Candidate for Trustee SD61 Greater Victoria

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 My Platform


Championing social and global responsibility


In reviewing my previous objectives related to this theme, I am heartened by successes that have been made in the past three years with respect to issues that I and other trustees campaigned for.  New curriculum under development will apparently include mandatory content regarding Aboriginal history and culture.  The District has announced that waste redirection (composting, recycling) is now in place across the district while upgrades to school infrastructure is reducing the District's carbon footprint.  A few of the initiatives I will continue to address include the following:

 

Objectives

  • Actively advance the goals of the Aboriginal Enhancement Agreements with Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.


  • Providing additional support for safe and caring school programming (enlisting the bystanders), actively promote such initiatives as the Anti-Bullying Film Festival and Me to We clubs at school.


  • Maintaining existing environmental programs (composting, recycling) while expanding the range of campaigns to include energy conservation, gardening and other green initiatives.


  • Promotion of walking and cycling to and from schools through district contests and awareness programs and safer routes planning in collaboration with municipal staff.

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Actively engaging students, parents, teachers and administrators


I want to recognise the effort that Edith Loring-Kuhanga, Diane McNally and Deborah Nohr in particular have put into improving opportunities for parents and members of the public to engage with trustees, for example through the introduction of question and answer sessions at Board meetings. In addition to addressing a critical need for transparency in decision making, it also opens doors for greater involvement in determining the direction our School Board takes.  There is still considerable work to be done to actively promote the involvement of parents and the public.  To achieve this, trustees and the district must take active efforts to build connections and provide information.


​Objectives

 

  • All agenda packages should be posted on the web and emailed directly to school PACs as soon as possible prior to meeting dates to ensure that interested parties have sufficient time to prepare for topics of discussion.


  • Trustees should be assigned to schools from all communities across the district to ensure that they are aware of conditions district wide.  Currently trustees are assigned to families of schools which limits their exposure to specific catchment areas only.


  • Trustees should meet with the PACs of their assigned schools regularly; opportunities to meet with teachers and administrators should be pursued. Trustees need to understand school conditions firsthand. 


  • Ensure student trustees, education partners, parents and community members have meaningful opportunities to engage in discussions at Board committees and meetings.

 

  • Where invited to participate in specific topics or processes, for example, submitting budget recommendations, adequate supporting information must be provided in advance to support the development of meaningful input.

Focusing on classrooms and learning support


As a parent I see firsthand the effects of class sizes and inadequate support for children with developmental, behavioural, emotional and other disabilities and learning difficulties.  Despite the best efforts of administrators, teachers, EAs, counsellors and other specialized staff, there simply aren’t sufficient resources available to adequately support the needs of every child.  


Despite acknowledgement from everyone: a past Minister, the BC School Trustees Association, School Boards and District staff that the current educational funding model is broken, the Ministry has not undertaken meaningful efforts to ensure that government funding meets the requirement of students.   With this in mind, I have concluded that for the foreseeable future, the best chance to meet the needs of students is with targeted government funding.  This approach provides clear accountability and demonstrates unequivocally the resources that government is willing to invest in supporting students.


Considerable discussion has occurred regarding government’s desire to avoid “mechanistic staffing ratios and caps” that had been in place prior to 2001.  While there may be discussion about how this limits flexibility for Boards and District Administration to use their budget, it's my honest belief that such flexibility is required because funding levels  at present are inadequate for their purpose.  The current funding formula permits considerable discretion in the allocation of resources as previously targeted dollars are rolled into per capita allotments yet this does little to address the reality of under funding.  


 

Objectives


  • Develop budget proposals based on actual student needs.


  • Address shortfall in special education teachers, educational assistants and learning support.


  • Provide additional support for children with behavioural and learning difficulties; aim to reduce student wait times for assessments to no more than 6 months and allocate necessary resources to meet this timeline.


  • Augment school and district educational resources, including library and counselling time. 


  • Identify obstacles to graduation and develop appropriate strategies to overcome them. 


  • Publicly post class size and composition reports to enable members of the public to remain aware of conditions in our schools.  Where educational assistants or other specialty staff are assigned to classes, the portion of time they dedicate to each class should be reported.

