June 10/13: The Record Off The Record: Ed Policy / OPPS Combined: What Do Trustees Do?

Vic West Elementary School Welcome

Vic West Elementary School Welcome

The Record Off The Record is my personal record of and commentary on Board and Standing Committee 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 (Education Policy Development Committee is posted as “Education Meetings”; Operations Policy and Planning Committee is posted as “Operations Meetings”) generally one month after the meeting. Reports from In Camera meetings are posted on the Board meeting page as “Section 72 Reports”. “Section 72” refers to Section 72 (3) of the BC  School Act which states “ A board must prepare a record containing a general statement as to the nature of the matters discussed and the general nature of the decisions reached at a meeting from which persons other than trustees or officers of the board, or both, were excluded, and the record must be open for inspection at all reasonable times by any person, who may make copies and extracts on payment of a fee set by the board.” The meeting schedule for public meetings 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.)

Trustee Assignments December 2012-December 2013

Trustee Assignments December 2012-December 2013

  • Clarification: I am not on the GVTA Negotiations Advisory Committee, though that’s what this assignment (by the Chair) chart says. I do not know  what the SD61 overall bargaining objectives are. Maybe I missed that class,  but I don’t think so. I still don’t know if the GVTA Negotiations Advisory Committee above is the same thing as the two trustees who sit at the local issues bargaining table with the teacher employee group, or if that is called something else. (Some explanations just don’t explain anything.) Two trustees do sit at that table and neither of them is me, since they are Orcherton and Ferris, not Orcherton and me.(Yikes, I’ve been replaced!)  I do know what the GVTA’s bargaining objective are, as they are publicly available on the GVTA website, along with bargaining bulletins to the GVTA membership, also publicly available.  The CUPE 382 newsletter has some references to negotiations: “A 99% strike vote is certainly a clear message from our members that we are not happy at being shut out these last 4 years with no improvements on wages and benefits.”  Cupe 947 suggests in that barganing unit’s newsletter“Try to keep some money aside going into the next school year. It is likely there will be job action this fall. Strike pay begins day two of a strike and is 50 dollars/ day. September tends to be a lean month for our ten month members so we suggest going into the 13-14 school year with a bit of money saved up. ”  BCSTA:Trustees in some districts participate directly in union negotiations; in other districts the bargaining is left to staff and the board approves the negotiated agreements.”  

June 17 Board  meeting:
In Camera meeting before the public meeting: 6:30 – 7 pm.

Recognition of Songhees and Esquimalt Nations’ traditional territories.

1. Approval of Agenda: Approved.
2. Approval of Minutes:
1. Education Policy Development Committee, May 6, 2013: Approved.
2. Operations, [sic] Policy and Planning Committee (a standing committee for operations planning and to set operations policy, not a meeting about operations, and about planning, and about policy) May 13, 2013: Approved.

3. Business Arising From Minutes: None
4. Education Policy Development Committee : Chair Alpha

  • Note: Bylaw 9210: The Development of Policy: “The Board believes that to fulfill its democratic mandate in representing the public interest it must be involved in or give leadership in all stages of policy development and implementation. In practice, SD61 Trustees do not participate in developing policy (unless voting at the very end of the process is “participation”, and some do define it that way). 
  • A related motion from  Loring-Kuhanga was defeated at the May 2012 OPPS meeting :  “That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) establish a small working committee (consisting of 2 trustees, 1 executive member, 1 teacher, 1 administrator, 1 parent and 1 CUPE member) to review all of the policies and regulations and to report revisions to OPPS on a monthly basis.” / Defeated.  Against: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy Orcherton   For: Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr

A. GVTA Presentation: Debra Swain, Greater Victoria Teachers Association: “The BCTF gave [the GVTA] a grant of $3500 which was matched with funds from the GVSD / GVTA joint professional development fund.” (See p 105 of the GVTA/ SD61 Working Document / Collective Agreement ). Ms. Swain reported on four teacher / teacher group Teacher Inquiry professional development projects.

