Jan 2819: Audrey Smith, DPAC/VCPAC President: On Inclusion

The DPAC President’s speech below  reflects the VCPAC discussion at the VCPAC  general meeting January 22, with quorum approving the speech to go forward to the Board.  The Chair of VCPAC spoke  representing the parents in SD61. [DPAC members are school PACs, each of which sends a rep to the DPAC / VCPAC meeting.]

There is concern being expressed about changes being made that impact current students and their ability to reach their goals.  While we appreciate the effort of The Board of Education and District staff to include a consultation process in many things it appears that some changes with less students affected do not seem to getting the same level of consultation or community input.  Even though they have enormous impact on the student affected.

VCPAC and its members would hope that the Board will consider the need to be predictable in the use its policies and regulations to guide the decision making process.

Policy 1163 states that consultation is an important step in decision-making, that it promotes a two-way flow of information and ideas leading to better solutions and implementation of programs.  It states your beliefs and principles are student focused and in their best interest. And that you believe communication, trust and open-mindedness is critical in consultation.

VCPAC recognizes your efforts to build trust in the process by being fairly transparent in the process you go through with committees and surveys for full district decisions such as catchment priorities, dress codes and boundary lines.  The desire to reflect community perspective is good.

It is not as evident in the changes that are less broad sweeping.  The programs or community culture influencing decisions are less broadcast, less public and lack the comprehensive consultation the communities you serve are beginning to expect.

After all it is the process which involves interacting with those affected by the change and helps you gain insight to the impact of your decisions.

We hear the grave concern from parents wondering how their child will have their needs met when programs they have come to depend upon are closing. Especially when your reports say we are 12-18 months away from being fully ready.  I speak of the inclusive learning strategy.  Your policy 5147 supports the that strategy but it also supports keeping the current programs in place while the transition is happening.  Students need to be supported to reach their goals.

The Policy speaks to the equitable level of service to students regardless of setting, and maximizing the opportunity to achieve their goals, in all schools or in alternative services when inclusive settings cannot provide optimum opportunity to reach goals.  It uses statements like “ensure that implementation and service delivery are in accordance with student needs” and “ensure service delivery is equitable in opportunity and consistent in philosophy”.

You have heard a few times from parents recently of their concern about how their children will reach their goals in light of the proposed program cancellation.  They see their child’s unique complex learning needs being ignored or dismissed. They desire for their child to maintain the successes they have experienced. To continue with the level of service they have developed in the relationships and programs established currently.

Perhaps for the next group of students with complex needs the proposed changes will work fine. The fear is real parents see a gap in service during the transition from what is now happening to what is to be fully operational in 12-18 months but nevertheless starting in 9 months anyway.  It is too scary for these families.  These students will not be equitably supported and serviced to reach their goals because service is changing and will require “flexibility in developing and implementing the plans based on the individual school staff’s operational style and stage of development.”  Things will need to develop.  What about the students waiting for it to be up to their level of need?

We as parents across the district don’t see this as a small group of students that will be supported but may have a transition period.  We see this as a loss of service to the students with complex needs.  Restructuring usually hits the vulnerable the hardest and impacts the whole community.  We see classes already struggling with the level of supports insufficient and the chaos that can ensues when staff are out sick and no one with the required knowledge/skill set available to fill the gap.

We see the anxiety in our children increasing with all the changes and expectations put on them. our precious children.  We are concerned the focus is not on the students here today and meeting their needs.  Equity is seeing there is someone that needs a lift and providing that so that all can see a way to reach their goal.  Equity is not synonymous with Equality.  It is not giving everyone the same services and expecting the goals to be reached.

Consider running the current programs while you finish the work to implement the school based strategy.  We think you will still have students like the ones you have heard of with extreme medical concerns, that require specialized arrangements.  We hope you will be able to find a way to make that work too.

All kids matter.

Is it really any different than a BAA? Finding a way to engage with students that are not really engaging?

We believe a fulsome consultative process would bring you to some better solutions and more effective implementation.  Especially if effectiveness is measured by students achieving their goals.

Thank you.



About Diane McNally