June 4/18: Education Policy and Directions: Mental Health Focus; Parent Presenter on Closing SD61 Low Incidence Programs

P1: Education Policy and Directions  Standing Committee Meeting notes

Elected Trustees: Leonard (1996), Ferris (1999), Orcherton (1999), Loring-Kuhanga (2011), McNally (2011), Nohr (2011), Paynter (2014),  Watters (2014), Whiteaker (2014)

Civic elections BC October 20/18. BCSTA info for candidates here.

SD37 Delta’s Resolution re the Funding Formula Review carried at the BCSTA AGM April 28.  The recommendations from this review were set to go forward on July 22 to the Ministry of Education, with less than negligible “consultation” with Boards and other stakeholders.

46 fuding formula SD37 Delta

Lined Paper is  my personal record of and commentary on SD61 Board and  Standing Committee meetings. Official, approved  minutes are on the SD61 website, one  month after the meeting. Board meetings are video’d and audio recorded; Committee meetings are not.

SD61 Greater Victoria School District includes students in Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal, parts of Saanich and the Highlands, and the Traditional Territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

District Strategic Plan here.

October 17/16:  That the Board amend Bylaw 9130 Standing Committees to remove the words “with voting rights” from Item #4 and Item #5. / Carried. Unanimous.  This had the effect of allowing only members of the Standing Committee to vote on motions, though other Trustees, if they attend,  can participate in  the debate. The Chair of the Board  ex officio member both Committees, with voting rights. Quorum is a majority of Trustee members on the committee.

Territory Acknowledgement900

Dialogue with the public is welcome during Standing Committee Meetings.
Only appointed members of the Committee can vote.

Ed Policy & Directions Standing Committee  June 4 /18
Members: Ferris, Nohr (Chair,), Orcherton, Whiteaker; Loring-Kuhanga ex officio (vote but not counted for quorum)
Present: Ferris, McNally,  Nohr, Orcherton,  Whiteaker
Not present: Leonard,  Loring-Kuhanga,  Paynter, Watters

A.Commencement of Meeting:  Agenda adopted.  Minutes of May 7/18 approved. Official minutes here; Lined Paper report here.     No Business Arising.|
B. Presentations to the Committee: 
Mustard Seed Hunger Awareness Week: Janiene Boice and Desiree Neufeld : Goal is to partner with schools on food security and food rescue. Why is all that food going to waste? Developing a curriculum. Will meet with Superintendent Langstraat and Deputy Superintendent Green [taking over as Superintendent end of June]. Would hope for a big event leading to presentation  of curriculum, leading to small group action.

b) Education Assistants and Inclusive Learning: Denyse Zumach and Christine Williams (EAs , James Bay Community School)

  • Zumach: Started in 1998 with SD61. Now in e an elementary school. Worked at New Directions, STARS, SJ Willis programs, all now closed. Some children who would have done well in those programs now don’t have the option. Facing severe behaviour issues this year in the school. Inclusive Learning Team came to the classroom. We were already doing all the right things that they suggested. Why are EAs not on that team? Could there be a couple of EAs on this team?  EAs are considered sometimes as “less than” or as paraprofessionals.     No room in the school for breakout spaces. Suggest school based “walking person” EA who would go in to support teachers  as needed, “opportunity room” idea but floating individual. Some schools will need two floating EAs. Also need mentoring for EAs who want that.
  • Orcherton: Good ideas.
  • Williams: What is the direction for or job as EAs? Worked in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta. Not so proud of being an EA when I see EAs come in with no experience. What does our future look like? We used to do reading programs (provided by the teacher) and now work with someone who runs from the school, requires cleaning up after constantly. I have nowhere to take this student when the student needs a space alone.
  • Nohr: This last year has been a year like no other. Sometimes pro-d is not enough. Some of the children in school now are far more challenging than before and there is no place other than the hallway to try to work with them when they are agitated. Has been a year of more funding for SLPs, OTs, counsellors, and student spaces for de-esclation / sensory rooms – big plan. Will take a couple of years to get it in place.
  • McNally: Hearing what you say – own experience 10 years as EA in SD62, 10 years working with students some of whom had extremely with challenging behaviours in Victor School.  Re qualifications / experience, CUPE BC’s John Malcolmsom made significant contributions to a white paper in 2012 calling for a provincial accreditation system for EAs.  My motion recommending the parties work toward  that carried at the recent BCSTA AGM. 
  • Whiteaker: We do value your work and are grateful for what you do.
  • Orcherton: Gained more teachers, smaller classroom numbers, but not more EAs so you have to move between  classrooms. Lots of students with unique needs . We’re aware of that and it needs attention.
  • Superintendent Langstraat: A class system exists in education. All adults in a class are responsible for the welfare and education of our students . Also, credentialling as McNally mentioned. Have been involved with that,  pre-service and inservice . Re inclusion, people are equating it with all students with diverse learning needs in classrooms all the time, or out all the time. It’s a continuum.
  • Nohr: [to incoming Superintendent Green]: Any mentoring for EAs in plans?
  • Incoming Superintendent: Intriguing idea and will follow up.

