Polices, Regulations, Bylaws, and …. Money

January 1 – Happy Policies, Regulations, and Bylaws Day! This is a catch-up  post, and following entries should be shorter.

Election result on  November 19 were encouraging. Thank you all who voted, and thank you to all who voted for me. I’m pleased to go forward with 12,977 votes.

Media attention to School District 61 issues has been gratifying. New trustees ran with the desire to bring about transparency at this Board, where operating with little attention from anyone has been the comfortable norm for many years. As I talked to people in the  neighbourhoods of Greater Victoria , many people asked me what School Boards did and why they should bother voting for Trustees, and why they should care, especially if they didn’t have children in school. I hope that when the next election is underway, fewer citizens will ask those questions, as they will have a much better idea about the operations and budget and policy decisions of School District 61, and will know more about the fundamental part public education plays in our Canadian democracy.

Yes, I’ve been reading all the GVSD Policies, Regs and Bylaws, and have highlighted a few for further interest. Of course they’re all compelling reading (!) – really they are, as they guide and influence every aspect of education in School District 61 Greater Victoria

Did you know that you can propose a Policy for School District 61? Check out Bylaw 9210! The only requirement is that you are a  trustee, SDS61 employee, SD61 employee group, parent, student, or resident of the school district. That covers just about everybody in thee GVSD!

There is a Policy for provision of information to newly elected trustees, and although the timelines are not specific, my interpretation leads me to believe the information in the Policy should be provided before the swearing in, and certainly as soon as possible. The was some difficulty getting the Regulations, Policies and Bylaws in hard copy, though the Superintendent did provde hard copy after a time. I hope the Chair will provide us with the rest of the material referred to in this Policy in hard copy, as well as a complete line item budget on January 7, the first Saturday of a two-Saturday orientation. Although the Secrertary -Treasurer told me early in December I probably would not be interested in the “paper clip line”, I am. I’m interested in every line for revenue and every line for expenses. The detailed budget is certainly “relevant information” under this policy. (One trustee has asked for this document for three years and still does not have it. Newly elected trustees have been asking for it since the day after the November election.) Time to break out “How To Read Financial Statements” from MBA days!

Because of the slow start regarding provision of information, an incident regarding provision of grievance information to trustees, the discouragement of motions from the floor in Board meetings, the renewal of three year contracts for the Superintendent and Secretary-Treasurer in a secret meeting in October – information which was not reported out in a timely way – and the District culture’s expectation that Trustees not visit schools unless visits are pre-arranged, I’ve been getting that “figurehead” feeling. I didn’t run for election as a figurehead. I’m expecting that feeling to change.

The meetings that encourage public participation and less tightly managed contributions from Trustees are Education Policy and Operations, Policy and Planning. Occasionally the two meetings are combined though the agendas and mandates are quite different. The first combined Ed Policy / OPPS meeting is set for 7:30, January 9. These meetings are supposed to feed recommended, pre-managed motions to the Board meeting. See what happens to heartfelt requests made at the Board, when the chair says “Thank you; that will be referred to the appropriate committee”, while the citizen speaker expected something more.In the past I’ve actually enjoyed Ed Policy and I expect to now.

With the School Act, BCSTA website and learning materials, BCPSEA website and materials, District 61 Bylaws, Regulations, and Policies, and the not so user friendly SD61 website, along with SD61 minutes from the last three years, and a thick Trustee Information Binder I now have (only after insisting) to read before the two Get Up To Speed Days, January 7 and 14, I will be busy learning. And the learning won’t stop there, I know.

I was elected Board representative to BCPSEA at our first meeting,December 5. I will be attending the BCPSEA Symposium and 18th AGM on January 20 and 21.

I attended the BCSTA Trustee Academy December 8, 9 and 10. The first event required a disclaimer at the end from the facilitator : “This is not Ministry of Education presentation”. Could have fooled me. However, presentations over the three days turned out to be better balanced than I expected after that initial session, with some Ministry of Education initiatives cheerleading presentations and a presentation from George Abbott notable on one side, and an excellent speech by Stephen Murgatroyd on the other. I bought Stephen Murgatroyd’s  book, Rethinking Education. Book review to come!

The Board chair assigns trustees to school groups in order to facilitate contact. I share the Esquimalt High School group of schools with Trustee Elaine Leonard (Esquimalt High, Rockheights and Shoreline Middle Schools, and Craigflower, Macaulay, Vic West and View Royal Elementary Schools) , and will make regular school visits. Some of of them may be impromptu. That’s not culturally comfortable in SD61, but that can change. There is no formal liaison with Education Services, like Ledger, the Vic West Assessment Centre, YCC.

I will attend Esquimalt group PAC meetings, at least in part, as often as I can.

I’m the Board representative to Success by Six, and as a former Grade One reading specialist and special education teacher, I am happy with this assignment by the Chair.

The WiFi Committee seems not to be functioning but needs to be restarted. Citizens for Safe Technology provides new research almost daily.

The District budget cycle starts on Monday January 9.

Please consider participating in the vital discussion of public education funding by attending public meetings and Board meetings, and by making presentations. K-12 funding as a percentage of the BC budget was 26.36% in 1992, and in 2012, 15.41%. while public school funding has steadily fallen, support for private schools using public money has increased.

My head is spinning – in a good way! There is a lot to learn, and a lot to think over.  This is a Board of nine trustees. Every motion needs a seconder to even be considered for discussion, and then of course needs a majority vote to pass.  I hope to see you soon at Ed Policy, OPPS, a Board meeting, or the 4th Sunday of each month at he Spiral Cafe from 2-4 pm. I’ll be there with Lisa Helps, Victoria City Councillor, though we’ll have separate tables for our community discussions.

About Diane McNally