Provincial election – BC Greens candidate for Vancouver-Langara

I am very proud to be the BC Greens MLA candidate in my home riding of Vancouver-Langara and will focus on my campaign from now until the provincial election on May 9.
I will keep up-to-date with what’s happening at the VSB, for example by reading agendas, reports and minutes, but until after the election I will less frequently attend meetings and blog about what’s happening less frequently.
I am committed to public education, care deeply about our students, and seek to serve them to the best of my ability.

VSB investigation into harassment in the workplace

This is the media release with my response to this investigation.

The Vancouver School Board (VSB) released the full investigator’s report that found bullying and harassment existed at the VSB.

Former Trustee Janet Fraser, elected as a Green Trustee in November 2014, believes that Trustees should be subject to full public scrutiny as to how they undertook their governance role. As such she contacted the VSB to inform them that she consents to the disclosure of her personal information in this report. She has received confirmation that any personal information relating to her has been disclosed.

“This report concludes that the partisan behaviour of some trustees prevailed over trustees working collaboratively as a board and with VSB staff, which created a toxic and unsustainable environment for staff,” she noted.

“The report noted specific incidents where certain trustees seemed inclined to follow a political agenda rather than seek information on which to base their decisions and engage in thoughtful discussion to assist their decision making. With hindsight I realise I could have spoken up, especially in public meetings, to attempt to curb trustees’ disrespectful behaviour and to try to ensure a safe and respectful workplace for all VSB staff,” said Fraser.

“As a newly elected trustee, I stepped into a pre-existing board dynamic that I found overly partisan and very challenging to work in. I did not fully appreciate the impact that inappropriate behaviour by other trustees was having on VSB staff and, looking to the future, it will be the responsibility of all future trustees to create and maintain a safe and respectful workplace.”

Janet Fraser’s focus as a trustee was always serving Vancouver’s students; working to give them the best opportunities for educational success and making decisions in their best interests.


Board meeting – Feb 27

Notes from the February 27 board meeting.

The VSB public meetings to consider the BC Hydro downtown substation proposal, which will impact Lord Roberts Annex, have been moved back to ensure all reports are complete.  The Planning & Facilities Committee (II) meeting will now be on March 27, with the decision to be made at a March 28 board meeting.

The student trustee Isabella Priete reported on Vancouver District Student Council (VDSC) activities.  A new website is being launched and it’s all the work of Vancouver students.  This will give easy access to current information and give opportunities for student feedback.
The VDSC survey results have two main themes – students want more diverse opportunities to show their learning as there are many types of learners, and the timing of the school day, in particular a later start time.
As Isabella is a Kitsilano student she took part, along with 1400 Kits students, in the whole school assembly and pink day parade on Broadway.  Pink day gave a great sense of community as everyone at the school came together for this great cause.

All recommendations in committee reports were approved, and all were routine school board business.  For the amended budget it was clarified that the $50/student provincial funding is not included yet.  Legal fees have more than doubled compared to last year, primarily due to more freedom of information requests.  The fee recovery is set in legislation – the first two hours work are free and subsequent hours are charged at $30/hour, but these amounts do not cover the VSB actual costs.  The budget is moving from a one-year to a five-year plan, to tie in with the five-year strategic plan.

Any targeted provincial funds received now that the amended budget has been approved will be recorded as such.  Any amounts not spent by the end of the financial year (June 30, 2017) will be recorded as a committed surplus.
Will there be more time for budget consultation if needed?  The schedule is as posted.
The VSB has received and is reviewing the independent investigator’s report required by WorkSafeBC.
The VSB will not prepare a restoration budget as they have moved to a new budget process with the intent to depoliticize the process.

For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see:


Gordon Yellow Schoolhouse

Highlights from the February 22 Planning & Facilities Committee (II) meeting.

I would like to think that an appropriate, fully funded use for the Gordon Yellow Schoolhouse is possible.  However, given the current poor state of public education funding, I could not support spending any VSB funds on this, or any building, not required for student education.

