Saturday, June 12, 2010

Comments on the special advisors report on the VSB

The comptroller's report on the Vancouver School Board's budget management was released Friday June 4th. Below are my personal comments on the report.

Overall, the report blames VSB mismanagement for their funding challenges, identifying several unpalatable decisions they could have made to save money, such as increasing rent for non-profits and closing schools . I had hoped that by  looking at the VSB books the ministry would be forced to consider how they impact the context in which boards operate and whether they were actually under-funding education but sadly the report missed the opportunity to review the Ministry and its impact on schools.

In her subsequent comments related to the report Minister MacDiarmid has sounded vindicated in her assertion that the VSB's budget woes are of their own making. If this were one board, in one year I would be inclined to agree because boards make costly decisions and some of them may not be the best long term decisions. But boards across the province have been experiencing much the same issues all year and for multiple years and I cannot believe that every board in the Province is mismanaging funds on a continuous basis. Yes I know the ministry is spending more than ever, we all are, its called inflation, costs have also gone up. Is the ministry actually funding what it is demanding schools deliver?

Others have commented that boards have a tendency to defend the status quo and cry out for more funding to maintain the existing system without looking for opportunity to change and modernize the system to reduce costs. There is truth in this, but changing the status quo is hard. In particular it requires flexibility and resources that boards do not have available to them. Caught between provincial contracts, ministry defined educational mandates, standards and processes to support, static unstable funding  and parents demanding more programs, small schools and individualized instruction there is not a lot of room for a board to manuever. If parents and the ministry wish boards to do more with less then the boards need to be given the flexibility to change how they deliver education.

The report identifies several areas for savings but focuses on two main flaws at the VSB that I feel are inappropriate criticism. The first is a lack of management qualification and the second is a lack of strategic long term planning.

In criticizing the boards lack of management qualification the comptroller fails to recognize that School Board Trustees are elected officials. It is hard for the electorate to assess management skills so Trustees are elected as much for their positions on issues as anything else. Boards inherit the management skills of the people that are voted into the position. While I would prefer that Trustees be qualified for the job they are elected to fill, if that is the standard they should be held to then we should also be looking at the qualifications of the MLA's and Ministers who run the multi-billion dollar Provincial government to ensure they are qualified for their jobs. This is not how democracy works and so I feel this is an inappropriate comment seemingly designed to discredit the Trustees rather than provide usable input.

On the second major point, strategic planning I have also complained about the lack of strategic planning in school districts but in working with the district over the past few years it has become clear to me that while school districts may be weak in the area of strategic planning they are also operating in an environment that is entirely unsuited to long-term planning. Budgets must be balanced every year, funding rules and amounts change multiple times a year, the programs and services they are mandated to deliver change every year, rules on disposal of property change every year. School boards operate at the whim of the ministry and without a stable planning environment it is understandable that they focus on short term plans.

In this, the report agrees with me suggesting,
"The Ministry of Education could provide stronger leadership by preparing a long term education plan for the province, articulating the vision for education, and its objectives and strategies. Given that schools are a significant investment in public resources, the education plan should cover a period of 5 to 10 years. This would provide support to districts in their long term strategic planning and provide increased stability to districts and transparency to the public. "

I agree that boards need to do better long term planning but they need to be given the flexibility, experienced management teams and stable planning environment needed to accomplish this.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Introducing the NVPAC 2010 Executive

The NVPAC AGM elected a new executive for 2010/2011. I would like to thank all of the people that helped me in this role this year and would like to introduce next years executive team both the returning team members and three new members to next years executive. 

Chair: Mike McGraw
Vice Chair: Cyndi Gerlach
Treasurer: Jane Lagden-Holborne
Secretary: Lisa Mcdonald
Registrar: Mike Sexsmith
Program Co-ordinator: Open
Past Chair: David Whitehead
Members-at-large: Tina Meyer, Sandra Bridgman, Todd Dea, Susan Corcoran, Lisa Cartwright

NVPAC 2010 AGM Meeting - Minutes

NVPAC 2010 AGM Meeting

Date: Thursday May 20, 2010
Place: LMCC  7pm
Chair: David Whitehead

In Attendance:
NVPAC Executive: David Whitehead, Jane Lagden Holborne, Lisa Cartwright, Mike McGraw, Mike Sexsmith, Cyndi Gerlach, Susan Corcoran
PAC Reps and Parents: Sandra Bridgman, Lisa MacDonald, Judy Clarke, Sandra Ayling, C Paterson, Susanne Till, Tina Meyer, Janice Rukvina
Schools Represented: Braemar, Brooksbank, Capilano, Carisbrooke, Handsworth, Montroyal, Plymouth, Queensbury, Ross Road, Windsor House Elementary, Windsor House Secondary, Fromme, Seymour Heights, Westview

