Feb18/13 Board Meeting: The Record, Off The Record: “Muzzling” Debate – Is There An App For That?

The Record Off The Record is my own personal record of and commentary on public meetings in School District 61 Greater Victoria  (5 municipalities). “Official” approved minutes are posted on the SD61 website, generally one month after the meeting. Trustees are referred to by last name only for brevity; “the Board of Education of SD No. 61 (Greater Victoria” is referred to as “the Board [etc]”. No audio recordings are made of Standing Committee meetings, only of Board meetings. (No record of how the audio recording decision was made, or any debate on proposed uses of and storage of the record appears to exist.)

As the initial “apps and wifi” section is relatively long in this post, a heads up: two motions at F  brought, unusually, by two co-movers – Orcherton and Horsman –  one an apparent “loyalty test” regarding the  Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils and one at (b) expressing “regret” for Nohr’s December 31, 2012 blog post. These motions had not been seen before and were bought forward under “Notice of Motion” apparently as emergent issues.   The Victoria daily, the Times-Colonist, published an  editorial opinion on the motion at F (b), “School Board Muzzles Debate”.

Because Nohr’s archive is not available,  here is the relevant section of the post: “The wifi committee is waiting to hear back from the VCPAC, our parents organization. I have serious concerns about the lack of democratic representation by this organization. They do not represent 50% or more of our school based PACs. I would suggest that the wifi Chair send out an email to the school based PAC presidents and ask them to discuss this important issue at their January meeting using some survey questions and return their responses for the February OPPs meeting. Remember, School Planning Councils provide feedback each year around the budget issues.”

An In Camera meeting at 6 pm preceded the public Board meeting.
The audio record of the public meeting has been split, below.

Feb 18 2013 1 1
Feb 18 2013 1 2
Feb 18 2013 2
Feb 18 2013 3 1
Feb 18 2013 3 2
Feb 18 2013 4 1
Feb 18 2013 4 2
Feb 18 2013 5 1
Feb 18 2013 5 2
Feb 18 2013 6 1
Feb 18 2013 6 2

A. Commencement of Meeting:   Board Chair: Orcherton;  Absent: Loring-Kuhanga.

Recognition of Songhees and Esquimalt Nations’ traditional territories.

A.1. Approval of the Agenda: Approved, with addition of four more speakers at A.6.
A.2. Approval of the Minutes    a) January 21, 2013: Approved
A.3. Business Arising From the Minutes:  None

A.4. Student Achievement
a) Colquitz Middle School: Innovative Learning:
Brett Johnson Principal (regrets), Heidi James, Teacher, and Students

Heidi James’ iPad project was funded by an Enhancing Learning Grant which supported this inquiry into the role of iPads in student self-regulation. (Enhancing Learning grants are disbursed directly to schools that have developed an inquiry question, via the Deputy Superintendent, and are funded from an Achievement Contract account. Teachers are expected to share their experience with colleagues in the District.This grant format has been underway in SD61 for five years.)

Ms. James’ students demonstrated their robotics projects. One robot had been programmed to recognize colours! Some useful apps mentioned need wifi to operate, and some don’t. 

  • Socrative: (Needs wifi. Free.) “Socrative is marketed as a “student engagement” and “instant assessment” e-clicker device which runs off ANY web browser (on your laptop, smartphone, iPod, iPad, etc). It enables teachers to quickly and easily set up short multiple choice / short-answer / quiz assessment activities, which students respond to using their own devices. Student responses are collated, and displayed on the classroom screen or emailed to the teacher. According to educational research by deJong and Lane et.al (2009), many students and teachers find “clickers” extremely engaging, so Socrative may well be worth experimenting with (depending on your preferred teaching approach). It is a cheaper alternative to traditional (hardware) clicker response systems.” [Multiple choice questions may or may not measure higher level thinking.skills.]
  •  Voicethread  (Needs wifi. License fee.) “A VoiceThread is a tool for having dynamic conversations around media. Upload a collection of media, comment on it, and share it with others so they can participate in the conversation at anytime, anywhere.” 
  • Paperport Notes: (Needs wifi. Free.) Voice to text app to support students who have difficulty writing or typing. Does not require semi-exasperating training like Dragon Dictation or Dragon Naturally Speaking; can be used with many students. A PC Mag review says ” PaperPort Notes’ signature feature, speech-to-text dictation, really opens up the possibilities for what you can do with a note-taking iPad app. Whenever you see a small red and silver button and the words “Tap & Speak,” you can say out loud whatever you want PaperPort to jot down. Many files, such as .txt and .jpg, integrate seamlessly, while proprietary formats (like .docx) unfortunately don’t. While the app isn’t difficult to use exactly, it doesn’t conform to standards I’ve seen in other note-taking apps. For example, it doesn’t use folders, but instead builds on the concept of “note sets,” which takes some getting used to. It also doesn’t have a typical settings panel where you might expect to find different options and privacy controls, such as authenticating with third-party apps like Dropbox. All those features live somewhere else in the app, tucked away behind buttons like “Insert,” “Import,” and “Share.” Another review says “So, for a struggling older writer, this may be a cool option to try without spending money on dictation software before deciding that dictation is the way to go.” Tests reported  all the features worked smoothly except “insert clipboard contents”. Work can be shared to several clouds including Google Docs, or emailed, and then printed from a computer (can’t print directly from the app).
  • Screenchomp: (Does not need wifi. Free.)  “ScreenChomp is a free app for creating and sharing short tutorials or lessons on your iPad.  “ 
  • Popplet: (Does not need wifi. Free for one Popplet. $4.99 for app.) “Popplet is more than the online mind mapping application it seems at first glance. It also offers an effective way of sharing and presenting. “
  • Researching these apps led me to many sites, among them a blog by a local assistive technology consultant with SET BC  for public schools in five  school districts on the northern half of Vancouver Island.  Paul Hamilton. writes an interesting education tech blog, “Supporting Universal Access and Universal Design for Learning”. 

