The Record Off The Record: Operations Policy and Planning Committee: Nov13/12: Any Questions?

Remarkably, a motion to establish a moratorium on Wifi expansion at the Board meeting on June 20, 2011 was not even addressed at that meeting: “Due to discussions on the same topics, there was no action on these motions: [pages 7-8] F.2 I: That the Board of Education of School District no. 61 (Greater Victoria) establish a moratorium on wifi installations in elementary schools until the wifi committee has completed its work”.

As always, The Record, Off the Record is an unofficial record of School District 61 meetings, the “you had to be there” record. Official minutes are posted after approval on the School District 61 website.  It usually takes one month for minutes of a meeting to be approved at the next meeting of the same Standing Committee, or Board meeting.

1. Approval of Agenda: Approved.
2. Approval of the Minutes:  OPPS Tuesday, October 9, 2012: approved
3. Business Arising from Minutes: none
4. Presentations:

     A. John Bird, President of Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC meeting quorum: 19 of more than 50 schools)

1. WiFi in K-5 Schools in SD61:  VCPAC asks for  deferral of  the WiFi motion  brought to the Board from the SD61 WiFi Committee until February 2013, as VCPAC has not discussed cell phones in schools or WiFi brought in by school staff.  BYOD is a target in the BC Ministry  of Education “ Education for Tomorrow 2012 – 2013” document  (p 60).

            2. Question Period at Board Meetings: VCPAC requested in 2006 that the School Act be changed to ensure a question period at Board meetings in BC school districts. The letter is on the VCPAC website, along with a short (but incomplete) history of SD61 Board question period activity.

  • Trustee Loring-Kuhanga brought a motion to the May 14, 2012  Operations Policy and Planning meeting asking for two public question periods at every Board meeting. This motion was defeated: For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr. (Absent: McEvoy) Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard and Orcherton.
  • Motions carried at one of the Standing Committees are considered “Recommended Motions” to the Board, and often there will not be extensive debate at the Board meeting as that has taken place at the Standing Committee meeting. However, the mover can bring a defeated motion forward to the Board. Trustee Loring-Kuhanga brought the motion again to the September 17, 2012 Board meeting, where – again – it was defeated. For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr. Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy and Orcherton.

The VCPAC Question Period document jumps from January 2007,(Jan / 07 VCPAC sends resolution to BCCPAC requesting that the Minister make question periods mandatory for School Boards. This resolution passed at BCCPAC 2007 AGM) to September 2012 (Sep / 12 Chair Orcherton’s motion to review Board practices and policies passes at the September 17, 2012 Regular Public Board of Education meeting).

  • Trustee Loring-Kuhanga’s  motions re question period for the public on the agenda of  public Board meetings in School District 61 are  not reported.

The September motion included in the document has so far  resulted in a District-produced report on question periods at twenty BC Boards of Education, which was presented at 5. B on the agenda. Although the report was self-congratulatory in tone, it nevertheless (and probably inadvertently) highlighted the fact that School District 61 is in the minority of Boards of Education in British Columbia in not providing question period(s) in Board meetings. A parent presented personal research further highlighting this minority position.

VCPAC recommended that the Board strike a committee to deal with the question period concerns expressed in the VCPAC letter (linked above). Trustee Loring-Kuhanga asked how the committee would be set up, and was told by the Chair that would be dealt with later in the meeting. (It seems that it wasn’t; I’m no clearer on how it will be set up. Maybe it’s me.)

5. Finance and Legal Affairs

     A. WiFi Committee Report: WiFi in School District 61 isn’t exactly “finance”, though the rollout / wifi-ing of K-5 school will cost. It’s not exactly “legal” either (yet – the Portland, OR School District has faced a costly lawsuit from a parent over WiFi).

  • There is apparently no Technology Strategic Plan for School District 61. (There’s no general District Strategic Plan, either, so that’s consistent. SD61 uses the Superintendent’s Achievement Contract Report  in place of a strategic plan for some time, although a Regulation still exists – probably not for long – outlining the responsibilities of the Strategic Planner.There is no associated Policy, which has been deleted.) In September 2012, the SD61 IT Department  provided a very general statement regarding the District Technology “Roadmap”.
  • In the WiFi Committee’s final meeting, participants were told  there would be no minutes from the meeting. Surprise!  In this OPPS meeting we were told there will be minutes, and that they will be posted on the SD61 website (they are).

The motion from the October 17 WiFi Committee meeting came forward:

That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) develops [sic] an application process whereby elementary schools may submit to the Board of Education for approval to implement Wifi in their schools.

Ferris: Moved to Table until the VCPAC report is presented.

For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, McNally, Nohr, Orcherton. Abstained: Loring-Kuhanga.

Community presenters reiterated health concerns with WiFi, especially in K-5 settings. Although George Jay School is the only K-5 SD61 school with “official” District installed WiFi (Harbourside Rotary Club  donated $5,000 to the school to purchase iPads), Wifi is being brought into non-WiFi environments via personal routers and hotspots, at 11 K-5 schools. The current status is more or less an “understood moratorium”, which is not a moratorium at all.

  • Remarkably, a motion to establish a moratorium on Wifi expansion at the Board meeting on June 20, 2011 was not even addressed at that meeting: “Due to discussions on the same topics, there was no action on these motions: [pages 7-8] F.2 I: That the Board of Education of School District no. 61 (Greater Victoria) establish a moratorium on wifi installations in elementary schools until the wifi committee has completed its work”.

