The Record Off The Record is my own personal record of and commentary on public meetings in School District 61 (Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal and a portion of Saanich and Highlands ). “Official” approved minutes of Board and Standing Committee meetings are posted on the SD61 website under the “Board of Education” menu, generally one month after the meeting. The meeting schedule is posted on the District Calendar. 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.)
In Camera meeting 6:15 – 7:30 pm.
Absent: Trustee Alpha (regrets).
Board Chair: Trustee Orcherton
A. Commencement of Meeting:
Recognition of Songhees and Esquimalt Nations’ traditional territories.
A.1. Approval of the Agenda: Approved (Addition of 3 more speakers at A.6 later in the meeting, with agreement of all Trustees)
A.2. Approval of the Minutes
a) Minutes of February 18, 2013: Approved
A.3. Business Arising From the Minutes: Loring-Kuhanga inquired for the second time about the status of incorporation of Aboriginal components in the design of the new Oak Bay Secondary School. No information available at this time.
- Students, along with Marilyn Campbell, school principal, presented information about their Garry oak and camas meadow project, supported by a donation of camas bulbs from Victoria City Councillor Shellie Gudgeon, and the Habitat Acquisition Trust. This no-tech presentation is immensely significant in this time of “Nature Deficit Disorder”.
A.5. District Presentations: Carol Richardson, SD61 teacher, expressed thanks to Mr. Don Shorting, School Stamp Club Volunteer. Mr. Shorting volunteers his time to offer stamp clubs at several SD61 schools. Chair Orcherton made a presentation on behalf of the Board.
A.6. Community Presentations
a) Rob Wickson, Community Advocates for Reduced Speed: 40 Kmph Initiative
- Mr. Wickson presented information on the City of Victoria’s proposal for a 40 km/h default speed limit in BC municipalities. This proposal for a will be debated by delegates at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) conference in Sooke on April 13. Community organizations including the Rockland Neighbourhood Association and Fernwood Community Association have endorsed the proposal.
b) Janis Hoffman, grandparent of SD61 student: WiFi
- Mrs. Hoffman inquired about the status of updates to the SD61 WiFi links page that she submitted at a previous Board meeting. [They are also posted here.] SD61 staff indicated that the links had been updated after spring break.
- Mrs. Hoffman referred to the Bad Science group. “Bad Science” is a medicine-focussed blog written by Ben Goldacre for the Guardian newspaper (UK). “Bad Science Watch” is a Canadian group that claims to be ”an independent non-profit activist organization dedicated to improving the lives of Canadians by countering bad science”. Bad Science Watch is Gem Newman, B.Sc.; Catrina Duffy, B.Sc, P.Ag; Ryan Gray, B.Sc; Adrian Powell, B.Sc.
c) Tammy Jeske, BSc (nursing)
- Ms. Jeske asserted that information passed on to the Board by concerned individuals has apparently in great part not been passed on to parents.
- This month the Los Angeles Teachers’ Union (UTLA) passed a resolution that “calls for LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) to inform teachers of all potential electromagnetic and radiation hazards and develop plans for corrective actions of these hazards”.
- The Ontario English Teachers Catholic Association “says computers in all new schools should be hardwired instead of setting up wireless networks”.
- The British Columbia Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) called for a moratorium on further installations of WiFin in schools at their 2012 AGM. (PARENTS DEMAND CHOICE & PRECAUTION: The BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) passed two strong resolutions concerning microwave wireless radiation technology in schools at their May 26th AGM, designed to protect children and support parental rights and choice. Resolution 17 “calls on each Board of Education to have one public school at each education level (elementary, middle, secondary) that is free of Wi-Fi, cordless phones and cell phones. This school will only be equipped with wired computers and wired telephones for personal, educational and administrative purposes.” Resolution 18 calls on Boards of Education to “cease to install Wi-Fi and other wireless networks in schools where other networking technology is feasible.” Both resolutions were passed with a clear majority (131-93; 130-77) and many attending members verbalized their support during the discussion period.)