c) Education Assistants and Inclusive Learning: speaker Ruth Stamp not present Keep Arbutus Low Incidence Program and Classroom Open: Sherri Water Chief, parent (Arbutus Middle School) [Provided handout of comments read to the meeting, but not for replication] with Rupert Gadd (teacher SD62 and parent of a child with special needs)

  • Gadd: Learning is a social endeavour. Imagine yo were place in an advanced Japanese class when you spoke no Japanese, but not to worry, you’d have a tutor… you would be totally dependent on that tutor. And you would  not learn Japanese. [Deeply concerted for children taken out of district programs and who find themselves in classrooms where they do not comprehend what is going on and are dependent on an EA.]
  • Water Chief: No one asked the parents….Someone told me that SD61 had contracted an expert to assist them with moving forward with this inclusion policy, and that she had said that even 5 minutes of meaningful inclusion is better than none. Agreed. But what happens to the other 355 minutes? Suggest put neurotypicals in [child with low incidence designation]’s classroom as home room, instead of the other way around. Request to keep the District Program at Arbutus open.
  • McNally: Have spoken with students in Challenge programs who compete to get into spaces in that District Program. They are articulate and can state their preference – to not be in the “regular classroom”. Are we planning on closing those classrooms? Apparently the parents were not asked about this change; did anyone ask the students in Low Incidence classrooms? Teachers work endlessly to develop communication programs designed by expert teams. We need to honour the capabilities students have for communication rather than deciding it would  be good for “them” to be with “us” as much as possible. What really is the mot enabling environment? It might not be the politically correct one.
  • Whiteaker: Doing a survey at the end of the year? Do I get to see it?
  • Associate Superintendent Whitten: No survey. Kept supports this year, and will next year. Will meet with each school as each is doing this slightly differently.
  • Whiteaker: This is an opportunity to survey parents re how did it go? How can we improve?
  • Superintendent: This goes beyond a survey. A Board planning session is coming up in August – a topic could be “how are we going to engage with parents”.
  • Water Chief: Could Arbutus offer my suggested model for a year and re-evaluate after that?
  • Superintendent Langstraat: Appreciate the  notion, but need more time. Need more thought, and conversation with principals.

d) Mental Health and Anti Stigma Advocacy: Ryan Painter: Presentation here. Personal background and motivation : Lived experience of anxiety, depression, panic disorder. In school at the time the were many missed opportunities, no help. Experienced suicidal ideation as a child. Social stigma lead to people not talking about that feeling that “something is wrong”. Schizophrenia especially is targeted by cultural stereotyping. Common expressions like “so OCD”, “schizo”, “whacko”, “crazy” perpetuate the stigma.Extreme depictions of schizophrenic have become the culturally accepted norm. Schools need a Youth Coordinator position for complete health attention, including mental health.

  • Whiteaker: Are you with any organization? / No, on my own.
  • Appreciate your comments re the stereotyping of people with schizophrenia as violent and  scary. Have you thought of partnering with  the Foundry? / Yes, they are aware of what I’m doing but in startup mode.

e) Ecole Willows School: Learning Technology Programs and Projects: Lorraine Powell / Tim Murphy : Using Ipads to support learning. Using “maker bins” to do 3D illustration of concepts.