Various forms of a proposal to limit WiFi expansion in schools were crafted and amended, with apparent objectives from various Trustees covering a range including the intent to stop further informal installations, complete removal of all but the District-installed George Jay WiFi infrastructure , and leaving the status quo as is, until the VCPAC report in February.

That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) remind the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association and School District staff regarding the current Board direction related to Wi-Fi in elementary schools.  Carried.

 

For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, McNally, Orcherton  Against:Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr

 

B. Report to the Board of Education: Report from Senior Administration regarding question period and public participation (above).

C. International Student Program Overview :

In response to requests from Trustees Nohr and Loring-Kuhanga some time ago, an extensive report was presented by School District 61’s International Student Program staff, with three main areas of focus: marketing and student support, administration, and the homestay program component. The International Program is a net profit enterprise for SD61. Schedule 2A of the SD61 2012-2013 Budget  line item for “Offshore Tuition” revenue shows $7,863,871 (revenue impacted by expenses, such as salaries of instructors, administrators, and student recruitment / program marketing and promotions travel expenses). [Second attempt  to insert a PPT in WordPress worked. You may get this post twice. I know, once is enough. But this time the PPT link should work.]

ISP board presentation – Nov 2012 FINAL

6. Facilities Planning : no report
7. Public Disclosure of In Camera Items: No In Camera meeting
8. Motions Referred to the Committee

     A. McNally: Challenge the Ruling of the Chair (also known as “Appeal from a ruling of the chair)

That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria ) amend Bylaw 9368 ”Procedure” Article 107.00 to read : “Any Trustee may challenge the ruling of the Chair, according to Robert’s Rules of Order. The Trustee making the challenge (with a seconder) will be asked by the Chair to state the challenge; debate will occur according to Robert’s Rules of Order; a vote to sustain the chair [or not ] will follow debate.

As it stands, the challenger does not have an opportunity to state the challenge, so no one has any idea what the challenge is; the Chair is not required to state any reason for or defense of the ruling;  there is no debate on the challenge’s  merits before a vote is a called to support  the Chair (or  the challenge). This is… uncommon.

This motion had been referred to this OPPS meeting from the October Board meeting, but at this point in the meeting  it was moved to refer this motion to the next OPPS / Ed Policy meeting, December 3. Carried unanimously.

9. New Business / Notice of Motion

     A. McNally: Letter to Leader of Provincial NDP

That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) instructs [sic] the Chair to write a letter to Adrian Dix, Leader of the Provincial NDP, strongly urging him to reconsider his expressed support of funding for private schools.

Moved Alpha: To Table:   For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McNally. (McEvoy absent for the last part of the meeting.) Against: Loring-Kuhanga.

10. General Announcements: none
11. Adjournment : Approximately 10:15 pm.

no questions

Next meeting:
Combined Education Policy / Operations Policy and Planning Standing Committees: Monday December 3, 7 pm

Next posts:

  • The Record, Off The Record: Board Meeting, November 19, 2012
  • What Do Trustees Do?
  • Roots of Empathy (and other SD61 Healthy Safe and Caring Schools Initiatives and Programs)

The Record, Off the Record: Education Policy Development Committee November 5, 2012: Calm, Focused and Alert, Pressing Palms Together

“What we’re seeing is a generation of children whose nervous system is essentially being overstimulated.”… He [Dr. Stuart Shanker] says in Canada and the US time watching television and on computers was replacing that spent on exercise, outdoor play and social interaction. “We’re worried kids aren’t playing with each other enough and they’re losing not just the ability, but even the desire to play.”

Official minutes are posted on the School District 61 Greater Victoria website. As always, The Record, Off the Record is my own interpretation of the meeting.

School District 61 Standing Committees  have trustees assigned as “members” by the Chair each year. In order for a vote to take place in the Committee, a quorum of assigned trustees has to be present to vote, although all Board members are “ex officio” members, with voting rights. (Former Education Policy  Standing Committee Chair Walsh is recorded in minutes as having assigned the then Board Chair, not an assigned member of the Committee, to be a member-on-the-spot (not the usual meaning of “ex officio” ) for two Committee meetings in the past that did not have Committee member quorum. Points for creativity!)

1. Approval of Agenda: approved (informally)

2. Approval of Ed Policy Minutes, October 1, 2012: Not approved as there was no quorum (Trustees assigned this year: Alpha, Chair; Horsman, McEvoy and Loring- Kuhanga). Trustee Horsman took the chair for this meeting. Present: Trustees Horsman, Ferris, Nohr, Orcherton, McNally.

3. Business Arising Out of the Minutes: none

4. Public Requests to the Committee: none

5. Correspondence Referred to the Committee: none (Trustees do get email correspondence individually and email addressed to all Trustees forwarded from an Administrative Assistant.)

6. Motions Referred to the Committee: McNally, below, referred from previous Board meeting

7. General Announcements: none

8. New Business:

A. McNally / (no seconder needed in Standing Committees) :

     That the Board of Education School District No.61 (Greater Victoria) amend         9368 “Procedure”, Article 107.00 to read “Any Trustee may challenge the Chair, according to Robert’s Rules of Order. The Trustee making the Challenge (with a seconder) will be asked by the Chair to state the challenge; debate will occur according to Robert’s Rules of Order; a vote to sustain the Chair [or not] will follow debate.

