Sunday, February 24, 2008

Susan Semonick On Schools - Feb 24, 2008 - Board of Education Meeting (Feb 19)

There were about 100 people in attendance. Trustee Hogeterp was absent due to a death in her family. My condolences go out to her and her family.


1. Performance by HD Stafford students entitled “Once Upon a Mattress” Tickets on sale now for the musical at HD Stafford Secondary. Go to for full details.

2. There was a presentation on the Trades programs offered in the district. More info can be found at:

3. The award winning team from Lochiel U-Connect shared two of their recent successes in computer animation and robotics. These students appear to excel in this area. The Lochiel technology initiatives continue to prosper under the guidance of teacher John Harris. The students are trying to raise funds to attend Tokyo for the first Lego League Asian Open championship, April 27th to 29th. Lochiel U-Connect is a distributed learning education choice (home schooling) in our district. For more information on this school go to:


1. Langley Special Education Steering Committee jointly requested that the Board meet with them in a facilitated meeting to discuss district issues and how they as a group could address the issues facing special needs children. Having read the Special Education Inquiry report, I have to admit that there are ten district-related recommendations that need to be discussed in this report by this Board and their partners.

A Board motion was made at the end of the meeting that actually deserves separate billing for what occurred is very, very important. (See motion below) It gives the fundamental reasons why the three trustees who voted the way they did to defeat Trustee Bech’s motion should not be re-elected. They do not understand the fundamental basics of their purpose. They have their heads so far in the sand their air tubes are not working.

The LTA is planning a bus trip on February 25th to Victoria to the BC legislature to see Minister Shirley Bond in regards to the Board not meeting expectations of PARENTS, LTA, DPAC and CUPE 1260.

2. Robert McFarlane gave a presentation on what he was able to determine was the financial cost for reconfiguration, since the District still has not been able to produce those figures. What is apparent is that the Board and staff are not communicating the needed information in order for the parents to be able to accept what the intent of the Board’s actions will be on the students. Not one Board member who has voted in favor of the reconfiguration in South/Central has done a good job of explaining the facts that made them vote the way they did, nor what they see as the final results and benefits for the students will be. All they have said is “there will be.” I have heard from many that the only information they have received is long boring gibberish with no content from each of them prior to them voting. They have also received a large amount of inconsistent terms, numbers, stats and opinions from the staff and Board members. Much of the frustration I see is from the inconsistency in the information being given, other than it will be a good thing, with no solid explanation that parents can understand as to how.

3. Tracie Northway did a presentation on Transitioning in School District #35. The purpose of the presentation was “ To share the predominant themes identified by some South/Central Langley families as both motivators and barriers to transitioning to the planned reconfigurations” How has this affected the families? “Families describe experiencing feelings of
- Abandonment
- Marginalization
- Motivation
To protect our children
To see fair and equitable treatment across this district”

She ended her presentation with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

RIGHT ON Tracie. For all the meetings I have attended with Tracie Northway, I must say she is one of the parents who has always been consistent. She cares what happens to the children and strives for understanding of what is truly happening. What do you say to giving Mr. Burton a run for his seat in the next election, Tracie?

4. Rosemary Wallace started with a moment of silence. I took this as a minute of silence in remembrance of what HD Stafford was. What I understood Rosemary to be saying is that they still are worried for their children. They are still waiting for answers and she stated “We the Stafford community are stressed, confused, hurt, angry and frightened with what lies ahead. …… Left in the dark … Lack of space lack of resources… This transition will be difficult … it is challenging for everyone involved. My child is not a number, her sister is not a number her friends are not numbers … I am saddened by this change and see no need for it. … Please do what it takes to make this work. We have gone through enough… We will move forward…”
My comments: Placing a child into a large populous setting, when they are used to a small setting, will be a big change. Yes, the children may be overwhelmed for a bit. What is a reality is that LSS and HDS will now experience what Brookswood, Walnut Grove, Langley Fine Arts, R.E. Mountain and yes even the Fundamental middle have experienced and lived with. Each year the grade 8s, about one-fifth of the secondary school population, experiences a significant transition and most do fine. My concern is when you put such large numbers of children adjusting to the same thing at the same time what will be the fall-out? All the other schools had gradual growth. When will the parents actually see the benefits of what has been done? 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, or for that matter the detriment. In any case, it will be long after this current board is gone.

5. Susan Semonick (myself) - to see slide slow go to pdf found here. I asked when this Board would dissolve the Langley School District Business Company. Since one trustee has publicly stated that they run things as a business, I asked - If this is true, then when will they start making fiscally sound decisions that do not affect the classroom?

I would like to thank all the presenters and delegations that have supplied me copies of their presentations so that I can accurately quote them.

Strategic Plan, Facilities Update

· Competitive trades areas now updated and functional - at LSS, plumbing, carpentry and auto technicians and at ACSS, hairdressing. No cost mentioned.

· APEX alternative programming for secondary students - refurbishing now complete, cost not mentioned.