  • McNally: Congratulations! This is possibly the best urban planning team in the entire CRD 🙂

C. New Business
C.1 Student Rep :
Daniel Davenport, Lambrick Park Secondary
C.2 McNally: That the Board direct the Superintendent to report back with a plan for establishing a Board meeting (Board only, not Standing Committees) Attendance Record./ Defeated. For: Nohr  Against: Ferris, Orcherton, Whiteake

  • It’s in the public interest to have this information easily available on the SD61 website without having to check minutes of every meeting.  A growing trend in local government is to create and maintain a record of Council meeting voting and attendance records. Many cities and towns have this record in place on a website dashboard. [ Examples St Albert AB, Windsor ON, City of Vancouver (also lists council voting record on dashboard), many more.]  City of Victoria  Mayor Helps  and Councillor Lucas report that members of the public have requested that Council initiate an easily reviewed document in keeping with other larger municipalities in the province. “A recent change to the City’s meeting management system has created the ability to not only record votes on motions but to establish an attendance record for each meeting. The City’s Head of Legislative Services has indicated to the Mayor and Councillor that this work can be done as part of the regular course of business, supporting the City’s efforts in continuous improvement in transparency and open government.” Recommendation #11 (and #12) from the Watson Report on SD83: ” #11 Attendance Records Voters expect that the candidates they elect to represent them are committed to the job and prepared to  put the time and energy into preparing for and attending Board and committee meetings. One measure  of transparency that can be provided to the public is to disclose Board member attendance records, a  practice which has been commonly adopted by many public institutions. We recommend that the District  maintain Board attendance records for each Trustee and that these be posted on the District’s website.” 
  • Whiteaker: This motion is redundant. Information already on minutes of meetings.
  • McNally: Not redundant – this would mean stakeholders don’t have to go through all the minutes, but would have information  in one place.
  • Ferris: Was not aware there was a problem  with attendance.
  • McNally: Motion is not motivated by a “problem”.

C.3 McNally: That the Board approve that the current record of motions carried include motions that were defeated (in italics for easy recognition)./ Defeated. For: Nohr, Orcherton  Against: Ferris, Whiteaker

  • McNally: What a Board doesn’t support is just as interesting to stakeholders as what it does support.
  • Orcherton: On the current motion tracking record? / Yes.

C.4 McNally: That the Board direct staff to implement a protocol to to ensure the district presentation slides and / or documents are posted at the same time as the meeting agendas for Standing Committees and Board meetings. / Defeated: For: –
Ferris, Nohr, Orcherton, Whiteaker

  • McNally:  Information presented by staff at Standing Committees provides critical background and updates for the Board via the Committees. It’s apparent that best practice would be for Trustees, local education stakeholders, and the public to have access to these documents well before the meetings in order to analyze the information and to construct related questions. Posting the information at the same time as the agenda may also be of assistance to Trustees who are not voting members of a Standing Committee, when making a decision to attend that Committee to comment and ask questions, or not. Have had an unsolicited agreement from a parent of a child in SD61. Recommendation #9 in the Watson Report re SD83: “Meeting agendas and material are often not available until the day before, or at the Board meeting.  While there will be occasions where agendas and material may not be ready in advance, best efforts  should be made to have Board agendas and meeting material available for public viewing at least three to  four days in advance of each meeting. In addition, sufficient hard copies of material should be available  for distribution at meetings.”
  • Orcherton: Can’t force this to happen.
  • Ferris: Fundamentally against putting something like this in a motion , telling people what to do. People have day jobs and they have more to do than this.
  • McNally: These are presentations from District staff. Preparing presentations is part of  is their day jobs. Not referring to presentations for the public. Though that would  be helpful, as well.

C.5 Watters: That the Board endorse mental health literacy and mental wellness as a priority area of focus for the Advocacy Ad Hoc Committee and task that committee with developing an action plan to be brought back to a future Education Policy and Directions Committee./ Carried. For: Ferris, Nohr, Orcherton, Whiteaker

  • Orcherton: McNally,  Watters and I on Advocacy Committee. Was brought up at last Ed Policy as a prime area of concern for the Committee to examine.

D. Notices of Motion: None
E. General Announcements: None
F. Adjournment: 8:55 pm

About Diane McNally