Trustee Nohr…Report #21 SD 61
Equality for All in Public Education……Fully Funded and Properly Managed.
Education Policy Meeting… A Few Highlights November 4, 2013
French immersion at George Jay? Presently, 124students within the George Jay catchment area are attending other schools for French immersion. Bringing these students back to their neighbourhood school is very important. The following motion was passed (in principle) unanimously: That the Board of Education of School District No. 61(Greater Victoria) approve the addition of a French Immersion program at George Jay Elementary School beginning September 2014, with the introduction of a kindergarten class.
Did you know that the BC curriculum is being revised? Deputy Supt Sherri Bell provided a first look at this new K-9 revised curriculum. There is greater emphasis on student/teacher developed activities and methodologies as well as a reduction in learning outcomes with a focus on core concepts (big ideas). What do you think? Should environmental studies or sustainable living be a stand-alone curriculum area denoting its importance? At this time, it appears to be integrated through all other curriculum areas.
OPPs Meeting… A Few Highlights… November 12, 2013
Janis Hoffman, a member of the public, asked that trustees ensure that choices are made available to parents concerned about the health impacts of wireless technology in schools. I, too, see the need for training at the school level to ensure that all staff and students use hard wired and wireless technology in the most safety conscious way. Where are the routers being placed? Can we reduce the EMF frequency levels? This may serve both the safety concerns for children and employees as well as to reduce the district’s energy costs.
Further review was given to the subcommittee on public engagement recommendations. I recommended that trustees should be able to ask a point of clarification to a member of the public presenting at the board. #1 Motion: That the Board of Education of School District # 61 Greater Victoria revise the wording of item #5, bullet 6 of Bylaw 9360 to add,” trustees, through the chair, many ask presenters questions of clarification”. This motion was defeated. Against-Trustees Leonard, Orcherton, Ferris, and Horsmen For- Trustees nor, McNally, Alpha,hand Loring-Kuhanga McEvoy (absent) Q&A….15 minutes at our Board meetings. This will definitely foster greater engagement with the public and help trustees have a better understanding of what is on the minds of our public/parents.
VCPAC, through their president, John Bird, reported out that the majority of parents who participated in the WiFi survey in supported WiFi in our elementary schools. There were a significant percentage of parents who had concerns about the health and safety issues related to WiFi and children. Two motions were brought forward: #1 Motion– Moved Ferris That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) continues to monitor the documentation from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Provincial Health Officer, Health Canada and the World Health Organization with regard to the use of WiFi in schools. Further, the WiFi committee recommends that the board reviews on an annual basis, those recommendations and receive updates on any changes. As I recall, in the past two years, the Board has received only a very brief update on WiFi from the WiFi committee. I have learned more about the growing body of evidence related to WiFi health and safety issues from the many public presentations that cite peer reviewed, independent research findings. I will continue to work on this important issue. It is my opinion that this is not the year to spend more money on WiFi installation when we are facing a significant deficit of $2M, $5M….. or possibly higher. #2 Motion Moved- Ferris That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) allow the use of WiFi in elementary schools subject to the school first obtaining the support of the school community. Moved forward to the Nov. 18th Board meeting. Will each school be required to generate the funding for the WiFi installation or will it come out for operating budget or will it be a joint effort?
Statement of Financial Information– Trustee Loring-Kuhanga brought forward a series of questions drilling deeper into the district budget. This information was provided to all the trustees and provided a much more in-depth understanding of some of the major line items in our 2012- 2013 budget. Trustee Loring-Kuhanga stated that she would be bringing forward a notice of motion.
WorkSafe BC Cost Summary–Our district receives a surcharge, that is additional money from the budget is required by WorkSafe BC based on worker injuries and health issues. Worker safety is paramount and it often has a direct impact on the quality of the learning environment and the learning experience for our students. Trustees have asked for more detail related to these surcharges. This will be brought forward at the December board meeting.
Attendance Awareness- Kim Munro, Director of Human Resources, presented Information about the District’s desire to implement in Attendance Awareness Program. Ms. Munro stated that the program will use a relationship based and conversation led approach to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and consistently. Ms Munro advised that a dedicated position will be needed to manage attendance and to implement programs to promote health, wellness and safety in the workplace. Currently, on average, employees use 10.43 sick days. The district would save $460,444 with a one day reduction in the number of sick days used. This is a very complex issue. Employee health and wellness is tied directly to underfunding of public education. When employees are ‘spread very thin’ and the daily demands of the job require a ‘hit the ground running approach’ each and every day serious fatigue, stress and illness will follow. Add into the mix the fact that our employees are working in a germ incubator aka the classroom and it is inevitable that viruses and bacteria will spread throughout the school community. Let’s properly fund and support our staff, especially those supporting learning in the classroom. What is the process to insure that we do not have classrooms where the teacher and/ or the educational assistant is working in a situation of distress? What is the process to insure that employees returning to work are supported for a successful re-entry? These are questions that I will ask that the board table. #3 Motion Moved-Ferris That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) implement the Attendance Awareness Program and proceed to hire a human resources advisor, wellness and attendance awareness, to coordinate the programme. We have asked for the cost to hire another employee and for feedback from our employee groups. This will be reported out at the December 9 Board meeting.
