Crosstown Elementary

The Planning & Facilities Committee (II) and Special Board meetings of December 14 led to the new elementary school at International Village being named Crosstown Elementary, with the naming committee to be reformed in the school’s first year to consider the addition of an aboriginal name.

The name Crosstown does not resonate with me but the naming committee had broad representation including from the school and local community. As such I respect their recommendation for a name that is meaningful for their neighbourhood.  There are many good reasons to pick many of the 39 names suggested by the public as they would reflect either the location or the area’s cultural history:


At the Planning & Facilities committee meeting stakeholders generally supported the naming committee’s Crosstown recommendation but many also wanted to reflect Vancouver’s aboriginal cultural history.  For example, VESTA (Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association) recommended that, after consultation with the local First Nations community, the VSB select a name that reflects Aboriginal cultural history.  Several other VSB schools have dual names including Grandview Elementary/¿uuqinak’uuh and Point Grey/stəywəte:n Secondary.

Given that the VSB has made a commitment to reconciliation I believe the school naming/renaming policies should be reviewed in light of this commitment.


Crosstown Elementary construction in March 2016.



Board meeting – Dec 12

Routine board business came forward from committee reports:
Approval of three new secondary courses, International Studies 10, Photography 10 & Exercise Science 11, and approval of the Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) that lists all payments to trustees, all employees with a remuneration more than $75,000, and all suppliers of goods and services paid more than $25,000.

There were reports from private/restricted board meetings, including that two decisions had been made about VSB properties.  No further details were given so at the next board meeting I will ask for the properties to be identified, as well as the nature of the decisions.

The Official Trustee Dianne Turner reported on the VSB Heritage Committee, which is considering seismically unsafe schools with significant heritage value.  The members are getting to a common understanding of heritage school issues, for example the province does not provide any heritage funding during seismic upgrades and the cost of a heritage upgrade is often significantly more than building a new, safer school.

Question period had six questions, with three of mine, International Village, General Gordon and Special Advosor’s reported $1 million error:

  • Financing for the new International Village elementary school.
    The construction bids were higher than the pre-tender estimate and as the Ministry would not cover this unanticipated capital cost the previous board approved borrowing $1.6 million to move forward with construction. Staff reported that the Ministry has not given the required approval for the VSB to borrow this money, that it will be needed to complete the school, and that discussions are ongoing with the Ministry.
  • Supreme Court decision.
    Meetings are ongoing between the employer’s representatives, BCPSEA, and the BCTF.  There is no information about what the impact will be in Vancouver.
  • Fentanyl crisis.
    VSB is working with Vancouver Coastal Health and following their guidance on any actions to take.
  • Carleton Elementary fire.
    The insurance adjusters are working on this but there is no news.
  • General Gordon Elementary commemorative plaque.
    The VSB is responsible for the wording on this plaque.
  • $1 million error reported in Peter Milburn’s Special Advisor report.
    This “error” was a difference in opinion between the VSB’s auditor (the province’s Deputy Auditor General) and VSB staff that was resolved in the 2015/16 audited financial statements, as discussed at the September 21, 2016 Finance & Legal committee.  This relates to the classification of leases – the auditor accepted the VSB’s opinion that they should be considered operating leases and reported using the actual interest rate for the VSB, not a hypothetical rate available to the province.

Financial update, SOFI report

Highlights from the December 7 Finance & Legal Committee (V) meeting:

With the numbers from the first three months of the 2016/17 financial year, July/August/September, the projection to the end of the financial year, June 30, 2017, is an estimated $0.81M surplus on a total budet of about $500M.
On the plus side, the September student enrolment (compared to the budget estimates) reduces expenses, the income from 2016 summer school was greater than expected, and the province provided a small transportation grant.  Increased costs were the unfunded Administrative (Principals & Vice Principals) salary increases, rentals shortfall from Maquinna, Henderson & Laurier Annexes, and costs for the school closure process.


In response to questions:

  • The Principals & Vice Principals salary increases were not known when the budget was prepared.
  • The amount of the closure costs was not known when the budget was prepared and now the closure process is suspended the costs cannot be recovered from closure cost savings.
  • The additional PeopleSoft costs are not included as they were offset by other budget savings, they were expenditure neutral when implemented.
  • The full number of graduated adult students will come in the second quarter, Oct-Jan numbers will likely be higher than Jul-Sep.
  • The projected surplus/deficit is highly dependent on the September enrolment count.
  • Maquinna Annex is closed and not leased, there may be a tenant by July 2017.
  • Henderson and Laurier Annexes have no students but are not formally closed. Their operational cost savings are in the budget but they are not anticipated to be leased this year; they may be used by the VSB for seismic swing space or storage, and could be quickly reactivated for enrolment.
  • There are no budget numbers for the fire-damaged Carleton Elementary as the insurance is still being worked on.


