans of making one of the secondary schools into a middle school, they allow enough time to have it well planned and take the time needed to train staff in order to be successful in this endeavor.

The presentations left me with the thought that if the district looked at the business end of things first and did the house cleaning required there, there would be no reason to look at secondary school closures at this time. They could wait till all scenarios for secondary schools could be considered as a whole district instead of only snapshots.

The Board voted to close Aldergrove Elementary and instructed Ms. Beaumont to ensure that both the Shortreed and Aldergrove communities are included in the transition process. It was made clear that parents had the choice of enrolling their children in any school which had available space and that all the schools in the Aldergrove area were coordinating to make the transitions as easy as possible.

Trustee Hogeterp is still not happy with the school Closure process. I am not clear why this is an issue for her. If you are looking at a process that will leave all people happy and none discontented, then I suggest you join Peter Pan in Fantasyland; otherwise it won’t happen.

Mr. McAvoy did his presentation and all information is posted on the school District site. Nothing new reported. It still suggests closure of one secondary school and at least 3 elementary schools in the South Central region.

District staff now have the task of taking Mr. McAvoy’s report along with all the information gathered from the consultations and making recommendations for the Board’s consideration by the April 10th Board meeting.

Modified school calendars for 2008/09 are up for approval and due notice was given. The interesting thing in this is that the school that has 10 less days of instruction in the school calendar is stated to have the one of the highest achievement levels. This would be HD Stafford. Langley Fine Arts, another leader in achievement and a successful district choice program, is requesting four less instructional days.

Gateway College was closed due to insufficient activity. It appears they are attempting to look at the business end of things with their action to close Gateway College. This was for adult ESL students, which was an offshoot of the district’s ISP program. The closure of this will not mean any loss of full time jobs.

The financial report again was verbal to the public and provided very little information. This seems to have become the norm since the departure of Patti Dundas - what a loss.
Now, if you don’t know what to ask for or look for, you get nothing. There was mention of the recent tabled changes to the School Act which reinstates a school board’s ability to charge fees for certain items. This will relieve some pressure on next year’s budget but the district is still faced with an anticipated increase of approximately one million dollars in expenditures because they will no longer be able to collect course fees.

The Purchasing policy #3602 was approved with practically no input from the public to such a key document, even though people had plenty of opportunity to send in their comments.

It appears that they are leaving the responsibility to the Township and City to come up with projects to qualify for the $125,000 grant. What a cop out and waste of the $5,000.00 given to the committee to determine this.

The report did not even acknowledge that proposals were received at the Community Forum in November, and it repeatedly stated that that was not the purpose of the forum. So, we end up with another expensive report on “the context” and nothing concrete to move forward with. The board is sadly failing its responsibility here. By now, they should have been able to have a few recommendations at their doorstep but as usual they are waiting for someone else to do the work. For improvement to infrastructures, which is what the grant is to be used for, one project that comes to mind would be the resurfacing and expansion of the WGSS track. This proposal that the committee and district staff is aware of is a WIN – WIN for the district as well as the Township. Let’s hope that now that the ball is in the Township’s hand, so to speak, that they will take it and run with it… hopefully on a new and improved track that will serve the community well and will also support the provincial government’s ACTNOW and 2010 initiatives. Having another adequate track also allows for greater opportunity for sports tourism revenue.

Bill 20 introduces a Superintendent of Achievement at the provincial level who has as one of his/her tasks to hear parent appeals of a Board’s Section 11 decisions. Section 11 of the School Act allows for parent appeals to the Board of any decisions made by a district employee that they believe negatively impacts their child’s opportunity for appropriate education.

An expedited motion to send a letter to Minister Bond expressing concern regarding the additional step to the Section 11 appeals process was approved by the Board. The Board is appearing to place their needs first before students. They do not wish parents to have an additional step for recourse before they go to court. Many parents who file a Section 11 complaint are unable to afford to go to court so they never get resolution and would want this additional step for they believe that boards are only rubber stamps for a Superintendent’s decision. This appears to be a standard attitude out there, which is sadly being proven to be true.

