Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Langley School District September 18th Board Meeting Report by Susan Semonick - Business As Usual?

Over 100 members of the public attended of which there were about 10 students as well.

The Chair started with his statement about protocol at public board meetings stating that these were regulations and therefore did not have to come forward to the public. I addressed this in an earlier article. In my opinion this whole board is ineffectual and unable to apply governance at its most minimal level.

There were three District Presentations:
1. Community member Phil Lacasse was recognized for his heroic efforts in extinguishing the fire from the arson attempt at Peterson Road Elementary. Trustee chair Mr. Burton was very pleased with the district for getting his son’s elementary school functional so quickly. Due to all the funds required for repair (even if it was insurance money) I would think that it would not be one of the elementary schools on the chopping block.

Peterson Road and DW Poppy may be able to stay off the district’s radar but seem to be in the news again due to having a lock down for about an hour due to a shooting occurring in front of DWPoppy.

It is rumored that DW Poppy has been kept off the consultations radar because of political reasons but many say it should have been scrutinized as far back as 2003.

2. The Soroptimists’ 6th Annual Tuning Into Our Teens Conference is being offered again on October 13th 2007, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. I have personally attended two of these conferences and they were well organized and attended. This year it is being held at HD Stafford and is for girls and their parents.

3. REMSS International Baccalaureate Program – there were 125 students who took the test for admittance and they had 90 who passed and could only accept 60 students. This involves grade eleven and 12 students with grade 8-9 honors program offered at REMSS.

There were only 4 delegations

1. Cassidy Northway, a grade eight student at HD Stafford, spoke to the Trustees of the promises made to her at the 2005-election forum. The promise was that they would consult students prior to making any major decisions. To date this still has not occurred and Cassidy questioned why did they say that it was important to do yet not one of them has done it yet. She was speaking of consulting the students in elementary that this would most affect.

2. Alexandra Haugen from Simonds Elementary stated that the elementary parents want to know what the contingency plan is in regards to closure of elementary schools in the south central corridor. Majority of the parents wish to maintain their schools as grade K-7 due to the mentoring that the 6-7’s do for the younger students. She also mentioned that there was rumor that Murrayville’s elementary school configurations would not be altered due to political posturing and stated how wrong that was if true.

3. LSS PAC - Mr. Medos addressed the Board and stated that for LSS, the middle school concept was the best configuration for their school and feeder elementary schools.

4. Robert McFarlane spoke about the achievements of HD Stafford. He is still looking for the reasoning why HD Stafford is even being considered to be changed.

Strategic Plan
This was presented and left me with several questions which I was unable to ask due to question period not being deemed board business or important.

1. What does the term ‘full compliment’ mean in numbers where plumbing and piping and hairdressing are concerned? This would tell us if there is real interest or not.

2. Moth balling Aldergrove Elementary and Bradshaw Elementary does that include the removal of playground equipment?

3. Will the playground equipment remain at Aldergrove since there are still daycares operating there?

4. Will the continued (and now additional because there are no students there) liability if the playground equipment stays increase the rental for the daycare and therefore the cost for daycare or is the District absorbing this?

5. LEC program will actually be operated out of portables on LSS property. Why is this when there were renovations done in the actual building?

6. The new buzz words consolidation, reconfiguration and transition - are these terms better accepted by the public than using closed, moving, trying to maximize capacity to enable school expansions and new buildings?

Audited Financial Report
Financial report showed that the PACs raised $224,955 for local capital purchases. This probably does not include all the money that was funneled through the School District Foundation for playgrounds. I could not get this verified due to question period not being deemed important enough to extend the time slightly and that question period, even though part of the agenda, apparently only warranted 6 minutes. Other than that we have $33,000.00 surplus. Senior Management has asked that consideration of the allocation of these funds be delayed until the October budget update.

The preliminary enrollment report was given verbally by Mr. Greenwood via a slide show.

