K-12 and adult education enrolment

Enrolment was on the agenda for the January 4 Committee I meeting.

The report gives updated enrolment and projected enrolment up to 2031.  A slow decline in the number of students is anticipated until 2030 and, based on my neighbourhood experience, lack of affordable housing for families with young children is a huge factor.  We have seen, and continue to see, many families move to Richmond, Burnaby and Surrey, and this is true for both renters and buyers.
The percent of students attending public school has remained stable for the last 10 years, at about 83%.
Elementary and Secondary District Choice Programs are listed by enrolment and by far the most students are in French Immersion.
Numbers are given for Out of Catchment enrolments from 2012-16, including the number of students, and the percentage of students by regular (not including district choice programs) and total enrolment.  More students are attending their catchment schools in 2016 than 2012, 77% compared to 75%, and so the numbers of out of catchment students are declining.
I believe that every catchment school can provide an excellent education for most students (there are district programs for students with special learning needs) and would like to ensure that all families know that their neighbourhood school is a good option for student learning.


Adult education
Once again the numbers of adult education students are disappointing and in particular the number of graduated adult students dropped sharply in 2015/16, to a third of the level in the previous two years.


This two-thirds reduction, about 2,000 students, can be tied directly to the May 2015 removal of provincial funding for academic courses and the introduction of a $550 course fee.  The provincial government has put in place a financial barrier for students wanting to upgrade their high school academic courses to access post-secondary education/improve their employment prospects and this barrier should be removed.


Committee stakeholders asked about the distribution of K-12 international students by grade and the number of courses students take in Grades 10-12.  Data was not immediately available but will be provided.
Questions were also asked about the financial viability of adult education with the new graduated adult fees, and how capacity is calculated.  Some stakeholders also expressed their dismay at the province’s lack of support for adult education and called for advocacy to reverse the cuts.
A stakeholder also requested an update on the Living Wage report that came to Committee I in 2016.

Seeking to represent Vancouver-Langara as a Green MLA

I am seeking the nomination to become a Green Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in my home riding of Vancouver-Langara.

Here’s the media release that captures my motivation to run:

The lone Green elected to the Vancouver School Board (VSB) in 2014 – serving as the swing vote on School Board – and one of nine trustees dismissed by the Minister of Education in October last year, Janet Fraser is seeking the BC Green Party nomination in her home riding of Vancouver-Langara.

After the recent dismissal of the locally elected VSB Trustees by the BC Liberal Minister of Education, Fraser is running to champion public education amongst other pressing provincial issues. Says Fraser: “In 2014, I ran to become a VSB Trustee because I care deeply about Vancouver’s students and our public education system. As a trustee I always based my decisions on what is best for our students and believe that my hard work, evidence-based and considered decision making, building of respectful relationships and effective advocacy have served them well. Now that all nine locally-elected VSB trustees have been dismissed by the Minister of Education, I am taking this opportunity to champion public education, good governance, meaningful climate leadership and an inclusive 21st-century green economy in my campaign to become the next MLA in my home riding of Vancouver-Langara.”

Janet was born in the UK and completed all her schooling there, earning B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry from the University of Bristol. She moved to Vancouver in 1993 and worked as a research chemist, project manager and at-home parent for her three children before being elected in 2014. Janet has lived in Marpole for 15 years and is active in her community, with ten years’ of experience in elementary school PAC leadership, engagement in the City’s Marpole planning process, and volunteering for her children’s hockey, soccer and baseball teams.

Janet hopes to become the BC Green candidate and, ultimately, MLA for Vancouver-Langara and is looking forward to campaigning. She notes: “I am excited to be seeking the BC Green Party nomination for Vancouver-Langara and appreciate the support of both my family (this will be more experiential social studies learning for my school-aged children), friends and Green supporters as I undertake this journey. I look forward to meeting and learning from Vancouver-Langara constituents as I work to become the next MLA for this riding.”


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.

Report: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/16Dec7_op_commV_agenda_item%201.pdf

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.

Report: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/Committee%20V%20attachment.pdf

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: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/board-committees

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.

