Thursday, March 25, 2010

Budget Update: $6 million deficit for 2010/11

At Tuesday's board meeting School District Secretary-Treasurer Irene Young updated the Trustees on the budget situation based on the new funding formula and annual grant allocations from the Ministry.

There have been a number of changes to the way funding is determined this year, with the Ministry touting increases to education funding but the reality is that the increases have not kept up with costs. Making this worse is that the ministry is shifting even more of the funding this year to be provided on a per student basis. On the surface this appears reasonable but in effect it disconnects the funding from the real costs of local education such as salaries, staff, maintenance, utilities and buildings all of which go up every year.

This budget forecast takes into account a number of changes coming into effect in the next 3 years.
  • New ministry funding formula
  • Enrollment decline grant and teacher reductions
  • Teacher salary increases (2%)
  • Pension increases (1%)
  • MSP + WCB increases
  • Annual facilities grant reinstatement ($1.5m of prior $3m)
  • All day kindergarten implementation funding ($200,000)
  • Ridgeway Annex & Balmoral closure savings
The net effect of all the changes is that if the district maintains the current teachers, staff, schools then the district will have a shortfall of $6 million for next year and a need to cut a further $3 million from the budget over the next two years.

This year, 2009/2010 the school districts budget was $137 million a year, with $123 million of that being staffing costs.

  • In 2010/2011 the budget needs to be cut to $131 million a year.
  • In 2011/2012 it will be $128.5 million a year
  • In 2012/2013 it will be down to $126 million per year.
Balancing the budget means that the district will need to cut $10 million from the annual budget by 2013.

Understanding Annual Budget Changes

One of the challenges in this years budget discussions has been understanding the annual versus cumulative budget impacts. The table below attempts to sort all this out now that we know the ministries budget plans for next year.
  • The forecast budget change is what impact the known revenue and cost changes will have relative to the previous years budget.
  • The cumulative annual budget impact shows how the changes appear relative to the current 2009 budget, which is the baseline the district is working from as the district considers its cuts for next year.
  • The cumulative funding shortfall adds these year over year deficits up to understand how much money in total is being cut from the system over the next three years.
  • The Forecast Annual Budget is how much in total funding the District will have to pay for salaries and operations in the coming years.
When you look at this in the context of where the money is spent on staffing versus operational costs the impact of these cuts on staff and students is going to be significant. We see that in the 23 items the administration have come up with to cut costs for next year and we see it in the proposal to close schools. These are already deep cuts, where will the $3 million dollars in further cuts come from over the next two years?

$ Millions2009201020112012
Forecast Budget Change (year to year)-$6.1-$2.4-$1.2
Cumulative Annual Budget Impact (rel.2009)-$6.1-$8.5-$9.7
Cumulative Funding Shortfall (rel.2009)-$6.1-$14.5-$24.2
Forecast Annual Budget$137$130.8$128.4$127.2
Staffing Costs (salaries + benefits)$123.5
Supplies, Operations and Utilities$12.9
Capital Expenses$0.6

Alternate Program - March 18th Discussion Summary

In the alternative programs working group last Thursday we had an excellent discussion. The process we followed was to brainstorm different scenarios under three key categories: Consolidation, Closure and Cohabitation.
  • Consolidation means the programs would merge together or with mainstream programs while trying to preserve key elements that support the students
  • Closure means the elimination of a program
  • Cohabitation means that the programs share a building, some resources and possibly administration but the programs retain their identify and special approaches. Presently all alternative programs except the Keith Lynn program cohabit the Lucas Centre.
Each group came up with quite a number of scenarios. I was encouraged by the range of ideas and the open minded approach. We posted all these idea on the wall then broke into teams of two. Each pair then added plusses and minuses to each worksheet. This enabled the group to capture many perspectives in a rapid way. These will be consolidated for discussion in the third session.

We then changed direction to go back to a discussion we had in session 1 about how to collect student input to the working group. While everyone valued the idea that student input would be important there were different views on how to collect this data without causing the students un-needed stress. In some of the programs the students have challenges which would make direct participation in the workgroup difficult. After discussing the issues off-line with key stakeholders the facilitator recommended that we not include direct input from the students at this stage, but that the representative from each program develop a suitable method that fits their individual character. The focus of the desired input will be on any issues with transition should one of the proposed changes be implemented. Ideas were then shared as to how to do this.