Some areas may be able to use iPads with existing 3G or 4G cellular networks (which may have negative health effects ) and avoid the need to pay for additional wifi routers and installation. Some schools in SD61 are close to cell towers. (An extensive body of research points to possible negative heath effects from wifi exposure as well.) School District 61 Middle Schools and Secondary Schools have all been wifi’d.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing  Association blog features some interesting assistive tech explorations. One US Speech-Language Pathologist says, in a discussion abut iPads, “...the upshot being that the vast majority of apps that are of interest to SLPs do not require wifi to function. … Really, only apps that need to pull live content (audio, video, text, pictures) from the web in order to function would be useless in a school without wifi. For many other apps, one needs to have a connection to the Internet to build libraries or update, but the app would be useful. “

Decisions on implementation of technology and installation of wifi infrastructure in public schools are being made through School District Board of Education votes across British Columbia by people who may still think “technology” means email and a web browser. The BCSTA has felt the need to educate Trustees on how to use Twitter (Me Too Magazine, February 2013).  At the several tech-related workshops I attended at the fall 2012 BCSTA / BCSSA Education Leadership Conference in Vancouver, I heard  questions such as “What’s a word cloud?” “What’s a tag?” which revealed a lack of familiarity with current technology and applications. Public School Districts in British Columbia need to have a much more comprehensive and open discussion about tech directions in K-12 education,  given the emphasis on technology in the BC Ed Plan http://www.bcedplan.ca/ and the rush to wifi all schools,  including K-5 elementary schools.

A.5. District Presentations: None
A.6. Community Presentations

a) Jim McDermott, Parent (WiFi): a parent of a child in SD61, Mr. McDermott would like WiFi at Victor SchoolThe SD61 special education site posts this information: “The District provides alternate settings [some are within their own classrooms in schools;  Victor School  has its own  building on its own grounds, and enrols 20 students] for students with the following Low Incidence disabilities at the Middle and Secondary level: Moderate to Profound Intellectual Disabilities; Dependent Handicapped with intellectual disabilities; and Autism with significant intellectual disabilities. Instruction in these settings includes individual programming focusing on functional academics, life skills, communication, vocational training and integrated therapies (i.e. physiotherapy, occupational therapy, communication therapy). Efforts are made to ensure students have opportunities for integration in school and community settings, based on student strength and context capacity. Consultation with parents/guardians is necessary prior to recommending placement. Placements in District Programs are coordinated by the Special Education Department.

b) Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC): Wendy Joyce, VCPAC vice president and VCPAC Executive member for many years: Representative democracy means a group of people represents other people. A majority of decisions are made without the approval of a majority. The  letter to Trustees presented tonight [re concerns arising from Nohr’s post, above] was unanimously approved by the VCPAC Executive. A VCPAC survey on FSAs returned 200 responses; one on spring break, 1200 responses. VCPAC is developing a fact sheet and survey on wifi.