B. French Immersion: Ferris turned over much of this report to  Simon Burgers, who succeeded Judy Mas as SDS61 French Immersion and Multiculturalism Coordinator last year. French Immersion is being considered at George Jay Elementary School, with parent consultation ongoing, as  an entire kindergarten class cohort moves from the George Jay catchment area to Sir James Douglas School in order to access French Immersion, each year. (Imagine if French Immersion were funded by the Federal Government and Ministry of Education in every school to help keep neighbourhoods cohesive and so parents would not have to drive children to schools where it is offered.  French Immersion a was a novel idea in 1965 when it started, but  how about French Immersion as a fact of life in public schools in a bilingual country?)

C. Community Literacy Plan: attached at page 9 of agenda. Among stated challenges for this initiative’s success: “Lack of sustainable funding;   instability of LOC funding in 2013; Ministry of Education cuts to 55 communities and LOC’s; restored as result of significant advocacy efforts from LOC’s and communities; need secure long term funding.

  • [This scenario of struggle  is typical of the public education landscape in British Columbia. “Building capacity” is not the same thing as the BC Provincial Government requiring results with insufficient funding provided to make it happen. Katie Hyslop in the Tyee: “Decoda Literacy Services, the provincial literacy organization, funds 102 literacy outreach coordinators (LOCs) throughout British Columbia to coordinate the literacy services in post-secondary institutions, school districts, employment centres, and other organizations to ensure there are no gaps. But funding for 55 of those coordinators, mainly located in rural B.C., is in peril. Whereas its predecessor Literacy Now BC received $2.5 million in annual funding from the Ministry of Education, Decoda has only received $1 million annually since it formed in 2011/12. Last year they could supplement the loss, but this year they can’t.”
  • When More is Less: The Columbia Institute: “Boards also reported cost pressures associated with expanded board mandates. In 2007, the government passed Bill 20 amending the School Act., Boards were given additional responsibilities for early learning and community literacy. Boards are now required to establish district literacy plans …”

5. Operations, [sic] Policy and Planning Committee: Chair Leonard

A. Presentations:

  • Bylaw 9368, Procedure of Board Meetings: “…requests for action may be made by members of the public who speak to the Board during their allotted five minute period .”

1. Rob Paynter, parent / community member: Expense Transparency and Accountability

In discussion, the Secretary-Treasurer referred to the SD61 SOFI report which does state lump sum expense amounts. The  PSEC Secretariat site is a source of information as well.

  • McEvoy: BC Freedom of Information office  is encouraging groups to develop categories of expenses.
  • Nohr: Motion to refer this citizen request for action to the Secretary Treasurer for study and report. /  Carried unanimously.

B. District Leadership Team Report [last Combined OPPS / Ed Policy, this item was Finance and Legal Affairs.]

1. Achievement Contract [As SD61 has no strategic plan, although a Strategic Planning Coordinator job description still exists, the Achievement Contract is held by some to serve in a similar capacity. ]

  • As a former Reading Recovery teacher with many years’ experience delivering this very accountable and effective program of instruction for struggling Grade One students (infinitely customizable for individual needs, by a teacher who has done a year of intensive training), it’s always encouraging to see the Report include a reference to Reading Recovery, currently  in 13 schools School District 61 schools.
  • Reading Recovery Research Monograph, Dr. Stan Swartz: “The final report concluded that Reading Recovery children performed significantly better than children from an equivalent control group and the three other intervention programs.  Reading Recovery was the only group that scored better on all tests, showing long-term improvements in reading.  At the end of 70 days of instruction, Reading Recovery children were reading five levels ahead of children who received regular remedial reading lessons.  Even though the control group continued to receive lessons for the rest of the year, Reading recovery children were still three reading levels above the remedial group average when all children were tested the following fall. “

Attached to the agenda as a memo from the Superintendent to the Board, dated June 10, is a “recommended motion” (not clear which committee recommended it): “That the Board [etc] receives [sic]  the 2013-2014 Achievement Contract”. The Board unanimously accepted the report after short discussion.Final vote at the Board meeting, June 17, after which this will be a public document.