- The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation passed a resolution at their April 2013 AGM to protect members with electromagnetic hypersensitivity. (Support members who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity by ensuring their medical needs are accommodated in the workplace.)
- Dr. Martha Herbert, Harvard medical School paediatric neurologist and neuroscientist, urged the Los Angeles School District in her letter dated February 8, 2013, to “step back from WiFi and instead opt for wired technologies… It will be easier for you to make a healthier decision now than to undo a misguided decision later”.
- The American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a Statement on WiFi in Schools regarding the clear existence of adverse health effects of wireless radio frequency fields. ( “Adverse health effects from wireless radio frequency fields, such as learning disabilities, altered immune responses, and headaches, clearly exist and are well documented in the scientific literature. Safer technology, such as use of hard-wiring, is strongly recommended in schools. “ Approved by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine Board of Directors on October 3, 2012. )
d) Peter Milne, parent of a student in SD61, Architectural Draftsman / Computer and IT specialist:
- Mr. Milne stated his understanding that ” the newly formed Public Engagement Committee provided no opportunity or request for community volunteers. Those that volunteered at the meeting where this committee was decided upon were not provided with opportunity to put their names forward for consideration. Instead it appears community participants [Rebecca Pearson, Community Business representative at Van City Credit Union, and Donna Jones, former SD61 School trustee and President of the BCSTA in the 1990’s ] were handpicked.”
- “VCPAC surveys have not been representative of the membership. Likewise, VCPAC did not send out a request for parent participation to its own membership but rather handpicked its participants from their executive. Nor were parents informed of this committee or asked for feedback on this issue so that VCPAC executive members could speak on their behalf at the board level.”
- “This is a practice that is the norm for VCPAC. In fact, VCPAC recently created a new subcommittee to develop a draft Wi-Fi Survey for parents. There was no call out to the membership for participants on this subcommittee.“
A.7. Trustees’ Reports
- I attended Victoria Sings March 5, and was pleased to give the introduction for the evening. As always, the musical talent and dedication of teachers, students and volunteers in SD61 amazes. Victoria Sings is a four night concert series which takes place every other year at the University Centre, this year with 1548 students from grades 2 – 12 in 27 choirs from 30 elementary, middle and secondary schools in the Greater Victoria School District participating. The first Victoria Sings event took place in May of 1979, organized by (now retired) teacher Bonnie Smith. SD61 covers costs for teachers on call for the organizing teachers who are involved in morning rehearsals for the evening concerts and covers costs of cartage to take the risers to UVic. The rest of this event runs on volunteers who are current and retired teachers and administrators. “Whatever you give to music, it will give back to you many times. Keep singing!”
- Received 4 emails from members of the public: 3 on WiFi, one on the budget.
B. Chair’s Report : Radio spot on February 26, Pink Shirt Day with two students and school counsellors. Along with the Superintendent and the Secretary-Treasurer, met with Opposition Education Critic Robin Austin. Along with the Superintendent and the Secretary-Treasurer, met with the Minister of Education Don McRae. Followup letters and new advocacy letters that result from motions carried by Board majority are posted on the SD61 Advocacy page.
C. Board Committee Reports
C.1. Joint Education Policy Development and Operations, [sic] Planning Policy Committee : Leonard Acting Chair in Alpha’s absence.
a) Minutes from the March 4, 2013 meeting: information only [attached to agenda; will be reviewed and approved at the next Standing Committee meetings].
b) Recommended motion: Orcherton:
That the Board [etc] allow Wifi to be installed (or used) at Victor Street School, since it is a unique school within the district, as per the request of the PAC, parents and professionals that work with the children at the school. / Carried 5-3. For: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton Against: Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr Absent: Alpha
Highlights of debate:
- Horsman: Victor School is not a K-5 school as it encompasses Grades K-12, so a moratorium on further wifi installation in K-5 schools doesn’t apply. It will make the students more self-confident.