Report: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/16Dec07_op_commIII_item%203.pdf 

For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/board-committees

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: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/board-committees

Board meeting – Nov 21

It was very strange to be at the one-trustee board meeting as a member of the public but I have had many such adjustments since all nine former trustees were dismissed last month.  My hope and expectation is that no matter who is on the board student success in safe schools will be the focus in our district.

As this was the first board meeting with the Official Trustee Dianne Turner she talked about her background in education, and in particular her time as a teacher, vice principal and principal in Vancouver.  Acting Superintendent John Lewis also spoke to his educational background as well as his temporary role in assisting the district and supporting the superintendent to return.

Student trustee Isabella Preite introduced Roger Wang, the Vancouver District Student Council (VDSC) Student Issues Officer.  Roger’s role is to bring specific issues occurring in schools to Isabella’s attention and they will work together to raise them at the board.  Isabella also reported on her attendance at the Ontario student trustee conference and the annual secondary school CANley cup competition for non-perishable food donations.

Acting Superintendent John Lewis spoke in detail about the recently approved five-year strategic plan – the vision statement, objectives, priorities, actions and performance targets that will be implemented and reported on.  I appreciate that this board is embracing the new strategic plan as it was developed with input from all VSB stakeholders through a careful and deliberate process.
He also reported that this year’s FTE student enrolment is about 250 lower than last year, in line with the projected enrolment.  The decline in enrolment is slowing, from about 900 and 600 in the previous two years, but as the Grade 11 and 12 cohorts are bigger than the quite consistent K-Grade 10 cohorts the next two years might also have declining enrolment.

The 2016/17 budget, as proposed and implemented in June, was passed.  The Interim Secretary-Treasurer Guy Bonnefoy said a broader five-year budget plan was being developed and that the 2017/18 budget process will continue to include consultation.  The Official Trustee Dianne Turner spoke to the need for predictable provincial funding, especially when planning a five-year budget, and the challenge of provincial funds being released late in the budget process as happened twice last year.

The Official Trustee Dianne Turner had requested that the City of Vancouver allow VSB staff to take on the liaison roles previously held by trustees at City advisory councils, but Council voted to allow former trustees to continue as non-voting members. The VSB will ask the City to reconsider as the former trustees no longer represent the VSB.  I think it would be helpful to have both former trustees and VSB staff liaisons attend these meetings.
I will continue to try to attend (there is often conflict with VSB meetings) my three City advisory committees, ATPC, UAPAC and VFPC .

Questions were submitted and it appeared that all those with a submitter’s name were answered:
How many secondary classes are over the maximum class size? This information was not available at the meeting but can be sent to the questioner.
Are the enrolment numbers for headcount or FTE?  For K-Grade 9 headcount is the same as FTE.  For Grades 10-12 funding is by course count and data is FTE.
Will a letter be sent to parents this year about the FSA?  No decision yet.
The Strategic Plan talks about strong community connections – will Britannia be used as a role model?  No details on community connections yet.
Is seismic mitigation funding available from the federal government? The VSB will work with the province to see if more funding is available.
Will the VSB rejoin BCSTA? The cost, about $80,000, and benefits will be considered in the 2017/18 budget but funding is very tight.
Process for naming the new elementary school at International Village? There will be another naming committee meeting that will consider any new input before the next Planning & Facilities Committee (II) meeting.
Advocate for adequate funding?  First priority is for predictable funding so can plan for 5 years.
Can changes to the board meetings be made without going through committee?  Yes, within bylaws and policies.
Can the notices of motion be dismissed?  Yes as there was no one to speak to them.

This meeting had a large audience and I appreciate the interest in how our district is moving forward.  The next board meeting is on December 12.

For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/board-committees

Naming of the new school at International Village – Nov 14

The Planning & Facilities Committee (II) meeting of November 14 was the first VSB committee meeting held by the Official Trustee Dianne Turner.

A new elementary school is being built at International Village (on Expo Boulevard between Carrall and Abbott, next to Andy Livingstone Park) as more students are living downtown.  To foster this new school’s community and culture, from September 2014 classes were enrolled and temporarily located at Seymour Elementary.  It is expected that students and staff will move into the new school buildings after the March 2017 spring break.

