Thursday, January 24, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - Jan 22, 2008 Board Of Education Report - Another Langley School Bites The Dust

Board of Education Meeting
January 22, 2008 Report

There were about 60 people in attendance. About 20 were Murrayville parents.

The Board News is available here and will give you the district’s posting on the board meeting. I will not be repeating what was stated in it. Rather, I would like to address areas they have not covered. There will be supplemental reports on Special Education reviews and one on School closures at a later date.

(a) LTA, CUPE and DPAC– Steering Committee members of the Langley Special Education Inquiry presented a quick synopsis of what they felt were the highlights of their findings. (more details will be given in special report)

(b) LTA – School Reconfiguration – Sharon Von Hollen stated that the LTA wished the Board to slow down and do proper process in regards to the closure of Murrayville Elementary. (We will be doing an opinion piece on this at a later date.)

(c) A parent did a presentation addressing the School District’s Special Needs Service Delivery review and the glaringly obvious omission of gifted students (and their families) in this district report - therefore, they must not count in this district.

STRATEGIC PLAN and Annual Report on Achievement are posted on the School district site. It was mentioned that Langley students exceeded the provincial average by 1% for school completion. What are the plans to make it better? The closure of schools was considered consolidation of facilities.
They made mention of LSS possibly offering a culinary program which is expensive, but they now will have an enrollment that could possibly support the program.

#1: That the Closure Review Report on the possible closure of Murrayville Elementary School, be received for information. Carried 4-3

#2: That the Board in accordance with Section 73(1)(a) of the School Act, approve the closure of Murrayville Elementary School, by Closure Bylaw #2008-1, effective July 1, 2008. (Three Readings Required).

Here Trustee Bech at first abstained from voting for third reading, but recanted for she did not wish to delay the inevitable. Two other trustees followed suit and changed their ‘No’ vote to a ‘Yes’ vote. You would think that they would have gotten a handle on the procedure by now. Unanimous vote for 3rd reading and a 4-3 vote carried on the closure motion. This is when two trustees donned T-shirts with the numbers 4-2-3. I did not know how to read that - whether they were trying to be funny or in some strange way showing support to Murrayville parents. A 4-3 split vote on the closure of Murrayville Elementary - not surprising.

I wonder what the district will do with those 35 - 45 students (in-catchment, currently attending elsewhere) that they seem to have missed who may wish to attend HD Stafford Middle. The district may have created a situation where the students will not be able to ‘become all that they can be’ due to its simple inability to accommodate. They may have moved too fast too soon. September will tell us 1/3 of the story; and each consecutive year everyone should be monitoring the levels of success of these students at HDS, surrounding schools, and at LSS.

#3: That the Administration commence transition planning with staff and parents, on the feasibility of relocating students from Murrayville Elementary School to James Hill Elementary School for September 1,2008, while acknowledging individual family preference for student placement. Carried

This is such a farce. These students will have very limited choices of schools to attend. I am sure James Hill will be very accommodating. The principal has now at least 3 principals to confer with on what “best practices” are when melding student groups and the smaller communities together and what some of the pitfalls may be.

#4 Trustee Ross made a motion to change the catchment boundaries of James Hill Elementary to include Murrayville Elementary’s entire catchment. This motion was carried unanimously.

They have not officially changed catchment areas for LSS and HDS, to the best of my knowledge - wonder why?

For the first time a longitudinal analysis on how students are faring in the later years after having gone through the RR program has been provided. It seems that the results are positive two and three years out from initial intervention. Teacher training is a full year of study. There is continuous support and in-service for teacher. The program is now taking 12 weeks for students to complete which is an improvement from the 16 weeks that it used to take. It was suggested that perhaps this gradual increase could be attributed to the experienced staff.

Several pieces of information are missing in my opinion. Therefore, I view this report as incomplete. District staff has been requested to submit an additional report that will deal with gifted students, by April meeting. If this is not forthcoming, then the gifted may be left in the dark and cold where the budget is concerned. Someone noted to me that comments made by the Board Chair at the Board meeting, however unintentional, seemed to reflect a perception that the gifted are separate from special needs as the words used were just that “gifted and special needs.” I believe they are special needs and need to be INCLUDED IN the same envelope.