- Loring-Kuhanga: Victor School includes a K-5 school / classrooms so the Precautionary Principle is in order.
- Nohr: The World Health Organization has classified elecromagnetic frequency emissions as “possibly carcinogenic to humans (2B)”.
- McNally: Taught at Victor School for ten years and worked in special education for 32 years so have some understanding of the student population and the critical nature of assistive communication. Not all apps useful for the Victor School student population require a WiFi connection. It’s disingenuous to say that because Victor School has students from K-12 age that it is not a K-5 school so the motion carried at the November 19, 2012 Board meeting does not apply. I can’t support one-off motions that go against the November 19 motion, and will act on the precautionary principle; against the motion.
- Leonard: Victor School has a unique status in the District in regard to this motion; in favour.
“The precautionary principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in. This principle has been codified in several international treaties to which Canada is a signatory. Domestic law makes reference to this principle but implementation remains limited.” (Canadian Environmental Law Association)
November 19, 2012 Board meeting: “(C.2) :That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) direct the Superintendent to ensure that no new routers be placed in any school until such time as the Board has changed its present direction. / Carried. For: Ferris, Nohr, Leonard, Alpha, Horsman, Orcherton Against: McNally [current K-5 hotspots / unauthorized wifi access in K-5 schools currently in place is not addressed in this motion], Loring-Kughanga Absent: McEvoy”
D. District Leadership Team Reports
D.1 Superintendent’s Report (As the Secretary-Treasurer was absent, The Superintendent was unanimously approved as Acting Secretary-Treasurer by the Board for this meeting only.)
- a) (Motion to approve) 2013-2014 School Calendar: Carried unanimously. The Superintendent reported that partner groups had been consulted, and that public input consisted of requests from five SD61 parents to have Spring Break earlier in the year. The Calendar is posted on the SD61 website.
D.2 Secretary-Treasurer’s Report
- a) (Motion to approve) 2013/2014 Carbon Neutral Program Capital Project Bylaw No. 126588 (p 20 of agenda): School District 61 pays about $180,000 each year into the province’s Carbon Neutral Fund. This project is funded from that tax, by a grant from the provincial government. All three readings of the Bylaw: Carried unanimously.
The actual vote (Tillicum Elementary School Boiler Project and Energy Study) went to a poll vote with unanimous agreement, as Trustees wanted to wait for final voting until the Ministry transfer of the funding for the $197,265 was actually in hand at SD61. [The poll vote carried. ]
E. Reports From Trustee Representatives
- I was unable to attend the Healthy Saanich Committee meeting on March 21. Success By Six has not met recently.
F. New Business / Notice of Motions
F.1 Lower Speed Limits in Municipalities and Child Safety
McNally: That the Board [etc] endorse the City of Victoria’s resolution calling for a lower default speed limit in municipalities from 50 km/h to 40 km/h.
Rationale: The City of Victoria is bringing forward a motion at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities and the Union of BC Municipalities calling for amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act to reduce the default speed limit in municipalities from 50 km/h to 40 km/h. Lower vehicle speeds reduce the severity of injuries to pedestrians in vehicle/pedestrian collisions, with school-age children being particularly vulnerable to high-speed traffic and the risk of injury.
- Horsman: Moved referral to Operations Planning and Policy Committee. / Defeated 4-4.
- Orcherton: Amend: Add “in principle” after ‘endorse”. / Carried. For: Horsman, Loring-Kuhanga, McEvoy, McNally, Nohr, Orcherton Abstain: Ferris [I won’t vote for an “in principle” endorsement again as Duhaime’s Law Dictionary states: “Agreement in Principle: An agreement as to the terms of some future contract. Also approval in principle. An oxymoron as an agreement in principle is no agreement at all.” This statement is in relation to contract law, but in the end, a motion to approve something in principle appears to be ambiguous, and the addition of “in principle” weakens the motion.]
