SD 61 Trustee Report #2 January, 2012

First Priority Always……. Advocacy for the Children

A New Trustee’s Point of View               January, 2012

Greater Victoria School District 61

 Report #2

This month I have had a wonderful opportunity to meet many parents at their children’s schools, at Board meetings, at VCPAC meetings and in the community. I have also corresponded with several parents through e-mails. I appreciate your time, your insights and your desire to have the most positive and successful experience for your children and all other children in our district. I look forward to working with you. Together, we may  acknowledge and enjoy our many successes, strive to improve our children’s school experience and address issues through our joint efforts.

And the good news is……

On the Ground and at the Schools

I had been assigned to the Mount Doug family of schools and that means that I will be more closely connected to the students, parents, teachers, administration and community in this area of our school district.  I have been warmly received and provided with excellent information about each of the four schools: Mount Douglas High School, Arbutus Middle School, Frank Hobbs Elementary School and Campus View Elementary School.  I am pleased to say that the teachers are doing a wonderful job of providing a meaningful and engaging curricula and learning experience for their students. This could not be done of course without the support of the educational assistants, specialty teachers, administration and parents. I am so pleased to consistently observe kind and respectful relationships between teachers and students. This type of relationship has far reaching benefits for our children. I have also attended the PAC meetings at Eagle View Elementary and Sir James Douglas Elementary. There is no better way to stay connected with parents, appreciate all their work and effort and understand their goals than by attending these meetings at the school level. Thank you for your generous invitations. I may see you at your PAC meeting; Frank Hobbs and Willows are scheduled for February.

 At the Board Table

The Chairman of the Board, Peg Orcherton, arranged with our senior administration to provide two full days of in-service covering funding details and the roles and responsibilities of each department. The experience was very helpful and it provided a tremendous overview and update for all trustees.

At the January Educational Policy Meeting, students from every high school along with their principals shared their personal experiences about having greater choice, flexibility and personalized learning to meet their needs and be successful both personally and academically. If you want more detail go to sd61.bc.ca and look under Board for the January, 2012 Board minutes. There you will see the names of the schools and all the students and their specific programmes. Each student had a different story to tell. The good news is these student were feeling a sense of engagement and success. We want this for all students.

1) I presented a motion to re-establish dialogue and local bargaining with our teachers. The motion was carried. It is so important that we have an on-going and respectful dialogue with our teachers.

2) Catherine Alpha presented a motion to initiate a more in-depth community consultation process to develop the 2012-2013 budget. The motion was carried.

3) Bev Horsman presented a motion to refuse any raise in the basic trustee remuneration rate for the 2011- 2012 school year. The motion carried unanimously.

At Our Schools

All of the high schools had Open Houses during the month of January. I was able to attend the Open House at Mount Doug and Oak Bay and I was pleased to see so many student leaders guiding prospective students and their parents through the building and informing them about the many programs.

 Budget Time

Our first public input meeting for building the budget will be held at SJ Willis in the auditorium on February 1 at 7pm. We are encouraging parents, teachers, CUPE workers, community members and administration to come and provide us with their experiences where adequate funding is supporting learning and where underfunding is the basis for their concern.

 Stay tuned from more information…… parent advocacy is vitally important!

 A Quick History Lesson

“Despite provincial claims to the contrary, there has been virtually no actual increase to public education funding between 1992 and the current year. In fact, the 1990 operating grant( in 2006 dollars) was over $200 more per pupil than we now receive  under current funding levels.

While funding per student ( taking the total funding amount and dividing it by the number of full-time enrollments ) may have increased marginally any rise disappears once inflation ( consumer price index ) is factored in. Apart from our salary costs negotiated and passed on by Victoria but not fully funded- inflation on fuel, supplies and services place vast pressures on school district budgets.

Between 2001-02 and 2009-10 public education funding has increased by 19% while inflation has increased by about 25%. Costs of new initiatives downloaded to the school boards have a devastating impact on funding students in the classroom.

In addition, the services to children triggered by special-needs designations are not fully funded and must be subsidized from our operating grant. All costs related to these additional components of our responsibilities have to be met by reducing services and programs for our children.”  * Eden Haythornthwaite, chairperson of the Cowichan Board of Education.

And so we are going to work very hard to develop a ‘needs budget’ reflecting the  funding necessary to provide a successful learning experience for all our children. This is the work we will be doing through February, March and April with your help.

 Respectfully,

Deborah Nohr  SD 61 Trustee