The SOFI (Statement of Financial Information) report for 2015/16 was presented.  This includes:

  • All payments made to trustees
  • Renumeration and expenses for employees that are more than $75,000
  • Suppliers of goods and services where total payments are more than $25,000.

Staff noted that renumeration does not equal take-home pay or gross pay as it includes the value of benefits, and that expenses may include expenditures required for emplyees to perform their job functions – both as required in the provincial legislation.


In response to new business/inquiries:

  • The Official Trustee answered that the question “Why was the Special Advisor’s Report called a Forensic Audit?” would best be directed to the Minister of Education.
  • The Special Advisor’s report says there was “discovery of a $1 million error for the fiscal year 2015/16”.  Staff replied that the auditor and the VSB agreed to disagree on the interest rate to use in the financial statements – VSB asserts that the correct rate is the one it actually uses and not a hypothetical rate – and that this issue has been dealt with in the financial statments and the auditor’s report.  There will be no change to the surplus carry forward.

For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see:

Aboriginal Education Dept update, special needs student support website, new courses

Highlights from the December 7 Education and Student Services Committee (III) meeting:

Shared Success – Don Fiddler, District Principal of Aboriginal Education, gave an update on the work done to date by the Aboriginal Education Dept in 2016/17 and plans for the remainder of the year, referencing the Second Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement (2016-21) and Strategic Plan goals 1C, 3C & 3D.
It was reported that there is good progress on improving attendance in 2016/17 but the 2016 high school Dogwood graduation rate was disappointing at 63% (83 total students) – the three previous years were 78% in 2015, 79% in 2014 and 66% in 2013.  It was suggested that the low rate could be due to students moving or leaving the district and that affordability could be an issue as the most marginalized are often the most affected.  I think it would be helpful to look at this more closely to ensure there is a good understanding of this drop in graduation success.
In answer to a question students, most often through thier parents, self-identify as Aboriginal, and can do so at any point in their during their school years. And to another question, staff have not yet acted on a March 7, 2016 board motion about a Centre for Aboriginal Education, Culture and History.

Aboriginal Education Department update:

The district’s new Special Needs Student Support website was presented, aligning with Stratgic Plan goals 1A, 2A & 2D.  The intent is to provide a site where parents, staff and community members can access information about the VSB’s services and supports.  It was developed with feedback from the VSB special education advisory committee and staff in the district.  The website is a work in progress and feedback from families and staff, especially for the “Frequently Asked Questions”, is looked for.  A translation “plug” is being investigated for the site.
In answer to a question, one aspect of the Strategic Plan is to review the different VSB programs but a timeline has yet not been set, and this would be separate from any response to the recent Supreme Court decision.

Three new courses were recommended to be approved in line with Strategic Plan goal 1 “Engage our learners through innovative teaching and learning practices”.  The new courses are International Studies 10 and Photography 10 (2-credit), both at Churchill, and exercise Science 11 at Kitsilano.  The committee’s student representative was very pleased with these new courses.


For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see:

Strategic Plan and Standing Committees

Highlights from the Committee I meeting of November 30 include:

The five-year 2016-2021 Strategic Plan, unanimously approved in October by the elected nine trustees, was presented.  The VSB is hoping that this plan can help build a common vocabulary within the district to achieve the four goals more quickly.  It is expected that the plan will evolve over time – the guiding principles and goals will likely be unchanged but the priorities and actions will evolve over the five years.  It is expected that committee reports will reference the Strategic Plan, and that at a minimum there will be an annual progress report to Committee I.
Two VSB stakeholder representatives raised the point that Goal 4 “Provide effective leadership, governance and stewardship” includes “Advocate for public education” and that it will be important to see advocacy in this district.
A VSB stakeholder representative was pleased that discussion in one of the VSB’s internal advisory committees had already referenced back to the Strategic Plan.

I am pleased that the Official Trustee appears to be embracing and moving forward with the approved Strategic Plan as it was developed by a thoughtful process with considerable input and collaboration with VSB stakeholders.

A workshop to consider stakeholder communication, e.g. by standing committee and VSB internal advisory committees, has been arranged for all VSB stakeholders to act on Goal 4 “Support effective communication, engagement and community partnerships”.  The intent is for stakeholders’ voices to be heard at the beginning of the process and to learn what is and isn’t working well.  A report on the workshop will be presented at a future Committee I meeting.
A VSB stakeholder was nervous about standing committee discussions because of some of the governance recommendations in the most recent Special Advisor’s report but welcomed the opportunity to provide advice to the employer, and hopes openness is maintained.

I appreciate that the VSB is looking for input from stakeholders and look forward to the workshop report.

In response to a question about the student enrolment data presented at the last board meeting it was noted that the data is posted in the Superintendent’s Update.
A question was asked about the Aboriginal Focus School and how the VSB is supporting this school and community – there will be a report back at a future meeting.

Strategic Plan:

Student enrolment data:

For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see: