Wednesday, October 31, 2007

School Board Meeting ON Tonight at 6 PM!

"The Board has fixed the time to which to adjourn the October 30, 2007 meeting to Thursday, November 1, 2007, 6 p.m. at the School Board Office, 4875 222nd Street in Langley. The meeting will resume at that time and location. Due to safety concerns and fire regulations, once the available seating is taken no more people will be admitted into the School Board Office. It is the Board's intention, as always, to strike a balance between the need for public access to meetings and for an orderly, safe and businesslike atmosphere."
Verbatim above as posted on School Board's website!
So get there early TOMORROW to try and get a seat! And Remember election count down is only 13 months away!

Susan Semonick On Schools - October 30th School Board Meeting at CLA

The unbelievable has happened. This dysfunctional board has decided to adjourn until Thursday –venue to be announced. There were five delegations permitted to present - two from the Murrayville Elementary community, two from LSS and one from HD Stafford. A motion to allow an additional five presenters before the recommendations were to be considered was defeated by the expected four to three vote.

The Board received the budget update which included the wish list of what enhancements in services that they might consider but are likely not feasible any longer due to the estimated 1.6 million that the Board has to come up with to deal with the sudden change in the Ministry funding formula for part-time secondary students in grades 10 to 12. Previously, the Ministry used to give full funding for a part time student taking at least four courses, which enabled the school to allow students that wanted more courses to be able to do so. Now, the base funding for these students will be gone. This amounts to a loss of just under $3,000 per regular part-time student. The students who used to be able to take extras may no longer be able to do so. In 2005, as DPAC President, I brought this to the attention of the Ministry because of the new graduation structure. At that time, they said there was discussion on it but we were assured that it was not likely to happen. Now, here we are, after boards have set their budgets, the government has decided to cut funding.

The next budget concern that the Board will have to deal with will be funding (or lack of funding) for adult education, which they will be expected to take on in September 2008. Or, the Ministry may give back the 1.6 million that they clawed back for the part-time students to provide for the adult students. We will have to wait and see whether the Ministry will provide any transitional funding this year.

The Transitional District Literacy Plan was approved. Mr. Etchell called this a plan for a plan to implement literacy strategies to address literacy from pre-K to adults. The plan is based upon Four Pillars of ReadNow BC and involves a host of community groups as well as the school district. A copy of the plan was not available in the package but should be available shortly on the district website.

(c) 2007/2008 DISTRICT ACHIEVEMENT CONTRACT: TRANSITION PLANThe 2007/2008 District Achievement Contract - Transition Plan was approved. A copy should be available on the district website shortly.

Recommendation #1: That the verbal report on Elementary Schools in the South Central Area of the School District, was received for information.

It was stated that should they vote to change the James Hill boundaries so that some students would be going to Peterson Road, if the Murrayville School closed, all of Murrayville students would fit into James Hill. It looks like they are wishing to align all the new boundaries so they can proceed with their plan.

Recommendation #2a: That the addendum to the Proposed Reconfiguration of H.D. Stafford Secondary School and Langley Secondary School, regarding the option of establishing a Grade 6 to 12 configuration as a pilot program at Langley Secondary School, was received for information.

Depending on the vote on Recommendation # 3 it will determine if they should even be looking at this.

Recommendation #2b: Fine arts choice program at HD Stafford and Blacklock Elementary was received for information.

Again depending on the vote on Rec#3, I do not see why they even are receiving this information except to appear to be considering all information and options.

Recommendation #3: That the Board approve the reconfiguration of Langley Secondary School and H.D. Stafford Secondary School to establish a Grade 6 – 8, middle school at H.D. Stafford Secondary School and a Grade 9 – 12 secondary school at Langley Secondary School, effective September, 2008.

All trustees except Burton were able to complete their address on why they were voting the way they are going to. My guess would be 4 –3 to approve the recommendation. The addresses to the public were compelling from the Famous Four but one vital fact that is left out of all their reports is that it is known that if the community is not in support of a middle school it will not work. Because of actions by a few frustrated people, the four trustees have dug their heels in and are probably not going to vote no. For now, they in my opinion only probably feel they will lose face if they do so - that is what I got out of their speeches. They still do not have a dollar figure for this option.

A few trustees have taken offense at the public stating that trustees were not listening. When you do not reply or acknowledge receipt of e-mails etc. people do tend to think you are not listening or did not hear them.

To his credit, the Chair did not cut any of the trustees short during their comments on recommendation #3 even though all of them went over the 10-minute limit. Some have suggested that there might have been some filibustering going on but I did not sense that from any of them. The meeting was abruptly adjourned or recessed by Chair Burton - not sure which was the official stance. This occurred when the clock struck 11 pm and someone from the balcony interrupted the Chair and brought to his attention that they would have to make a motion to continue.

It appeared in my opinion that due to Chair Burton taking offense that someone was bringing the time to his attention, he may have lost it, along with others in the crowd at this point. I believe they were only trying to follow the process that Mr. Burton himself had used at the prior meeting. It was a highly charged meeting and Burton only wanted to be heard and in my opinion seemed to get frustrated with it all. It appears he does know how it feels not to be respected and not listened to. He reacted by adjourning and moving the meeting to another room. Only partner group representatives, senior management and the press were invited to the subsequent meeting. In the end, the meeting was adjourned to Thursday at 6 pm to a place to be announced on Wednesday.

Effectively the meeting would continue where it left off. The rest of the agenda will be dealt with on Thursday.

While the meeting is intended to end at 11:00 pm, this is not in policy. The public is not entitled to interfere with the proceedings of the Board meeting - only to attend and participate during delegations and question period. The Chair was attempting to continue with a motion that was already on the table and conclude business in a reasonable way, which is his decision. I expect that a motion to adjourn would have followed the vote. The undisciplined actions of a few people delayed the inevitable and inconvenienced the rest of the public who attended. The three trustees who remained should have adjourned to the other room, regardless of how they feel about recommendation #3. They are members of the Board and such should conduct themselves accordingly. Poor behaviour on both sides of the table.

Personal notes: As two trustees have stated, this Board is dysfunctional. The Minister of Education, on behalf of all the students in School District 35, must intervene. This has gone beyond the ridiculous. How can trustees make fiscally responsible decisions without knowing the financial cost of what they are voting on?

Oct 30st School Board Meeting At CLA - Pictures

Click on Pictures for larger view.

Pictures of the Langley School Board Meeting held at Christian Life Assembly on Oct 30.
^--Meeting from back of Auditorium
Meeting from balcony -->
The School Board meeting had a record large audience of parents, students and varied other politicians.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Xmas Lites In Aldergrove! - It's Not What You Know, But Who You Know

The Background
Rookie councillor Jordan Bateman says that he was told by an unnamed person in his church that Xmas lights/wiring supposedly worth about $2500.00 were stolen from the Aldergrove Fire Hall. These lights were used 2 years in a row to help collect charitable donations with a volunteer driven 'Fire & Ice' Christmas light and ornament show run by the Aldergrove Firefighters.

The Jordan Bateman Motion
Based on this background, rookie councillor Jordan Bateman presented a motion to Township Council last night to give $2500.00 of Langley Tax Payer monies to the Aldergrove Fire and Ice Committee to replace their lights/wiring.

Valid and Reasonable Questions
Councillor Richter asked Cllr. Bateman if any official or formal request was submitted by the Fire Hall or from any of its organizing group members. The answer was 'no' and that the information had only come from someone (again unnamed) who told him about it at his own church and who was aware of this supposed theft.

The Result
Council after much discussion and no confirming evidence or facts voted to provide up to $2500.00 to replace the Xmas lights. Cllr. Richter was the only Cllr. to vote against Bateman's motion.

Richter's Rationale and Concern
No actual or externally qualified confirmation of the theft of the lights, details, replacement costs, etc. whatsoever were given to Council. All they had was a Notice of Motion by Cllr. Bateman. Many other organizations also frequently ask for funding for equally valid and justified volunteer requests and confirm their requests with proper procedure, information and documentation. Heck just last month, the Langley Community Services Board Chair & President with a personal appearance & appeal to Council got turned down, yet an unknown source's off-the-cuff comment garners $2500! This Xmas light replacement was based solely on an unnamed someone in Bateman's church, who said it happened and that it would supposedly cost about $2500.00 to replace. No paper, No confirmation, No proof, No proper procedures, No details, No names!

Richter's major concern was that approving such an unsubstantiated request for taxpayer monies sends out a very bad message and precedent because it essentially says that if you know someone on council, you can get something simply and easily just by having an insider conversation with a friendly Township council member!

LFP's Summary
Rash financial exuberance and enthusiasm can be costly and dangerous especially for us poor Township taxpayers in the end. This current example just highlights the poor financial acumen and lack of due financial diligence that has caused the $3-4-5-6- million dollar grandstand fiasco overruns and the most recent highest ever historical tax increases imposed on us by this current slate of Township Council "good ole boy's club".

All of these were financial horror stories with motions first moved by rookie Councillor Jordan Bateman who with now just a year to go in his first term is now clearly trying to position himself as a born-again financially and fiscally prudent councillor. LFP finds it interesting that he consistently votes contrary to all the fiscally responsible recommendations of Councillor Richter and also made sure that the Township was saddled with the historically highest ever tax hikes and major spending projects since he has been elected! It's simply too little, too late, Cllr. Bateman.
The Xmas lights is just another symptom and blatant example of rash procedure and decision making by the "good ole boys" on Township council. As Richter pointed out, she would be the first to agree to the $2500.00 if it was confirmed and properly handled. This Township once got rid of a council that used questionable processes. That LLT Council at least were the last Council to not increase taxes and they eliminated our Township debt. This "good ole boy's club" has implemented historic tax increases, outrageous and constant spending, and over budget project spending as well as they have brought back multi million dollar Township debt as well!

The Sad Moral of this story IS...
It's not what you know, but who you know! So why bother to get in line for a Township grant - that takes time and effort. Call a Councillor instead!

Susan Semonick On Schools - Report on the Langley DPAC Survey

The results for the two Langley DPAC surveys regarding the South/Central consultations have been posted on their site. Unfortunately, without making the comments portion of the survey public, the results are difficult to understand and do not provide any clear insight. The rationale for not providing the comments apparently is ......

"The personal comments from parents will not be publicly available due to the small number of responses from some schools – these were not PAC opinion comments from our members – they were parents’ personal thoughts on this issue and were sent as such only where we said they would go."

I say - most people expect survey results to be publicized and certainly names and schools could be masked. The small number of responses from some schools are still responses from concerned parties of the Langley School District and as such why should it matter where their children attend school - after all, we have been consistently told that this is a district issue and affects all students. Langley DPAC should be releasing those comments along with the figures so that the survey results can make sense. The results belong to the PACs and parents - not to the trustees. Otherwise, why do the survey and pay for it, unless DPAC has suddenly become a tool of the school district rather than its membership? It looks like DPAC is taking a page out of the school district's playbook regarding the sharing of certain information. I wonder how parents and PACs feel. I would trust that people would be able to discriminate between good and bad data. Haven't they done this so far with all the information provided to them by the district? Why is DPAC giving Trustees "special information" and not to the public or their membership? Shouldn't we all have the same info to base our responses on?

As for the results, there were 359 who responded to the middle school survey and only 62 to the Options survey. Understandably a significant proportion of the respondents (over 80%) were from the South/Central area. There is little else I can add without the additional information that DPAC is apparently unwilling to communicate to the public.

There were only 8 participants from LSS, on the first survey and only 3 participants from LSS on the second survey.
Sadly on the second survey there was 6 people who felt that to do nothing is an option.
On the second survey there were only 4 people that wanted the middle school to go ahead as proposed.

There were 46.8 percent of the people wanted different options. Unfortunately another irrelevant fact without the related comments.

If I had to sum up this report on the results as posted I would have to say "IRRELAVANT".

There were only four people out of 62 respondents to the DPAC's Options survey chose the current middle school proposal. Either the survey was poorly advertised to the parents or the so-called silent majority have left it up to the parents whose children will be directly involved in the collateral damage to decide for them.

With the recent announcement of changes to the funding formula for part-time students in the province, I would hazard a guess that this will be about anywhere from an $800,000 to over $1,000,000 impact to our district's budget.

So, in order to make that up, the SDBC could be dissolved and all contributions to the School District Foundation from the ISP program could be ended and the district could stop supplying an employee at $47,000 a year plus expenses. The next thing that will be coming up is that the school district will be expected to supply adult education at no cost starting in September 2008. Hopefully, the government supplements for these students will come in before any more schools have to close. I would think the trustees have been left with no other option but to VOTE NO to the expense that the Middle school concept will cost the district. The savings from school closures will have to be used along with many other things to make up this shortfall rather than go into an expensive experiment like the proposed middle school program, which has no definite costs reported.

Report on the Langley DPAC Survey, Respectfully submitted by Susan Semonick

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What's The Rush? - Oct 28th Newspaper Appeal Ad From Langley Concerned Community Group

E-MAIL & CALL your Langley Neighbours & Friends and get then to read Susan's facts in LFP and then get them out to Tuesday's historic School Board Meeting!
Breaking News Update: Oct 30 tuesday Board Meeting (Stafford closure decision day) - Venue Change moved to Christian Life Assembly, 21277 - 56th Avenue, Langley - 07:30 PM-11:00PM !!! Apparently the School Bored will be meeting at 7 in camera and public meeting only open at 7:30 PM!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - October 24th Town Hall Meeting re HD Stafford

The meeting started at 7 pm and lasted until just past 10 pm. There were approximately 650 people present. They asked for a show of hands and there was a fair representation of the community outside of parents and students at the Town Hall Meeting. I did not see any Township councillors there; I did see the CUPE and LTA representatives and the three trustees who support the community of HDS keeping their secondary school.

Most of the presentations were a repeat of what we heard at the Board meetings. What was most important though was that no one was rushed – the presenters were able to give their presentation in its entirety. We all know that HDS is an excellent school. We know the proposal has not been backed with appropriate financial numbers or sound educational findings. We know that 4 trustees did not find it important enough to show up to show that they are more than willing to listen - a very, very bad political move on their part. We know that not all trustees live where they are elected but they are to represent and support students’ education in the district as a whole, not who marks your ballot in the City or Township.

This is the very reason I believe the ballots for the Langley Board of Education should be amalgamated and I hope the Minister of Education will see the validity of my request after all this. All constituents within the one school district should be able to elect ALL trustees.

Since one trustee has stated that they have been flooded with calls in support of the middle school proposal, I wonder why these people have not been public. They must have a special number or address as the people I have spoken with tell me that their calls and emails to this trustee have been unanswered. I certainly have not heard of a pro-middle school petition. The only public presentation supporting the proposal has been from the Langley Secondary School Parent Advisory Council executive members. There have also been a couple of letters to local paper. It calls to question to trust what trustees say but then I guess they lost public trust about 9 months ago.

The absence of some trustees speaks for itself. For many, what it says is that they have no idea what consultation and communication is and what a real decision-making process is. For Board Chair Mr. Burton to say that he has not received any viable options is wrong in my opinion. Is he backward-slapping Ms. Beaumont who has already given four options, which she has stated in her report are all viable? Is this not the report that he and his cohorts accepted when three other trustees did not? Or, is it as many have suspected all along, that his mind was made up long ago despite having repeatedly made explicit statements to the contrary?

The thing is, I have even presented an option on this blog that is viable and would be looking more to the future than any of the previous options and which would solve a lot, if not all, of the problems they are presently attempting to fix. Taking the middle school road will only exacerbate the situation and make things far worse. There is no proven model for a stand-alone Grade 12 program, however transitional - do they really believe that it does not matter what happens to those students? The four trustees will certainly be put to the test to see if they can demonstrate why they are sitting in those seats - a NO vote is for the students - a Yes vote is for no good reason.

Tid Bits of History - Langley Secondary School was built in 1948. H.D. Stafford was built in 1970.
Tid Bits on Education-
Respectfully submitted by
Susan Semonick

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

David Gets The Last Laugh Over Goliath!

In a recent report to Township council the Board of Directors for the newly formed Tourism Langley reported that; "The preferred options for the Association's official website, and as well as the alternatives and , are unfortunately not available." Meanwhile Langley Township & City Langley Tourism reps. Bateman & Fassbender, suggest using website URL which this Editor believes is registered by the City. Wondering why these tourism Jeniuses don't even try to rebuy the tourism langley URLs? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that these URLs are owned by none other than Wally Martin of Traveller's Hotel! The vocal critic against the notorious Langleys's hotel tax! Way to go Wally! Looks good on these Jeniuses!!...

Susan Semonick On Schools - Education Tidbits Part 3a

Closing Stafford Off the Table?

The Ministry of Education’s recent ministerial order announced on September 14, 2007, has likely taken closure of HD Stafford Secondary off the table as one of the viable options for the South/Central area.

The order puts into place new rules for the disposition of surplus properties. Before dealing with other prospective purchasers or tenants, Boards of Education will now be required to check with government ministries and crown corporations to identify whether they may have a use for property held by Boards that is not needed for educational purposes. If these negotiations do not lead to a sale, then Boards must consult with the local government to see whether it has a use for the property. The criteria and the process(es) have not been outlined by the Ministry of Labour & Citizens’ services yet. Boards may decide whether properties are available for sale or lease, and the terms of such. However, if one of these government organizations put forth a legitimate offer, I would think that it would be difficult for the Board to come up with a rationale as to why it would refuse a sale or lease.

In this case, if the Langley Board of Education decides to close HD Stafford, then it would be required to go through this process and there has been talk within the HD Stafford community that the City of Langley would work toward establishing a secondary school. It would be very likely that they would offer to lease or buy the school. This is something that the Langley Board of Education likely does not want and therefore the option to close HD Stafford is not one that they can now choose.

The HD Stafford community has at least five past school trustees working on their behalf. These are experienced and connected politicians who know the ropes and can work through the Ministry of Education’s system to get what they want. Are they powerful and skilful enough to request a secession of the schools (1 secondary, 6 elementary schools and 1 alternate program) that exist within the city boundaries from the Langley School District to create a new school district? Perhaps. Are they dedicated enough to rally the troops? Most likely. It would be easy enough for them to demonstrate their ability to effectively set up a three member Board of Education for the City of Langley. School District #94 would probably sound good to them. In any case, I very much doubt if the current group of seven trustees would like to test the waters to see.

If the current Langley Board listens to its constituents and decides against the implementation of a middle school, an idea which has almost no support in either the South/Central area, then perhaps it might look to a K-12 school as has been suggested by some. We already have a successful model at Langley Fine Arts and the research that I cited in my last report indicates that students do better in K-12 schools.

Clearly, the HD Stafford community would choose their local secondary school, despite its difficulty in providing a wide range of senior level courses and other limitations, if given the choice. If that is what they want, and they are content not to have or ask for any of the these things that the district believes they should be providing, then why not let them see their success in that way. It is in the eyes of the beholder is it not?

The school district then only needs to address the issue of secondary cohort size, declining enrolment, etc. in the rest of the South/Central area and the three other secondary schools in the area. The Ministry of Education has said that adult education will be tuition-free. Online education is now free for them. Beginning next year, school districts will be providing adults some of this service directly. Has this been planned for? Why is this not part of the reconfiguration plan for this area? Instead of a middle school at Aldergrove, why not an expanded adult education centre to fill the seats?

This could be an excellent opportunity to make another K-12 choice program at LSS. Move the Fundamental program to this facility and clear your wait lists. Do as Deputy Minister Dosdall has stated - “new programs and initiatives require sustained effort, resources and your individual attention.” Make this choice what the parents originally wanted - a K-12 Fundamental program in one place. The parents already drive their children to school and have no emotional ties to the current facilities they are housed in. If the LSS facilities are so valuable, that closing it is not an option as has been stated, then it should be welcomed by those who choose this program. This solves your problems and affects the least amount of students.
Education Tid Bits by Susan Semonick.

Susan Semonick On Schools - Education Tidbits Part 2a

The following is another excerpt from Grade Configurations in K-12 Schools.

What factors do school districts consider when deciding on grade configuration? Researchers at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory looked at eight schools with seven different grade spans. They examined the history of each school's decision on grade configuration along with observed advantages and disadvantages of each configuration and principals' comments on the success of their programs (Paglin & Fager, 1997). Based on this research, Paglin and Fager compiled a list of nine factors that school districts might want to consider when making decisions about grade configurations of individual schools:

• the cost and length of student travel, particularly in a school district that covers a large area
• a possible increase or decrease in parent involvement, possibly affected by the distance to the school and the number of schools a family's children attend
• the number of students at each grade level, which may affect class groupings and courses offered
• the effect of school setting on achievement, particularly for grades 6-9
• effect on whether the neighborhood schools close or remain open
• the number of school transitions for students
• the opportunities for interaction between age groups
• the influence of older students on younger students
• the building design-is it suitable for only a few or for several grade levels?
Paglin and Fager concluded that designing a school system to use a particular span of grades in individual schools will not in itself guarantee that students will learn well and be well adjusted.

According to public opinion, none of these points have been covered in the report that 4 out of 7 trustees are basically basing their vote on.

DPAC is trying to survey public opinion. If I had to vote on an option, it would be to close LSS, for then only the grades 9-11 students would be affected for next year; and if you went the route of phasing it out, it would affect even less. Closing classrooms as the students move through the system would affect even less.

The other option I suggest is to make the Fundamental program a full K-12. Move it to LSS and LEC can remain or move to LFMSS and close the Fundamental Elementary building and re-sell for a profit now that it is fixed up. This would affect the least amount of students create the capital funds required for the expansion of REMSS, We would not have to reconfigure the road system and keep residents happy, allow the waitlist to be cleared for the fundamental and we would not have overcrowding. You would close LSS as a non-choice secondary for September 2009. The current LSS students could go to ACSS, DWP or HDS with grade eight students from LSS being placed in HDS for September 2008. Sound to logical maybe.

To summarize, this Board should be reported to the Education minister. This middle school proposal is not acceptable to be even a suggestion at this time. For them to continue from this point on can only be seen as self-serving of their egos.

Respectfully submitted by
Susan Semonick

Special note to HD Stafford Parents

You may want to call in to speak with the Minister of Education, Shirley Bond, who along with Saanich North and the Islands MLA, Murray Coell, will be featured on Shaw TV's Voice of BC from 8:00-9:00 pm on Thursday, October 25th to discuss education in British Columbia.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - Report from the Board of Education Public Meeting Oct 9

The meeting was full with about 200 people in attendance. Both the boardroom and the overflow room upstairs were packed. There were three past trustees and Mayor Fassbenderin attendance.

District Highlights
The two district presentations were not well listened to, for parents wanted to get to the important things on their minds. Career Education teacher, Judy Gerein, spoke on the apprenticeship programs in the district. Coordinator of Instructional Services, Sandra Averill, spoke about the Internet safety program that is offered in the district.

First presentation was from a student on the HD Stafford reconfiguration and the effects it would have on her personally. Her point – that the proposed changes will basically make her have to go elsewhere out of district or change her career direction. She did state she was already taking Distance Learning courses to meet her graduation requirements.

Second presentation was from a past trustee, Chris Petipas and she commented on the disdain she felt in regards to how the public has been treated and the decisions that are being made. She did state that she felt that Board Chair, Mr. Burton, was not listening and to please look at her when she spoke. Mr. Burton asked in return whether he was then not permitted to take notes – to which in turn she stated he would be receiving a handout.

Then, I did my presentation, which has been posted prior to this report. The essence of my report was that this Board is still failing to clean their own house before they make changes that affect the students. In June, Trustee Bech tried to make a motion to deal with the failing SDBC but there was no second. The rest of the Board did not even wish to discuss an option that would not affect students - NOT A ONE. Hopefully now there will be a second, third and fourth on this so it can be done.

A delegation from the Blacklock Elementary community made a presentation re a proposal for their Fine Arts programming.

