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.

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