First Priority Always……. Advocacy for the Children
A New Trustee’s Point of View FEBRUARY, 2012
Greater Victoria School District 61
And the Good News is……
The school year is going along very well with teachers and students engaged in a grand variety of amazing and engaging learning activities. I am so excited to hear from students who are happy and see their time at school as being educationally and socially relevant. I am also very grateful to hear from parents who have a good connection with their child’s teacher and they are receiving regular information about their child’s experience in the classroom. These days it often means that teachers are communicating through their e-mail to parents on a daily or weekly basis. Remember, that you can get your child’s teacher’s e-mail address at the school office or generally use their first initial and last name @sd61.bc.ca. Remember also that you can write in your child’s planner to inform the teacher about any issue or concern, ask any question that might be on your mind or suggest a meeting date and time. The most successful school experience is when there is a respectful and ongoing relationship between the teacher, the student and the parents. Teachers often appreciate a parent taking the time to come in and start a conversation. I always think of it this way: parents have one, two or three children (approximately) while teachers have 25 or more students. Did you know that some exploratory teachers teach 120 students each week (4 classes X 30 students)? Respectful communication and a positive relationship is everything in the school experience.
On the Ground and At the Schools
I had the opportunity to attend the Willows’ PAC meeting with my colleague Michael McEvoy. It was tremendous to see so many parents in attendance. I would like to thank the Willows’ parents for all the time they set aside for discussion with trustees. The focus of our conversation was on the role of the trustees, an update on the new Oak Bay High School (ground breaking has been delayed and is not specifically set at this time) and funding for public education. As a point of clarification, it is important for parents to understand that when they hear that there is a Learning Improvement Fund of $165 M. That is not the money set aside for the next school year. Instead this money will be distributed over three years. In the school year 2012-2013, starting in September, the Ministry of Education has set aside $30 million. This is considerably less than the calculations of $300M per year based on the BCTF assessments. Over three years this would amount to $900M. In the second year there will be $60 million and in the third year $75 million, again for a total of $165 million over three years
Public services can only be funded through a strong and equitable tax base. If the government minimally raised corporate taxes by 2% it would provide approximately an additional $2 billion per year. If the government reinstated taxes on banks it would provide approximately an additional $200 million per year (Royal Bank 2011- 1st quarter profit $1.8 B…23% increase). So you see if we based our economic policies on fair and equitable taxation we would have sufficient funding for all the public services that we use and rely on every day of our lives, including public education.
Another great event for the month of February was the Valentine’s Day concert performance at Oak Bay High School. The many talented students in grades 9 to 12 performed a series musical numbers featuring many brave soloists. I’d like to thank all of the music teachers, students, music parents and administration for their time and dedication. It was a wonderful event and very well attended by people in the community as well as family members.
At the Board Table
Great news! A new committee, led by VCPAC has been established to work on positive school culture and anti-bullying behaviour. All partner groups will have an opportunity to provide input and that includes school based PACs as well.
Craigflower School is going to be in the midst of new road building starting soon. Part of plans includes a new and much safer lighted crosswalk for the students. There will be more parking and one of the playgrounds will be moved and installed (costs paid for by Saanich). The Board will write a letter to Saanich specifying the preferred mode of transportation for students during the construction…and that means there needs to be a floating bridge of some sort so students may walk home.
Presently, the Amended Budget 2011-12 has a surplus of $350,000! Don’t you think that’s great? I do! I think it is very important to put this money into our highest need classes. This is what I will be working on over the next two weeks. I hope to work with other trustees who would support this and make it happen quickly.
Finally, the ‘needs budget’ committee is working very hard to develop a specific budget that details the gap between what the government will provide and what we think is needed to have ALL classes ‘appropriate for learning’.
I ran on a platform of ‘fully funded and properly managed’ public education. Right now I am trying to set some meetings to review the budget for next year. Currently, that is not the precedent or process of this Board. However, I feel this is vitally important and I do think that the public would expect this of the SD 61 trustees.
We are still hoping to have a parent email campaign to contact the Premier and Minister of Education about making public education funding the first priority for our kids. As the ‘needs budget’ is completed by our district’s trustees, we will share it with our parents, teachers, other partner groups and the community. Parents are the central force and voice in this issue of funding for our students, your kids!
Deborah Nohr SD 61 Trustee