Mr. McFarlane did a presentation next and was kind enough to send me the PowerPoint, which I have included in this report (Powerpoint software required, and may take a few minutes to download to view.).

District Reports

Enrolment report can be found at:

Capital plan was received for information and posted at:

Reconfiguration Report

The report includes pros and cons of the various recommendations including suggestions from the public. It shows the steps necessary to move the IB program at REMSS and why it may be difficult to do so.

The one thing that does not seem to be mentioned is that the entire Fundamental program could be moved to LSS and LEC could be moved to LFMSS building. They could close one more building (excess space). This would make more sense and would cost far less than the current proposal. This was an option that they had several years ago but chose not to do. Times have changed. The Fundamental parents already drive their children to school, so as long as they have a stand alone program what does it matter to them? Some of these students already go to LSS for woodwork. Then, the Plumbing and Carpentry programs can be left where they are.

The following is an excerpt from Grade Configurations in K-12 Schools by Nancy McEntire (2002)

In the past decade, researchers also have demonstrated renewed interest in schools that include grades kindergarten through 12. A study of rural schools that examined the relationship between grade configuration and student achievement in Louisiana found that students in K-12 rural schools did as well or better on achievement tests as students in separate elementary, middle, or high schools. Students in high poverty areas also did better in the K-12 schools (Franklin & Glascock, 1996). A similar study in Texas analyzed data from a study of 1001 Texas high schools, including 116 K-12 schools. This study produced similar results (Bickel, Howley, Williams, & Glascock, 2000).

Noteworthy mention – Trustee Bech asked to refuse the report and send it back to receive what they actually wanted - a balanced report and a cost estimate. It was defeated.

While the report is lengthy, it is not what the trustees had asked for. There are absolutely no cost estimates attached to any of the recommendations and yet one of the primary responsibilities of the trustees is to manage the finances. How can you vote on recommendations when you do not know what the monetary cost of the ramifications are; let alone the social impact to communities, and most importantly to the success of students. In any private venture, a cost estimate is simply expected.

If the Board knows the costs attached then they should be fully disclosed to the public and trust that the public will be fair in their expectations. It is the appearance of backroom deals, incomplete disclosure, and lack of openness or trust (of the public) on the part of the Board and senior management that has created unnecessary distress and suspicion. It is not change that people oppose. It is a clear rationale, supported by evidence, to indicate that the direction that the recommendations are taking this school district is appropriate for their students and their communities, that people had expected but feel they have not yet received. It is a semblance of a reasonable thought-out implementation plan, with timeline and costs which people expected. That the Board and senior management refuse or are unable to comprehend this is troubling and does not bode well for our students. Is the education system not for teaching? Is not communication a key skill? How can they teach this if they cannot do it well?

South Central Elementary Schools Report

The report was received for information but history shows that a recommendation will very likely be forthcoming shortly. The recommendation in the report is for the closure of Murrayville Elementary and is suggested due to it being an older building, lack of finances and low enrolment in the South/Central area. It is important to understand that the school itself is not under-enrolled but that its enrolment capacity is smaller. This will be the third school out of possible five, according to the McAvoy Report, to be considered for closure. If the middle school reconfiguration goes through, many know that it will be a done deal.

If the recommendation for an Aldergrove Middle/Secondary goes through, they may be closing one more of their catchment elementary schools too. The savings are only $250,000 to $300,000 at best. They only saved $58,000 closing South Carvolth Elementary. So the question is still out there. Why are they doing this? If we were really in financial crisis the trustees would not have taken a 34% wage increase. Trustees would not be taking a raise in December. They would not be allowing the SDBC to suck more funds and resources from direct student services. They would not be contributing $250,000 (to date) to the School District Foundation and it goes on and on. Or would they? Is it just poor fiscal management? Or simple incompetence?

There are many who are saying that it is this Board that hired the current superintendent. They do not have trust in the Board, so therefore, how can they have trust in the Superintendent? This Board has allowed too much to slide through; three trustees appear to have no idea of what their responsibilities are. One seems to be trying to do the responsible thing. but does not have the backing to succeed. This Board has effectively done too little, too late, with no idea of the damage caused by the lack of process and consultation. With the exception of one trustee, all the rest will have to do a lot of campaigning to be re-elected. If they have 7 running against them, there will be at least 6 new names on the Board at the end of the next election.

CLASS SIZE AND COMPOSITION REPORT RECEIVED The Board of Education received the annual Class Size and Composition Report, which is required by the Ministry of Education. The average Kindergarten class size in Langley School District is 18.81 students (a district-wide average of 19 is permitted under the School Act); Grades 1-3 average class size is 20.85 (21 is permitted); Grade 4-7 is 26.91 (28 is permitted); and Grade 8-12 is 24.79 (30 is permitted). Also included in the report are individual classes with over 30 students in Grades 4-7 and 8-12, and classes with more than three students with special needs.

- 17 band or music classes in elementary schools are over the class size limit.
- 6 drama or visual arts classes in elementary schools are over the class size limit.
- 1 PE class at James Hill is at 31, but there is one student who is special needs and only attends intermittently.
- 1 grade 5 class is at 31 at RC Garnett.

Wouldn’t it be nice in these cases, if they could not make one 15 and one 16 to allow the teachers more time with the students; especially since in this particular class the students are meant to be the leaders in their school. Maybe the trustees could refuse their raises to help – or are we not in that much of a crisis yet?

Any class in the secondary that exceeds the recommended limit does a disservice to the students unless it is Art, PE, or Band/Music. For our Secondary schools that leaves
- 3 classes at ACSS 127 students
- 4 classes at BWSS 137 students
- 7 classes at DWP 218 students
- 3 classes at HDS 97 students
- 2 classes at Langley fine arts 65 students
- 10 classes at LFMSS 320 students
- 12 classes at LSS 376 students
- 20 classes at REMSS 633 students
- 10 classes at WGSS 315 students.

In my opinion there are 2,288 students who are not receiving the level of instruction they should be due to class size. REMSS, LFMSS, LSS and WGSS parents with students in any of these classes perhaps should be considering moving their children from those schools to schools that have better class sizes which, according to these figures, would be HDS. Langley Secondary has a high number of large classes and a low number of students compared to capacity. I now understand why the parents at LSS are more than willing to see change - anything would be better than what is happening.

Deferred Report on North Langley Community Consultation
Meetings have been set up to begin after Christmas, in the new year - a cost that may not be warranted considering the damage that may already be done to close to 31% of the public school population. Another $10,000.00 to tell the public what may already be known, that North Langley area is fine for the time being and may ride through the draught of babies. REMSS needs expansion. It is highly likely that an alignment of timetables for secondary schools may be recommended. Some have also heard rumours of a middle school for the North Langley area. We can only wait and see. This is perhaps something that the Board should also do - wait and see until ALL the consultations have been completed before making any decisions about any of the Area Recommendations. What a novel idea! I wonder which trustee would be willing to put that motion forward at the next Board meeting and more importantly which trustees will have the wisdom to vote in favour of such a motion.

Deferred information on Bills 20-21-22
This report was not received for information and was deferred.

Question Period
At the end of the meeting there were several students with questions. The Board Chair, Mr. Burton in my opinion proved his democratic process is not very democratic. To treat future voters in the manner that they were, the Minister of Education should be advised, but I doubt if anything would be done. This is where legislation fails its people.

Q1: Where can she get an application form for the Surrey School District?
Q2. They wanted to know what would happen if a grade eight student did not complete all credits. How were they expected to do dual campus? Do you get held back or put forward?
Ans.: Ms. Beaumont advised it is based on the individual case and it is the teachers and Administration that make that determination.

Then everything thing got out of order and I was unable to hear the last question permitted. Mr. Burton adjourned the meeting and stated that if anyone had questions for them that they were welcome to come and ask them after the meeting.

The following is the view of the Board meeting from a student from SFU who happened to be there to do an anthropological study on status and role and how they define the role.