C. Public Disclosure of In Camera Items: None
D. New Business / Notice of Motions

1. Nohr: That the Board [etc] direct a joint technology and facility department effort to develop a protocol and process to measure classroom radiation exposure levels in areas with access points, cell phones, laptops, tablets and mobile computing systems and that this protocol would measure classrooms, computer labs, hallways, offices, staff rooms, etc. to develop a baseline of ambient, average and peak EMR levels in all our schools and that the radiation exposure levels be reported to the Board on a quarterly basis , evaluating all schools yearly. / Defeated. Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton  For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr.

  • McNally: The World Health Organization  has declared EMF radiation a possible 2B carcinogen. Asbestos is a 2B carcinogen. Imagine the difficult process to move an issue from “no problem” to investigation to “possibly a 2B carcinogen” at the World Health Organization.. The classification deserves a heightened response. Arguments against concern with WiFi and EMF radiation in schools locally  have consisted in great part of ad hominem attacks, not reasoned rebuttal to the hundreds of studies that have concluded that EMF radiation at non-thermal levels of exposure has negative effects on living tissue.
  • Ferris: The analogy with asbestos in buildings doesn’t work. You don’t just go around testing for asbestos. You would if someone threw a hammer at a wall . Testing doesn’t achieve anything.

Worksafe BC: Safe Work Practices for Handling Asbestos
The employer must ensure that a qualified person collects representative samples of suspected asbestos-containing materials and prepares a written (or computerized) inventory of all asbestos-containing materials in the workplace. This inventory must be kept at the workplace and must be kept current. The asbestos inspection process is generally referred to as an asbestos survey, and the person conducting the inspection is often referred to as the surveyor.The asbestos survey includes a walk-through inspection, sample collection, sample analysis, and reporting and communicating the results. Surveyors must be familiar with proper walk-through and sample collection practices

  • Orcherton: We need to know the costs before considering this.
  • Nohr: SD 61 has a Health and Safety Policy that states “The Board will adopt standards and practices that are in compliance with, but not limited to, the legal and regulatory requirements in an effort to take all reasonable steps to protect employees and students against accidents and health hazards. “

2. McNally: That the Board [etc] agenda as set out in Section 10 of Bylaw 9360, General Meeting of the Board, include at E a list of all outside organizations that have assigned Trustee representatives.

Rationale: Trustees have been assigned by the Chair to Committees that in some cases either no longer exist ( for example, a City of Victoria liaison position that had not met for 4 years at the time I was assigned to it in January 2012) or to organizations which do not want or need Trustee liaison (for example, Swan Lake: when I contacted the the Executive Director when I was acting as a temporary replacement, I was informed that  there is no need for such a liaison; some groups don’t have a website, eg VILRA ). These assignments need a review. The Board agendas for School District 69, Qualicum, for example, list Trustee liaison positions on every agenda, followed by either a synopsis of the report from the signed trustee, or “no report”. This practise ensures accountability to the public, and ensures relevance of trustee assignments.

As Trustees are paid from the public purse, and the work of Trustees is often not well understood by the public, it is essential that the work of these committees be better publicized, and that if Trustee assignments are no longer relevant or necessary, or if the committee no longer exists, that this list be revised to reflect current reality, and that committees with Trustee assignees be listed in that updated form on every Board agenda.

  • McEvoy: It’s not necessary to list all the Committees. Trustees will report as needed.
  • Ferris: This sounds innocuous enough. But it has b to be considered int he context of “What does a Board do?” Boards don’t develop policy. We have advisors to do that. We make decisions.