F. 2 McNally: That the Board [etc] write a letter to the BC School Trustees Association asking for support of efforts to reduce default speed limits from 50 km/h to 40 km/h in municipalities, thus increasing traffic safety for all users of roads and public right-of-ways, especially children and youth travelling to and from schools. / Withdrawn as being too vaguely worded in terms of what the “support” would look like.
F.3 Restoration Budget
McNally: That The Board of Education School District 61 Greater Victoria submit only a needs budget reflecting remedies for the ongoing structural deficit, and reflecting current costs for restoration of all service levels to the general levels of service in all departments that existed in 2001. / Defeated. Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Loring-Kuhanga, McEvoy, Orcherton For: McNally, Nohr Absent: Alpha
Rationale: Public education in British Columbia has been systematically underfunded for more than a decade. Taxation levels for corporations and wealthy individuals have dropped significantly since that time, with the effect of stealing billions of dollars from public education and public services in general. The staff and previous Boards of SD61 have done good work in maintaining the services they have maintained, but there is no more to be cut. It is difficult to explain how the yearly SD61 one-time millions of dollars savings works. Surely there will come a time soon, if not this year, when there will be no more “one time millions” to be found. Compliance with Ministry of Education directives in regard to submission of balanced budgets in the context of that Ministry’s chronic underfunding and increasing offloads to school districts has to stop here, and has to stop now. “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? [Citizens] generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? … Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better … ?” (Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays) Public education is a foundation stone of democracy. That is why this is not a trivial context for Martin Luther King Jr’s statement: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Highlights of debate:
- Horsman: This motion implies layoffs. “Odious” motion. [Interesting interpretation. It’s not clear how restoring millions of dollars to the budget of SD61 would result in layoffs.]
- McEvoy: Not right to mention Martin Luther King Jr in this context. We are dealing with a law that was passed democratically.
This government tinkers with the School Act on whim, changing and deleting at will, and regularly makes surprise announcements regarding funding. School Districts are required to balance budgets according to School Act requirements while the provincial government decreases real funding and offloads costs on an ongoing basis.
As President of the BCSTA, McEvoy has expressed concerns regarding the lack of commitment to co-governance and unilateral actions on the part of the Ministry of Education. His March 20, 2013 letter on behalf of the members of the BCSTA is only the latest expression of concern: “Minister, we have had several constructive discussions about the importance of our co-governance relationship. However, these unanticipated budget changes, announced without consultation with Boards, challenge long-term planning and stability to the detriment of our students. ”
- Ferris: “Reprehensible” motion.
- Nohr: The motion does present a moral dilemma.
- Orcherton: There’s no point in Trustees being fired. Then we can’t be here to advocate.
- Leonard: Trustee for 17 years. Last five years have been the most stable.
(Top line, SD61 expenses. Bottom line, provincial funding.) Boards may be fired by the Minister for not complying with the requirement to submit a balanced budget by the end of June. The BCSTA AGM will be held in Kelowna, April 25-28, and among the substantive motions is one addressing the need for a by-election to restore democratic governance if a Board is fired by the Minister of Education, as the Cowichan School District Board was.
Substantive Motion #14 ELECTION REQUIREMENT: SUBMITTED BY: SD39 (Vancouver) and SD37 (Delta)
“BE IT RESOLVED That BCSTA request the provincial government to amend the BC School Act to state that “In the event an elected School Board is removed by the Minister of Education, a by-election must be held within six months of the board’s removal date, except in the case where the removal occurs after January 1 in the year of a general local election.”
RATIONALE: This motion is consistent with BCSTA Foundational Policy that supports the right of each school district to be governed by a locally elected board. Residents of Cowichan have not been represented by an elected Board of Education since the Board of Education of School District No. 79 (Cowichan Valley) that was elected in November 2011 was removed and an administrator was appointed to oversee the running of the School District. As there is no current provision in the School Act for the replacement of trustees who have been removed from office, it makes sense that By-elections should be held for all vacant Board of Education positions.”