In March 2016 the elected board passed a motion that directed that the VSB seek proposals for retaining and restoring the Gordon Yellow Schoolhouse that included (1) the VSB be reimbursed for any incremental costs incurred, and (2) that the proponent assumes responsibility for all costs of planning, restoring, and future maintenance of the building in accordance with uses approved by the VSB and the City of Vancouver.
A second motion was that the board authorized the demolition of the Schoolhouse if no acceptable proposals are received by May 20.

At this meeting there were seven delegations.  Six delegations, local residents, a residents’ association and heritage groups, supported saving the building. The Gordon PAC said that the space should be used to the benefit of the Gordon community – the building should either be demolished to increase playground space or be used to benefit the school community, for example as daycare, pre-school or after-school community space.

The Official Trustee said that because the VSB heritage liaison committee has not discussed this issue any decision will come after the committee has met.

VSB staff, in answer to a question, said this space is not suitable for teaching students.  A teacher representative said any board money must go to students and is concerned about the amount of resources the VSB is committing to this building.

Finally, a stakeholder requested updates on the Kingsford-Smith, Jamieson and Carleton seismic and repair projects.


Health & safety policy, shortlisting of On-Call teachers

Highlights from February 22 Personnel & Student Services Committee (IV).

WorkSafeBC requires that an organization’s occupational health and safety program be supported in the form of a policy.  The new draft policy and regulation were developed by the District Health and Safety Committee and are recommended by the District and Union partners.


VSB district staff is piloting an online assessment called the Educator’s Professional Inventory (EPI) to help shortlist On-Call teachers.  This is one of the tools to shortlist candidates including recent reaching evaluations and/or final practicum reports, education and references.  Only external candidates are required to do the assessment and all data is stored in Canada.  District staff are currently analyzing whether the EPI scores align with hiring decisions – which I assume will be reported back to this committee.

Teacher representatives raised a number of concerns including using a quantitative tool to assess people, how the test was developed, whether it would be useful for the VSB, whether the test is mandatory, timing out during the assessment, and the validity of the questions.  District staff will have further conversations with teacher representatives.

EPI information:

For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see:

2016/17 budget update, proposed 2017/18 budget process/timeline & shortfall estimate

Highlights from the February 22 Finance & Legal Committee (V).

The 2016/17 budget has been updated with actual spending and revised projections to year end (June 30, 2017) with an estimated $1.04 million surplus, about one-fifth of 1% of the annual budget.  With budgeting to average, close forecasting and small contingencies there are no longer large in-year surpluses.  It is anticipated that any surplus would be carried forward to 2017/18 to address the estimated $12 million shortfall.

The SCC interim funding of $4.45M is not yet in the budget.
Legal expenses are more than double last year’s, primarily due to increased freedom of information requests.
Utilities budgets have been amended to reflect the cold weather.
Examples of non-cyclical items for sale and leaseback are furniture & instructional materials.
There are fewer International student refunds and this can be addressed further at the Education and Student Services Committee (III).


The proposed 2017/18 budget process/timeline is similar to last year’s with the addition of an online survey for public and stakeholder input.  The budget will be presented on April 6.  What is different is that a five-year financial plan will be presented, to match the five-year strategic plan.
The Official Trustee will be asking the Ministry for clarity on district funding, as it needs to be dependable, adequate and stable for a five-year plan, and in the past it has been a moving target.
Staff commented that three years of education funding was announced in the provincial budget, and that they are assuming the amount announced only covers class size and composition funding resulting from the SCC court case, not any additional monies.

The estimated 2017/18 $12 million shortfall is made up from $9 million carried forward from previous one-time cuts and $3 million due to inflation and enrolment decline.

There could be news in the next couple of weeks about how the Ministry will move forward with the fire-damaged Carleton Elementary.


For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see:

School calendar 2017/18

Highlights from the single item Education & Student Services Committee (III) meeting of February 1.

The committee stakeholders agreed with the two recommendations, the proposed 2017/18 non-instructional dates and changing the winter break dates to align with neighbouring districts, and the Official Trustee will approve the recommendations at the February 27 board meeting.

The non-instructional days are five ProD days, two with flexible dates, and two curriculum implementation days.  commiii_2017_02

The dates for the 2017/18 winter break, Dec 18 – Jan 1, were set in March 2016 but other districts’ dates were not fully confirmed.  Neighbouring districts have now confirmed Dec 25 – Jan 5 (last day of school will be Dec 22, first day Jan 8) and the primary reason to align dates is that many VSB staff are parents of school-age children and live in other school districts.