Rationale:

  • Bylaw 9368, Article 107. 00 does not allow a Trustee who challenges a ruling of the chair to state the challenge. This leaves other Trustees and the public with no information about the challenge and allows for frivolous challenges, as no explanation of the challenge is required.
  • The vote to sustain the chair or not is based on no information, which creates a devolution of the vote from a substantive debate to a popularity contest or a vote based on assumption. The public has no idea what is going on. Robert’s Rules 11th Edition addresses this issue: small group rules refers to appeals, and says they are debatable under the regular rules (see page 256).
  • Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure states that appeals are debatable, because the reason for the appeal is of importance to the assembly. If the reasons given for the appeal are convincing, the Chair may change the ruling.
  • Individuals attending meetings of publicly elected bodies expect a challenger to be able to explain a challenge and the chair to defend the decision of the chair, referring to policy or procedure. The current process is less than transparent.

This motion was sent to the next Operations Policy and Planning meeting (November 13 ), as there was no quorum for this Education Policy meeting.

B. Self-Regulation:

Some of the staff of Lake Hill Elementary School presented information on implementing Dr. Stuart Shanker’s Self Regulation framework.

Dr. Shanker was interviewed in TheWest.com.au: “The problem we’re seeing with children today is so many of them don’t know what it feels like to be calm,” [Shanker]  told a gathering of parents at St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School in Karrinyup last week.”We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of kids that have poor self-control.”Dr Shanker, who has spent 10 days in WA at the invitation of Commissioner for Children and Young People Michelle Scott, told Health+Medicine that recent research had found up to a five-fold increase in stress levels of children today compared to those of children in 1936 – the height of the Great Depression.”There has been a considerable increase in stress and it’s been particularly marked over the last decade,” Dr Shanker says.“What we’re seeing is a generation of children whose nervous system is essentially being overstimulated.”… He says in Canada and the US time watching television and on computers was replacing that spent on exercise, outdoor play and social interaction. “We’re worried kids aren’t playing with each other enough and they’re losing not just the ability, but even the desire to play.”

The work of one of my favourite social – cognitive researchers, Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) has been  the foundation of much theory in cognitive development over the past several decades.  In Vygotsky’s view, “Acquiring higher mental functions allows children to make a critical transition from being “slaves to the environment” to becoming “masters of their own behavior”. This process requires children to master specific cultural tools–including language and other symbolic systems–which they can use to gain control over their physical, emotional, and  cognitive functioning.

“As it is true for all higher mental functions, children’s self-regulatory abilities originate in  social interactions and only later become internalized and independently used by children (Vygotsky, 1978). This means that self-regulation is not something that emerges spontaneously as the child matures but is instead taught formally or informally within the social context. Classroom presents one of the possible contexts; family and peer group provide alternative contexts for learning self-regulation. In the case when none of the social contexts support the development of self-regulatory behaviors, children continue to operate as “slaves to the environment” being guided by ever-changing external stimulation and incapable of intentional actions.”

And who hasn’t seen the “Marshmallow Test” by now? TED talk: Don’t Eat the Marshmallow!

Surrey Superintendent Mike Mackay, in addition to being, obviously, Superintendent of the Surrey School District, and the one-man unelected Board of the Cowichan School District, will supervise this project. The six BC school Districts participating are Surrey, VictoriaNanaimo, Bulkley ValleyCoquitlam  and West Vancouver. 20 schools began the project. There is no funding from the BC Ministry of Education.

This is a four year project at Lakehill. No data are collected. This year, Lake Hill  school has a relatively high number of education assistants for the school size (4 in the mornings and two playground supervisors) as several children require 1:1 support in class.The presentation from various staff members and school administration included the following points and references:

  • Self-regulation  not a “program”, not mandatory.
  • First step in self-regulation is awareness of arousal level
  • Optimally students (and all of us) will be calm, focussed and alert, and thus able to manage our own behaviours, emotions and attention
  • Self-regulation includes ability to plan, set goals, problem solve, delay gratification
  • Dr. Roy Baumeister: “Self-regulation failure is the major social pathology of our time.”
  • School-wide commitment to self-regulation; “body breaks’; palm presses, hand pulls
  • Many teachers doing this naturally; a lot of it is common sense
  • Slow process developing new neural pathways in the brain, especially for children who have experienced trauma or neglect, to develop engagement without being overwhelmed
  • Not the answer to everything
  • Needs to be well-resourced, commented a teacher; a member of the school administration team said it needs minimal resources and staff are the resources.
  • Considerations of nature vs technology
  • Human connections lessening
  • Empathy and self regulation interdependent
  • Social experiences and social systems essential for development of self-regulation
  • A child needs at least one caring adult with a strong commitment to that child
  • District occupational therapists sources of insight (body awareness and vestibular and proprioceptive systems) and assistive devices
  • Resilience, compassion, self-understanding
  • Many strategies for self-regulation referred to for years by special education teachers writing IEPs; a broader movement for self-regulation normalizes these strategies
  • Five domain model of self-regulation
  • MindUp
  • Mindsight
  • Having open conversations about the energy level in room and inner state
  • Constant buzz from computers can be negatively affecting
  • Use sound system in the classroom so teacher doesn’t have to project and strain voice so much

At the end of the presentation, someone said “What we want is kids who love life.” I can’t argue with that.

C. Board / Authority Authorized Course: Aboriginal Cultural Connections 12

Trustees heard that

  • No other BC School District is offering this course
  • It arose from focus groups at Surrounded By Cedar
  • It’s a 100 hour distance education course through Home Learners’ Link / The Link
  • School District 61 has six BAA Aboriginal Education courses, which is unique provincially.

