At The Tipping Point… All Students Deserve a Proper Education…this is NOT happening

Trustee Nohr…Report #27      SD 61
May, 2014
Equality for All in  Public Education……Fully Funded and Properly Managed.
Our teachers have decided that job action is necessary…and I agree. Underfunding is a very serious problem impacting many students, families, employees and ultimately our communities. Working and learning conditions are one in the same thing. The government expects to achieve an agreement with the teachers without addressing class size and composition.
We are all waiting to hear the results of the appeal…will the government yet again be directed to re-instate approx. $3B? This issue is central to any agreement with teachers…and necessary for the proper instruction for ALL our children.

Very important to know… BCPSEA (the gov’t bargaining team) sought clarification as to what concerns the BCTF has with the basic principles involved in our proposal (that classrooms are complex, and individual student characteristics cannot be adequately assessed and supported by an inflexible formulaic approach). The BCTF clearly indicated that specific formulae and class size maxima drive funding and that is the goal the union is seeking. Teachers are trained professionals often with advanced degrees especially when teaching students with special education learning designations; they very well know that these students do better with targeted funding. It is my opinion that the government’s position that it is NOT possible to adequately assess needs is a strategy to eliminate designations and even more money from public education and our children’s instructional experience.

I am enclosing a link from a teacher about her perspective on the current job action-
I am also enclosing a letter from a parent expressing her frustration and anger with her personal experience/ children’s experience in a deteriorating public school system
Written by a parent in SD43
The Honorable Peter Fassbender, Min Ed
The Honorable Christy Clark, Premier
Mr Douglas Horne, MLA Coquitlam-Burke Mountain

Dear Sirs and Madam,

I write today to convey my extreme disgust with the manner in which the
education system is being treated by your government. The conduct you
have displayed with regards to the future of our children¹s education is
reprehensible. You claim to put ³Families First² and to hold the needs of
the children above all else, and yet there are children in our system who
have challenges and special needs who are being lost because you won¹t
fund the help that they so desperately need. Your condescension toward
teachers is easily traceable back to 2002 when, as Education Minister,
Premier Clark removed the teacher¹s right to bargain about learning and
working conditions by enacting Bills 27 and 28 – action which has since
been deemed by the Supreme Court of BC to have been a violation of
Charter rights. Undaunted by the illegality of your position, your
government enacted Bill 22, once again removing class composition,
amongst other things, as an issue about which teachers have any say. Your
government is clearly hoping that we are stupid enough to have forgotten
that only 3 months ago Madam Justice Susan Griffin ruled that Bill 22 was
also unconstitutional, found you guilty of bargaining in bad faith, and
accused you of attempting to provoke a strike for political gain. Clearly
the children are merely pawns in your political game of chess, and I am
nauseated by the cynicism and Machiavellian ideals permeating your caucus.

When a government requires a School District to submit a balanced budget,
but makes no budgetary allowance for increases in fuel costs, electricity
costs, or tax increases, that government knows that the only way the
District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our
children¹s education services.
When a government announces new schools, but does not actually provide
capital funding or build them, resulting in the school district having to
use millions of dollars from their operating budget to purchase,
maintain, and service portable classrooms, that government knows that the
only way the District can possibly submit a balanced budget is by making
cuts to our children¹s education services.
When a government knows that enrolment is declining, funds schools on a
³per student² basis, and it costs virtually the same amount in fuel,
electricity, and staffing to have 480 kids in a school vs 500 kids in a
school, that government knows that the only way the District can possibly
submit a balanced budget is by making cuts to our children¹s education
When a government abruptly changes policy for funding of school seismic
upgrading and announces that School Districts will have to pay for up to
half the costs of putting our children in safe structures, that
government knows that the only way the District can possibly submit a
balanced budget is by making cuts to our children¹s education services.

Your government would have us believe that teachers are demanding too
high of a wage increase, and yet in the past dozen years teachers saw a
7.5% increase from their 2002 contract, a 0% increase from their 2005
contract, and a 16% increase from their 2006 contract. In those same
dozen years, the benchmark price of real estate has increased 100-200%
(depending on the region), BCHydro rates have increased by 40% (from an
average of $70/mo to an average of $98/mo, after correction for
inflation), gasoline prices have increased by 80-100% (from fluctuating
around $0.70-0.80/L to fluctuating around $1.35-1.50/L), and the cost of
feeding a family of 4 in BC has gone up 38.7% (from $626 to $868 per
month). Clearly the increases in a teacher¹s pay are not keeping up with
the increases in the cost of living.

The BCPSEA and BCTF have failed to reach an agreement (which is hardly a
surprise considering that Carole Taylor¹s 2006 deal has been the only
freely negotiated contract that the two sides have reached in the 27
years since Mr VanderZalm¹s SoCreds gave teachers the right to strike)
and so the teachers have escalated their action to a rotating strike. The
lockout notice that the government has countered with is shocking and its
logical underpinnings are convoluted, to say the least. While maintaining
that children should not be put in the middle, the government has done
exactly that by ensuring that teachers can not provide before- or
after-school preparation or assistance to children. This does nothing BUT
penalize the children, and once again lays bare the viciousness of this
government¹s intention to provoke action by the teachers for it¹s own
political gain – leaving our children as collateral damage along the way.