The new school’s naming committee met several times during 2016 and after considering names submitted by the public brought forward two for consideration, Arthur Erickson and Crosstown, and recommended Crosstown.  Arthur Erickson was a notable Vancouver resident, internationally known as one of Canada’s greatest architects and Crosstown is the geographical area of the new school. Both names meet Board policy for a new school.

While I appreciate the naming committee’s work and their forward-looking recommendation I am concerned that the Crosstown neighbourhood name is not well established and may never catch on.  Given the long historical and cultural/ethnic history in this area that many consider to be part of Vancouver’s Chinatown it may be more appropriate to build on this history in naming the new school.

Several stakeholder representatives raised the concern that given the short meeting notice they had not been able to consider the recommended name with their groups.  The Official Trustee confirmed that their next meetings would be before the next Planning & Facilities meeting on December 14, so I presume their input will be considered as the recommended name was not forwarded to the VSB board meeting.
In addition former trustee Allan Wong suggests reaching out to organizations around the new school and of naming the school to honour Alexander Won Cumyow, the only Chinese person registered to vote in the election before (1890) and after (1949) the Chinese were disenfranchised.

Finally there were three inquires and responses.
The school closure process for Henderson and Laurier Annexes (both with no students) is delayed and there are no immediate lease opportunities.
Staff continue to have discussions with the City of Vancouver about revisions to the Britannia Tri-Party agreement.
For the Gordon Yellow School house staff are discussing a potential lease with an applicant.

Naming of New School at International Village Report: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/sites/default/files/16Nov14_Item%201%20-%20Naming%20of%20New%20School%20at%20International%20Village.pdf

For full agenda and minutes (when posted) see: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/board-committees




VSB: Looking back and moving forward

On November 15, 2014 nine trustees were elected by Vancouver voters to guide our students’ success – trustees develop and implement plans and policies, set the budget, and speak up for our students.  We were locally elected to listen to our communities to best understand our district’s strengths, challenges and the demands on our system.

On October 17, 2016 our entire board, all nine trustees, were dismissed from office by the Minister of Education.  I am very disappointed and saddened that the locally elected trustees can no longer represent the Vancouver electorate and that for at least a year there will be a single Official Trustee.

As a former trustee and a parent of three children in Vancouver’s schools I care about public education in Vancouver and across BC and want to continue to work on behalf of our students.  I want to continue to listen to our VSB stakeholders, including students, parents, staff and community members and can be contacted by email at janetfraservancouver@gmail.com or by text 604-362-1826.

I will go to VSB board and committee meetings while the Official Trustee holds office so as to know what is happening in our district and how the decisions are made.  Key questions are what proposals can be made for a balanced 2017/18 budget when there is an estimated $15 million shortfall, what will happen with the suspended school closure process, and the future of non-school sites such as Kingsgate Mall.

In our nearly two years as a board we developed and approved two significant plans:

  • Long Range Facilities Plan (May 2016): To guide facilities planning to 2030 and ensure timely completion of the Seismic Mitigation Program.
  • Five-year Strategic Plan and 2016-17 Priorities (October 2016): A framework to implement prioritized key objectives to achieve the vision of inspiring student success by providing an innovative, caring and responsive learning environment.

These plans were both developed with significant VSB stakeholder and community input and were passed unanimously by our board.

Key motions approved include one I introduced to protect school lands for generations of students to come: That the VBE commit to not sell school lands but maintain or increase our current number of school sites to preserve neighbourhood sites for current and future educational and community use. This would not preclude land swaps or the sale of portion of school sites provided that educational programs could still be offered.
Our board also recently approved a lease/license policy to not lease property to independent schools to secure public capital assets for community use and maintain our student enrolment.

My hope is that the Official Trustee will acknowledge and honour the direction set by our elected board as she makes decisions during her term in office.
My hope is that she will continue the highly valued practice of consulting with VSB stakeholders, students, parents, all our employee groups and community members, to fully understand our diverse and complex district.

The VSB focus should be, as always, student success in safe buildings.

Long Range Facilities Plan:
Public Consultation Report for Long Range Facilities Plan:
Strategic Plan:
Strategic Plan, 2016-17 Priorities:
Not sell school lands motion:
Policy FO: Lease / License to Occupy Selection Criteria: