What the Trustees Promised – 2014 Election review

election promises - raeside

In the following statements in their run for election in 2014, infection the Trustees put on their best faces.  Will they now be accountable to their values?

Area C school trustee candidate: Ian Hargreaves
posted Oct 22, sovaldi sale 2014

I am a retired teacher who has lived in the Comox Valley for 31 years and taught primarily at Ecole Puntledge Park and Miracle Beach Elementary. During that time I got to know both communities well and feel that  I will be able to make a positive contribution to the School Board on their behalf. I believe my experience participating in numerous community events, as well as a number of instructional leadership roles at the provincial, district and school level will be a valuable asset. As an educator, I came to the district as a special education specialist and was involved in the development of the province’s Special Education Core Curriculum as well as other curriculum areas. I participated in the integration of special needs students, the developed Social Justice and Diversity materials and was a social justice associate for the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation.

In addition to my classroom teaching, I participated in the development of a local First Nations curriculum package, The Legend of Queneesh, served on numerous district committees and as a “computer helping teacher” supported the development and implementation of district and school strategies for the integration of technology.

Before coming to the Comox Valley I worked for a number of years in the private sector on the development and management of programs for handicapped children and adults. I have long had a deep, abiding passion for education and know I can make a positive contribution to the work of the board.

In Nov. 2014, several candidates responded to the following question:

In your opinion what is the most critical issue facing the school board at this time and how do you plan on addressing it?

Ian Hargreaves:

What is clear to me from the recent teachers’ strike is that public education funding in B.C. is amongst the lowest in Canada. The next provincial budget is projected to continue the trend of underfunding, downloading still more costs onto school boards already being crushed by the accumulating impact of more than a decade of underfunding. That will mean larger class sizes, fewer resources, more cuts to maintenance, and more pressure to close schools. It will mean even less help for our most vulnerable students and those who need it most.

What can be done? An entire generation of students have already gone from kindergarten to graduation, impacted by endless cutbacks. Solutions cannot wait for the next election, the next round of bargaining, or some Court decision years away. Trustees need to be educational advocates throughout the province, standing up for public education, demanding that the provincial government treat public education as a vital component of a prosperous and cohesive society—not as a burden upon taxpayers.

It is time for new ideas, new strategies, and especially for trustees who will put the needs and the interests of public education ahead of partisan politics! When the next round of budget cuts comes, we need school trustees to say that it’s no longer good enough to work hard to minimize the damage. Our students, and our hard-working teachers and educational staff, deserve better. They need trustees who will liaise with all educational partner groups, local organizations and the community to ensure that politicians’ understand the need to end the years of underfunding and to make quality public education the highest priority. The time has come to speak out for public education and to reject the strategy of endless compliance budgets … public education is far too important to be so undervalued.

Peter Coleman:

The biggest single problem is the variability in student enrolment.  Most of our other problems can be traced back to this root cause.

Our enrolment drives our funding from Government, and so drives budgeting, staffing, and programs at the schools.  Most major Board decisions are within those areas.  Until recently we received quite accurate enrolment predictions from a province-wide demographic service.  These predictions showed a steady decline, with each entering cohort (at Kindergarden) smaller than the cohort of graduates.  This reduced our budget every year, which made planning difficult but possible.  But in recent years there seems to have been more migration of students, so that school enrolments and then government funding change unexpectedly.

In particular this seems to affect our Special Needs students; we must provide programs for them, yet we cannot predict accurately how many or what kinds of students we are likely to get.  This is a very significant budget issue.

The enrolment problem is common to many districts across the province.  In our case, within a year or two enrolments are expected to stabilize, with the entering class becoming the same size as the graduating class.  If government budgeting practices don’t change for the worse, we can then look forward to stable budgets for several years.  Staffing and programming will become more stable as well, which is good for everyone in the district.

Of course, a growing budget would solve many problems, but given the hard economic times, the Board does not expect larger per student revenues.  We continue to point out to Government that, in particular, Special Needs funding is not keeping up with our costs.  A significant increase in the Learning Improvement Fund would be enormously helpful.  I believe every district in the Province would agree with that statement.

