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

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

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

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:  http://www.vsb.bc.ca/vsb2021

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

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.

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.