The Board appeared to waste a major amount of time on trivialities (TPS). The Chair seemed very condescending toward his fellow Board members as well as the public. He appeared to take more into account of what his fellow male trustee stated than any of the other members of the Board. There was an air of disrespect in the room as a whole.

Since the Board chair is the person in charge of creating the agenda for the public meetings, I would have to suggest that the chair receive time management skills training. What is being cut is the most important part of the meeting - “question period.” It is the most important part for it gives the Board an opportunity to hear from its public. There is a BCCPAC resolution to urge the government to require all Boards of Education to record questions and answers that are presented at public meetings. I hope this will go through since many trustees seem to fail to understand the importance of this part of business. What I understood from a newspaper article is that Trustee McVeigh does not consider question period a part of the business of the Board. After 12 years of being a trustee, I would have thought that at least she would realize that this is a very important part of their business. Questions reflect to the Board the scale of how well they are representing information to the constituents and relaying important information.
The Aldergrove meeting on October 11th regarding the proposed middle/secondary had about 300 parents participating. The majority was against the middle school being placed with the high school. There were about 10 % of those who were interested in a stand-alone concept. The concerns most voiced were regarding the mixing of Grade 6’s with the Grade 12’s and the wish that the younger students not be exposed to the older students. For example, a 17-19 year old boy could influence an 11-year-old girl. There were safety issues raised in regards to the territory claims and related drug incidences that have recently occurred at the school. The principal was not aware of any serious incidence that had occurred and that worried the parents.
At the October 16th South/Central consultation meeting, there were at least 700 people present. There were 28 presentations, which involved 47 students and 28 adults. There was a movie clip, and skits and songs done by the students to communicate to the Board various themes and concerns. The community has united and basically stated all the cons of converting to a middle school. There is a long list. The benefits of changing to the middle school concept have not been substantiated with facts or a cost analysis. The point of all of this is, is that they are trying to fill all the secondary schools at the cost of the neighborhood elementary schools. If they would cut costs at the School Board office, they would not have to look at this for at least 2 years. To start, if they

- dissolved the School District Business Company,
- eliminated School District Foundation costs,
- stopped all donations to others for 2 years, and
- directed all the savings to direct student services,

they would only have to close one secondary school for September 2010 and there would be schools operating at capacity - no overcrowding or portables required. The reasoning they use to propose the closure of Murrayville Elementary is the age of the building. Then, why are we not using the same reasoning for secondary schools? LSS, I believe is the oldest. A facility upgrade is scheduled for next year that will cost $13,464,000 of our tax dollars to bring it up to seismic code. I say - defer that upgrade and close the school as of 2008 and affect 603 students (3% of our students), OR close it as of 2009 and not accept grade eights for one year and affect 438 students (1% percent of our student population). The LSS PAC President has already stated that the parents have accepted this transition.

By my calculations, what they are suggesting right now will affect approximately 5799 students, which is 31 % of 18,720. I believe that everyone would have to agree that 3% is much better than 31%. It also will not cost as much money as the current option will.

There was also a presentation that stated that the district would need at least three busses, if not more, at a minimum cost of $130,000 each.

There was a presentation that suggested that someone from the Ministry be sent to review the proposed reconfiguration in the district. According to Dosdal they already have been here recently. He had the following comment:

“Many students in our districts are experiencing success, learning and thriving. However some are not. The visits made over the past few weeks indicate that we don’t yet have the answers to what will work best to engage all students in successful learning … but superintendents are seeking ways to engage the principals, teachers, students, parents and the community to seek answers to our most challenging questions”.

What was additionally interesting is that in his October 5th edition, he also listed seven points of effective teaching.

#3 Sustained initiatives: new programs and initiatives require sustained effort, resources and your individual attention. Too often in education we move from incentive to incentive without our full attention to ongoing implementation.
#7 Community Involvement: when parents are productively informed and included, they support their schools and will work with teachers and other staff to help with student activities and programs. Schools with positive community development have high morale.

Reliable Rumor Has It...What's The Real Agenda of the "Aldergrove Task Force"? Politicking??

Township rookie Councillor Jordan Bateman was beaming about his passed motion yesterday to "make recommendations on public safety, environment, recreation, and social strategy for Aldergrove". Meanwhile significant others are wondering what's afoot here?

"The task force will report back to Council as a whole within sixty days. It will examine the positive and negative things happening in Aldergrove, and make recommendations to the Township on how to improve things." says Bateman.

Reliable Rumor Has It... that some other significant politicos are rightfully wondering if this task force is a sham and a coverup for a secret agenda developed by Cllrs. Bateman and Fox over the past few months?

Reliable Rumor Has It... that both Bateman and Fox have been sighted in Aldergrove meeting with some well known members of the development community, specifically those involved in the Fort Langley restaurant purchase and those previously associated with Bateman's old alma mater - the Langley Leadership Team (LLT).

Fox was overheard to say yesterday that "we" already have 52 recommendations that "we" want to get acting on now. So who's the cozy club "we"? How long have they been meeting? What are their 52 recommendations? Who authorized them? How much will they cost? (This Editor smells the distinct aroma of mushroom compost going on in the backrooms - must be an election coming up and a few 'keeners' are getting a jump start on it! Keep your eye on the "boy who would be king"!)
52 recommendations! WOW! Why even have a task force if they know what they want already? Isn't this putting the cart before the horse because how can you have recommendations when you haven't got a task force or any terms of reference yet? Sounds to me like this is simply window dressing for a secret agenda. Whose agenda? What's in it for the plotting politicos and the developers? How much will it cost the taxpayers? Why just a task force for Aldergrove? Why not one for Walnut Grove, Fort Langley, Brookswood, Murrayville, etc., etc.?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Vecchiato's Voice - Oct 20, 2007 - And So It Goes

So, here's the story. An old Jewish man goes to the Wailing Wall every day to pray. Finally someone asks him, Why do you come here every day? The old man replies, I come to pray for peace in the Middle East. Do you get an answer? The old man shook his head glumly. No, it's like talking to a f***ng wall.

And so it goes.

I can tell you that my non-communicative stack of bricks is purported representational government. Although I may not have voted for each one, they still represent me, or so I assume. That's democracy, isn't it?
Recently, I was observer to a series of events that posed as metaphorical wall. The issue was around the new Willoughby Park spanning from 202A to 200th Street. As Jeffries Brook, Denim, Jericho Ridge and other new developments filled in the once sheltered meadows and forests, I felt hopeful knowing that at least Township would come through with a park. I watched a delegation about saving trees on the property. Not stick ones in the middle of a soggy field, but the rich hedgerows and second growth forest that are home to deer, fox, myriad birds including owls, burrowing rabbits, voles, shrews, and coyotes that hunt.

As events unraveled, it seemed as if my idea of a park was far different than those who actually plan them. Both models—mine and theirs--serve a purpose in the community, and because there was so much perimeter foliage, several of us thought that surely a tree survey as mandated by the Tree By-law in the Subdivision and Zoning legislation would come galloping to the rescue. Its shining armor would be accompanied by my local government's desire for sustainability, to utilize the research of an in-depth Wildlife Habitat Strategy, by civil servants with the ability to envision the blend of homes and nature.

The vision of rescue was presented to council after finding a fine print clause in the township’s own bylaw that exempted it from any tree survey, thus avoiding identifying and saving significant trees. One councilor made a motion to have the by-law reviewed. If the Township doesn't mandate public input or surveys, then they can cut whatever they want. No one seconded it. Looking at the stone-faced panel was an omen of things to come. It was like talking to that same damn wall.

Someone sought a legal opinion on the by-law, and a respectable attorney thought there was merit. But without the legal aspect, I had hoped that our municipal government would want to set examples of good stewardship, address climate change, realize the inherent value of trees and nature. It seems that stewardship is important if it's in the right place. If it's not, then what ever grows or lives there is just out of luck.

The governing body, the council, could have said, Let's look at this thing, at this parcel, at the big picture as we grow. What precedent do we want to set? Is there perhaps a valid point here? Should we set an example for the development community? Weren't we, in fact, putting brochures on Saving Native Trees into development application packages for a number of years?