If the Provincial Superintendent has authority to address concerns and appeals, it gives the parents an alternative to court - this is a plus. For this Board to object to this additional step shows they have given very little or no thought to it. I see this as a further step by the Ministry to prepare for the elimination of boards. I wonder if they feel threatened with this and feel they should try and protect what little they had?

The 34% raises they have procured for themselves place them in a position for criticism at this time. Compounded by the actions of the chair at meetings, they have themselves to fault for the negative attitudes that are building out in the community.

Many complaints in regards to the consultation process were expressed. Chair Burton noted that this district is the only one apparently doing this type of information/consultation sessions. (This has not been verified so may be incorrect). There are several vital components I see left out in this district’s process.
1. An opportunity to actually discuss options in a public forum and receive answers - not only small table discussions.
2. The business entities should have been first, it is still going to be left to be seen whether they review them at all.
3. The district appears to have been selective about which school’s information was given out at meetings. They did leave out DWP, LFA, LFMS and LFE. The information is available but buried or has to be requested from the district. The Kindergarten enrolment numbers to date have not been published, however tentative they are.
4. They have created confusion and panic in the communities due to the manner and time line they have chosen. The entire process should have started earlier and planned to be completed by the end of June. Instead, the process carries over to a new school year, so some decisions regarding the third area (if any) are in effect left for another entire year and the full district picture is not considered before decisions are made. The timeline for information feed should have been compacted. People then would pick and choose what information they wanted. The interested and affected parties would also be able to see the full picture to be able to give insightful and well-informed recommendations.

I still say that Superintendent Beaumont is doing the best job with what she has to work with. What appears to be lacking is the inability of the board to understand what the public is asking for. One of the Trustees even admitted that she was confused about the information being delivered and yet another has stated that what was presented was incomplete.

The Board has approved this process and is not willing to digress from it. As usual the chair appears to be not willing to admit that things are not going as planned and there is a need to make changes. Yes, there has been speculation of what will occur. Yes, there has been a track record of this board doing all readings in one meeting and making decisions without interested parties being able to address what is being passed. Yes, there was error in the direction given to Mr. McAvoy. He is being paid to do the best job he has been hired to do. He has been paid approximately $20,000.00 so far to end up being a target of angry parents. And, yes, sometimes you cannot win for trying.

What did they expect - nice smooth ride? Their attempt at consultation is the only thing I can commend them on. Their lack of ability to divert or change course midstream or put the horsepower on when needed is the problem. They are so used to being lead by the nose ring that when given the opportunity to lead, they don’t know what to do with it. Again, the reason to go way of the dinosaur.

Before the process even started the district received input from DPAC, which recommended that LFA, LFMS and DWP be included. The district ignored the recommendation and deliberately left out these 3 schools. There is no indication from the documents posted on the district website that they extended invitations to these school communities except to include them in a general invitation to all the public, nor did they really include the statistics on them until these were specifically requested. They have inadvertently segregated these school communities from the rest.

Now they are buried in the piles of files that would appear incomplete. For them not to look at the whole district and provide full disclosure is giving the appearance of incompetence and predetermined outcomes. The people at the board offices who make the decisions on what or how recommendations are proposed and implemented are, for the most part, professional educators. They are all past teachers with the exception of the accountants. For these people not to be able to present information in a manner that can be understood by its intended audience, mostly parents, is questionable. They seem to be unable to understand the capabilities of the people they are trying to educate. This has me worried for our students; these are the same people who are responsible to ensure that the teachers are able to teach the curriculum to our students. If they are unable to educate and communicate with parents (who were educated by them), then what does that say for our educational system?

The Board meeting lasted until midnight.


2007/08 Budget Consultations (meetings) have started. Recommendations I offer for consideration are:

1. The donations of ISP funds to the foundation and SDBC for fluff needs to stop. This includes the staff time and resources. ISP funds would be better used for direct student services at this time, not for window dressing for business entities to appear good. The School Foundation was to support the district by generating outside corporate donations and NOT for the District to direct $125,000 of ISP funds along with the services of one employee at a cost of about $41,000, plus all the district resources being used, towards it. It is to be at arm’s length - so make it so.

2. The automatic raises trustees will be giving themselves should stop. I believe that they did not follow proper process (as I see it) to acquire this, and this is concerning.

