VPEC AGM

VPEC is having it’s AGM

The AGM will be at the Emily Carr Library Meeting Room on Saturday, December 1 at 10:00 am will run until 1:00 pm if necessary.


The Emily Carr Library is located at 3500 Blanshard St., Google Map to help out is here, it is located near Uptown, behind Save-On-Foods and is surround by one way streets and a boulevard.


Hope to see everyone there.




Essay: Trustees should be able to focus on their jobs

Here is Starla Anderson’s essay in the Times-Colonist. She’s given VPEC permission to reprint it:

A Nanaimo Daily News editorial reprinted in the Times Colonist on July 4 asks readers a pertinent question about the recent firing of the Cowichan Valley School Board by the minister of education: “If boards cannot do what they were elected to do, why do we go through the charade of an election every three years to vote for a new board?”

Most citizens assume that school board trustees are elected to mediate the schooling needs and interests of their communities within the mandates of the provincial government. It doesn’t occur to us that a school board’s primary task is to manage school district finances within constraints over which they have little say.

The preamble in the 2012 School Act states that “it is the goal of a democratic society to ensure that all its members receive an education that enables them to become literate, personally fulfilled and publicly useful, thereby increasing the strength and contributions to the health and stability of that society.”

The idealism in this statement provides inspiration to all who are committed to public school education, including those who choose to run the gauntlet of candidacy to become a trustee. And yet, if our 2012 School Act is compared with B.C.’s first School Act of 1872, we find the primary task of school boards to manage finances has not changed since, despite the addition of more than 170 pages of directives. In contrast to our current School Act’s preamble, the 1872 Act’s preamble is more honest in its limited vision:

“Whereas it is expedient that provision should be made for the establishment, maintenance, and management of Public Schools throughout the Province of British Columbia -“

Egerton Ryerson’s influence on the writing of the Ontario School Act of 1871 shaped a centralized public school system that provided a model for B.C.’s School Act of 1872. This model has been pretty much intact since: Provincial governments delegate management powers to locally elected trustees and it is rare for trustees to attempt to negotiate finances with the minister of education. The three school boards that have made this attempt in the past 35 years have all been fired and replaced by “official trustees.”

Idealism motivates most citizens who want to participate in shaping public education and anyone who has not read the School Act is unaware that fundraising has in recent years become part of a trustee’s job description. The 2012 School Act outlines protocols for renting and selling buildings and property, holding local referendums requesting that citizens pay extra taxes for special projects and starting companies such as the one Saanich trustees have decided to organize to make up funding shortfalls by selling online courses overseas.

The nation-builders of the late 1800s would be baffled that the foundation that they laid enabled subsequent politicians and educators to build a complex public-school system that they couldn’t have imagined, and then, in a decade of neglect, the system unnecessarily declined. The consequences of tax cuts made to corporations, small businesses and individuals since 2001 have not only created havoc in school districts, but have given us a shakeup that forces us not to take for granted the world-class public school infrastructure that took more than 100 years to develop.

The Cowichan school trustees who would no longer co-operate with the dismantling of their school district have awakened us all. Their words and actions honour the legacy of social reformer Amos de Cosmos and those 19th-century citizens whose campaign to bring schools to the colony of Vancouver Island was successful. After the opening of Victoria’s Central School under the 1865 Common School Act, de Cosmos wrote in the British Colonist:

“The blessing of education has been presented to the poorest as well as to the richest child – We hope that rumour is falsifying – that the education appropriation will have to be reduced $32,000.”

In this 21st century, it is up to all of us to communicate to government that we expect elected officials to keep our schools moving towards fulfilling the goals stated in their own 2012 School Act. And trustees should not have to concern themselves with raising funds for the viability of their school districts – that is the job of government.

Starla Anderson is a retired teacher and education consultant who lives in Victoria.

Rally to support teachers!

There is a mass rally tomorrow, March 6th, in support of BC teachers. It starts at 11am at Centennial Square in Victoria (beside City Hall). A very large group will then march to the lawn of the Legislature. Please see this web site for the latest details.

Rally to support teachers!

There is a mass rally tomorrow, March 6th, in support of BC teachers. It starts at 11am at Centennial Square in Victoria (beside City Hall). A very large group will then march to the lawn of the Legislature. Please see this web site for the latest details.

School board votes should be recorded

Mike Eso has a great Letter to the Editor in today’s Times Colonist:

When will our local elected representatives understand that recorded votes are an important cornerstone on our democracy and are vital in making these institutions more transparent and accountable to the public?

Newly elected Greater Victoria School Board trustees Diane McNally and Deborah Nohr should be congratulated for pushing to ensure board minutes reflect the voting records of individual trustees. The trustees who voted against this suggestion should be ashamed of themselves.

Click here to read the full letter.

School board votes should be recorded

Mike Eso has a great Letter to the Editor in today’s Times Colonist:

When will our local elected representatives understand that recorded votes are an important cornerstone on our democracy and are vital in making these institutions more transparent and accountable to the public?

Newly elected Greater Victoria School Board trustees Diane McNally and Deborah Nohr should be congratulated for pushing to ensure board minutes reflect the voting records of individual trustees. The trustees who voted against this suggestion should be ashamed of themselves.

Click here to read the full letter.

January report from Trustee Nohr

Here is an update from Trustee Deborah Nohr:


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 enrolments ) 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

February Report 2012 Trustee Nohr

Here is an update from Trustee Deborah Nohr:

Just a little more…….

I am providing an addendum to my February Report. As a point of clarification, the $350,000 was not the result of lots of loonies jingling in the pockets of the secretary-treasurer but rather unintended positive cash flow from teachers using less sick days and from less demand for fuel to heat the schools during this milder winter . There were other line items contributing to this but  the trustees did not receive the budget sheet in our Board pack up so I cannot recall the specifics. Let me just finish by saying that our district and every other district in the province has been ‘carved to the bone’.  Here’s two examples, the provincial formula for elementary counsellors is 1:1000 students and that means most elementary schools of 200 ‘ish’ have a counsellor one day a week. There are no educational assistant in our kindergarten classes ( unless there is a student with a special education designation coming from preschool and/ or QA ) even though there are tremendous student needs that do not get assessed until approximately grade 3. Ontario has an EA in every kindergarten classroom. Again, it is my hope to make a motion that will be supported by other trustees to put the $350,000 into our classrooms in early March.

Thank you,
Deborah Nohr

 

 

 

 

First Priority Always……. Advocacy for the Children

A New Trustee’s Point of View               FEBRUARY, 2012

Greater Victoria School District 61

 Report #3

 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

 Budget Time

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!

Respectfully,

Deborah Nohr  SD 61 Trustee

 Please send your e-mails to:

premier@gov.bc.ca

 minister.educ@gov.bc.ca