Cliff Boldt: 

The most critical provincial issue facing public education in the Comox Valley and province-wide is centralization of funding, curriculum and many daily operations in the school and classroom. There must be a move toward bringing public education policy development back to the local level, using a process that recognizes the role of professionals and includes parents, students and the broader community. This will lead to a more balanced approach to responsibilities and controls between the school board and the provincial bureaucracy.

All politics is local.  Public education is political.  Public education is too complex to be controlled and changed by a select few individuals or groups from Victoria. Trustees must make sure that all citizens can participate in identifying needs and developing detailed policy suggestions that will benefit students in public education.

School trustees must have high expectations of students and teachers.

Teaching and learning are complicated and sometimes messy processes of students, parents and teachers working together. Trustees must work with teachers, students, parents and support staff to provide classrooms where students can do their best.

This consultation can be achieved by trustees working with students, teachers, support staff, parent advisory committees to include them in the process of developing and implementing policy.

It’s time for a bottom up approach to the management of public education.  We have had enough of the top-down approach.

Janice Caton: 

In my nine years as a trustee I have seen a serious shift in the funding of public education. Resources have become more scarce, schools require upgrades, teachers need to be supported in classrooms and parents need to believe that their tax dollars are contributing to optimal learning in their classrooms. But that is not what we are seeing in 2014.

I believe that the lack of sustainable and predictable funding is the most critical issue facing Boards today – By not knowing from one year to the next, what funding will be available to serve students, trustees find it difficult to ensure that we can continue to provide the supporting resources for students.

The Ministry has new expectations for How and What students learn, but if we cannot count on consistent long term funding for planning and implementing new programs we will not be able to prepare are students for the future. Our students and staff deserve to have learning and teaching environments that have all that they need to be positive and effective. Parents need to know that the Boards’ will have the resources needed to support students. Government needs to recognize that dollars invested in education are critical to moving ahead.

We will continue to address this issue by, working with other districts, and our provincial association to insist on accountability from the Government and the provision of predictable funding.  Working with our educational partners in engaging the broader community as to the importance of a rich fully funded public education system.

I have been an outspoken critic over the lack of funding along with our board, we will continue to work with all of our provincial educational partners in advocating for a strongly funded system that supports and meets the needs of all students.

 Peter Coleman: Much remains to be done
Oct 21, 2014

Three demanding years on the school board have convinced me that though much has been accomplished, much remains to be done.

We now have lengthy contracts in place with both main employee groups. But budget concerns, and careful money management, remain major issues.

Through our provincial association, we continue to press for public education to be given higher priority within the province’s budget.

We have completed a number of important property transactions, including the disposal of the old Brooklyn School.

The site continues to serve educational and community purposes, and we recouped sufficient money for renovations to our other schools, and the replacement of our obsolete IT equipment.

To ensure continued quality programs, we have initiated a regular graduating student/school board meeting, in which trustees hear directly from students about their experiences in the school system.  Students report mainly positive reactions.

Students have also benefitted from an Active Travel (to school) Program, an important contribution to student health and fitness, and from a new all-weather playing field at G. P. Vanier School.

Our greatest student successes have been in academic areas.

Our Destination Imagination teams have been successful at every level of competition – including the world championships.

Similarly, our robotics teams have been successful in provincial, national and international competitions.

I hope to be given a new term by the voters, so that my 40 years of experience as a Royal Canadian Navy veteran, as a parent of five public school graduates, and as a teacher and administrator in the K-12 and post-secondary sectors in two provinces, can continue to serve the citizens and students of the Valley.

Trustee Coleman elected School District 71 chair
Nov 27, 2013

Comox Valley Board of Education Comox trustee Peter Coleman was elected board chair Tuesday.

Area B trustee Tom Weber announced last month he would like to step back from his position as board chair, asking that trustees do not nominate him during elections at the Nov. 26 meeting. Weber, who had been chair for the past two years, said he wanted to give other trustees the opportunity to fill the position.

Before moving to the Comox Valley, Coleman was a trustee in the surrey School district. He has been a teacher and administrator, first in the public schools and later in the post-secondary sector (BCIT and SFU).

Caton was again named vice-chair, by acclamation.

Caton was elected as the board’s representative to the BC School Trustees Association Provincial Council, with Courtenay trustee Donna Gambacorta elected as the alternate.

Coleman was elected as the board’s representative to the BC Public School Employers’ Association Representative Council, with Grinham chosen as the alternate.