Why I’m running
The needs of students have felt like an afterthought for too long in Vancouver schools. Our school board has had difficulties listening to parents or the public, and parents expect more.
Years of underfunding have cut the Vancouver School Board’s budget to the bone. Some programs were drastically reduced or even cancelled. In 2017 alone, over 98 full-time-equivalent positions were cut at VSB, the 4th year in a row. Now funding is improving, it’s time to make sure VSB spent in schools and in the classroom.
[VSB] has over $700 million of deferred maintenance on its facilities - the highest in BC
VSB SPECIAL BOARD / COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE MAY 16 2018 MEETING AGENDA
Maintenance work neglected for years
Reports tell us that VSB does 25% of the maintenance work it should be doing. The extent of deferred maintenance is so alarmingly high that it was actually used by VSB in the 2016/17 school closures recommendations to justify closing some schools to save money.
Now that a new funding model is coming, It’s time to advocate to get enough so VSB can catch up and close the gap.
Adult Education sites cut to 25%, causing a 50% loss in enrollment
VSB was forced by years of provincial underfunding to save money by cutting prized and critical programs.
In 2016/17 the elementary Band and Strings program was cancelled. Some schools were forced to privately fund music instruction. This is neither equitable nor publicly funded musical education. Arts funding is decimated. Many special programs are gone.
Putting Vulnerable Students at Risk
The 2016-17 budget cut staff positions by over 98 jobs while retroactively giving 5% raises to senior staff. The 2017-18 budget cuts included cutting two adult-education sites Gathering Place and Gladstone Secondary, both heavily used by at-risk young adults and youth trying to turn their lives around by working towards their grade 12 equivalency.
Support staff for learners with special needs was cut and support programs for vulnerable students were cancelled.
That year, LGBTQ2+ parents and students had to ask for help from stakeholders to save the VSB anti-homophobia mentor staff position facing cancellation by the Official Trustee. After time consuming advocacy by affected students and community members, the position was saved, but not for long.
Despite the 2016 promise to keep the position, the Official Trustee went back on her pledge and removed the anti-homophobia mentor. The role was rolled together with the multicultural mentor into the new diversity mentor role.
To reduce her committee load, the Official Trustee also merged the committees they organized into the single “diversity” committee where people who do not understand one another’s issues now struggle to be heard. This is not inclusion.
When community concerns were raised about the loss of these measures to increase inclusion and resilience in marginalized students, they went nowhere.
Staff Hiring Fail
A hiring crisis in the 2017/18 school year due to new provincial classroom size requirements, accompanied by competition for teachers from other districts caused a loss of numerous teachers as some of our best teachers left for other districts.
Reports from the teachers union indicate VSB fumbled the hiring process that was required by the new classroom size requirements:
When The VSB initiated a process to evaluate closing 12 schools to save maintenance and heating costs, parents organized and advocated to keep these neighbourhood schools across the city open. 11 of the schools were in Vancouver’s East Side and a significant number were heavily attended by Vancouver’s most vulnerable students.
Thanks to widespread mobilization all 12 schools were saved, as now that new class size rules apply these schools are badly needed for classroom space.
The schools should never have been considered for closure. One year later, VSB is struggling to find enough classrooms and teachers to meet its obligations.
A Problem with Transparency and Due Dilligence
This year, the just-elected trustees made two major decisions. They decided to sell school land and they overhauled the district policy manual.
The decision to sell public land was in order to earn money by allowing BC Hydro to tear down a school and build a substation. Unfortunately the process lacked clarity. There was no public consultation. VSB ended up selling its underground land for far less than BC Hydro was willing to pay or than another use of the land would have earned for other use.
The board decided to embarked on an riskily ambitious rewrite of the policies and governance that defines the organization. They only had 12 months in their short mandate and knew it was not enough but still went ahead. It was a bad idea from the start and because of time pressures the process was rushed and mistakes were made. There was no time for public oversight. Internal review by VSB stakeholders was lacking. The public is only now noticing serious changes to VSB’s organization and governance.
Because of the result of the rushed policies the anti-homophobia mentor, the pride committee, the multicultural committee, and the multicultural mentor were permanently lost. The Official Trustee had single-handedly removed them during her time in office without stakeholder or public consultation. The new trustees should have undone her changes. Instead, the policies defining them were remove, completing the Official Trustee’s politically motivated after her departure.
Stakeholders are only now beginning to discover the sweeping changes in VSB policies - which staff and trustees assured me only less than weeks ago contained only minor changes.
This rushed decision undid years of advocacy by equity-seeking communities who had advocated for these resources for very good reason.
Shaun Kalley, the Vancouver DPAC chair who represents the parents of all children enrolled at VSB noted in September 2018 that:
The above actions caused by a lack of consultation and a lack of transparency will cause ripples for years to come.
Learners Deserve Accountable Governance
I am running to help return VSB to sound, intentional, and determined governance. A school district’s central role is to provide the best possible education for learners. It is to ensure it provides safe and inclusive schools while living up to the social responsibilities that an institution with a $500 million budget incurs.
Our students have been denied the education that they deserve for far too long. If elected to serve as a school trustee, I have a strong reputation for getting to the root of the issue and for addressing injustice and imbalance honestly and transparently.
Because I am an independent candidate, I will be there for voters. I will make sure the work that needs to be done happens and I will be rigorous. I will not shy away from asking difficult questions that need to be answered. I will leverage my record of advocacy to fight for equitable access to excellent education for all learners in safe and inclusive schools.
Because you expect more.