Your government claims that LNG industry development will ³build a
prosperous economic future for British Columbia². I disagree. What will
build a prosperous economic future for British Columbia is adequate
funding for the education of our future generation. Provide us with
education for all children, instead of having so many kids in a class
that the teacher can¹t properly assess and supervise everyone. Provide
specialist teachers and education assistants for kids with special needs,
so that they can learn and progress with their peers, rather than
disengaging and becoming lost. Provide School Districts with budget
increases to cover utility rate increases, so that our children won¹t
suffer because the District has to pay BC Hydro and Fortis an extra
$625,000. Currently, between not negotiating in good faith, and not
providing the School Districts with an adequate annual budget, you are
failing us; you are failing our children.

A few weeks ago when the Coquitlam Board of Education was having its last
few public meetings before finalizing what cuts to make, my children
became aware that their library was in jeopardy. My seven-year-old summed
it up with ³Mum, you said that you pay taxes so that the government gives
us hospitals and schools to help us learn, but how can we learn without
books and a LIBRARY? The government doesn¹t care about us; the government
is an asshole² And while I chastised him for using an inappropriate word,
I cannot disagree with his opinion or fail to marvel at how astutely a
child can assess a complicated situation and distill it down to its core.

Kristina Lee, Coquitlam
Post Script:
I am not a teacher. I am not married to a teacher. My parents were not
teachers. I have no direct financial interest in this dispute other than
being a very, very annoyed parent.

Education Policy Meeting… A Few Highlights     May 5, 2014

We met at Monterey Middle School. Two principals, Judy Harrison (Monterey) and Colin Roberts (Esquimalt),  shared some examples of the new emerging methodology called ‘project based learning’. The experiences were very positive and provide growth for students, teachers and community members that participated. Special APPS were used at Esquimalt to enhance engagement in the written language process. The APPS seemed to encourage shy or reluctant students to find their voice and engage much more.

MyEducationBC is the new province wide software program that is coming to all school districts in BC. The use of this program must be reviewed regularly and thoroughly. There is probably no way to calculate the extra dollars that will go into maintaining it, trouble shooting problems and determining wasted employee time when the system is not working. I will ask essential questions at the Board table providing the oversight the public expects.
LIF…extra funding for students with special Education designations..Superintendent Sheri Bell is meeting with the teachers’ union executive to review the teachers’ recommendations for the allocation of some of this funding.
Student Rep. at the trustee board table…Superintendent Bell is meeting with students from all of our high schools to determine the format for this new opportunity.

Operations, Planning and Policy Meeting… Many, Many Important Issues… May 12, 2014…Well Worth the Read!

Two parents from Margaret Jenkins, Camille Victoire and Janice Boothman, presented on the issue of the district’s responsibility to support and respond to the minority point of view on health and safety issues. They referenced the Minister of Education’s comment that Boards of Education must continually strive to create and maintain learning and working environments that are responsive to diverse community environments. 
*There are many parents concerned about the 24 hour a day, at home and now at school wifi grid. After leukemia, brain tumors are the second most common type of cancer in young people under 25 years of age. They asked for one elementary school to stay LOW EMF including:
*English/French track, * far from cell towers/antennas, no existing strong wifi signals, close to Victoria city centre.
* LEXNET PROJECT- 17 leading telecommunications institutions  launched this project to develop effective mechanisms to reduce by at least 50% the public’s exposure to EMF, without compromising the quality of service.
* In France, there is a bill being considered to BAN wit from maternity hospitals and childcare facilities, communities will be informed about potential wifi installations and in schools routers or access points will be placed where teachers can reach them to turn them off when NOT in use.
I support having one wifi free school as we do have students and employees with EMF sensitivity. The VCPAC survey (2013)  indicated that 29% of parents expressed concern about EMF and health issues.
A parent from Frank Hobbs, Peter Milne, presented on regulation, accommodation and accountability with respect to wifi. Mr. Milne stated that he had been told that he could not record this meeting. However in an effort to support democracy and transparency he would be recording the meeting. He stated, ‘ This is a public meeting; trustees are public officials who meant to safe guard the public from reasonably foreseeable health issues. 
* Mr. Milne felt that the yes/no vote at his son’s school was NOT an informed consent vote
* Mr Milne stated that the school district no longer has insurance coverage for health problems related to EMF; the insurance industry NOW EXCLUDES electromagnetic radiation and possible health effects from the excessive use of SMART technology.
* How does the district plan to let parents know about no insurance coverage?
* What information have you been provided on this issue? ( 2010- Provincial Health Officer’s Special Report- Investing in prevention, improving health and creating sustainability….’in my mind, preventing cancer, starting in childhood, would certainly be beneficial to our national economy.’
* When can we expect to hear back from the district on this issue?
* How is the district tracking new research findings?
* Where is my non consent letter I provided to the district? Why is there no public posting? Why is there no mechanism to let parents know they can be accommodated to a school without wifi? What kind of accommodation would be provided? Having a child learn in isolation is NOT accommodation?
* Mr. Milne reminded the board that a motion was defeated 5/4 to post the health and safety guidelines for iPads and other technology. This motion should NOT have been required.    It is imperative that trustees be well aware of the employer’s duty to uphold a bare minimum for the health and safety of the district employees. How will this board ensure that employees are provided with this information?
Mr. Milne’s questions were referred to the Director of Human Resources. We will be hearing back soon.