The district is showing to have 18,700 students to date.There is a 30-student decrease in elementary and 80 student increase in Secondary. Over all we have 50 more students than they had expected. 4 years ago we had over 20,000 students.

We have 30 new students from the federal refugee program, 20 of whom are going to Douglas Park and 10 who are going to Langley Secondary, which are the school catchment areas they live in.

At this point, Aldergrove is down by 40 students, DW Poppy is down by 45 students, HD Stafford is down by 65 students and Langley Secondary is down by 60 students. For a total in the secondary of 240.

The grade 8 cohort drop since 2005 at ACSS is 24; LSS is 21, WGSS 12. They did not have the numbers for the other schools that have increased or stayed the same in their Grade 8 cohort numbers, which would be HDS, REMS and DWP.

The schedule for information to be finalized in regards to enrollment is Sept 28th snapshot includes ISPOct 5th completed and filed Oct 29th Ministry of Education finalizes and adjusts numbers.November 2 Sign off on it These figures determine funding.

Healthy Schools:
Langley is leading in this area. Let’s hope it does not fall on it’s face for the health sake of our children who are obese and have food allergies and where the parents and health care system can not maintain their child’s diet and have to have the government step in to tell us all how to eat and exercise. Just one more thing placed in the already long list of the school’s responsibility - when will it end?

In regards to vending it is noted that they expect that there will be an initial loss in revenue and then will regain ground once students have opportunity to try the products. There is no outside study to verify this other than from the companies that are selling the product. It will have to be left to be seen if athletic programs are cut back due to less funds being available.

Policy #5029 (School Closure) Regulations:
The amendment to this policy is nothing to really mention but the section quoted above it is. If you take the criteria/considerations stated in Section 4E of the policy for school closures and place the statistics in a graph for each secondary school it is very surprising the result you come out with. To see section 4E of the policy go to http://www.bcsta.org/main/districtpolicies.php Be enlightened.

Aldergrove and North Langley Consultations
Any changes to Aldergrove Secondary to have a middle school have been delayed to November 2007.Any consultation in North Langley (Walnut Grove and Willoughby) will not be done till after January.I will bet that this consultation does not even occur unless it is in regards to new facilities. It will be interesting to know what the government will say about all this with the new process to ensure best use of surplus schools.
Common time table between ACSS DWP and the use of distributed learning (web cams and smart boards) has brought forth some questions that the public should be asking.

1. Can this be used in the HDS and LSS situations?

2. Does the district at no cost to parents or students supply transportation between the schools as it is for the LFMSS students taking woodwork at LSS?

3. Will this type of sharing be offered at more of our schools?

4. What is the number of students interested?

What a benefit it would be to Trustees and the public to be permitted to ask just a few questions in regards to information received at meetings.

Interesting that the Board News states that the reasoning for this delay is as follows:

Both items were scheduled for consideration by the Board in October, but trustees agreed that they would be better able to devote "appropriate attention and focus" to Aldergrove and North Langley issues after important decisions in the South/Central Langley area have been made.
THEY ARE STILL on fast forward CONSIDERING CLOSING AND RECONFIGURING SCHOOLS in the central corridor but see fit to delay Aldergrove and North Langley changes. Separate, divide and conquer - the public may be right on this one. How about delaying those important South/Central decisions until equally important information from these other area consultations have been brought forth for consideration of what is in the best interests of the district as a whole. Isn't it a neglect of duty not to receive information for all areas, as any decision in one will affect what happens in the other area? Do you or I make decisions about one child without considering the effects on the other children and the rest of the family? Trustees should give their heads a shake.

Community Connections Grant
The Education Board together with the Township of Langley have agreed to take advantage of the Community Connections Grant from the Ministry of Education and update the lacrosse box at McLeod Athletic Park, which is situated on school district property.