In conclusion we reviewed our action plan for the next meeting and concluded that there would be three homework assignments. Assignment one was to review the minutes and data collected in the meeting to ensure that it was captured correctly. Assignment two was to gather more feedback from stakeholders outside the team on the options. Assignment three was to examine all the plusses and minuses to try to see common themes so that we could structure the conversation efficiently in session three.

Thanks to Mike Sexsmith for sending this summary

Monday, March 22, 2010

NVPAC Restructuring Survey

NVPAC are asking all parents to complete a survey to help us understand parent perspective on the issues being discussed as part of the working group restructuring meetings.

Please help us to get this message and the link below out to parents throughout the district. Input on restructuring from all parents in North Vancouver School District is valuable to NVPAC. The survey has 18 questions and should take about 10 minutes.

Thank you for your time. We would like to have the survey sent out right away so we can have the results by March 29th, compile them and have them made available to the community before the next working group meeting .
NVPAC Restructuring Survey

Friday, March 19, 2010

Windsor FOS Working Group Discussion - March 18th

The Windsor FOS discussion last night began with Ian Abercrombie providing a more detailed rationale concerning the potential replacement of Blueridge, Lynnmour, Plymouth and Seymour Heights with 2 new schools at Seymour Heights and Lynnmour.
Roundtable Discussion
The discussion then provided an opportunity for the groups involved to share their positions on the potential closure of schools and on the budget discussions from the previous meeting.
  • First the group agrees that we all want to have a long term plan and stability in the area and we recognize that the immediate decision needs to consider the longer term replacement plans.
  • Second we all agree that we need to do everything we can to ensure the best possible transition for students to the new configuration.
The time required to allow open consideration of different positions meant that the group struggled to gain momentum in terms of comparing the advantages and disadvantages of different potential configurations of the schools for next year. It is important that everyone be able to openly share perspective in this process but doing so takes time and the group may need more time than the one meeting remaining to cover all the issues.
Homework: Considering the alternatives
To help things along and prepare for the next discussion the group has been asked to do our homework and consider the potential advantages and disadvantages of the possible configurations for Sept 2010 in a number of areas and to bring both that feedback and identification of potential transition issues for discussion at the next meeting on April 1st.
What are the pluses, minuses and issues if next year students will be attending Blueridge and Plymouth, Blueridge and Seymour Heights, or Plymouth and Seymour Heights?
For each potential scenario we have been asked to consider these issues and submit feedback to the group by March 26th under the headings:
  • Transportation to and from the school
  • Impact on School Community
  • Safety
  • Opportunity for extra-curricular programs
  • Opportunity for community use
  • Access to new educational technologies
  • Impact on children
  • Physical Plant
  • Opportunities  for Community development
To that list I would also add consideration of:
  • Demographics
  • School and Classroom Utilization
  • Location
  • Classroom opportunities
If you have considerations + or - that you'd like us to share with the working group please share them with us and we will get them on the list. (send to

Windsor & Argyle scenario analyses

At last nights Elementary Working Group discussions I provided a rudimentary analysis looking at possible scenarios for where students could go in Sept.2010 the event different schools were closed in the Argyle and Windsor families of schools.
A major consideration when looking at the decision to close schools is the potential for students to move to neighbouring schools. I am providing this analysis to enable parents to see where there is space and think about how students would move and what the classes at the receiving schools would look like were a closure to take place.
The redistribution pattern I used was set to maximize the enrollment at the two receiving schools without exceeding their official capacity, this gives a sense of how much of the school community could be kept together during a move.
Windsor and Argyle FOS Scenario Analysis

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Policy 610 Working Group - March 4th discussion summaries

The District has posted summaries of the March 4th discussions for each of the working groups on the School District website. I highly recommend reading these as they give a good perspective on many of the issues

If you have not already done so it is also worth reading the discussion of the list of potential cuts already contemplated for next year as while it may be hard to translate these cuts into specific impacts on students it is clear from the document that the District is contemplating changes that will significantly impact students across the district.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