Some staff and parents have already committed to travel plans or vacation days based on the original dates and the Official Trustee acknowledged that changing the dates will impact these families.  VSB staff will sympathetically address such situations on a case-by-case basis for both employees or students.

Thank you to all the stakeholder representatives on the calendar committee, and for the student input, for your thoughtful consideration which resulted in a consensus on these recommendations.


For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see:

Strategic plan and enrolment projections

Highlights from the February 1 Committee I meeting:

“Why does the VSB need a Strategic Plan?” – to define priorities, assist decision making, to communicate with stakeholders, and to have a framework to support student achievement and well being.  Ten communication actions are underway and an action plan for the first year was presented.  A yearly update will be given at the June Committee I meeting and committee reports can address specific issues.

Stakeholders commented that they are very pleased to see the action plan to have focus and accountability. They also commented that advocacy is in the strategic plan – the Official Trustee envisions advocating for goals identified in the strategic plan that cannot be achieved, for example because of lack of funding. She will be writing to the Minister about the funding for adult education academic courses citing examples of graduated adult students who cannot access specific courses they need to get into post-secondary programs.

There was also a question about the seismic status of Macdonald Elementary – this is being looked at with the parents/school staff/ principal in the context of Ministry funding for a new school and/or another building – with the need to keep the integrity and excitement that’s currently at the school.

Strategic Plan:

The VSB is submitting its three year enrolment estimate to the Ministry this month.  For the past 5 years the estimates were within 0.3% of the actual enrolment for the next year.  K-12 enrolment is based on estimates from Baragar Systems while supplemental (IEP, ELL, Aboriginal, Summer Learning, Distributed Learning and Adult Education) enrolment is estimated by the VSB.  Funding impacts will be considered separately.

For the 2017/18 school year enrolment is estimated to drop by 227 K-12 students, with an increase of 52 elementary students but a decrease of 385 secondary students.  The number of Kindergarten students entering the VSB is several hundred lower than the number of graduating Grade 12s – this has been the case for many years and will continue next year, after which the decrease is expected to be smaller for several years.

There was discussion about special needs designations – last year’s audit ensures accurate numbers of current designations, there could be changes to designations, and the Ministry could be looking to review the whole designation system.
The discussion also considered the Supreme Court ruling – there is no news yet about September’s implementation but the VSB is communicating with the Ministry about the need to know as soon as possible as secondary students are choosing courses and placements are underway for both elementary and secondary district choice programs.


For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see:

Board meeting – Jan 23

Highlights from the January 23 board meeting – there were no decisions but information was provided.

Don Fiddler, the District Principal of Aboriginal Education, presented “Shared Success” a review of the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement 2016-21.

The superintendent’s update included:

  • The additional $4.4 million resulting from the Supreme Court case will fund 96 FTE positions.  Allocations of staff will be communicated to schools this Friday, part-time staff can apply, then any remaining positions will be posted by mid-February.
  • BC Hydro has proposed to build a new electricity substation under the VSB school site at Lord Roberts Annex downtown.  The VSB has not made any decisions on this proposal and will closely follow the BC Hydro consultation, a district staff person will attend each public event to observe and listen.  An independent sub-contractor will prepare a safety report.
  • Van Horne students learned about Coast Salish culture and traditions as they helped carve a post featuring two salmon swimming upstream.  The master carvers, Splash and Harry, taught how they reveal what’s inside the wood through carving.
  • The new downtown Crosstown Elementary has started registering students and priority will be given to in-catchment students.

Isabella Preite, the student trustee, reported on VDSC activities:

  • High school students will be surveyed about school start times.
  • The VDSC is exploring ways to get students (especially those who are 18  by the provincial election date) excited about voting.
  • An Arts Gala is being planned for the spring, tentatively on May 10 at Magee.
  • A march against discrimination is being planned for the spring, tentatively in March.