The township already has plans to spend 850,000 on this and with the Community Connections Grant will allow for re-surfacing the floor for multi-sport use. It was suggested to me that the Township should just buy LSS altogether and make it housing for the homeless. The center already would have rooms and exercise facilities and a building of faith close by are easily accessible. The Township has already put $575,000 into the playing fields at LSS and named them after a community volunteer. The church could supply a meal program for them since they are so close.

So why not let Township purchase the whole lot and use our tax dollars on something that would not continually drain funds from students in the classroom. The District would also be able to keep elementary schools small. Where the small school concept would be benefited by way more students. Now how’s that for a choice? They have to remember that it was the Board as a whole that placed themselves in this situation. In 2003 they had opportunity to address HD Stafford, LSS, DW Poppy and Aldergrove. Dave Hall and the Board told all of them to remake themselves. HD Stafford has done what it was asked to do and now are being targeted. These are the simple facts.

LFMSS Expansion should have been delayed by 12 months and LEC should not have been moved (although the program could be easily moved for it is being housed in portables) until this whole-mishandled situation was dealt with.

Facilities Update:
This was informative but not complete which lead to the one question I was permitted to ask. That Future Facility reports have the cost for each upgrade/project be attached.

Mr. Burton stated that they had received amounts. But when I asked for them they were not available. I have asked Mr. Greenwood to supply them. They are still pending.

Approved titles:This document now supplies further detail about books so that the public and trustees have the assurance that the approved title process is being followed. That only took 2 years Yeah!!!!The Board approved 32 books, 9 with possible controversy involving cloning, child abandonment, shaman, vampires, drugs, divorce, funerals and magic.

Question Period and Beyond
Due to the lateness in time and likely because the Board considers question period as not important business, they did not extend Tuesday night’s Board meeting. There were 5 people in line to pose questions and it was 6 minutes to 11. The chair allowed only 5 questions then adjourned the meeting

As for the press in attendance, one left to make deadline around 10 pm; but looking at the paper there was nothing about the meeting in it. The other stayed till the meeting was adjourned and spoke to Mr. Macfarlane, a parent from HD Stafford.

Three Trustees did remain to hear what Dave Hall and one student had to say. One did leave when Dave Hall started his theatrics. Trustee Bech did remain and I believe spoke to some even after I had left.

There you have it folks the board meeting summarized, respectfully by Susan Semonick.

Langley School District Board Muzzles Public Again? - by Susan Semonick

Has the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canadian Citizens been circumvented?

Langley School Trustee Chair and spokesman, Steve Burton, started off the first Board meeting of the school year by declaring changes to Board regulations regarding public meetings. Referring to the Board-issued public statement on Sept 12th, he stated that regulations are not required to come before the public before approval. Interesting that most of the so-called regulation is contained within the policy.

Some of the changes are as follows:
· Public Board meetings will be held at the School Board Office with overflow space provided on an as-needed basis.
· No placards or noisemakers will be permitted in the building.
· Unless the Board unanimously agrees to an extension, public meetings will end at 11 p.m.
· Up to five delegations of 10 minutes each may be scheduled at the beginning of public Board meetings. Additional delegations will be heard after the business portion of the meeting until the meeting concludes at 11 p.m.

Placards are a manner of communication and a manner in which to be noticed and heard. I wonder, since the bullhorn incident only happened once, and there have never been any noisemakers at any of the meetings, why did the Board feel it necessary to waste time putting together a statement like this, other than it is coming into an election year and they feel a need to flex?

The fact that they can close a meeting without allowing question period I see as infringing on our rights. Anyone dealing with the Board knows you don't get answers even at the best of times. Many ask questions at question period to bring the public's attention to areas that have been overlooked or processes that have been ignored.

They don’t record what questions are asked at meetings. By choosing not to do this in my opinion, they demonstrate to the public that they do not see them as important, even though question period is part of the official meeting and considered part of Board business. If the Board would ensure that there is a full question period and actually record the questions and answers along with the ones to be addressed at the next meeting, then I see that as more acceptable and more respectful. If history holds true though, they will only extend the meeting to allow the Trustees (politicians) to be heard which has been the case in the past.