NVPAC Update

A few quick updates from NVPAC.
1. NVPAC March 25th meeting Cancelled
After consultation and feedback from our members we have decided to cancel the March 25th NVPAC meeting. We realize this creates a challenge in getting parent input for the Policy 610 Working group meetings and in keeping you all informed on other issues and are hoping parents will use our blog and email to share perspectives on these issues during this very busy time.
2. Next Meeting
Our next NVPAC meeting will be our AGM on April 22nd at LMCC. These meetings are for all parents and I hope to see as many people as we can there. If parents are interested in a role within NVPAC we will be taking nominations and electing for next years positions at that meeting.
3. Parent Survey 
To help us gather parent input for the working groups we will be asking PACs to forward parents two surveys we will be conducting next week in order to understand the experience and opinions of parents on a variety of issues. Your help in getting these surveys out to parents would be greatly appreciated.
4. District Budget
The school district is expecting to hear from the Ministry about its 2010/2011 funding on March 15th. We will try to communicate any information we have on this via the blog ASAP so we can all understand the budget issues for next year. 
5. Blogging
Its sort of redundant to say it here but we are posting our feedback on the Policy 610 working groups and other NV School District info to our blog , the blog welcomes comments. 
6. Gaming Grants Restored
Lastly, one helpful funding announcement from Victoria this week is that while they will no longer be funding playgrounds from lottery revenues they have restored the PAC gaming grants to $20 per student for next year. 

Thanks for your ongoing support

Elementary Working Group - Recommendations for Meetings #2&3

After representing NVPAC in the first discussion in the Windsor FOS Policy 610 Working Group discussions I thought I would share my process recommendations for the remaining two elementary working group meetings. 

My reason for making these recommendations is to help parents to have an effective discussion of the situations for the children at each of the schools next year. In particular parents want the Windsor FOS and the Fromme discussions to focus on the specific alternatives for the schools in question. 

To support the discussion of the school situations, the next meeting should consider the following questions:
1. Are these the right schools to consider for closure and what other schools could be looked at?
2. Are there other student populations that could fill up the schools to address the enrolment and budget issues?
3. For each school under consideration (Plymouth, Blueridge, Seymour Heights, Fromme, Other?), if the school were closed where would the students go next year and what would those schools and the student experience look like (class sizes etc)?

To support this it would be useful for the working groups to have the following information:
1. Rationale for closure of each school
2. The demographics of each school under consideration and all potential receiving schools (the numbers should be total #'s and for each grade + class), they should also include breakdowns of special needs children in each class and which catchment the students come from.
3. School configurations (# of classrooms available) for each school as well as other facilities and building condition information.
4. Demographics for each catchment, where do students in each catchment go (which school, french immersion, private school, etc.). Its likely impossible but if we had an idea of the distribution of children around the catchment that would be useful to understand the impacts on potential receiving schools.

For the 3rd meeting, the group should be enabled to focus on the transition implications. In my opinion there are two main questions that need to be asked for each school at that meeting:
1. What are the aspects of the school and its culture (large and small) that need to be preserved, and how might that be accomplished.
2. What are the concerns that need to be addressed to help students move to another school, and how might those concerns be addressed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Alternative Programs

Hi all, sorry for taking so long to post. Here's a summary...our facilitator did an admirable job keeping us on track. Our guideline seemed to be the same as the other working groups. It was decided based on time that we wouldn't go through the 23 points as per the draft budget, but that we would go home have a look at the points and come back with our comments at the next meeting. After introducations, it was felt by the facilitator that there was a variety of knowledge of the programs. The facilitator asked for the experts in the room to speak to each of the programs. This did take some time. A question I asked was about waitlists for each of the programs and each program has a healthy wait list. At 8:30, we split into three groups and each group was tasked to discuss the three "C's"; consolidation; cohabitation and closure. We came back just shortly before 9 and it was clear that a defination for consolidation and cohabitation was needed as different people had different ideas. It was also clear that many of the people asked to attend, really didn't have a good feel for the process and what was expected by them. There was also a healthy discussion on whether children should be invited to attend to discuss their programs. Our homework was to go away read the draft budget and come back with ideas on what may have been missed and to hear back from parents; staff and stakeholder.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Policy 610 Working Group - Comments on Windsor FOS Meeting 1

NVPAC is representing parents across the district at the Policy 610 working group discussions on the potential closure of Fromme, Blueridge, Seymour Heights and Plymouth schools, the re-organization of Alternate programs and the delivery of French Immersion.

As NVPAC Co-chair and a Plymouth parent I was involved in the Windsor family of schools discussion representing the district parents.