Course synopsis: “Aboriginal Cultural Connections 12 is designed to acknowledge that Aboriginal learning is a highly social process that nurtures relationships within the family and the community and is a process of lifelong learning. ACC 12 encourages youth to connect with their cultural heritage and supports the recognition of the richness of their culture. Students will explore and reflect on the Aboriginal culture throughout their personal lens and throughout their daily life experiences. ACC 12 aims to acknowledge experiential and cooperative learning for students who are actively engaged as lifelong learners in their community. This course seeks to empower students by supporting their developing skills as leaders and mentors in their families, schools and communities. The ACC 12 course aims to encourage students to develop and engage in the four aspects of self: the intellectual, socio-emotional, physical and spiritual.” Instructional strategies will emphasize “hands on experiential learning , focusing on expertise within the Aboriginal community.”

Recommended motion (presented by Aboriginal Nations Education):

     That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) approve Aboriginal Cultural Connections 12 as a Board / Authority Authorized Course.

D. Overview of ERASE Program

  • In School District 61 coordination will be through Healthy Safe and Caring Schools.
  • 26 schools in SD61 have social responsibility goals this year as part of school growth plans.
  • 10 points to the program
  • It will take five years for participants to complete the proposed training.
  • 4 levels of training, offered regionally, will be taken over five years, to start this year.
  • School counsellors seem the logical people to involved in this training, but school administrators and a teacher chosen by the “school community” / school administration have been designated.

Theresa Campbell’s company Safer Schools Together,  was awarded the contract to deliver this training. There is no information readily available on the RFP, the selection process or on other proponents.

  • Year One (this year): Level 1: one day: Creating Safe School Cultures, offered for K-5 schools on Vancouver Island in January (possibly). At the same time, middle and secondary schools will take Level 2 (2 days): Risk Assessment.
  • Year Two: Flip Year One schedule
  • Year Three: all participants will take Advanced Risk Assessment Training.
  • Year Four: Train the Trainer training
  • Year Five: Go live, I assume.

I’m sure my list of problems with this scenario will be much the same as yours:

  • No school counsellors?
  • Five years?
  • The course rollout seems incoherent.
  • Five years?
  • What if the starting participant does not finish the five years?
  • Five years?

9. Adjournment (approximately 9 pm; will update)

Next meeting: Education Policy / OPPS combined: December 3

Next posts:

Operations Planning and Policy Committee November 13, 2012
Board Meeting November 19, 2012
What Do Trustees Do?
Roots of Empathy (and other SD61 Healthy Safe and Caring Schools Initiatives and Programs)

.

A Brief History of Time: WiFi Rollout K-5 in SD61 Greater Victoria

“That the Board of Education of School District no. 61 (Greater Victoria) establish a moratorium on WiFi installations in elementary schools until the WiFi Committee has completed its work.” “Due to discussions on the same topics, there was no action on [this motion].”

As always, The Record Off the Record is my own report on meetings. There will be no official version of the minutes so what you see is what you get: my interpretation.To save space and time on this report, some grammatical conventions will be flouted. Context note: Months ago I asked for hard copy of the SD61 IT strategic plan and was told that there is no SD61 IT strategic plan.

The School District 61 WiFi Committee has an interesting and convoluted history. Sort of like string theory, but not quite : “String theories also require the existence of several extra dimensions to the universe that have been compactified into extremely small scales, in addition to the four known spacetime dimensions.”

Timeline:

  • May 17, 2010Board Meeting: A teacher in SD61 expressed concern to the Board and asked for precautionary steps to be taken before implementing WiFi in schools until it is proven to be safe.
  • June 14, 2010 Operations Planning and Policy Meeting (agenda and minutes no longer available on the SD61 website; available on request for inspection at the Board Office):  Teacher who presented at May 17 Board meeting presented again, with support from citizens.
  • November 8, 2010 OPPS: Presentations expressing concern. George Ambeault, Secretary-Treasurer at the time, spoke in favour of WiFi.

Moved: That the Board take a precautionary look to allow the District Health and Safety Committee to review WiFi in our District, to review relevant information and to present recommendations back to the Board. Carried.

That the Board take a precautionary look to allow a representative ad hoc committee to review WiFi in our District, to review relevant information and to present recommendations back to the Board, through the Operation Policy and Planning Committee by Spring 2011 at no cost to the Board. [At this time movers and votes were not recorded.] Carried.

  • November 30, 2010: A memo (hard copy, not online) from George Ambeault (former Secretary – Treasurer of SD61, who resigned last spring to take a position as CEO of ERAC, Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium,  and former appointed Chair of the WiFi Committee) states that “meetings will be open to the public” (as well as unilaterally stating how the Committee will be run).A page was set up on the SD61 website advertising the Committee.
  • January 24, 2011 WiFi Committee (5:04 pm – 7:10 pm): 8 Submissions in favour of hard wired access . Citizen observer noted that posters outlining possible dangers of WiFi were not allowed to be posted in schools.
  • January 31, 2011 WiFi Committee (5:02 pm – 6:37 pm): Submissions : 5 urging adherence to the Precautionary Principle and 1 in favour of WiFi rollout
  • February 22, 2011 The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association approved a statement incorporating some precautionary statements, and set up a Wifi information page with many resources for research.
  • February 28, 2011 WiFi Committee (5:03 pm – 8:25 pm):  12 submissions urging caution, 2 in favour of WiFi rollout. From an observer’s records: “Chair Ambeault stated that the Committee will take some time to  review the information received from the public and will meet in private for further discussion prior to making their recommendation to the OPPS Committee in June [2011].” Meeting video’d by parent.
  • April 18, 2011: Memo to Board from George Ambeault, Secretary-Treasurer and appointed Chair of the Wifi Committee: Summarizes November 15, 2010 Board motion; reports 3 Committee meetings so far; meeting for “working group” to discuss findings (who is on the “working group” is not clear). “It is the WiFi Committee’s intent to develop a report and present their recommendations to the June 13, 2011 Operations Policy and Planning Committee. This date has been selected at the request of the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils. The final recommendations from the Operations Policy and Planning Committee will be presented to the Board on June 20.”
  • WiFi Committee May 2, 2011:  Chair George Ambeault stated the purpose of the meeting was to make a recommendation after discussing information received to date. Apparently intense discussion took place, with no consensus conclusion.
  • May 31, 2011: VCPAC meeting; WiFi on the agenda.
  • June 13, 2011 OPPS:  Motion from WiFi Committee Chair Ambeault. Essentially, continuing to monitor documentation from VIHA, WHO, Provincial Health Officer , Health Canada, and that the Board review such recommendatns and any updates annually. Also a request to the Provincial Health Officer for informaitn regarding cumulative effects of EMF.
  • June 20, 2011 Board Meeting: The Chair declined to allow discussion on the following motions. “Due to discussions on the same topics, there was no action on these motions.” 