3. Conflict of interest concerns rear their head where CommunityLink funding and Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services are concerned. This would affect any of our community schools. So we expect, in Trustee McVeigh’s next report, to have recusals recorded for any trustee whom the public may view as in potential conflict from budget discussions. They have received some complaints and have assured complainants that the chair will address this issue and ensure there is no possibility for a trustee to allow him/herself to be in that position. There is also a BCCPAC policy that has been presented to the Ministry to raise concern about this very situation.

Board Chair and Vice-Chair Nominations

Since the Board chair and vice-chair positions are up for nominations at the end of June, it is time for the public to make suggestions to the Board.

If the Langley Board chair of the group seems to lack respect for fellow board members, then how can the chair have any for the people who voted for him? A vote of non-confidence in the current chair's ability to fulfill obligations should be considered. Many believe that he was way out of line with his comment regarding Trustee Bech’s opinion on the information they received involving the latest Building the Futures report. The public gallery immediately recognized the impact and direction of his comments and immediately inhaled a collective gasp of disbelief which was clearly heard, and many ‘oohs’ and calls for an apology were hurled from the audience as well. I believe it is time that this person steps out of the chair position. The scene many students and constituents were witness to that night probably caused many to lose any respect for the chair. It is simply a question of public confidence of the board chair. This is not the first time this was done, but I think the public needs to make it clear that it should be the last. It is irony of the highest order when any board member does not meet the ideals of Langley’s Graduate Profile and yet is entrusted to ensure that all Langley students do so. Where is the leadership by example? I commend Trustee Bech, parents and students who questioned this behavior.

A vote of non-confidence should be in order for Trustee Burton. If Trustee McVeigh or Trustee Bech would be interested in doing the job, they would be respectful and would not alienate constituents in the room when major decisions have to be made.

On Another Note
It was reported recently in the Langley Times that Chair Burton believes that parent representatives on School Planning Councils are not elected. He was apparently commenting on the new provision in Bill 20 to require the approval of SPCs before establishing special academies at schools. For any of the trustees who are on their second or more term to admit that they do not know what is in the School Act is amazing. They are as effectual as an empty kettle (not good for much without water). Again that is why I see boards of education or school boards as they were known in the past to be an expendable entity. It would save millions to the province in indemnities and BCSTA membership fees. These funds could go to direct student services in the classroom. Having SPCs as decision-making bodies is something that could be a benefit to the students if applied properly.

Bill 20 is going in its second reading now. The whining and letters that are written from this Board to the Ministry of late that note their “concern” about the powers being given to School Planning Councils and the new Superintendent of Achievement are last ditch efforts to try to maintain what little, if any, authority they think they had. Too little, too late - the history of at least this board anyway.

Negative? -not completely. I do have a little hope left - that they will take a lead and make the decisions that need to be made to ensure the least disruption to students. It would be nice to have that on record before their exit. I have been told this is a pipe dream but at least I have some hope that they could do the right thing.

I have a recommendation for the news reporters at board meetings. Other than you should demand an audio system that actually works. You should sit amongst the people – that, in itself, will tell you a story. While it may be a negative one at this time, it is very relevant and revealing.

I cannot sit back and not comment on the article in the Times on March 28th (page 28) “Foundation Dollars Filling Education Gaps.” To have the district-paid employee stating the foundation is a model in raising funds for school programs across the province is hype. Until this Foundation is able to stand alone, with no assistance from the district, in my opinion it is not a true foundation. It is only a tool for the trustees involved to funnel money for their special interests with no accountability to the taxpayer. Take away the district’s donations of staff time and resources, along with cash donations of $125,000 from the district’s International Students Program this year alone, and the contributions from donors who were contributing to the District even before the foundation was established, and their profits, so to speak, are way overstated. They have set it up to funnel money to their causes so it looks good. Yet, those funds taken from the district and transferred to the foundation could have been used for direct student services. There is absolutely no reason why the district could not accept public donations directly - it has a charitable tax number – no reason that I can think of other than to skirt around accountability.

Susan Semonick

School Fee Legislation Press release.

Two new Bills in legislature this Education week.
Bill 20 is available at: http://www.leg.bc.cast_read/gov20-1.htm

Bill 21 is available here.