· Full K-12 program now offered for the fundamental program. Langley Fundamental Middle Secondary will not be a comprehensive school. They have a capacity of 780 but they are not full yet. Which leaves me with many questions, one being who exactly is on this supposed waitlist? If our readers will remember, the whole reason for the expansion of the program in the first place was to be able to clear the waitlist. I wonder if the waitlist for the fundamental program only consists of 10 year olds and younger; but then Coghlan is not full. Perhaps, most on the waitlist are under 5 years old. No one really has been told. Parents are supposed to reconfirm intent each spring, but who knows if the lists are reviewed by the district.

So now, LFMSS is going to fill the school by offering a program that will not be comprehensive and will only offer electives that involve computers (maybe). If this is a middle school as well, then why are these students not offered exploratories as in the middle school model? What happened to the middle school philosophy here? Has anyone heard anything? Is the Board’s stance that in this case it is only a housing configuration and that the 6 – 8 teachers here will not be implementing the middle school philosophy? We now have full schools. There is no cross-utilization of space available for the Fundamental program that is located so close or could there be? They do have a gym now and a science wing. The lower grades will be offered arts, drama, music, and the use of science labs. Use of gymnasium will be limited due to population.

· The new K-5 fundamental elementary has a 450-student capacity. There was no mention of whether this was full or not.

· Relocation of the Pass program, Route 32 (grades 6-8 students), and the Alternative to Suspension program to the Anderson site is now complete.

· Hannah Centre has been moved to Noel Booth.

Middle School program in Aldergrove

There were three recommendations that the Board approved:

1. Receive the report on the delivery of a middle school program in Aldergrove.

2. Betty Gilbert will be a 6-8 middle school and Aldergrove Secondary will become a 9-12 school with Parkside and Shortreed Elementarys as K-5 schools starting September 2009. ( If only all our students had this luxury of time which was all that HD Stafford had started with asking for. Aldergrove area was the first area to have consultations for Building for the Future with a quick closure of Aldergrove. Then a two year transition period time to the middle. This was the recommendation from other districts that have chosen the middle school route.)

3. Establishment of a steering committee to deal with transition issues. They have been meeting with the PACS all along to develop a transition plan for the changes to the schools. It appears to be working well.

Some say that the community was only presented with the options of accepting the middle school concept or closing even more schools. The greatest concerns I had heard at the Aldergrove Consultation meetings was that parents did not want middle schools, but they wanted to know their options. They definitely did not want female Grade 6’s interacting with 16 year olds and older. Now, the Board has approved ACSS becoming a 9-12 school, with an adult education classes offered in the school for the LEC program. LEC only involves 48 students at present ranging from the age of 16 to 20 years.

The middle school at Betty Gilbert will be sharing with ACSS the space for elective instruction like woodwork, sewing, cooking etc. because the school is located just across the field. This means there will now be 11 year olds, in the same facility with students up to 20 year olds. Granted, they would not be in the class at the same time. It appears from the lack of response from parents that they must have been assured that their previous concerns have been addressed. I tried to speak to one of the PAC presidents about this, but our conversation was interrupted by a man that I believed to be the principal, who was more than willing to explain it to me. I am not convinced that what I was told was not a snow job. Unless the district is truly only housing bodies, it does little good to throw out a line of edu-babble so it sounds good, and more, and better, when in reality it will be a minus, because of younger students having more interaction with older peers than any of us would like to think. In my opinion, you cannot prevent interaction when there is familiarity.


My take on the budget is that the recommended mid-year enhancements to programs and services should include mention of the 9% raise to Trustee Indemnities.

Total budget surplus is $252,714 which staff will be recommending be carried to the 2008/09 provisional budget. Would it not be nice to add to the surplus with an additional $50,000 that could be had if they would reduce the number of trustee seats, or for that matter stop taking raises?

The changes to the Grade 10 –12 funding by the Ministry cost the district $271,706 of budget monies already committed.

According to the report, total revenue for the Feb. 2008 reporting is $151,736,020. The district will not know whether there will be additional holdback funding until probably May but have removed the originally anticipated holdback of over $510,000 from the budget. Anticipated expenses have increased by $1,111.189 from what was projected in April 2007. That amount includes the trustee indemnity increase of 9%. If I have read the report correctly, according to schedule A4.1 the budgeted amount for trustee indemnity is $111,358.00 for this year. They spent an additional of $6,658 on benefits and other costs total $106,015.00. In total, the trustees who will not even talk with partner groups when requested cost are expected to cost the district $224,031; almost the same amount that they made for closing Bradshaw. So, you could look at it as… is this current board, or any board for that matter, worth the closure of a school?

CommunityLINK grants have gone up from $1,755,000 to $1,814,625. I hope the increase in funds means a real increase in services to students.

So have I said it often enough yet? THIS BOARD SEES FIT TO GIVE ITSELF RAISES and run a Business Company that has shown losses WHILE THEY ARE CLOSING SCHOOLS.


Two 15- passenger vans have been in use in the district. DW Poppy has a 17-year old Dodge, and Brookswood Secondary has a 6-year old GM. These two vehicles were donated; therefore, no capital costs to the district. As of January, use of 15-passenger vans is not allowed in the district until clearer directions on the safety of such vehicles is provided by the provincial government. How has the district addressed the need to maintain this service and what is the additional cost that was incurred? Perhaps the government should be subsidizing the districts this amount.

