On Monday, October 30 I was honoured and proud to be elected as the Vancouver School Board Chairperson by my fellow trustees. I had the opportunity to make remarks at our inaugural board meeting and am now sharing them in this post.
Thank you to Musqueam Councillor Morgan Guerin for welcoming us to your traditional, unceded territory and for reminding us of the very important work to be done by this board.
I would like to start by acknowledging former VSB trustees in the audience tonight – Christopher Richardson, Al Blakey, Ruth Herman and Andrea Reimer. My thank yous also extend to everyone in this room as I know you’re here because you care about public education and in particular you care about Vancouver’s students.
We at this board table are the nine newly sworn in trustees chosen by Vancouver’s voters to serve our students. We bring who we are to this table – we all have different cultural histories, experiences at school, as well as differences in work backgrounds and in our families – but we all bring our commitment to perform the duties of our office and work together as a board with respect and consideration.
I look forward to working with the elected trustees as well as with Eugene Jeong our student trustee and I appreciate the trustees’ confidence in me as Chairperson and will always strive to carry out this role to the best of my ability. I also acknowledge and thank all the by-election trustee candidates as your voices enriched the campaign issues and discussions.
One aspect of the board’s responsibilities I’d like to highlight is that in 2015 the Vancouver School Board committed its full support to Reconciliation. I was honoured to be chosen to witness the 2016 signing of the Second Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement by eight representatives, including the VSB Superintendent & Chairperson, and Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow. Those signing acknowledged and honoured the collective responsibilities for the success of all Aboriginal learners attending school in the Vancouver School District and our new board must continue to embrace this responsibility.
Another aspect to highlight is the many relationships our new board will have to establish and nurture, not only with our stakeholders – students, parents, staff and all our employee representative groups – but also with other levels of government, such as the Minister and Ministry of Education and Vancouver’s Council & Parks Board, partner agencies and community partners. One relationship that will be unique among school districts is with our Special Advisor Dianne Turner. I look forward to our board working productively with you during our term and thank you for your work as the Official Trustee in the past year.
As a new board we must also tackle the immediate concern of recruitment and retention. The teacher recruitment challenges being experienced by the Vancouver School Board this year are unprecedented and ongoing. Having heard the committee updates in September and October I know how much effort has and is being put in by our recruitment staff and the Vancouver Teachers Federation, as well as how teachers and school teams are working together on behalf of their students. However, I also know that with unfilled positions and difficulties in getting teachers on call our district is not yet fully supporting every student and in particular we must keep working to ensure that students who need additional supports do receive those services.
I think it’s safe to say that all the trustees had the support of friends and family as candidates and will now have to balance their trustee responsibilities with all the other aspects of their lives. We have and will miss family dinners, ask for flexibility at work, and not attend sports events or performances – we have asked a lot of friends and family and I’d like to thank all of you who have and will support us.
And now after our inaugural meeting trustees will begin their orientation sessions and dive right into committee and board meetings. I would like to thank the VSB staff who have helped us in our transition and look forward to working with all staff in a respectful and considerate manner.
From L to R: Dianne Turner (special advisor), Carrie Bercic, Fraser Ballantyne, Ken Clement, Allan Wong, Janet Fraser, Joy Alexander, Judy Zaichkowsky, Estrellita Gonzalez, Lisa Dominato, Eugene Jeong (student trustee).