But they remained recalcitrant, unwilling to budge, and continued business as usual. The same business we've seen throughout North America. Their stubborn streak seemed to challenge, Try and make us change.

And so more acres are gobbled up by John Deere and Volvo machinery (Didn't know Volvo made construction equipment. I thought it was just a car for white liberals living in New England.) More wildlife is displaced, more habitat consumed by our perceived needs.

The saddest part of the issue is that when citizens address issues that are contrary to the municipality's mandate, the taxpayers get no answers. In the 10 years I have lived here, I have written letters, made delegations, and talked to councilors. They might be nice enough people on an individual basis, but as a collective mindset, they do not pursue dialogue with the very people who pay their salaries and fund their pet projects. It's that wall again.

And so it goes.

We have had so much potential to do things differently. In the BC Municipalities Act, each government is allowed to set bonus density, to establish its own tree protection, to mandate clustering instead of grid-pattern boxes. And they do none of these because repeating patterns created over the past 40 years are easier than thinking outside the subdivision box.

With regard to a legal opinion, I have to commend Zvonko Bezjak for feeling it was worthwhile to challenge our own government, to make it accountable. I also know that in the big picture, it wasn't about his land, his trees, his habitat, although even he may have felt it was. But it wasn't. It was for Karen on 72nd Avenue, Steven on 80th, and the Park family on 208th.

In the end, township lawyers bullied their way into dropping the matter. And they think they won. But it wasn't winning. It was protecting their own inability to embrace change. They are going to do it their way, even if 400 of us stood up and said we don't like what we see.

On an ironic note, the township made a benevolent gesture and had seedlings dug up so that the former tenant and owner could have them. Unfortunately, they weren't clear on the concept. The trees were supposed to be for us, not for one person.

And so it goes.

Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition Press Release - Zvonko Bezjak Hopes Township Will Thoughtfully Consider Protocols In The Future

In and around June of this year, Mr. Zvonko Bezjak made a delegation before Council to express his concerns regarding the clear cutting of trees on property forming part of the Willoughby Community Lands. At that time, he presented a petition requesting the protection of some of the trees situated on his former property. That petition was signed by approximately 100 individuals. Mr. Bezjak had no further communication with the Township except for a letter from their solicitors advising that he had until the end of August to remove any trees or other personal effects from the land. In the meantime, work continued on the adjacent property which was being prepared for the new sports multiplex. In an effort to protect more Significant trees on the property than was indicated on the park proposal, Mr. Bezjak sought a legal opinion regarding the Township's ability to disregard its own tree bylaw by failing to create a Tree Retention Plan, a Tree Protection Plan, a Final Landscape Plan, etc. to ensure the protection of trees. Mr. Jonathan Baker, a solicitor, produced an independent legal opinion which was forwarded to Mayor and Council. That letter advised that the scheme of the bylaw seemed to be that where a Development takes place on municipally owned lands the reports set out in Section 15 must be completed but the Township retains the option of removing Significant Trees under some circumstances.

The Township subsequently forwarded this opinion letter to their solicitors who were of a different legal opinion. By letter dated July 23rd, 2007 Ms. Sandra Carter, of Bull, Housser & Tupper advised that in their view, the Bylaw does not apply to any trees situated on lands owned by the Township. As a result, the Township may remove any type of tree on Willoughby Community Park lands. A motion made by Councillor Kim Richter directing staff to prepare these reports was not supported by any other members of Council and therefore Mr. Bezjak was left with a difficult dilemma. As it became apparent that the Township was imminently going to start work on the property Mr. Bezjak reluctantly decided that his only recourse to save some trees would be to launch a judicial review with respect to the Township's ability to opt out of their own bylaw. Such public interest litigation is seldom undertaken by an individual against local government as it is costly and the results are often unfavorable to the applicant. However, without any other recourse Mr. Bezjak felt compelled to continue. However, at all times, Mr. Bezjak was ready to discuss and negotiate with the Township regarding any other possibilities which would mitigate the loss of a number of Significant Trees on his former property without going to Court. One of the possibilities was the cessation of the matter in return for the Township's provision of a similar 5 acres property which would be designated as a passive park to be protected for future generations in the Willoughby area. However, no further communication was forthcoming from the Township and the matter inexorably began to lead to a court date. In the interim, Mr. Bezjak hoped that interest generated in both local and regional media would result in the Township's reviewing its policy but this hope was never realized.

Mr. Bezjak filed his petition on or around August 14, 2007, but the Township's solicitors were slow to respond with a defense although they were insistent that a Court date be set down as soon as possible. Due to legal requirements from pre-trial protocol, Mr. Bezjak could not adequately assess his status in going forward until such time as Township solicitors forwarded their case outline to Mr. Baker. At that time, Mr. Bezjak was advised by Mr. Baker that although he had an arguable case that the matter would likely be found for the Township as Courts generally decide in favour of local government with respect to challenges based on vague or ambiguous language found in legislation. At that point, Mr. Bezjak was still determined to go to Court in order to have the matter reviewed but was further stymied by the withdrawal of his solicitor on October 4th, 2007. Effectively, Mr. Bezjak was given only 6 days to either find a new solicitor to advance the case or to argue the matter himself in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

In light of the preceding, Mr. Bezjak reluctantly contacted Township solicitor Mr. James Goulden on October 9th, 2007 in order to resolve the matter by a negotiated settlement. Mr. Bezjak therefore agreed to have the petition withdrawn in return for the Township's waiving their legal costs. This negotiated settlement was meant to save both Mr. Bezjak and the Township more legal costs than the ones generated to date and to allow Mr. Bezjak to get on with his life and the Township to proceed with the project. In fact, the Township is currently working on the property by preparing the site for the installation of four future playing fields.

Mr. Bezjak still believes that a legal review of the bylaw was an extremely important exercise and his only disappointment beyond the destruction of a number of trees and its surrounding ecosystem is his frustration at the Township's lack of response to his concerns and to the original petition. Although the matter was never reviewed despite his desire to have an official ruling regarding the Township's activities in the Willoughby Community Park he is nonetheless pleased that the issue gained media attention. Overall, Mr. Bezjak hopes that as a result of this exercise that the Township will thoughtfully consider the necessity of undertaking the protocols required in the Development and Control bylaw when any other municipal properties are developed in the future. After all, the Township Council and its bureaucracy are the stewards of our local environment and as such are responsible not only to the current residents but to future generations who will make their homes in Langley Township.

In conclusion, as an ameliorative gesture the Township has graciously dug up a number of trees from his former property which Mr. Bezjak will be taking to a local nursery in Chilliwack for protection this afternoon. Our suggestion to replant some of the trees in a local passive park was rejected by Parks and Recreation as they believed that they would not be viable as transplants to a new location. And as to future plans, a number of committed environmentalists are planning on making a delegation to Council sometime in the near future regarding other measures to ensure the protection of trees, especially in the area of Willoughby. We believe that since development will be on-going for the next number of years and in light of the pressing environmental concerns such as global warming that the Township should make every effort to ensure the retention and protection of the valuable resource of trees.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Part III of the mysterious Get Moving BC – Who wrote the Bridge Report? How much were they paid?

This editor has spent some time reading Get Moving BC’s latest report on Bridge comparisons between Vancouver and Portland. What was glaringly obvious to me was the lack of author. All the document says is “By Get Moving BC October 2007”. So who wrote it and what were their credentials?

Most organizations hire people to write reports for them and the persons responsible for the report are clearly identified somewhere in the document. Not so with Get Moving BC. Why?

It doesn’t look like Get Moving BC has a staff of any sort – or none that are easily identifiable from their website. There is no CEO or general manager or researcher for example. But there is an “Advisory Board”. Are these people paid? Did one of them write the Bridge Report? If yes, what are their credentials? Are they transportation engineers? PhD’s? Planners?

Was a member of the Advisory Board paid to write the report? If so, how much?

Why the secrecy?
This is STORY Part 3 of 3. See Part 2 of 3 here. See Part 1 of 3 here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Get Moving BC - Part 2 - Is This Responsible And Ethical Behavior?