Per regulations attached to Policy #3850,

Walk limits, as determined by the District shall be:
K-7 3.2 kms
8-12 4.8 kms
To a bus stop K-12 3.2 kms

With these district limits, I wonder how many families will have one child who will be provided busing and one who has to walk to the same school, since the district now has not one but three middle schools - two 6 - 8s and one 6-12.

I am also curious as to how this walk limit of 3.2 kms to the bus stop will affect the service for students going to HDSM and those going to LSS. How will these district limits be applied to the students in the south of the district?

The other concern is the capacity of the buses. Does a 72-passenger bus carry 72 elementary students (3 to a seat) and only 48 secondary students (2 to a seat)? What about when there are elementary, middle, and secondary students together? Same question for the 36-passenger bus. I have sent these questions to the district. We will see if I get an answer before posting time.

Locally Approved Titles
Five books - Making Sentences, Uglies, Pioneer Sounds, Longman Science text, and The Wave. The last title is the only one that may have controversy due to the Nazism and Fascism content.

Trustee Bech’s Motion re Special Education Inquiry Report
Motioned by Bech Seconded by Cody

“That the Board of Education schedule at least an hour, within two weeks, to meet with representatives of the three partner groups that recently sponsored a public inquiry into the services for students with special needs in Langley.”
3 – 3 tie vote. Ross, McVeigh, and Burton in opposition. (Hogeterp absent)

The main argument from the three in opposition was that the concerns were provincial issues not within their control as trustees and that it was the Ministry’s role to be dealing with the unions on those matters. They did not want to step outside their realm of authority.

Trustee Bech’s question was – The worst that could happen would be that they might learn something.
Tr. Burton asked - on what we should cut to add more money from the budget to special needs?

Here you go, just to start. Readers, please post in comments, any suggestion and I will ensure they are delivered to the Board at the Budget Open House, which is on April 22, 2008. You can also email the district at:

Here are just three suggestions to get taxpayers going.

1. Stop all future raises on indemnity to the trustees until the students' needs are met.
2. Dissolve the School District Business Company.
3. STOP all donations of time, money, and resources to an outside public foundation, namely the Langley School District Foundation. Let it stand on its own merits.

Interesting to note that the Board News put out by the district does not include any mention of Trustee Bech’s motion which I would think was a significant part of the Board meeting and was actual business as opposed to presentations by district staff or students.

The fact that the Board as a whole has decided not to meet with the coalition does not stop the three trustees who were in favor of meeting with the group from doing so as individual trustees. This will enable them to add information to the Board discussions during budget time.

Trustee Comments

Trustee McVeigh spoke yet again about the Wine and Cheese Gala. It sounded like it was mostly district staff who attended. The event made less than $50,000 for the Summerland Program. I wonder what happened to Trustee Ross’s wish to increase business contacts. Have they maxed out Langley’s businesses? Have the number of donors decreased since the start of the Foundation? I was under the impression that we were still booming and that the Chamber of Commerce was happy with development in our area over all.

You know where I sit with this. A paid school district employee does the work for this foundation and makes about $47,000 plus expenses and benefits. So, did they make $50,000 more for the children or just redirect funds from the students in the classroom to feed specialty programs? How they spend what they “make” is determined by a small group of people who are not elected officials. There are two trustees on this directorship but they are not to hold a majority due to it being a public foundation. When did the electorate re designate those two officials Ross and McVeigh to have carte blanche with about $175,000 annually of education money with no accountability to its constituents? In reality, this is exactly what is happening. What amount of income from outside sources should warrant the cost of this staff? Most non-profit organizations make millions before they start hiring don’t they? At least the ones I have been involved with have to reach a certain income level before any reimbursement or the use of hired staff is considered. To date, I believe this employee position has not been proven to be warranted, especially if you show costs versus actual income from outside sources. The reason they wanted the person in the first place was to generate “profit”, NOT revenue, which does not mean anything if costs are too high. It appears that it probably never will be cost efficient. It is almost a parallel story to the SDBC the money that is being invested that will never see a profitable return.

Question Period

There were 6 -7 questions permitted. They adjourned at 11:05 pm with two left standing waiting to ask questions. I am sorry but I could not discern the exact questions asked.
I know the LTA President stated it was not the LTA asking for a meeting but rather a coalition of partners asking for a meeting.

One parent asked for a meeting and was given the answer – “We do meet with parents.” Not really an answer right?

I asked where the District was in regards to their discussions with Township and City with respect to crosswalks and sidewalks in the hot spots around the district. I had not seen any mention of this in either of the Township or City’s budgets. If it was not in either of their plans, I would think it is very unlikely it would be done. Maybe Kim Richter can give us some insight into this? I was told it is still in the discussion stage - so what exactly is being discussed. I know of an overpass for the RE Mountain area, but I am talking further south than that.

As always respectfully submitted by

Susan Semonick

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