Focusing on classrooms and learning support


As a parent I see firsthand the effects of class sizes and inadequate support for children with developmental, behavioural, emotional and  other disabilities and learning difficulties.  Despite the best efforts of administrators, teachers, EAs, counsellors and other specialized staff, there simply aren’t sufficient resources available to adequately support the needs of every child.  


Despite acknowledgement from everyone from a past Minister. The BC School Trustees Association, School Boards and District staff that the current educational funding model is broken, the Ministry has not undertaken meaningful efforts to ensure that government funding meets the requirement of students.   With this in mind, I have concluded that for the foreseeable future, the best chance to meet the needs of students is with targeted government funding.  This approach provides clear accountability and demonstrates unequivocally the resources that government is willing to invest in supporting students.


Considerable discussion has occurred regarding government’s desire to avoid “mechanistic staffing ratios and caps” that had been in place prior to 2001.  While there may be opportunities to review staffing ratios and other elements in the future on the basis of workload analyses, etc., this is the only mechanism currently under discussion that I believe ensures adequate provincial funding allocations.  

 

Objectives


  • Develop budget proposals based on actual student needs.


  • Address shortfall in educational aides and learning assistants.


  • Provide additional support for children with behavioural and learning difficulties; aim to reduce student wait times for assessments to no more than 6 months and allocate necessary resources to meet this timeline.


  • Augment school and District educational resources, including library and counselling time. 


  • Identify obstacles to graduation and develop appropriate strategies to overcome them. 


  • Publicly post class size and composition reports to enable members of the public to remain aware of conditions in our schools.  Where educational assistants or other specialty staff are assigned to classes, the portion of time they dedicate to each class should be reported.

Improving accountability and transparency in Board decision-making and District oversight


School Board decision-making typically occurs beyond the view of the public.  There appears to be excessive reliance on in camera meetings to shield decision makers from awkward questions.  For those matters reviewed publicly, trustees are rarely provided with more than the bare minimum of information necessary to meet Ministry reporting requirements. In the case of the District’s annual budget, which at nearly $200 Million is on par with those of Victoria and Saanich, trustees typically see the proposed budget for the first time on the day they are expected to pass it.  All of this can change if a majority of Trustees are willing to make a change in the status quo.


Objectives

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  • Establishment of a trustee chaired Finance committee to review budget allocations and spending and provide recommendations to the Board respecting opportunities and challenges throughout the year.

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  • Regular public posting of trustee and senior District staff expenses.

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  • Review of contracting policies and procedures to ensure that postings and awards are determined in a consistent and open manner.  Contracts, including the leasing of District buildings and land, should be available for review once concluded.

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  • Limit the use of in camera meetings to specific circumstances regarding human resource actions involving named parties, contract negotiations or other specific proceedings where District negotiating interests could be compromised by public release of information.

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  • All correspondence to the Board and directives from the Ministry of Education to the Board or senior District administration are to be logged and made publicly available except where in camera conditions may apply.  In camera material to be made available to all trustees.

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  • Motions should be tracked in a separate document accessible on the website; where actions are called for they should be tracked and updates provided in the course of subsequent public meetings. 

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  • Videos of Board meetings should be publicly available via the District website or via a dedicated channel on other media and linked to the District website. At the end of a school year or other identified period, videos may be archived but must remain publicly accessible.

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  • All sub-committee of the Board should produce minutes identifying the parties present, a summary of discussions and any actions determined.  Minutes will be available publicly on the District website.

Developing coherent and consistent direction for the School District 


School Board 61 currently lacks a strategic planning process to guide its work.  While decisions are made when allocating budgets and resources, there is nothing to indicate that they are made with any thought beyond the current school year.  A coherent strategic plan identifies long term goals, directs ongoing efforts to achieve them and tracks results to provide feedback and enable review.  Goals, developed in collaboration with the school community, could focus the energy and efforts of trustees, District staff, students and parents towards such purposes as improving graduation rates, particularly for aboriginal students; expanding the pathways to graduation; creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of the school community; or building more productive relationships with municipalities and others outside the educational community.


Objectives


  • Development of a long-term strategic planning process for SD61 tying capital and operational spending to identified District goals and priorities that inform policy development, annual budget preparation, development of achievement contract objectives and other Board efforts.


  • Ongoing review and revision of existing policies and regulations to ensure that direction continues to be relevant and appropriate.