Question period does not require Trustees to make decisions but it does give opportunity to the taxpayer to get information and clarity on what has just transpired at the meetings. The chair limits each person to one question even if it is to deal with same item. This I view as disrespectful to the person standing before them.

Due to the lateness in time and likely because the Board considers question period as not important business, they did not extend Tuesday night’s Board meeting. There were 5 people in line to pose questions and it was 6 minutes to 11. The chair allowed only 5 questions then adjourned the meeting. Most of the people in line had questions that were relevant to the meeting.

This Board has effectively, with their actions, shown the public that they really don’t care.
The Chair, Mr. Burton, stated the many ways that people can communicate to the Board. In regards to Burton’s comments about anyone having there own press conference. Most of the people (taxpayers) do not have the extra resources to practically do this and so they wish to use the tax-paid function and facility as the forum to be heard. That should be democracy in action. The press is there and the Board is there, even though it seems that they have earmuffs on most of the time. There is also a large component of parents and students that are affected that congregate there.

Even though you as a taxpayer attempt to have Natural Justice via question period, however one-sided it is, the School Trustees conveniently curtails it with these new meeting enforcement policies. There are three principles of Natural Justice. They are:
1. The rights to be heard and present evidence. A person should not be adversely affected by a decision-maker without being able to put forth a case that is relevant to his or her own concerns.
2. The right to know the facts upon which the decision-maker based the decision.
3. A decision-maker should not be biased. A person should therefore have a right to have a matter determined by an unbiased adjudicator.

So any Trustee with children in the system would be biased would they not? Interesting that the Board expects the students to apply restorative justice principles, but they themselves do not practice what they preach.

For the Board to have wasted taxpayers dollars to make these regulations was not warranted and for them to treat the public in this manner I see as not part of the democratic process. I view this as a breach of trust by each of the current Trustees. I believe the Board doesn’t really care if the people have an opportunity to be heard or not. More importantly, they choose not to provide the public with timely and open responses to their questions. Putting in place these temporary (maybe) ill-thought-out rules, with no apparent thought of the implications shows their ineffectiveness. It shows arrogance - almost as much as the manner in which they gave themselves raises. It also gives reason as to why I feel that the Ministry is proceeding towards preparing for replacement of local Boards of Education with regional ones or none.
They just don’t get it. Next election, it's time for a change.
Susan Semonick...

Vecchiato's Voice - Sep 25, 2007 - How Above Board Are Our Governments? How About Locally?

Expected components of government, I believe, are transparency and accountability. Often, however, plans of immense proportion that reach the public are a "done deal" by that time with little or no public consultation. The image of sturdy handshakes in the back rooms of municipalities, provinces and even in Ottawa come to mind when we realize how many wheels are set in motion without the taxpayers knowing.

A minor example is a recent request for a 2001 site map from Planning for the proposed Willoughby Park. I wanted to know what was in place at the time. However, I was not able to obtain a copy because the schematics were in the "conceptual" phase. Using the Freedom of Information Act--a necessary tool for democracy gone haywire-- I did receive a copy from township outlining what I had requested. During this "conceptual" phase, public consultation should be paramount. I have heard that there is no consultation for Parks, and I ask, Why not?

How above board is government? A quick click to the youtube link below will give you an idea what we, as citizens, are dealing with on all levels of government. As a taxpayer, I ask for openness, honesty, and a disdain for sins of omission, which tend to come back and haunt you.
-- Cathleen Vecchiato, Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition

LFP Editor highly recommends that you watch this linked 5 minute YouTube clip --> Lone Voice Defies TFN Treaty Manipulation
Youtube video of Berth Williams of the Tsawwassen First Nation

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Langley Gang Style Shooting Near Schools - UPDATE


The adjacent briefing was forwarded from Councillor Kim Richter as an update.