c) Carolina Tudela: School District 61 parent, speaking against the VCPAC motion at F (That the Board [etc] affirms [sic] its full support for the Victoria Confederation of parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC) and its voice as the representative organization in School District No. 61 for parents). Ms. Tudela referred to the class composition letter written by VCPAC which was followed up by a letter from the SD61 Board to the then-Minister of Education George Abbott,  approved by a majority vote of the Board  Ms. Tudela related that VCPAC had lost the faith of many parents, some of whom wrote to VCPAC, copied to trustees, in February 2012,  asking VCPAC to write a followup letter regarding class composition, expressing their views that repealing Section 76 was not in the best interests of students.  [Board minutes from October 20, 2008 are no longer available in the “Archive” section on the SD61 website but a hard copy record contains the following motion, moved by then-Trustee Mark Walsh, now SD61 Human Resources managerThat the Board of Education joins [sic]the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils as co-authors in writing to the Minister of Education calling for the repeal of all clauses in Section 76 of the School Act that directly relates [sic] to individuals with individual education plans.The motion  carriedVotes were not recorded at that time, but then-Trustee John Young had his negative vote recorded on his request.] Ms. Tudela took issue with VCPAC’s professed “non partisan” stance in the context of public education targeted Bills  such as Bill 22.

d) Peter Milne : As a parent has noted an increase in attempts to constrain parental voice on the part of VCPAC. Lack of quorum is and has been frequent. An investigation into the functioning of VCPAC is recommended.

e) Michelle Milne: Parent in SD61. Ms Milne referred to VCPAC procedural issues she has observed such as: VCPAC agendas not provided in a timely way; minutes appear not to be posted in a timely way; process for provision of motions is not user friendly; delay was apparent in dealing with letters received that were critical of VCPAC’s Bill 33 (class composition) letter; proxy voting is decided internally; there has been VCPAC energy expended on trying to establish a Vancouver Island District PAC instead of focusing on VCPAC internal issues that need attention; mentorship is lacking. (Ms Milne was asked to conclude her presentation as she had reached the five minute limit. She provided the text of her speech to trustees.)

f) John Bird, VCPAC: (Mr. Bird has been VCPAC president / a member of the VCPAC Executive for a number of years). He invited trustees to attend VCPAC meetings. [Section 8.5 BC School Act A superintendent of schools for the school district, a designate of the superintendent or a trustee of the school district may attend any meeting of the district parents’ advisory council.]

A.7. Trustees’ Reports: McNally:  Attended Macaulay K-5 PAC and Esquimalt Secondary PAC;  looking  forward to Esquimalt Secondary’s  Music at the Dockyard [ It was wonderful!] 

B. Chair’s Report (Orcherton) : Commended Lakehill reading program and teacher Carey Nickerson. Attended meeting of Culture and Community committee (“In the Fall of 2012, the District initiated a new structure known as the Culture and Community Committee. Comprised of representatives from all stakeholder groups, the collaborative committee meets monthly to address the question: “How do we create a culture that is more welcoming and safe for everyone in the District?”The committee worked together to submit a proposal for a Civil Forfeitures Funding grant and is continuing to have dialogue with community associations and agencies regarding student safety, belonging and inclusion.”). This Committee may be involved in the Appreciative Inquiry process. The process for replacement of Oak Bay Secondary is proceeding. Interviewed on CFAX with Wendy Joyce from VCPAC re School security. Participated in the Needs Budget Committee with Alpha, Ferris, Horsman. Interviewed CKNW re holdback funds.

C. Board Committee Reports

C.1. Education Policy Development Committee
a) Minutes:  Information only (February 4, 2014)  [Orchertton asked questions about the minutes and commented on them, regarding  a revision that  took place. McNally raised a point of order, suggesting that this meeting is not the place or time for that as the minutes were provided for “information only”, and approval of and/or business arising from Ed Policy minutes should be dealt with at the next Education Policy meeting as is standard procedure.  Orcherton said it is fine to ask questions about minutes provided as “information only”, as it says “information”. Worth noting, though I’m not sure Brig. Gen. Henry Martyn Robert would agree.

b) Recommended Motions:[A motion discussed and debated at the previously scheduled Education Policy Committee  and carried by majority vote at that meeting is brought forward as a  “recommended” motion.  A motion may be brought by the mover from a Standing Committee to the Board even if it fails at a Standing Committee, but it will not be termed a “recommended” motion.]

i) That the Board [etc] write a letter of endorsement to Premier Christy Clark and the Leader of the Opposition Adrian Dix supporting the Community Plan for a Public system of Integrated Early Care and Learning, otherwise known as the $10/Day Child Care Plan. Carried: Unanimous

ii) That the Board [etc] encourage awareness of the $10/Day Child Care Plan to our partner groups and request that they endorse the program as well. Carried. Unanimous. (The BCTF and CUPE endorsed the Plan in the spring of 2012.)