F.4 Public Speakers List : [Defeated at combined Education Policy / Operations meeting March 13, 2013. Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Orcherton For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr . As it was defeated at a Standing Committee the motion is not a “recommended motion”, but can be brought to the Board regardless.]
McNally: That the Board [etc] provide a list of all individuals who made application to be on the community presentations / speakers list for any standing committee or Board meeting be appended to every agenda, a) names listed in the order in which the application was received along with the topic proposed, and b) list to include individuals who have not been placed on the agenda to speak.
Although a SD61 statement exists, limiting application to be on the list to a timeline ending Wednesday at noon before the meeting (creating an interesting situation for speakers as the agenda is not published until Friday), an amendment carried to strike “noon the day of the meeting” from my motion, as that was considered to be too limiting.
SD61 Public Meeting Process: “Individuals or groups wishing to make a presentation to the Board must submit a written request and any written materials to the Secretary-Treasurer by noon on the Wednesday prior to the Board meeting at which they wish to speak. Wherever possible, public representatives are directed to appear at committee meetings, rather than Board meetings. Presentations to the Board are limited to five (5) minutes for each individual with a limit of three (3) speakers per issue. Lengthier briefings will be accepted in writing for the Board’s consideration. Trustees may only ask questions of clarification to the presenter. There will be no debate with the Trustees.<
This statement has not been officially rescinded but fortunately, in the interests of public engagement, it appears that it’s not being followed in regard to the timeline cutoff.
Everything to do with public engagement is being referred to the Committee on Public Engagement via majority vote. I did not state the rationale again, as it was clear in the Standing Committee discussion. (Rationale: This is not a proposed change to Bylaw 9360. It proposes creation of a simple list document by the individual who creates and maintains the speaker list for presentations for any agenda of standing committees or Board meetings. This process would attach virtually no cost to the board. Providing a list of persons who have applied to speak at any standing committee or Board meeting increases transparency and accountability for the Board in the public’s eyes. Members of the public have reported dismay when left off the list of speakers due to either time (“Six people got in ahead of you; you weren’t fast enough with your request to speak”) or topic constraints (“Three people are already speaking on that topic”). The names of these applicants to bring a concern before trustees disappear, and are never known to trustees or the public, as no mention is made of them. Trustees and the public need to know what the major topics of concern in the community are. A list of individuals who requested to speak on a given topic but who were not allowed to speak due to the constraints of Bylaw 9360 (30 minutes in all for speakers, and three speakers per topic) would provide valuable information about community concerns for Trustees and for the public record.)
Motion to refer to the Ad Hoc Committee on Public Engagement. / Carried. For: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, McNally, Orcherton Against: Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr
F.5 Nohr: That the Board [etc] present the District Class Size and Composition Report or School Organization Report 2012-2913 at the April 2013 public board meeting and also make it available of the District website.
SD39 Vancouver does make this information public. There has been no uproar over “discrimination”, which the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils believes is a problem in this context.
The Chair ruled the entire motion “out of order”, based on information from John Noonan, Registered Parliamentarian (cost for service paid from the Secretary-Treasurer’s budget, as part of the he secretary treasurer ‘s role in SD61 is to provide guidance for the Chair on matters of parliamentary process. In the past, Eli Mina, Registered Parliamentarian, provided a letter supporting the Board majority position that recording Board votes was a bad idea. In the end, the Board disregarded Mina’s opinion. )
The Chair reportedly asked Nohr to remove “report on Class Size and Composition” and keep the remaining portion since Nohr had brought substantially the same motion to the June 18, 2012 Board meeting where it was defeated (Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Orcherton For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr Absent: McEvoy. ) The Chair referred to three options from Robert’s Rules: “Motion to Reconsider,Motion to Rescind or Amend Something Previously Adopted and Renewal of Motion”.