That the Board of Education of School District no. 61 (Greater Victoria) establish a moratorium on WiFi installations in elementary schools until the WiFi Committee has completed its work.

That the Board […etc…] direct the architects (name of firm) to include the channels for wired technology in the plans for Oak Bay High School to: a) make it possible to accommodate students and staff with electromagnetic sensitivities; b) make it possible to provide wired technology throughout the school should future scientific research make it necessary; and c) to review the European models banning WiFi in schools.

  • June 23, 2011 the Board Chair wrote a letter to Dr Richard Stanwick asking three questions about WiFi safety relating to health risk, cumulative effects on students and staff, and how to get regular updates.
  • July 5, 2011: Dr Stanwick, Provincial Health Officer, replied, stating there is “considerable uncertainly in the medical profession as to their [symptoms of EMF sensitivity] cause”; that WHO / IARC classified radiofrequency EMFs as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, but that a “consensus of public health practitioners” is that there is no threat to health, and that updates can be found at http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf

At that site (International Agency for Research Cancer): “The Working Group did not quantitate the risk; however, one study of past cell phone use (up to the year 2004), showed a 40% increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users (reported average: 30 minutes per day over a 10‐year period). …”Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings,” said IARC Director Christopher Wild, “it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting. ”

The IARC article suggests follow-up on the Lancet site (requires subscription): “EMFs generated by RF sources couple with the body, resulting in induced electric and magnetic fields and associated currents inside tissues. The most important factors that determine the induced fields are the distance of the source from the body and the output power level. Additionally, the efficiency of coupling and resulting field distribution inside the body strongly depend on the frequency, polarisation, and direction of wave incidence on the body, and anatomical features of the exposed person, including height, body-mass index, posture, and dielectric properties of the tissues. Induced fields within the body are highly non-uniform, varying over several orders of magnitude, with local hotspots….When [cell phones are] used by children, the average RF energy deposition is two times higher in the brain and up to ten times higher in the bone marrow of the skull, compared with mobile phone use by adults….In view of the limited evidence in humans and in experimental animals, the Working Group classified RF-EMF as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2B). This evaluation was supported by a large majority of Working Group members.”

That the School District 61 WiFi Committee present its recommendation to the Board of Education, School District 61 Greater Victoria, at the Board meeting on October 15, 2012.

Chair Leonard suggested the motion be tabled until September. For [tabling]: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Nohr, Orcherton. Against: Loring-Kuhanga, McNally. Absent: McEvoy. Tabled.   The motion did not appear on the September OPPS agenda.

Which brings us to the present.

The School District 61 Ad Hoc Committee on Wi-Fi  met, as advertised, on October 17, 2012 , 5- 7 pm, at the Tolmie Building Board Room. Community members who had politely called ahead to senior administration to attempt to get around the stated ban on public observers (regardless of former Chair Ambeault’s memo statement that all meetings would be public) were denied permission to attend. Two individuals who decided it was their democratic right to attend a meeting that was not designated “In Camera” walked in, sat down, and did attend. Several people who had gathered outside the Tolmie building did not come inside, as they did not wish to challenge the expressed bar on public attendance.

Moral: don’t believe everything you’re told.

The following information about the meeting appears on the School District 61 website.

Purpose: to follow-up on the recommendations made to the Board of Education at the June 13, 2011 Operations Policy and Planning Committee Meeting.

Membership: Two members from each of SD61’s partner groups: Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, Canadian Union of Public Employees – Local 382 Canadian Union of Public Employees – Local 947, Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association Allied Specialists’ Association  (no website), and the Victoria Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association (no website). Two members of the District Leadership Team and two Trustees.  (The Chair was appointed – over the entire existence of the Committee – by the Superintendent, contrary to District Bylaw  on Ad Hoc Committees.)

Previous meetings:The Monday May 2 2011 Minutes are particularly interesting.

Methodology: As per the June 13, 2011 recommendation (above) to the Board, the Wi-Fi Committee will review any new documentation from VIHA,, the Provincial Health Officer,  Health Canada  and the World Health Organization  with regard to the use of Wi-Fi in schools and will review any written submissions received from the public. No public presentations received at the October 17 meeting. All written public submissions to the committee must be received electronically by October 9, 2012. [Several submissions bounced back to anxious senders due to “banned content”, surprising the senders. After my query, this was fixed.] All written submissions received on or before October 9, 2012, will be circulated to the committee members on October 10th, 2012. This will allow time for committee members to review, in advance, each submission of new information not available to the committee in 2011.