Overall Process
The primary purpose of the policy 610 process is to give parents facing the potential closure of schools the opportunity to discuss alternatives to closure and the implications of closure and provide those discussions as input into the trustees eventual decision. There are 3 meetings planned for this working group to discuss the issues. This first meeting focussed on the question "are there alternative budgetary measures either through revenue or savings that would enable schools to remain open?" The next meeting will examine the individual schools involved and the pros and cons of the different alternative future options for the schools while the third meeting will focus on the implications of closure both in terms of aspects of the schools to preserve and the challenges involved in a transition.

Respectful Engagement
These are difficult issues for parents and the community and while everyone wants to talk about the situation at their children's schools I was impressed by the commitment of the parents involved who came prepared to discuss the future of their children's education and to engage in productive discussion about the potential consolidation of schools and changes to the programs in which their children are enrolled.

Budget Review
Each of the breakout groups at this meeting were asked to focus on the budget alternatives in light of the list of cuts already contemplated to meet the districts $6~8 million budget challenge. The Windsor FOS group had a few good suggestions but the general consensus amongst the group was that there is such a huge budget gap and there are so many cuts already contemplated that don't yet close the gap that there is very little more that could be done this year and even if it was the money might be better spent first restoring the other cuts that impact student services. Reviewing the impact of students from the proposed budget cuts lead several people to question whether the district should be consider closing more schools to fill as many school as possible rather than closing fewer schools.

Short and Long Term Plans
While there was little time at this meeting to consider the specific different alternatives for closure in the Windsor family of schools the group did discuss the medium-term implications of the capital plan versus the short-term needs of this budget driven consolidation process. The capital plan proposes consolidating Seymour Heights, Plymouth and Blueridge into a single 400~500 student elementary school but this is unlikely to happen for several years. While the group do not all agree with this plan there is an understanding that this is the main long-term plan for the area to meet its enrolment trends and replacing aging facilities. So, while not the immediate focus of the working group, the group needs to be aware of this plan in order to eliminate the cloud of uncertainty and give the community a clear long-term plan for the configuration of schools in the area.

The working group considers this an opportunity for the community to come together and discuss what we as a community would prefer for the long-term configuration of schools in the area to meet the needs of our students while responding to the immediate need of the district to balance its budget.

Considering the closure of one Windsor FOS school
Focusing on the immediate issue of the three schools in the Windsor FOS under consideration for closure, the group discussed the feasibility of closing multiple schools and agreed that it would not be feasible to close more than one of the schools in the immediate term as the surrounding facilities can not reasonably accommodate the populations of even the two smallest schools without fragmenting the entire population of two schools around the surrounding schools. Based on this conclusion, at the next meeting the group will consider the alternatives for the closure of a single school in the area. The group agreed that we need to look at this from the perspective of the classroom and look at all the potential future scenarios for our children. At the next meeting the group will consider whether these are all the schools to consider and for each potential school closure where would the students go if that school were closed, where could they go, what would classes look like at the receiving schools? At the third meeting the group will look at the implications of closure for each of the schools, what issues arise if you close the school, what aspects of the school and its culture need to be retained and how could an effective transition take place. 

Parent Input Sought
NVPAC and each of the school representative groups is asking for your input on these issues to ensure all issues are considered. Are there budget options that haven't been considered. How should we consider the potential movement of children and what issues need to be considered. Please submit any feedback to or to your representatives on the committee.  

Friday, March 5, 2010

Province puts some money into education

The 2010 Provincial budget provided a small increase in education funding both in the reinstatement of funds for the Annual Facilities Grants that go toward school maintenance and education funding for students. The increased student funding goes toward covering a portion of the increased teacher salaries, pensions, taxes, HST rebate and all-day kindergarten implementation.

While the small increase and the HST rebates are welcome relief, the school district will not know exactly how much funding it will receive until March 15th when the Ministry provides the district its funding announcements for the 2010/2011 year. However it is unlikely this increase will be sufficient to cover the actual costs of education in the district and even if closures take place the district will also be forced to make significant cuts in services and staffing next year.

Looking at the budget directions interim report posted on the district website the measures being contemplated as possible cuts to balance the budget represent significant cuts that will impact all students, and some quite significantly. We can hope for good news when the Ministry gives its final numbers but no matter what happens I think the district will need more help from parents to support our children's education.