The three committee reports had no decision recommendations and the only update was that the VSB has met with the Kingsford-Smith Elementary PAC about their seismic upgrade timing. Work will start on the school’s exterior after spring break but students will stay on site until the end of the school year. In September 2017 the school will move to temporary accommodation at MacCorkindale and Champlain Heights for one year while the seismic work is completed.

Questions/answers included:

  • Advocacy for adult education funding:  Communication will continue as in the past.
  • Special Advisor’s report:  The VSB is communicating with the Ministry about their expectations for a response – this will come to a standing committee.
  • Budget:  The amended 2016/17 budget will be presented at the February Finance & Legal Committee V meeting. The 2017/18 budget will tie in to the strategic plan and look forward five years – this is a more complex process and the process (which will include opportunities for public input)/timeline may come to a special Committee V meeting.
  • Adequate funding for the SCC court case:  The VSB has given input through BCPSEA.
  • Two motions regarding VSB properties reported from private session:  No further information can be given.
  • 2014 VSB report on possible impacts of BCTF Supreme Court case:  This report was provided in camera and cannot be made public.
  • VSB investigation into unsafe workplace allegations:  The report is delayed and now expected in February due to the sudden death of the investigator’s husband.
  • Sustainability Action Plan:  A report will be presented at the March Committee I meeting.
  • Safety of BC Hydro proposal:  It is anticipated that the name of the independent sub-contractor can be put on the VSB website.
  • Advocacy:  There is ongoing communication between the official trustee and the Ministry, for example a meeting with the deputy ministers for capital and finance.
  • Renaming Macdonald Elementary:  This process was temporarily suspended but will restart.
  • General Gordon Yellow Schoolhouse:  The VSB has ongoing lease discussions but nothing is resolved including any additional costs for retaining the building.
  • Maquinna Annex:  The VSB is considering potential uses and is in discussion with potential lease candidates.
  • Long Range Facilities Plan: The “Appendix P: Possible Timeframe for Implementation” that covers competing seismic upgrades by 2030 is being revised.
  • Mitchell Island fire:  Quick and appropriate action was taken immediately – schools were advised and actions included closing ventilation systems and windows.


Support for School Success Partnership, reporting/communicating student learning, early Mandarin bilingual program

Highlights of the January 4 Education & Student Services Committee include:

Support for School Success
This partnership program operates at the Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre and supports a smooth transition to Kindergarten and improves access to healthcare.  Referred vulnerable students/families take part in assessment and reporting before they enter Kindergarten so supports can be in place when they start school in the fall.  Families are invited to sessions at Ray-Cam and the healthcare and education professionals co-ordinate their meetings at this one location.
In 2016 there were 37 referrals, most from the local daycare or preschool staff, and all the children had at least one follow up, for example dental, vision, speech language, public health nurse, speech language pathologist, or pediatrician. For the VSB 10 students were assigned MoE designations before the end of September funding deadline and all students will be monitored by their school based teams.
In 2017 another set of students will be referred, VCH and RICHER are considering expanding this model in our area and in 2016 the Provincial Office of the Early Years identified this program as a promising practice.
I’m very pleased to learn more about this partnership program that supports some of the VSB’s most vulnerable students entering Kindergarten in Tier 1 schools.


Reporting and Communicating Student Learning
The report details the Ministry requirements and the VSB’s preparations to implement new practices.  For most students parents will continue to have a minimum of five reports, three formal written reports and two informal, such as conferences, emails, or phone calls.  Some schools have already moved towards new practices and here parents must be consulted/informed of changes and the school must provide information from current report cards (letter grades, etc) if requested.
A steering committee and working groups will be set up to revise VSB policy and implement changes for K-9 students, changes for 10-12 students will follow, with implementation in the first term of the 2017/18 school year.


Early Mandarin Bilingual (EMB) Program Transition to Secondary
This Norquay Elementary program has 173 students in K-6 and the first students will move to secondary school in September 2018.  A survey of EMB families showed that continuing a Mandarin bilingual program is their most important factor in choosing a secondary school.  The VSB will need to decide on a suitable secondary school location, the secondary course content and the percentage of instruction in Mandarin.  An EMB secondary transition committee will be formed to look closely at these factors.


Stakeholders asked questions about the programs and the structure of the proposed committees.