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

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)

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About Diane McNally