Sept 16/19: Operations Policy&Planning: Vic High, George Jay

Remember when this Standing Committee was “Operations, Policy, and Planning”? Everything went through this one. Ed Policy was basically feel-good presentations from schools. I pointed out what commas can do.

  TRUSTEE ASSIGNMENTS: Internal Elections / changes in assignments November 2019.

November 2018 to November 2019

Operations Policy and Planning Rob Paynter (Chair), Angie Hentze, Elaine Leonard, Ann Whiteaker, Jordan Watters (ex officio)  
Education Policy and Directions Nicole Duncan (Chair), Tom Ferris, Diane McNally, Ryan Painter, Jordan Watters (ex officio)  

Agenda and meeting video record here.

More about acknowledgement of Territory at Indigenous Perspectives Society.

B. Community Presentations to the Committee
B.1 Scott Fox, Vic High: Concerns for the Future of Vic High Land: Presentation here

My name is Scott Fox, and I am representing a group of concerned parents an citizens regarding the proposed land sale and lease at Victoria High School. The presentation (which provides narrative to the slides) is in the following link, at 5:45 of the first video:

Our evidence based research has concluded:

  • the proposed future state lands at Victoria High do not meet Ministry of Education Standards for a school of 1000
  • School District projected estimates indicate the  realistic eventual nominal capacity of Vic High is 1100 or greater starting in 2026
  • that the lands at Victoria High are not surplus to school needs on the basis of academic need now and in the future
  • that community engagement of June 20 on the matter failed to meet the District’s criteria for a community engagement as financial information was unknown  

    We are seeking to support you in making an informed decision on Victoria High land use.

Whiteaker: Do you have a list of questions from the public presentation that community had, that were not answered?
Fox: No. Minutes were taken so refer to that document. The letter of intent has not been made public, only press releases. No one spoke to the value of the lease.
Whiteaker: Will get an update and the minutes.
Superintendent: Will provide in October.

B.2 Esther Callo, Vic High: Not present
B.3 Corey Kowal, Vic High: Vis High Safe Learning Spaces : Presentation here
B.4 Skye Stegenga, George Jay: (On video here)

I am a concerned parent of 2 children at George Jay Elementary. 
On Friday, we received the news that we would be recieving an outdoor classroom. Teachers and administration were finally consulted and made this choice themselves. We celebrated and felt gratitude and relief.  The needs of George Jay have been heard and recognized and the School Board took necessary action to help us.
Somehow in the last year I have become an advocate for George Jay, which I see now is more than an elementary school. Its also about family and community . After being waitlisted for five months, my children were finally offered spots at Southpark Elementary for September 2019. We immediately declined. We decided to remain a George Jay family.
The advocacy, however, isnt finished. GJ is in a neighbourhood with property developments on nearly every major corner. I’m here to tell you that your proposed land swap with the City of Victoria is not in the best interests of our students. The Caledonia Project is not in the best interest of our students.
If this project goes ahead the increased traffic will be harmful. The CRHC claims their traffic study shows that traffic will only increase by 20% during peak hours. What they aren’t saying is that Chambers street is already 2.5 times busier than it was built to be and is frequently unsafe for children getting to school. Chambers is not a main thoroughfare.  Grant and gladatone streets, which border the caledonia project, are dead end roads which were created to slow traffic in a quiet neighborhood.
Besides the traffic concerns, if this Project happens, The increased enrollment at all three of our schools is  untenable. For us to be at or over capacity is detrimental to our students.
GJ  has the highest rate of poverty in the city, highest number of immigrants and refugees, among the highest number First Nations children, and many more children facing multiple barriers. Equity demands that we give the kids of GJ more resources so they can thrive and that means having extra classrooms available for additional programming.
Previously i focused on the loss of the music room as it affects every child. But since the start of school its also apparent that losing the Parent Resource Room and Strongstart is beyond disapointing, particularly to our First Generation Canadians, our immigrant and refugee families who relied on these spaces and services. The free bread, free clothes, free snacks, and preschool programming are certainly missed, but the biggest loss is the community meeting spaces these rooms provided for our newer GJ families who counted on these spaces for practicing English and building connections. Our school community thrived with 400 children and suffered with 450 and 500 and 530 children.  Its important to keep us right sized so we are able to support the diverse students and families that attend.
This could prove difficult, however, as The City of Victoria states that the number of school aged children will continue to increase. The city proposes densification,  but The Caledonia Project will be unmanageable for GJ and the school board actually has the choice to stop it. Fernwood does not have the infrastructure to support this development.
The SB sought consultation regarding the  boundary review and also about the Vic High renovations.  That tells me you value the community voice. Let me tell you that the Fernwood community is loud and clear that the Caledonia Project is not welcome or appreciated. Fernwood does not want five story buildings in what is currently a residential neighbourhood full of character. We welcome affordable housing, but not at the density that the CRHC says is necessary. 
The school board is in an interesting position. We know that increasing affordable housing improves lives of students and their families. However, the density proposed by the CRHC is the very reason that the school board needs to stop the land swap. One, because the density will be devastating for our schools. And two, because the community itself is saying no.
You are hearing other compelling arguments as to why the proposed land swap is detrimental to Victoria children. Leasing lands to the City that are likely to be needed by our own students is a road we’ve gone down before. The school board needs to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. GJ would not be in crisis now if the board hadn’t leased and then sold the Blanchard School lands as well as leased other lands such as Richmond Elementary. The lesson learned should be that coming up with cash by disposing of school board land is a bad idea.
Your role as school board trustee is to ensure that our students have the best possible education. Certainly we can be hopeful that the boundary review will relieve the overcrowding at George Jay over the next few years. But large developments promise continued increases in enrollments in a neighbourhood without the infrastructure to support them. You have the power to support the students of George Jay, Central and Vic High, by voting against the land swap which will negatively affect our children’s educations.
I see how you the trustees paid attention to what kids at George Jay needed and responded by giving us this outdoor classroom. I’m hoping that you will be paying attention to what we say here tonight and will respond by stopping the land swap that is not serving the needs of the kids of Fernwood and downtown Victoria.