Updates : Board Chair’s letter to Dr. Stanwick, and Dr Stanwick’s reply (above) ;Web links submitted to the WiFi Committee

I suggested we follow District policy and the applicable Bylaw  and elect a chair for the first time in the Committee’s history, before proceeding. The previously appointed chair appointed received the majority of votes, while I received the minority. Bylaw 9140 Ad Hoc Committee of the Board, Article 5, states that a Chair shall be chosen at the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee. In two years of existence of the Committee (one year in hiatus) , a Chair was never elected. The former SD61 Secretary-Treasurer simply assumed the Chair for the first two years. Award-winning investigative journalist Rob Wipond reported on the Committee functioning during that time in in Focus Magazine, March 2011(Can WiFi Harm Kids?)

No minutes were to be provided after October 17 (a specific question was asked about that) – I’m not sure why, as there are minute of the other meetings  – so there will be no official minutes. Once again, this will be the the record, off the record. [As I am posting this after the OPPS meeting of November 13, I might as well tell you: Surprise! Just found out at OPPS, a month later,  that there will be official minutes, posted on the SD61 website.]

Attendees: Two persons in public seating. Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC quorum set at 15 schools out of 47 ) : Cami, Darcy; Principals and Vice Principals: Deb, Louise; Allied Specialists: Melanie, Lise, SD61 Information Technology: Ted; CUPE 947: Kerry; GVTA: David, Michael; SD61 Senior Administration: Pat; Trustees: Tom, Diane. CUPE 382 declined to send a representative.

The discussion consisted of statements in favour of the precautionary principle on one side, and perceptions that WiFi access can “positively affect learning”.

  • The Chair reiterated that the mandate of this meeting was not to determine whether WiFi is safe or not, but to continue to monitor “the experts” and what they are telling us.
  • Middle schools and high schools were WiFi’d before the Committee had finished meeting and before any recommendation was voted by the Board, (all middle and high schools have WiFi access, as well as one elementary School, George Jay), and that several cancers had occurred in staff and there was at least one EMF sensitive student in Mount Douglas High School and Campus View Elementary School, both close to the University of Victoria cell towers.
  • At one non-elementary site WiFi has been available for administration for years but the connection is “iffy”. At another, a hybrid WiFi – wired approach is used.
  • SD61 has activated “enterprise wireless”, which is different from consumer wireless like D-Link. Enterprise wireless was said to power down when not used, unlike consumer wireless. It can be an expensive rollout. Some teaching staff are reportedly using personal phones as wireless hotspots for students, or bringing in routers, which subverts network monitoring by District IT.
  • Installing WiFi equipment that emits on demand and is installed in the “least obstructive way” is the Precautionary Approach t how WiFi is installed.
  • SD61 has not installed any further Wireless Access Points since June 2011. Reportedly, teachers have set up their own in 11 locations.
  • Value vs risk is the basis for this conversation. (Reportedly, Saanich, which banned Wifi for student use in K-5 school is now working on a protocol for K-5 schools to request installation.)
  • Cell phones have been in use for 20 years and concerns are only surfacing now.
  • European jurisdictions have gone back to more hard-wired access and in some cases are looking at fibre optics.
  • The SD61 Waterworks data system can’t be accessed via WiFi.
  • Where is the plan for SD61 WiFi related device rollout? If Microsoft tablets were used, USB sticks could be used, but iPads don’t allow that. The three most useful educational apps are prohibitively costly.
  • What is driving the WiFi agenda? The former chair of the committee is now working with ERAC, which had a plan for WiFi rollout in hard copy in 2007.
  • Uses for students with special needs who can’t always access a laptop can be exciting and useful, but testing of emf levels needs to be done.
  • Is there any research on learning? [Individual haspublished peer reviewed brain research at the PhD level and says there is little dispute that there are biological effects, genomic change, and health effects that take time to show up. Err on the side of caution; wired situations could well be best for K-5 schools.
  • Ad hoc installations would still be in schools and SD61 must develop an appropriate process for schools to make an application.
  • VCPAC rep reports VCPAC has no position on WiFi this at this time [despite requesting the June 2011 final recommendation date] but would like specific information about locations in all schools, %age of area covered, and measurements from IT.
  • SD61 does not have specific equipment to measure EMF, but has used the “walk around with a laptop and look at the bars” method, and installs according to government recommendations.
  • WorkSafe has standards for EMF exposure.

The meeting ended with development of a recommendation to develop a protocol for schools to submit to get Wifi in the school. After my motion that SD61 adhere to the Precautionary Principle and institute a moratorium on further WiFi rollout in K-5 schools was voted down,  I  requested an addition to the recommendation: to keep one K-5 school WiFi free, as in BCCPAC AGM Resolutions 17 and 18. This suggestion was not incorporated in the motion.

The recommendation to develop a protocol for schools to use to apply for WiFi installation by the District IT team was voted on, and carried, with four votes against (and pro-Precautionary Principle) : Against: Diane McNally, Trustee; David Futter and Michael Dodd, GVTA; Lisa Armitage, Allied Specialists (psychologist).

Answers to my questions regarding further rollout and what to do about current individual creation of wireless access points (WAPs) that bypass PL Net : there will be no further installations of WiFi while the protocol is being developed, and nothing can be done about the individual “ad hoc” hot spots and routers.