LFP was not the first to report the story about some BC Liberal linkages to the website reported previously here in LFP. Further investigation reveals that in May of this year the Georgia Straight reported as well on the Get Moving BC website controversy. Apparently this limited expose was not enough to slow down the efforts of Get Moving BC because since that time as reported by LFP they have been active in polling Burnaby residents, doing studies and churning out press releases. All partisan pro Gateway project focused.

Specifically in the Georgia Straight article, Gateway 40 Network coordinator Donna Passmore told the Straight " she is angered by a Web site– that advertises itself as "grassroots" but is pro-Gateway and the braintrust of Port Coquitlam city councillor Greg Moore and Langley Township councillor Jordan Bateman."

Greg Moore in that same article told the Straight, "he paid $54.10 to register and retain the domain, noting that he has handed the running of the site over to Bateman." The Straight article further quotes Passmore saying "It's the Wizard of Oz phenomenon, where this dazzling spectacle is created, but it comes right down to this little Jordan Bateman."

The Straight also quotes Langley school trustee Sonya Paterson, former President of the Valley Transportation Advisory Committee (VALTAC) , "When I saw it, I thought it was a Liberal Web site that was promoting and endorsing the [Gateway] plan, - "I think they should say what they are really about, although it has been known for a long time in Langley that [B.C. Forests and Range and Housing Minister] Rich Coleman is Jordan Bateman's mentor." Jordan Bateman is Rich Coleman's constituency Vice President and worked for him as a communications consultant in the past election.

Public Eye Online in February reported that Greg Moore was hired by the provincial Liberals in late 2006 as a regional organizer for the provincial Liberals and ran for the BC Liberals party in the last election in Port Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.

In May of this year Public Eye Online again reported that a Mr. Brian Bonney, "abruptly resigned as the operations director for the provincial Liberals and moved on to explore other opportunities." Public Eye Online also reports in the same posting that an,

'email sent to industry members, BC Trucking Association communications coordinator Sandra Azanchi encouraged them to support Get Moving BC, "a non-profit, grassroots organization composed of individuals, businesses and organizations in the Greater Vancouver area advocating a balanced, efficient, and sustainable transportation infrastructure." And who should they contact for more information about this pro-Gateway Program group? Well, if you guessed Mr. Bonney, you'd be right!'
It would seem to this Editor that Get Moving BC has certainly been an instrument for at least these three career BC Liberal party movers and shakers. Is that what they mean by grassroots? Certainly not by this Editor's definition! This whole situation harkens this Editor back to quite a few years ago when a sitting Langley Councillor was caught writing letters in to the local newspapers under an assumed name. The reaction from the press and the public was shock and anger. Is this Get Moving BC website really any different? Is this responsible and ethical behavior that we expect especially from our elected politicians?
This is STORY Part 2 of 3. See Part 1 of 3 here. See Part 3 of 3 here.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Get Moving BC - A Partisan Political Trojan Horse?

Today's 'Get Moving BC' slick press release got some unqualified national (Bourque Newswatch - NEW STUDY SHOWS BC BRIDGES INADEQUATE FOR TRAFFIC FLOW) and local media coverage with their clearly partisan one sided comparative report about the existing Portland and Vancouver's bridge lanes. Their press release cover letter was aimed directly against the lower mainland organizations that say no to the Government's Gateway projects and specifically no to the doubling of the Port Mann bridge capacity. This so-called Get Moving BC study got this Editor thinking about some important questions that naturally arise surrounding Get Moving BC,

  • Who is Get Moving BC?
  • Who started it up?
  • Who finances it & WHY?
Langley Free Press can't easily find the real answers to these questions but has easily ferreted out some basic partial pieces of the Get Moving BC puzzle. We will leave it up to others to determine the real final puzzle picture. Get Moving BC's slick website provides some partial leads towards the questions we asked posted on their very own website;

'Get Moving BC was formed to provide a voice for the majority of Greater Vancouver residents who support improving our roads, our bridges and our transit systems and is dedicated to holding governments accountable for a balanced transportation system."
Dialing their posted telephone number, 604-678-5567, provides no answer nor any recorded message at all. The telephone listing search states that it is not a published listing (essentially an unlisted private number). The Get Moving BC domain name web site is registered and listed under who sell their premium confidential web hosting services under their marketing banner;

"Your IDENTITY is nobody's business but ours"
This web hosting service assures those that registered their website that their anonymity will be held secret! One has to wonder why Get Moving BC sees this as necessary? Why is it nobody's business especially if they are asking for financial donations and volunteers?

The Get Moving BC website's opening statement gives a dramatic clue to what it's secret host or hosts' support, the provincial Liberals transportation policies and the Gateway project! Specifically the front page opening website comment is;

"Enough is Enough! - The provincial government is doing something positive about traffic gridlock in the Lower Mainland,".
So if you were a Provincial Liberal the above statement alone should warm the cockles of your heart because this initially faceless website lavishes praise and comfort on the BC's government's transportation/transit plans! Most specifically the Gateway strategy! Hmm.. wonder if they know about it?

So what faces or names if any are associated with Get Moving BC? Their website has an open ended 'advisory board' of unknowns among which only one is well known to us especially in Langley Township, Councillor Jordan Bateman. Bateman has so many websites on different topics going that this in itself could be the gist of another column if this Editor had the time to ferret out his multiple and diverse hosted web and blog sites.

So who is Jordan Bateman besides being a Langley Township Councillor, former local rural newspaper reporter, self proclaimed media relations expert and an up and coming politico? One of his multiple websites states that he is a long time very actively involved Provincial Liberal, specifically;

" the Vice President of BC Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman’s Fort Langley-Aldergrove BC Liberal riding association, and acted as communications director during his 2005 re-election campaign."
Curiously Bateman also hosts another transportation website called! Get Moving BC also gives it's web readers an opportunity to win an Ipod and transit passes if the readers register with the website giving personal contact information that will hopefully lead to supporters willing to distribute their brochures and also additional propaganda by suggesting that readers write in their support for Gateway to the media which is also very conveniently provided! So sign up with Get Moving BC for a chance to get an Ipod or a green transit pass! Naturally they also solicit donations and have a petition that once again blatantly supports the Provincial Liberal government Gateway project. The petition says;

"The provincial government is doing something positive about traffic gridlock in the Lower Mainland, and within the next five years things can get better on Greater Vancouver’s roads and transit systems.

But the long-awaited, desperately-needed transportation system improvements being planned by the provincial government are being put at risk by ill-informed anti-progress, anti-transportation groups springing up across the Lower Mainland.

These groups would rather leave people idling in their cars and trucks for hours and see the cost of our goods and services increase because of gridlock. They would rather keep you stuck in traffic for hours every day than see something being done about the problem of traffic congestion! They’re vocal, they’re holding rallies and they’re lobbying the governments.

By adding your name to our online petition you are helping to stop these groups and showing your support for improved roads and bridges in addition to more transit. You’re saying that it’s not a situation of “more roads and bridges” versus “more transit.” You’re saying you want a balanced transportation system and that we need improved roads and bridges and transit all at the same time!Act now so your voice will be heard!

Act now by signing our petition."

This petition wording goes much further though because it also now loosely labels with a very broad stroke (without mentioning any specific organizations) the many real volunteer transportation and environmental anti Gateway project advocacy groups as 'ill-informed anti-progress, anti-transportation groups springing up across the Lower Mainland.' !
The Get Moving BC website press release section has the majority of their 7 press releases directly and indirectly hitting on the Liberal's political Gateway opponents with 3 essentially targeting the left leaning Burnaby City's opposition to the Port Mann bridge expansion and 1 that hits on NDP leader Carole James opposition to it as well! Get Moving BC even apparently commissioned a Burnaby residents professional poll that they say proves that 67% of those polled in Burnaby support the Port Mann twinning! Pretty focused on Burnaby I'd say. Why? Recently it even makes a bizarre comment about this past weekend's tragic motorcycle accident that caused two deaths on the Port Mann bridge ; " A twinned Port Mann Bridge would allow traffic to continue flowing even during a serious accident like that which occurred this afternoon." ! All about priorities I guess.