- Motion to Rescind or Amend Something Previously Adopted: Obviously not applicable, as Nonr’s previous motion was not adopted.
- Motion to Reconsider: Clearly not applicable as the June meeting is long past (“Key to this motion is that it must be made at the same meeting as the original motion (with a few exceptions) and it can only be made by a member who voted on the prevailing side…”
- Renewal of Motion:
“But even when the motion to Reconsider isn’t in order, there’s no reason you can’t revisit a motion, passed or not, at your next (or any future) meeting.Robert’s Rules refers to this procedure as “renewing” a motion. According to the General, any member can offer again a motion that failed in an earlier meeting. In fact, if a motion is made at any meeting and doesn’t get a second, it can even be renewed at that very same meeting.” “Renewal is the act of bringing up again a motion that has already been disposed of by the deliberative assembly. Generally, the assembly cannot be asked to decide the same, or substantially the same, question as one it has already decided in the same session….Renewal of motions is closely tied to the parliamentary concept of session. Sessions in ordinary societies usually consist of one meeting … Robert’s Rules of Order provides that “A previously considered motion may become a substantially different question through a significant change in the wording or because of a difference in the time or circumstances in which it is proposed, and such a motion may thus be in order when it could not otherwise be renewed.”
Robert’s Rules newly Revised In Brief, 2nd Edition (2004; p 62): “Making a motion again after it has been defeated is called renewal of the motion. You cannot simply make the same motion again at the same meeting. But after the meeting is over (so that it is too late to move to Reconsider) , if you feel that the assembly has made the wrong decision …. the solution is very simple. All you need to do is make the same motion again at your next monthly meeting.You can do this regardless of how you voted on the original motion.” (RONR 11th Ed pp 336-37).
Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th Edition (p337): “Whenever it is stated without qualification that a particular parliamentary motion “cannot be renewed”, such a statement means that the motion cannot be renewed during the same session…”.
Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure: American Institute of Parliamentarians (2012; p 25): “If a main motion was rejected at an earlier meeting or convention, it may be renewed by being introduced as a new main motion at a subsequent meting or convention.” [The Northwest Region 1 of the American Institute of Parliamentarians consisted of AIP members in Alberta, Canada; British Columbia, Canada; Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. Region dissolved in 2010.]
Confused? Wondering how Robert’s Rules works? Advice from Parliamentarians is not cheap. An individual Trustee cannot use the services of a Parliamentarian who consults for the BCSTA, or have the District pay for the advice, as the Board represented by the Chair can, or the Secretary-Treasurer (who act as parliamentary process consultant to the Chair) can. An individual Trustee has to find a Parliamentarian who is not in conflict of interest, and pay out of pocket.
The motion was not dealt with as it was ruled out of order.
F.6 Nohr: That the Board [etc] write a letter to the premier and Minister of Education expressing concern about the Board’s ability to maintain its service levels for student achievement in the Greater Victoria School District as the District will be responsible for new and unanticipated costs.
Discussion ensued. Nohr accepted a proposal to amend by striking “for student achievement in the Greater Victoria School District “. Nohr would like the letter from the SD61 Board based on the Central Okanagan letter on the same topic.
Motion to refer the motion and issue to the next Operations Policy and Planning Standing Committee meeting (April 8): Carried.
F.7 Nohr: That the Board [etc] write a letter to the Minister of Education requesting that the government review their cooperative gains mandate and provide the additional funding for a wage increase for our CUPE support staff employees.
It was pointed out that the Ministry could well “review their cooperative gains mandate” and decide to continue with it. Nohr accepted an amendment (McNally) to remove that phrase, and “our” as the wage increase is not just going to impact SD61. Amendment carried: unanimous. Boards are concerned with possible offloads of potential raises for teachers and other staff (for example, Allied Specialists in SD61)
Motion to refer to the next Operations Policy and Planning meeting (April 8): Carried; unanimous.
G. Communications: none
I. Adjournment: 10:15 pm.
Just another simple straightforward meeting.