Note: To view adjacent document briefing double left click to view larger.

Note: the important last line is repeated as follows;
Anyone with information who has not already spoken to police to call Langley RCMP at 604-532-3200 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Langley Gang Style Shooting Near D.W.Poppy & Peterson Schools

News 1130 & CP News & CTV News & G&M News report that two Langley North Otter area schools were locked down as a result of a gangland style shooting taking place this morning on the nearby quiet and semi-rural residential streets that involved 'persons' well known to the local police. Looks like ever increasingly the Vancouver violence is starting to spill over into the Langleys. This isn't surprising considering we live in a community that has marijuana as Langley's largest cash crop with grow ups being shut down and started up weekly if not daily!

We also have quite a few gangs in Langley now as well including a youth Aldergrove gang that calls itself the 856 gang after the local prefix 3 digit telephone number which may have some links to this specific shooting. The police have a 16 year old in custody as a result of this shooting and are seeking more suspects. Whatever the cause of this specific shooting and this Editor suspects it is most likely gang related, our police in Langley Township must now aggresively pursue and irradicate this activity immediately. Langley police and both City & Township Mayors & Councils have to stop arguing about police sharing costs and make sure we don't get any more national news headlines as a result of gang violence! It is unacceptable to have this violence take place in our residential communities and especially right outside an elementary and secondary school while kids are on their way to school.

NEW Bin Laden Video - w/ link to full 26min version

Six years ago at this time in the morning I was awakened just in time to see the world trade centre tower crash. I'll never forget it. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing at the time? My heart still goes out to those that died and suffered as a result of that unforgetable day. To see the full length Bin Laden video and full english text insert this text in a new window.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Taxpayer Tax Inquiry Request Ignored & Richter's Motion Not Discussed, Nor Reported

Councillor Kim Richter tabled a motion on August 26th refering to the adjacent posted letter to Township Mayor & Council. The letter writer says that his property taxes increased $2000 in the last year alone! ($4500 to $6700 over just the last year! A 49% increase!) Specifically her motion asked that in keeping with the request from Mr. McTaggart that council refer this matter to staff to ask for an improved and more equitable Township distribution of property taxes. Mr. McTaggart asked for an inquiry to investigate and report back on fixing this property tax inequity. Richter put forward the motion to address his concerns (and that of many other long term and rural township taxpayers who have the same very real concerns on this inequity).
"we pay high taxes for minimal service." - Mr. McTaggart.
Guess what happened? You got it, no seconder to her motion. Not even one of Richter's good ole boys club colleagues on township council wanted to second this issue nor even to obviously discuss it either. Hence there was no discussion on this Township Taxpayer's (Mr. McTaggart) important and very relevant request. No discussion, no action, no review, nothing! Just quiet disdain, brush-off and essentially outright rejection of Cllr. Richter's motion and even more tragic the Township Taxpayer's request.
" we can no longer afford to live in our homes as we are in effect being taxed out of our homes." - Mr. McTaggart
Worse still, the local media did not report on this in the local papers at all despite the fact that many more taxpayers have expressed the very same grave tax increase concerns. Where are the local papers? Is it now perhaps only all about advertising dollars? (Double Click on letter to view it larger & it is a great read!)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Vacation Over - What Have The Clowns Been Doing?