B.5 Angela Carmichael, PAC President, George Jay (on video here) :

Continuing to pursue information on decision to reverse the decisions of the portable and the music room in only 4 weeks after it was announced, and on changing the irrelevant and colonial name of our school.
Currently, I have a letter of support from Tim Stanley, a full professor of anti racism at Ottawa University. He literally wrote the book on George Jay and his white supremacist policies.
I also have The City of Victoria, as well as The First Nations behind me. Having the support of the School Board would be invaluable. Need to consult local First Nations.

B.6 Barbara Lelj, George Jay : Did not attend
B.7 Brianna Day: George Jay (on video)

Frustrated and angry with overcrowding for the District’s most vulnerable students. We need tyhe outdoor learning space and glad to see that will be provided. But issues remain re gym time, provision of a portable, classroom upgrades, need for more EA hours . Loss of clothin swap, parent room, Strong Start moved to anther locatn. School is a shell of what it once was. We parents have no place to gather as a school community to support each other any more. We are tired of waiting for remedies.

C. Superintendent’s Report: No student reps yet.
D. Personnel Items:
District Principal HR memo p 9 agenda.
E. Finance and Legal Affair
E.1 eScribe Update:(Pp 11-12) Careful slow implementation has been restarted after a hiatus.
E.2 Purchasing Services: Change purchase order allowable amount from $500 to $1000. / Carried. Unanimous. [Reportedly, staff have been doing this already.]

Paynter: Concern with “flexibility” around working outside Policies and Regulations. Request that staff bring Policy / Reg issues to the Board early in a situation that looks problematic.

Duncan: Does this Regulation apply to both goods and services?
Stride, Acting Sec-Treas: Yes, includes services.

Related Policy: POLICY 3323 (Extensive and detailed Regulation here.

PURCHASING SERVICES The Board of Education is committed to the effective use of public funds when procuring goods and services to create a safe, responsive and inclusive learning community. The objectives of the purchasing services policy are to:
Maintain standards of transparency, ethics, and integrity
Maximize value for money, ensuring quality goods and services
Ensure accountability, consistency, and alignment in public-sector procurement practices
Commit to fair and effective competition, innovation, and continuous improvement
Identify sustainable and socially responsible procurement solutions
Provide efficient processes, flexibility, and support to the District and its suppliers
Greater Victoria School District
Adopted:       June 1964
Amended:     April 1970
Revised:         June 20, 2016

F. Facilities Planning: Water quality update (P 21)
H.New Business
H.1 Trustee Questions

Whiteaker: More information on George Jay Strong Start moved to Victor School gym.
Superintendent: Victor parents are ok with this. Strong Start should start up mid September there.
Deputy Superintendent: Looked at community centres but they weren’t suitable.
McNally: Any transportation issues? How can we help parents? It’s too far to walk from George Jay area with a little one in a stroller and a toddler.
Superintendent: SD61 staff will be in touch with Strong Start Staff to see if registration is lower than expected.
Duncan: More info on Vic High project? Need more info for Board re land disposition, consultation and analysis re how we could proceed.
Acting Sec-Treas Stride: Legal counsel is looking at CRD doc, then to our auditor, then back to CRD. They need the doc by October 2; could push that out. Could have further public engagement.
Whiteman (DPAC Chair): Where would kids in the Caledonia housing development go to school?
Stegenga (parent): “Consultation” in June / July was a presentation, not consultation.
May (parent): Were Victor School parents consulted about moving Strong Start from George Jay to their gym? Can Strong Start kids use the Victor School playground and equipment?
Deputy Superintendent Whitten: Have talked with Victor parents. Strong Start kids can’t use the Victor School playground and will have to walk to nearest community playground.
Leonard: Not the purpose of “Trustee Questions” to answer these questions. Look forward to Acting Sec-Treas report that will address these concerns.

H.2 New Business: Painter: That the Board direct the Superintendent, pursuant to Policy 1421, to establish a committee to explore changing the name of George Jay Elementary School, and that this be done following a fulsome George Jay Elementary School focused consultation process. / Carried as amended below.

Leonard: Need more time to examine Ministry requirements re naming. Table until that time. / Defeated.
Whiteaker: Amendment: full stop after “School”. / Carried. Unanimous.
Waters: Amendment: add after “Policy 1421”, “and applicable legislation“. / Carried. Unanimous.

I. Notice of Motion: None
J. General Announcements: None
K: Adjournment: 8:30 pm

About Diane McNally