Another view from the British Columbia School Trustees Association: “In accordance with community interests and legislative requirements, governors (trustees) develop policies …Administrators are responsible primarily for determining how to accomplish the broad goals the board establishes. ”

It’s very possible for trustees to be involved at the generative level of policy development; the degree of involvement or of removal is nothing more than a reflection of a Board’s culture and of decisions and practices that shape that culture: In Cowichan, it has been the practice for trustees to develop and revise policy with our partners in the school system– our employees, our parents, our students and more recently aboriginal organisations – all under the wing of a Policy Committee which met monthly. This collaboration has been valuable – it allows our policies to reflect the diversity of interests, experience and knowledge we are lucky enough to enjoy in our valley.” (This Board was fired by the then-Minister of Education, George Abbott, last summer and was replaced with a single Ministry Appointee.)

  • Leonard: A Committee  is looking into Bylaw 9360 Withdraw the motion?  Or refer?
  • McNally: Will not withdraw.
  • Ferris: Motion to refer [to the above Committee]. / Carried. For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, McNally, Orcherton. Against: Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr.

3. McNally: That the Board [etc] establish ongoing Trustee representation to the District Health and Safety Committee, assignment to be made by the Board Chair from amongst Trustees who express interest, assigned Trustee to report to the Board regularly in camera or public meetings as appropriate. / Defeated. Against: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Loring-Kuhanga, McEvoy, Nohr For: McNally

Rationale: Safety of employees and students is major concern and objective of any employer (Policy 4300.1, Health and Safety, and the associated Regulation). Trustees need to know the status of health and safety concerns and planned actions in SD61.  Health and Safety plans and reviews, along with consideration of  and discussion of employee and parent concerns needs to be a regular duty of elected officials (Trustees), notwithstanding the delegation of day to day operations. As part of this involvement, any WorkSafe citation at any SD61 site needs to be brought to the Board for review, and any WorkSafe citation of the Board must be posted in a place readily accessible  to Trustees and  all employees.

  • Ferris: It’s not appropriate for Trustees to influence the Committee’s thoughts. It’s  frustrating when people want to do staff jobs.
  • Leonard: We are responsible for Policy development.Regulations are the purview of the District Leadership Team [senior administration]. This isn’t policy. It’s information.
  • Orcherton: Health and Safety is a bargaining issue.Our role is to set policy. We are a Governance Board. This would be interference.

E. General Announcements:

  1. Horsman noted that  this Board will  host next VISTA meeting.(Vancouver Island School Trustees Association). VISTA has a Facebook page (closed group) but apparently no website.
  2. Leonard announced that Loring-Kuhanga’s motion to address youth suicide [reportedly intended by Loring-Kuhanga for this meeting’s agenda] would be placed on the September Operations Planning and Policy meeting public agenda.

Bylaw 9130.2: The Operations Policy and Planning Committee shall meet in accordance with the provisions of Bylaw 9360.2 for the purpose of developing for Board consideration major impact areas related to:a) all personnel matters; b) all financial and legal matters; c)all matters related to the facilities required to provide educational programs; d) information technology and planning matters.

Bylaw 9130.1 The Education Policy Development Committee shall meet in accordance with the provisions of Bylaw 9360.2 (Meetings of the Standing Committees) for the purpose of providing direction to administration on the development of new educational policies and to review Board motions which require translation to educational policy. In addition, the Committee shall, from time to time as it sees fit, make recommendations to the Board in respect of educational policy for the District.

The motion: Loring-Kuhanga: That the Board of Education of School District 61 (Greater Victoria) adopt the “Whole School Suicide Prevention Model” for all middle and secondary schools and provide annual presentations to students and staff in order to increase an awareness, education and prevention of suicide amongst our youth.”

F. Adjournment: 9:35.

Next meeting:
Monday June 17, 7:30, Tolmie Bldg: Board meeting (In Camera meeting 6 pm)
  Wednesday June 19: In Camera meeting (tentative schedule)

Strawberry Vale Elementary School mural

Strawberry Vale Elementary School mural

About Diane McNally