Now for the Board Meeting Monday, November 18, 2013
Student Presentation Cups, Cups and More Cups Students from Glanford Middle School and principal, Louis Scigliano, provided an amazing challenge for the trustees! Requiring both physical and mental agility we were put to the test. Trying to remember which hand, left or right, cups up or down and changing the pattern constantly was hard. Congratulations to the students for their mastery and for their ability to teacher / mentor the trustees!
Community Presentations 1. Emily Federico- South park PAC, Coastal Kindergarten 2. Tiffany Carlyle- James Bay PAC, Coastal Kindergarten 3. Bonnie Davison- parent, Coastal Kindergarten 4. Peter Milne- parent, wireless technology 5. John Bird- VCPAC, School Culture and Student Services
Chair’s Report– Chair Orcherton reported that as the government is undergoing a core review we as a district will be undertaking our own core review. Are we to look eff sciences? Really? Currently, some, a significant number of our students, including our most vulnerable students are not receiving proper support because we do not have adequate funding.
#1 Motion- That the Board of Education of School District No.61 (Greater Victoria) approve the Program of Choice Application : Coastal Kindergarten Program Proposal for a two-year pilot located at James Bay Community School and South Park Family School beginning September 2014. Motion carried- For: Trustees Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, Alpha, Orcherton, Leonard, Horsman, Ferris, Against-Trustee McNally * What I have been thinking since is… is it really the best idea to be driving kindergarten students across town and away from their own neighbourhood schools….kindergarten? How wise is this? Does this support community sustainability? Would this be in the best interests of the child? Who will be driven across town? Most likely, the child in a family with resources to get outside and explore the coastal habitat. The child who desperately needs the outdoor experience to support emotional, spiritual and physical well being will not have the opportunity. I will not vote for any more specialized or niche programs for elementary school.
#2 Motion-That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) approve the addition of a French Immersion programme at George Jay Elementary School, beginning September 2014 with the introduction of a kindergarten class. Motion carried-unanimously * Let’s bring those families back to the George Jay neighbourhood.
New Motions or…Notice of Motion
#1 Motion- Trustee Ferris: That the Board of Education of School District No.61 (Greater Victoria) table discussion of trustee remuneration, including the motion referred from the October 21, 2013 Board of Education meeting, until after the municipal/trustee elections of November 2014 * My position is that until our teachers negotiate a wage settlement I have no interest in reviewing and / or increasing trustee remuneration. SD 61 has a significant deficit one contributing factor is the ‘cooperative gains’ mandate put on public education which lead to the recent CUPE wage settlement (approx. $500,000- 2013/2014 and $1.2M- 2014/2015 ) This will take significant funding out of the classroom.
#2 Motion- Trustee Ferris: That the Board of Education of School District No.61 (Greater Victoria) continues to monitor documentation from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Provincial Health Officer, Health Canada and the World Health Organization with regard to the use of WiFi in schools. Further, the WiFi committee recommends that the Board reviews, on an annual basis, those recommendations and receives updates on any changes. Motion carried- For- Trustees Loring-Kuhanga, Orcherton, Horsman, Ferris, Alpha, Leonard, McEvoy Against- Trustee McNally, Nohr * We need reports at the board table providing additional information from other credible sources such as Citizens for Safe Technology. Cutting edge results from studies comes last to government agencies.
* As I recall, in the past two years, the Board has received only a very brief update on WiFi from the WiFi committee. I have learned more about the growing body of evidence related to WiFi health and safety issues from the many public presentations that cite peer reviewed, independent research findings and my own reading. I will continue to work on this important issue. It is my opinion that this is not the year to spend more money on WiFi installation when we are facing a significant deficit of $2M, $5M….. or possibly higher. What are we doing to accommodate students and employees that have a significant sensitivity to EMF? This is a question that I will ask at the Board table. When parents express an unwillingness to provide consent to expose their child to EMF / wifi all day at school, what will we do?
#3 Motion- Moved Trustee Ferris That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) allow the use of wifi in elementary schools subject to each school first obtaining the support of their school community. Motion carried- For- Trustee Orcherton, Leonard, Horsman, Ferris, Alpha Against-Trustee Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally
* I support the use of hard wired technology for our youngest learners! Tablets can be charged through hard wire and then used. As a trustee, I have been given no financial costing of this initiative. I will be asking for a report on this and the district’s plan to accommodate students and employees with severe EM sensitivity. I will also ask what plan, if any, does the district have to ensure the safest installation of wifi. Until recently, the hours spent at school were the ‘break’ from wifi….off the EMF smog grid for 6 or 7 hours each day. Now, most children will have 24 hour exposure to EMF! With the emerging health findings, we should be concerned.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!
Trustee Deborah Nohr