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.

No comments:

Post a Comment