Miss me? Wow! Unbelievable stuff went on in August that I will be commenting on more specifically shortly. A small recap shows that we now apparently have a born again public transit crusader on Township council who is trying to tell us heathens that we need rail traffic up 200th street! Is this off the rails or what? The real crusaders, Valtac must be besides themselves on this one. How much more damaging could these ridiculous suggestions be? Meanwhile the local rags gave lots of publicity to this ridiculous suggestion obviously just because it was mid August and the real news just shrivels up at this time and desperation results in publishing this drivel or any drivel during August. Interestingly enough we also understand that many a press release is almost published verbatim especially frequent ones that come from ex-reporters! How do you spell lazy? But I digress... Come on, get off the publicity seeking bandwagon! Fraser Highway and not 200th Street is the busiest road in Langley! Compare the ever constant and greater Fraser Hwy bus stop passengers waiting at non existant bus shelters to those on 200th St! Maybe the Rookie Cllr. should get out of his car and use transit sometimes! We need rapid transit to get to points west of Langley more than north of Langley! We need east-west rail transit like Valtac proposes and not ridiculous north-south which really only gets us to the new Willoughby skyscraper lit up steeple temple! Why not also suggest that this route also go down 200th right to the city casino as well just like the new overpass does? What sheer drivel.

Meanwhile believe it or not the Township council said NO to helping people in Langley when council voted against a $500k donation to Langley Family Services (LFS) to finance their new building yet they threw away another quick $500k on the already over budget and questionable new and trendy Langley dog shelter building on the very same day! Does this mean needy dogs are more important than needy people in Langley Township? Sad don't you think? No surprise though, "Township Council Old Boy's Club" choice of the wrong priorities as usual. Or was this perhaps a poison dart aimed purely at Langley City by the Township council as suggested by others including the press? How petty if true. Remember, LFS is located in Langley City yet serves over 60% in Langley Township! To be fair surprisingly only Cllr. Ward voted along with Cllr. Richter to help out our community and the needy with the LFS grant. And then Cllr. Charlie Fox is quoted as saying that helping fund Langley Family Services essentially would add about an equivalent one time 1% to our Township property tax bill! What about the even more costly dog shelter Charlie or all the other things you voted on like the grossly over budget Grandstand which itself would add a one time 3 to 5 % tax hike using your own calculations with the overage to it's initial budget alone, not to mention two back to back annual ~5% tax increases that you voted for as well that will compound year after year with additional tax hikes? When did you suddenly get to become a born again Langley Township tax reduction advocate? And why suddenly only on this issue?

I guess every ridiculous Township council old boys club decision has to have an equally ridiculous justification especially with only one year to re-election time!

To make appearances even worse for the Langley Township Ole Boys Club Council, check out tommorows Friday Sept 7th Langley Advance where there are 5 pages of articles, pictures and congratulations (pages 27 through 31) describing at length Langley Family Services' (LFS) great deeds and benefits to the community with well wishers and many best wishes on their new building that was just completed. It was re-constructed after the old building was tragically burnt down by vandals a year or two ago. Note there are also paid congratulatory ads from our MLA and the City of Langley amongst the many thanks and congratulations in the Langley Advance. But note, not one peep, advertisement or comment contributed at all from the Township of Langley its Council or it's Mayor Alberts! Keep in mind that over 60% of the people LFS charitably serves in the Langleys live in the Township of Langley, NOT in the City! How petty and pathetic is that? However we should be comforted to know that this ole boys club Township council instead will spend a million or more of our tax dollars instead on needy dogs instead of real people in need served and assisted by LFS!

And guess what it also smells & looks like Langley City won the police funding battle with the Township council probably having to concede defeat to the superior opponent, Langley City Mayor & Council. Congratulations Peter Fassbender & City Council. You not only beat the Township but got them to forgive any back monies owed and delayed implementation for many years! Great negotiating Township council! Remind me never to consider using you to negotiate my way out of a paper bag! Way to be on the ball 'good ole boys' after about 4 long YEARS of procrastination and delay! I will be talking to regular LFP contributors and do some more research on the real straight goods on these ridiculous items.And I thought it was going to be a quiet August! I should have stayed on holidays!

Also for you LFP antagonists who either are members of the Township council old boys club or rabid supporters of them who always write in to this Editor with your less than gracious commentary, I post the clown picture above to assist you in your creative writing attempts. Hopes this makes it easier for you. Gawd knows, you guys need it!