Questions about why wireless access is needed in a K-5 setting were not addressed in this forum, although one participant did ask the question. There are critics of the BC Ed Plan’s tech enthusiasm out there, among them  Staffroom Confidential, written by a former IT teacher.

Many Silicon Valley executives send their children to a Waldorf School in the area that provides no Internet access until Grade 8.

Another interesting critical look at the WiFi K-12  juggernaut:  Why Bring Your Own Device Is A Disaster Waiting To Happen for Schools: Cult Of Mac: Ryan Faas: “However, having worked in educational IT (with both public and private schools), I have to say that the idea of launching BYOD at the K-12 level makes me shudder. There are several serious concerns that should be forefront in the minds of school IT staff, administrators, teachers, and parents about BYOD in schools. Here are some of the big ones.”

Late note: At the OPPS meeting last night, November 14, VCPAC requested that the WiFi committee report be put on hold until January or February until VCPAC has  further study of the issue (remember the previous request from VCPAC to have the recommendation go to OPPS in June 2011). I voted for this postponement as David Morrison may refile his suit against the Portland Public Schools alleging negative effects of EMF on his child, a student in Portland Schools.

Why am I thinking of Kurt Vonnegut?  Po-tee-weet?

Po-tee-weet?

SD 61 Board Meeting October 15, 2012: Just Another 21st Century Meeting

Given ongoing surprise announcements, an unforgettable surprise from the previous Board (made up of all but three members of the current Board, except McNally, Loring-Kuhanga and Nohr, elected in November 2011), In Camera events that can’t be made public, and more, posts are reviewed by legal counsel.

As always, The Record Off the Record reports, along with sentence fragments and creative use of square brackets, are my own. Official Minutes of Standing Committees and Board meetings are published on  the SD61 website.

Oct 15 2012 Audio File SD61 Board Meeting

Surprise! The board Chair announced out of the blue during the Chair’s Report (B on the agenda) that there will be a review of the use of Blackberries and other technology  in meetings, in a “public engagement” meeting. (This is better process than the sudden appearance a few months ago of a small notice stating  “This meeting is being audio recorded”  at the bottom of Board agendas, but only marginally.) Who is organizing this Committee? I don’t know. Who is / will be on it? I don’t know. It had not occurred to me that needed a review, but it has obviously occurred to someone. Who? I don’t know.

Will you as a member of the public, have to turn your phone off and never look at it during SD61 meetings? Will you as a member of the “engaged public” be allowed to use smart phones / tablets, but Trustees won’t? Possibly, use of technology would be denied for everyone  in public meetings. Forbidding the use of technology  would seem to fly in the face of the Ministry of Education’s BC Ed Plan enthusiasm for  technology in classrooms  and “21st Century Learning“. This is a 21st Century Board and these are 21st Century Meetings, after all.

The fact that this committee is going to meet means that there is a range of possible recommendations and outcomes, one being Trustees being forbidden to use phones or tablets during In Camera meetings.  If  that were to be the case, I wouldn’t be able to tell you that this ruling occurred, under threat of censure and possible loss of vote, as In Camera decisions and discussions are not for the public to know except in Section 72.3 Reports at the tail end of every agenda (H). Not everything that happens is reported.

The Chair announced previously that The Public Communications Policy is under review, as well. I don’t know who who saw a need for that, or why, or who is on that review committee, either.

Policy 1150 : Communications Policy says the “Superintendent has responsibility for maintaining ongoing communications with stakeholder groups and the community”. Does that Policy  discourage Trustee blogs? Perhaps there will be a surprise  announcement to Trustees at a Board meeting about a Blog Policy.

Policy 1160 Public Information states that members of the public are entitled to “full, objective and timely information”. How full? Who defines “objective”? Who decides what time is “timely”?

The former version of the Board outsourced policy review and revision to senior administration in an “agreement” (not a motion voted on after debate in public). It can be assumed  that  senior administration are reviewing these these Policies and will report to Trustees at some point.

Note: Given ongoing  surprise announcements, an unforgettable  surprise from the previous Board (made up of all but three members of the current Board, except McNally, Loring-Kuhanga and Nohr, elected in November 2011),  In Camera events that can’t be made public, and more, posts are reviewed by legal counsel.

The October 15 In Camera  (non public) Meeting before the public / open meeting began at 6:15 and ended a little before 7:30. A motion to disclose the hiring of Debra Laser, former Assistant Secretary Treasurer SD61, as Secretary-Treasurer carried. The disclosure of selected In Camera items to the public is at H on the Board public agendas, near the end of every Board meeting.

October 15, 2912 Public Board Meeting

Official minutes will be approved at the November 19 Board meeting, and will be posted on the SD61 website after that.

A. Approval of the Agenda: approved
A.2. Approval of the Minutes: September 17, 2012 Board minutes: approved ( audio file posted  on that blog entry)
A.3. Business Arising From the Minutes: none

A.4. Student Achievement
a)Cops for Cancer  presentation, Alana Charlton, Principal, Reynolds Secondary, and Dean Norris-Jones, teacher, Reynolds Secondary and Reynolds Students  Several Ecole Secondaire Reynolds Secondary School students spoke about their involvement with Cops For Cancer fundraising and the annual head shaving event. Their heartfelt eloquence held everyone’s attention. Students began fundraising in September and on September 29 had $0. At the end of the fundraising effort Reynolds students had raised $109,000.

A.5 Community Presentations
a) 2012-2013 United Way Campaign: John Fawcett, District Principal Student Services  and Linda Hughes, CEO, United Way, presented information on this year’s United Way Campaign.