The trustees continued to review the recommendations from this committee.
*Board meetings will be (video taped)…changed to digitally recorded by board personnel
*No other recordings will be permitted except by media outlets….this DOES NOT SUPPORT DEMOCRACY, in my opinion. Anyone who is interested and engaged in the issues should be welcome to record and use for the purpose of informing others. (There was much debate and a split of opinion on this issue) …deferred for the next meeting
*Recording will be posted on the district website as soon as possible
* The recording will stay on the district website for 30 days….it was suggested that it should then be archived
* # of site visits will be tracked
* Live streaming may be considered
* Ed. Policy and Operations, Planning and Policy meetings will NOT be recorded…to support and encourage dialogue  (There was much debate and a split of opinion on this issue)….again, these meetings are public and therefore in SUPPORT OF DEMOCRACY AND ENGAGEMENT, if someone in the public wants to record these meetings we should support their efforts.
SMOKING (Policy 5131.5) …now includes electric cigarettes
ATTENDANCE SUPPORT (healthy culture, learn and review return to work practices)
Katie Dragert (PhD. in neuroscience) has just recently been hired by our district to support employee attendance and other health issues. Katie report that the goal for change will be through environmental design including: wellness (eating, activity, mental wellness), disability support, attendance support
* QUADRA will be completed by June
* GEORGE JAY will be the next school to start seismic upgrading…$5M
* TILLICUM is next…$3M ….a partial upgrade is needed
* OAK BAY will have universal washrooms
* $300,000 awarded back to our school district due to our carbon neutral projects…will go to the boilers at George Jay
Motion- Nohr
 That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) request that senior administration provide a detailed summary of the 2013-2014 Class and Composition Report. Motion Defeated Voted Against- Orcherton, Horsman, Leonard, Ferris, McEvoy  Voted For- Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Alpha * I brought this motion forward last year and again this year because I think it is vitally important that as trustees we understand the specific details and patterns that emerge in a school district experiencing a chronic funding reduction.
That the Board of Education of school District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) encourage the Ministry of Education to support openStudent and abandon their commitment to MyEducationBC/Aspen.
That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) express in a public statement deep concern with the privacy breach and data control implications of MYEducationBC and withdraw from further  integration with this data base. Motion Defeated Voted Against- Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga,????

Now for the Board Meeting     Monday, May 20, 2014
Student Achievement
 Students from Campus View presented on their Earthfest activity. Thank you to all the parents for their participation too.

District presentations
 Congratulations to Mohammed Abousaleh from Oak Bay HS for winning the Shulich Leadership Scholarship – $80,000
Congratulations to Robert Lee from Oak Bay HS for earning the title of National Champion in the Michael Smith Science Challenge

Community Presentations 
Camille Victore and Janice Boothman spoke again about student accommodation regarding wifi. BioInitiative Report..EMF can cause harm to human health…we should reduce exposure to chemicals and toxins

Superintendent’s Report
 Yearly Board meeting schedule was approved.

#1 Motion- revised smoking policy – passed unanimously
#2 Motion- deleted outdated policy on smoking – passed unanimously
#3 Motion– deleted outdated policy on mandatory retirement- passed unanimously
#4 Motion- That the Board of Education of School district No. 61 (Greater Victoria) express in a public statement deep concern with the privacy and data control implications of MyEducationBC – passed with one abstention ( McEvoy )
#5 Motion-  That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) ask three members of the public to establish an ongoing mechanism for the reimbursement of trustees for the duration of their term and that it be initiated in December for each new board. passed- for Orcherton, Horsman, Leonard, Ferris, McEvoy  opposed- Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, Alpha, McNally
#6 Motion– That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) encourage the Ministry of Education to support openStudent and abandon their commitment to MyEducationBC/Aspen. failed for- McNally, Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga  opposed- Orcherton, Horsman, Ferris, Leonard   abstentions- Nohr, McEvoy  * This program is well in place and has a momentum. It is not realistic to think that it would be abandoned…the cost would be great…however., it is very important for trustees to ask relevant and probing questions over the course of the next year to determine its effectiveness and additional costs to the district.
#7 Motion-That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) request the Province to reverse its decision to close the Youth Detention Custody Center in View Royal and keep it open for not only young male offenders but to open it up to include female offenders from Vancouver Island Courts passed- unanimously

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!
Trustee Deborah Nohr

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