First meeting for the North Area consultations is January 24, 2008 at REMSS at 7PM. I understand that the Middle School Info meeting at Simonds Elementary will be held on the same night. Does this only entrench the thought that the right hand does not know what the left is doing or did they not think that Simonds parents might wish to attend the consultations, which are open to everyone?

They are still looking at a possible shortfall of approximately 550,000 dollars due to the ministry changes in regards on paying for only courses taken not FTE for grades 10 and up. I will quote Mr. Burton commenting on the reason he voted to close Murrayville Elementary “We have one envelope with so much money in it, our role is to maximize our use of the funds in that envelope.”There are many areas requiring funds Special Need, Trades etc… There was no mention of the 9% raise that the trustees received effective December 1st. These funds could have been used for at least one more Rec N’ Reading program at one additional school. Considering they received a 34% raise in the past year you would have thought they would have deferred this.

Housekeeping item - This policy was deleted to comply with current provincial legislation.

TRANSPORTATION PRACTICESSenior Management is to provide a report on Transportation practices and vehicles in the school district’s transportation fleet by the February meeting.

That a motion regarding Inter-Ministerial Framework for Addressing Board of Education Mandates, be submitted for consideration at the BCSTA Annual General Meeting in April, 2008.

This is why some provinces are considering nuking school boards altogether as I believe this Ministry will in the near future. Too much bureaucracy. Just pay the superintendents to make the difficult decisions like CEO’s.
After all, as one trustee noted - “This is a business.” All most Boards do is “adjust constantly to the changes dictated to us by the Government.” Who else, if not the Superintendent is more qualified to be “informed and up to date on Government initiatives and current education practices?”
They are talking about merit pay for Superintendents. It’s a thought. At least it would be a better investment than the three-ring circus that we have been witnessing recently at Board meetings.

Well, it seems that at least one trustee is reading our blog, according to the comments made at the very end of the meeting. That is what I am surmising since I Googled it, and it seems that I am the only local blogger referring to “trustee indemnity” and to a 9% increase in remuneration. The trustee gave us a detailed list of what she views as her duties, and the amount of hours she counts as putting in. It seems we have struck a chord. I have reread my report that I believe she was referring to, and will stand by everything stated in it; it was correct and accurate, to the best of my knowledge at the time. It appears that this trustee is one who may do a bit more than what I stated in the newsflash. She stated that she also does not use the benefits offered by the district. I would welcome any of the trustees who frequent our blog to make comment. At least now, they cannot plead ignorance or say that they were not aware of certain positions or details. At least one trustee will have the information to convey to the Board. Thank you for acknowledging publicly that you read blogs.

We have now been informed that the Vice Chair may do more than the other trustees, that according to the report given, warrants her the $1,000 more in remuneration she gets above the others. $17,886.00 is what she stated she will get annually. She stated that she attends 147 meetings in the year, which entails about 441 hours. By my calculation, that works out to about $40.00 dollars an hour. Not bad remuneration considering they were paid a lot less to represent a lot more students in the past. She also mentioned all the volunteer hours she puts in. I am sure many of us community-minded people do too – perhaps even more than she mentioned. I sure hope that the intent of this comment was not that she should be paid for that too? Wouldn’t it be lovely if all the volunteer work would be remunerated? But how crazy is that then - it wouldn’t be volunteer now would it?
The FACT remains that they are accepting raises while they are closing schools and it has been said that there is only one envelope that this all comes from.

I invite this trustee to join me in a “You say – I say” editorial so that we can get to the real core of the issues at stake in the school district. You know my email.

There were several questions permitted but I was unable to hear them.
My question to them was – (in the district’s Special Education Service Delivery Review report) there were only 32 replies from principals recorded. The 17 schools registered with the Ministry that were not mentioned or included in this review - do they not have special needs students?
The answer, to the best of my recollection was: Every time you send out surveys, you cannot expect a 100% return. They do have 49 programs registered as schools with the Minister, but some of these are in fact one building and you have principals with more than one school. IMHO, where school administrators are concerned I would have expected 49 survey returns covering all schools registered with the ministry and nothing less, especially on such a vital subject.

11:05 pm according to my watch.
Respectfully submitted
Susan Semonick

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