What is particularily curious about these press releases is that none of them have a real contact person. They direct the recipient to their website which also has no real contact person. The advisory board members are listed but not as contacts. Most community groups I know have real contact people especially in their press releases. So why is this one different?

The Get Moving BC website blog section has many blog comments ALL of which are posted, hosted and moderated by a Get Moving BC advisory board member, Jordan Bateman, who as mentioned before is the same Vice President of Minister Rich Coleman’s Fort Langley-Aldergrove BC Liberal riding association, and who was his same communications director during his last re-election campaign!

The opening questions remain, Who is Get Moving BC? Who started it up? Who finances it & WHY? There is some other commentary out there that perhaps the companies and the organizations that build bridges and roads in BC are also somehow behind Get Moving BC, at least financially. I don't know if this is true or not. It could just be an unsubstantiated rumour but it is somehow being financed. After all bus passes may be cheap but Ipods, slick custom flashy websites and especially polls are not cheap at all!

At minimum is it possible that Get Moving BC perhaps is really just a surreptitious partisan political Greek Trojan Horse? It certainly tries to present itself as a valid mainstream caring community focused transportation organization. But they are clearly targeting and countering head on the very vocal and ever growing many Metro Vancouver and south of the Fraser river organizations that have mobilized in favour of light rail transit expansion NOW and strongly rally against the Gateway project. Why?

Think about it and you decide based on the evidence accumulated what the real truth to the opening questions posed are. Whether you agree or disagree with Gateway, at least these community organizations for LRT NOW and against Gateway are open, honest, transparent and are not using any proxy Trojan horse facade! The bottom line is that it would appear to this Editor that highly regarded media even nationally now are obviously printing and resourcing press releases without looking closely at their true sources and biases not to mention credibility.
This is STORY Part 1 of 3. See Part 2 of 3 here. See Part 3 of 3 here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Langley School District Business Company AGM On Oct 9 - Report by Susan Semonick - Worse than a Bake Sale…..

Worse than a Bake Sale…..
The following is a presentation made to the School Board on October 9, 2007
On October 3, 2007, I attended the School District Business Company AGM. The audited financial report for the past fiscal year indicates that there was absolutely no revenue generated. In fact, the SDBC had a deficit of $13,771 for 2006/07 and is now showing a cumulative deficit over the past two years of $22,545.

On April 27, 2004 a report was presented to the Board which included the following information.
Initial development, marketing and legal costs incurred by the school district that related to the World Kids project amounted to $307,000.

The revenue projections were:
$ 53,000 for 2003 - 2004
$160,000 for 2004 - 2005
$288,400 for 2005 - 2006

Trustees indicated that the first $300,000 of generated revenue be retained by the school district.
Any subsequent revenues were to be shared 50/50 with the School District Foundation.

To date, the net revenue for the School District Business Company (SDBC) is as follows:
$ 0 fiscal year ending June 2004
$ 214 fiscal year ending June 2005
-$ 8,988 fiscal year ending June 2006
-$ 13,771 fiscal year ending June 2007

By any measure, this venture has been a failure. The only thing that appears to be rising is the deficit.

This year’s annual report notes a strong shift in the market and that without significant additional investment to support the implementation of World Kids in classrooms and/or modify the product, it is quote…. ”unlikely to achieve any significant market penetration”

The report further states:

“In order for the SDBC to seek opportunities and to develop business partnerships for materials developed by Langley it necessitates the investment of time, expertise and capital. The intent was for the SDBC to generate any funding required from the sale of WK materials in Korea. Any planned activity by the SDBC in any other area has been deferred until such time as the work can be funded through revenues generated.”
Trustees should know that an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with a secondary investor has not resulted in any significant revenues since being signed over two years ago in August 2005.

The SDBC currently owes the school district $68,000 in addition to the initial $300,000 start-up cost incurred by the district. A loan and security agreement between the school district and the SDBC stipulates that any outstanding amount from the $100,000 line of credit that the school district has extended must be fully repaid by June 30, 2008.

How does the SDBC realistically expect to repay this debt on time if ever?
The SDBC clearly does not have the time, expertise or capital to be a successful venture in this fiercely competitive market. When will this district get with the times and realize that the SDBC is not working because in today’s world of business you need to put in a 24/7 effort in to succeed. You do not have this and you do not have the finances. Business analysts have already stated that Canada is losing out in this area and we are in the same sinking boat.
At last year’s AGM, the president of the SDBC clearly stated that if things had not turned around by the end of this fiscal year, he would be the first to recommend dissolution of the company. As the sole shareholder of the SDBC, when will this Board put forth a motion to dissolve the SDBC? Surely, the Board must realize that this will never be a successful endeavour.

I ask the Board…

How long are you going to let this situation continue? In my opinion, ISP funds should be used for direct student services.

When will this situation become intolerable for the trustees that you will no longer be able to sit there without making a motion to remove this financial burden from the students who are paying for it?

When did the Board meet and discuss this issue as a whole or has it been the decision of one (the Chair)? The Board, which represents its constituents, has seven members with an equal voice, correct?

This year the District has shown a $33,000 surplus when it was over $240,000 last year. This surplus is on the decrease yet the Education Ministry assures us we receive enough money to educate our children. Therefore, it must be the management of our money that is the problem. I plead with you to dissolve this company and place these resources back to the students where they belong.

You are closing schools, disrupting communities and creating stressess that are not necessary if simple actions are taken. I hope we can count on you to do the right thing. Do something that will start to help the situation instead of exacerbate it.

I look forward to a written response to all my questions.
Thank you for your time
Susan Semonick

Supplementary Comments re my presentation
This is something that does not affect students but does create money for direct student services. If the Board would take my suggestions and implement them they would not be talking about reconfiguration and closure for at least two more years, which would allow for a better transition plan. It has been stated that closing schools only recovers $250,000 to 300,000 back into the budget annually. They are suggesting creating a middle school that will cost more (no definite or even estimated costs presented anywhere) and are not sure if it will work. They are only hoping it will. How does that better our situation?

The public should realize that, in the midst of all of this, the trustees will be receiving another raise in December. Does anyone care? Take care of your pennies and keep your schools open. They should be doing everything else necessary before closing schools and contemplating reconfiguration.

Respectfully submitted by

Susan Semonick

Monday, October 08, 2007

Only 3 From Township Council of 9 Attend Inauguration Of The New Township IAFF Local!

A couple of weeks ago a very important event happened in Langley Township that has gone unreported. The attached pictures and story were kindly sent to LFP.

The innaugral firefighter charter of the newest North American Chapter of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) was celebrated at Township Hall 4, the first full time firefighter staffed hall in Langley Township.

Pictured from left to right are 3 Metro Vancouver firefighters who also live in Langley Township and are members of Langley Township's CFAST (Citizens For A Safer Township), Langley Township Fire Chief Doug Wade, Township Councillor Kim Richter, Lorne West - a Township resident and IAFF 6th District Vice President, Tony Crawford - a Township resident and City of Langley IAFF President, and Andy Hewitson - President of the newly formed IAFF local in Langley Township.

Township Mayor Kurt Alberts unveiled the charter along with Lorne West, Andy Hewitson and Chief Wade. After the ceremony apparently the IAFF members insisted on getting a group photo together with Councillor Kim Richter along with the charter. One senior IAFF member was heard to say that;
"Richter should be unveiling the Township IAFF charter, not Alberts, because there would not have been any full time firefighters in the Township yet if it wasn't for her."

This Editor is amazed that only Cllrs. Richter And Ward joined Mayor Alberts at this charter unveiling reception. This did not go unnoticed by the attendees and many considered this a snub. Just this week the Vancouver Sun reported that one of the highest proportion of firefighters that work in Metro Vancouver (formerely GVRD) also live and vote in Langley. Not to mention that many say that the IAFF support has been instrumental in getting many a Mayor & Councillor elected (such as in Surrey). CFAST, if you remember in the last Langley municipal election had a web site promoting full time firefighters in Langley Township and published ads endorsing Township council members. They were particularly supportive of Richter and her efforts for public safety. This Editor wonders if CFAST and the IAFF will endorse her team and her for Mayor come next November?