C.2. Operations, [sic] Planning and Policy Committee
a) Minutes:
 Information only (February 12, 2013). Regardless of the “information only “ standard note, Orcherton wanted a correction made to  this Standing Committee’s minutes at this Board meeting, when the place to do that is at the next Standing Committee meeting when the minutes are approved (or not). Perhaps evolving process at the SD61 Board interprets the “information only” designation of  Standing Committee minutes on Board agendas as meaning “Ask for all the information you want to, and add information if you want to. It says “information”.

b) Recommended Motions (from previous OPPS meeting, February 12) [Motions recorded in full on the agenda  posted on the SD61 website. Summarized here for brevity.]

i) 2013-2014 School Year Calendar: Carried: Unanimous.
ii) Three readings of a Capital Project Bylaw needed to get a refund from the Province for seismic upgrade at Vic High. Carried. Unanimous
iii) Three readings of a Capital Project Bylaw needed to get a refund from the Province for seismic upgrade at Quadra Elementary.Carried. Unanimous.
iv) National Historic Site application for Vic High. Carried. Unanimous.
v) Letter to Minister of Education asking for the entire amount of holdback funds to be released. Carried. Unanimous
vi) That the Board [etc] develop a Board performance evaluation using BCSTA Board Self-Evaluation package and establish goals, criteria and a specific timeline for completion guided by  facilitator agreed to by consensusCarried. Unanimous.

  • Orcherton did not support the Board Self-Evaluation motion (“I thought we were evaluated at elections”) at the Operations Policy and Planning Committee on February 12, 2013. An abstention “vote” is deemed to be in effect a negative vote.

D. District Leadership Team Reports
D.1. Secretary-Treasurer‘s Report

a) 2012-2013 Amended Annual Budget Bylaw
Recommended motions:

That the Board [etc] give all three readings of the 2012/2013 Amended Annual Budget Bylaw at the meeting of February 18, 2013. Carried. Unanimous.

  • This budget reflects changes as reported in the document appended to the agenda (starting at p 26).New reporting standards are required this year by the Ministry of Education.

That the [SD61 ] Amended Annual Budget Bylaw for fiscal year 2012-2013 in the amount of $208,580,448 be [read three times] and that the Chairperson and the Secretary Treasurer be authorized to sign seal and execute this Bylaw on behalf of the Board. Carried. Unanimous.

E. Reports From Trustee Representatives: McNally: Healthy Saanich Committee was on the same evening as Esquimalt Secondary Music by the Dockyard, so could not attend Healthy Saanich. Success By Six appears not to have met since last winter.

F. New Business / Notice of Motions

Two motions were presented for the first time by Horsman and Orcherton as “recommended”. “Recommended” motions come out a of a Standing Committee,  and if carried by majority vote, are presented to the Board as “recommended”. This is the first time these two motions have appeared on any agenda. It’s not clear which body, if any, “recommended” them.

F1. “Recommended motion”: (Horsman and Orcherton) That the Board [etc] affirms [sic] its full support for the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC) and its voice as the representative organization in School District No. 61 for parents. Carried. For: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Orcherton. Against: Alpha, McNally, Nohr  Abstain: McEvoy (Absent: Loring-Kuhanga)

Highlights of debate:

  • Horsman: bringing this motion as a result of comments that don’t accept the place of VCPAC at the [Board] table
  • Alpha: unnecessary motion as the School Act enshrines DPACS. It is apparent from the speakers’ comments that some parents and PCS – notably Sir James Douglas and Margaret Jenkins – do feel marginalized by VCPAC.
  • Ferris: will support; it’s a reaffirmation though not really necessary
  • McEvoy: neither of these motions has a place at this table; will abstain
  • McNally: as the School Act addresses District PACS (VCPAC is one) in Section 8.5 (1) (Subject to section 67 (5.1), the district parents’ advisory council may advise the board on any matter relating to education in the school district) the motion is redundant and apears to be a loyalty test
  • Leonard: the motion reaffirms support for the School Act
  • Nohr: the School Act covers this off; “I stand by my comments”.
  • Orcherton: We have a letter from VCPAC [the VCPAC Executive] asking if the Board takes the position of the post on Nohr’s blog. VCPAC is the parent vote. It is the representation for parents.

F.2 “Recommended motion”: (Horsman and Orcherton) That the Board [etc] express its regret that an individual Trustee made comments about the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC) that attempted to undermine its work to represent the parents’ voice on educational issues in our District.

  • Horsman withdrew the motion. Orcherton proclaimed disappointment as she still supports the motion.

F.3 Notice of motion for Wifi at Victor School, for Operations Policy and Planning Committee agenda March 4

WiFi Information Session March 7 2013
WiFi Information Session March 7 2013

G. Communications : None
H. Public Disclosure of In Camera Items: Former Associate Superintendent Sherri Bell has been permanently designated Deputy Superintendent.
I. Adjournment: 9:50

Next meeting:
Combined Education Policy and Operations Planning and Policy Committees  
Tolmie Building Monday March 4, 7:00 PM   (Spring Break March 9-24)