A.6 Trustees’ Reports

B. Chair’s Report

  • A “public engagement meeting” will review Blackberry and technology  use in meetings. A policy on use of iPads, and phones in meetings will be developed and then presented to Trustees and the members of the public who attend the Standing Committee (generally a total of one member of the public) for review. It will  then be moved on to the Board agenda one or two weeks later for ratification by a majority vote of Trustees. [I am not alone in believing that this Standing Committee “review” level of “involvement “ is not the part of the process where the true power of the process and engagement in policy development  lies. Initiation is the powerful and generative  part of the process, but Trustees are excluded from that stage via the will of the majority of the Board. ]
  • A “farewell event” was held  for the former Director of Human Resources, who has moved to a position on the mainland
  • Announcement of creation of a new Culture and Community Committee [that, in reading minutes back to 2004, appears to has been under consideration  for some time. Apparently nothing yet on the SD61 website, but the general parameters are on Trustee Nohr’s site.]
  • District audio records of Board meetings: On request, access “will be granted’.  [The Chair’s  report is part of the audio file posted here, so you will be able to hear the instruction that the mp3s are not to be used to “embarrass’ any Board member. The record is what it is: a complete audio record of the meeting. A video record as well as audio is posted on Trustee Deborah Nohr’s site.]
  • “Permission is granted”for public recording of  video and audio “will continue to be allowed”. [Whose prerogative  is it to grant this permission, or to block it? It’s not clear.]
  • Conduct of Board business : The Chair referred to Bylaw 9368 Procedure of Board meetings. Meetings will be run according to Robert’s Rules except when they’re not, as stared in the Bylaw; a trustee can challenge a ruling of the chair [but apparently no one needs to know why: no debate, just vote (Section 107.00), and so far the majority likes it that way.] The Chair outlined the hierarchy of oversight (my paraphrase): law, corporate status, Bylaws of the Board, Robert’s Rules.
  • How the Board interacts with the public: the Chair addressed trustee statements about “abrogation of Board responsibility” in regard to Policy review and revision and the 5-4 defeat of Trustee Loring-Kuhanga’s motion to add two question periods to the Board agenda. [The tone throughout this Report seemed to be one of admonishment. That’s open to interpretation. You can judge for yourself as the audio file is posted here.]
  •  Media releases by the Chair which  come as complete surprises to Trustees: The Chair stated that production and release of media releases is the prerogative of the Chair.

C. Board Committee Reports

C.1 Education Policy Development Committee
a) Minutes from the October 1, 2012 meeting:information only (to be posted on SD61 website after approval at Education Policy meeting November 5
b) Recommended motions : [These are motions that were discussed at the previous Education Policy meeting and were carried by a majority vote of trustees on the Committee (assigned by the Chair annually), and thus go on to be recommended to the Board. A motion that is defeated in a Standing Committee can still be brought by the mover to the Board.]

i )That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) adopts (sic) the revised Policy and Regulation 2212.2, District Principal, Special Education Services.

     Carried. For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton    Against: McNally, Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr (The negative votes support a position that trustees should be directly involved in policy review and revision.)

ii) That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) adopts (sic) the revised Policy and Regulation 2127.060, Psychologist.

    Carried. For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton  Against: McNally, Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr

iii) That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) deletes (sic) Policy and Regulation 2127.061. Psychometrician as the position no longer exists.

  Carried. Unanimous.

  • I voted against this motion at the October Ed Policy meeting, and my reasons are explained in that post. I now regret voting in favour of the motion here. My reasoning was that the position has not existed for some time. However if trustees participated directly in policy review, there could have been a more complete discussion about why the position no longer exists, (Sooke School District 62 still has a psychometrician), and an in depth discussion regarding who is responsible for diagnosing early learning difficulties now that this position has been eliminated. There are wait lists for assessment by District school psychologists in many school districts in British Columbia, so having a position dedicated specifically to early learning challenges seems desirable. This was a major component of the job description for the deleted SD61 position.

C 2. Operations Policy and Planning Committee
a) Minutes from October 9 meeting: information only (will be posted on the SD61 after approval at OPPS November 12)
b) Recommended motions:

i) That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) support Oak Bay High School and their application to the School Community Connections Program for the Oak Bay High School Community Television Production Teaching Centre.

    Carried: unanimous

ii) That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) approve for submission to the Ministry of Education the 2012/2013 Five year Capital Plan that includes the three seismic upgrade projects, the mechanical / energy upgrade, the three buildings envelope projects, the two replacement schools and the two school addition projects identified [Quadra and Vic High].

Carried: unanimous.

  • The Director of Facilities will send out a list of upgrades done and upgrades still to do. School districts in British Columbia are required to submit a Five Year Capital Plan to the Ministry of Education, annually.

D. District Leadership Team Reports: none
E. Reports from Trustee Representatives

  • Trustee McNally: Healthy Saanich Committee: report on the “no GMO seeds in Saanich” discussion and public meeting

F. New Business / Notice of Motions: none
G. Communications: none

H. Public Disclosure of In Camera Items: Debra Laser, former Associate Secretary-Treasurer (George Ambeault resigned as SD61 Secretary-Treasurer to move to ERAC), was  interviewed and was awarded the position of SD61 Secretary-Treasurer.

I. Adjournment

Next Board Meeting November 19.
Next Posts:

  • Report on (Final) WiFi Committee Meeting October 17, 2012
  • Roots of Empathy
  • What Do Trustees Do?
  • BCPSEA Symposium 2012 Report