1. Welcome & Introductions
Digital Media Academy Presentation - Argyle and Carson students  Bianca, Megan, Jonathan & Evan presented to NVPAC. Bianca introduced the DMA program, an independent directed study program offered at Argyle, with four areas of focus: graphic design, film, sound design (for game & film team), and game design. The students presented their promotion film, followed by a brief questions period. The students spoke on the resources available through the program which includes a full lighting studio, resource library, computers with software - great teachers which guide but also peer to peer learning. The students have opportunities to meet industry professionals (EA, Vancouver Film School, etc.) and learn through client based work (video projects for clients). Program is offered to grades 11 & 12 and next year will take in a maximum 24 students in each grade.
2. Introduction to Parliamentary Meetings Lisa Cartwright introduced guest speaker John Noonan who compared the parliamentary process a bit like playing golf.  Play the ball where you find it.  Minimum requirements for an Annual General Meeting, is 1) a report to membership from the executive 2) report on the financial statements 3) place where you conduct session and 4) items deemed necessary. Notice needs to be provided according to your bylaws and stating date of event, the time, place and a general overview can be included in the notice. Meeting needs to have quorum, each PAC will have the quorum requirement stated in its bylaws. Discussed if quorum reached for this meeting, after reviewing the bylaws it was determined quorum was met. John suggested a voting card to each voting member should be issued upon signing in to the meeting. It was noted PACs are less formal because parents as members of school are members of the PAC.  It is important to have parents signed as proof of attendance. For Societies, such as NVPAC, reports need to be registered with Victoria annually.  It was pointed out that really there is no problem until someone contests it. Special committees which are appointed to deal with a specific issue make recommendations but don’t make decisions. John presented three rules to adhere to - 1) rule of clock - start on time and end on time - no exception; 2) rule of the compass - must have an agenda, needs to have indication of topics to be covered, include who is addressing topic (if necessary), and the agenda should be sent out five days before the meeting along with background materials; 3) fundamental principals - justice and courtesy for all, do one thing at a time, one speaker at a time - this is the job of the Chair (motion needs to be repeated three times before being adopted).  Also offered a suggestion that each PAC could adopt a set of 5 or 6 simple rules at the beginning of the year that will be followed and respected (i.e. do not have a second comment until everyone has had an opportunity to speak once), rule of the clock, etc. NOTE: NVPAC will coordinate a Fall workshop on Parliamentary procedure.
2. Official Business of the AGM - Call to Order
3. Approval of AGM Agenda & Minutes from 2009: Amended agenda to move board elections to next agenda item. Motioned by Lisa Cartwright, carried; motion to accept 2009 AGM Minutes by Mike McGraw. Question: do the people making the motion and voting have to have been present at the original meeting? No those in attendance do not need to have attended the actual meeting. Motion carried. 
4. NVPAC Executive Elections - convened by John Noonan.  Advised nominations would be taken from floor and that you can nominate yourself (volunteer), no seconder required. Question on the duties of Program Facilitor - the role is responsible for logistics of meetings and forums as required by Chair and executive.
Nominations open:
  • President - Mike McGraw, nominated, declared elected
  • Vice Chair - Cyndi Gerlach nominated, declared elected
  • Treasurer - Jane Lagden Holborne, nominated, declared elected
  • Secretary - Lisa MacDonald, nominated, declared elected
  • Corresponding Secretary/Registrar - Mike Sexsmith, nominated, declared elected
  • Program Facilitors - no nominations received
  •  Members at Large -  Tina Meyers, Sandra Bridgeman, Todd Dea (elected when notified), Susan Corcoran, Lisa Cartwright - declared all five elected as members at large
  • Past chair is David Whitehead
  • Lisa confirmed that Leslie U has indicated she is not able to sit next year and therefore is not a past-chair.
5. Table Year End Reports - written reports distributed, and received. David spoke briefly and mentioned highlight of improvement to process of district workshops and parent contribution.  Thank you to everyone.
Treasurers Report - Jane reviewed the budget versus actuals, actuals not final as year end is end of June and some additional expenses to come.
6. Approval of Preliminary Budget - spoke to anticipated changes and goal to spend more and proposed budget deficit. Question re: DPAC Exec allocation of babysitting for committee meetings. Will look at providing to parents sitting on committees representing parents, intention is to offer, the comment noted in budget is not binding.  Motion to accept the Treasurers report by Mike Sexsmith  carried.
7. Motion to accept interim report by Mike S, 2nd Tina Meyers, carried. (John Noonan suggested all that is required - The Treasurers report was received, discussed and filed.)
8. Mike McGraw, NVPAC Chair Elect, thanked the 2009/2010 Executive for their work, with special thanks to co-chairs Leslie and David. Mike welcomed the new executive
9. Final Notes from John Noonan on Parliamentary Procedures: i) Follow-up on concern about approving minutes of a previous meeting if you did not attend, suggested a committee be setup to review accuracy of minutes.  After minutes are distributed if there any corrections amend and motion to approve, if no corrections, minutes are approved. ii) Noted that the seconder doesn’t need to be recored in the minutes.  A seconder ensures that a motion is worthy to be on the floor.  iii) Treasurers report - how do you know that this is correct?  Suggest that a committee of parents provide internal audit duties (they should not be part of the executive). Also to ensure accountability if Treasurer writes cheques, bank statements should be sent to the President (or another officer for review and sign off).
10. Adjourned 9:05
NOTE:  Argyle Gallery Night - May 26th 6:30pm

NVPAC Treasurer's Annual Report

North Vancouver Parent Advisory Council

Treasurer’s Report to the Annual General Meeting:  20 May, 2010


The North Vancouver Parent Advisory Council is very grateful for its two main sources of funding:

School District #44 funding:  $ 7,500
Community Gaming Grant:   $ 1,250


BCCPAC Memberships and Conferences:

NVPAC paid $1,885 in membership fees to BCCPAC, its own membership, plus the membership of 28 North Vancouver school PACs.  In past years, NVPAC has usually sent three or more representatives to both the Fall and Spring Conferences of BCCPAC.  This year, only one NVPAC representative attended each conference.

NVPAC Grants:

North Vancouver Parent Advisory Council offers three types of grants to school PACs in North Vancouver.
  The $200 Family of Schools Grant is intended to foster cooperation between the seven secondary schools and their respective feeder schools, and can be used to help fund any event in which all schools in the FOS participate.
 Ten, $150 Speaker Grants are offered each year on a first-come, first-served basis.  The Speaker Grants are intended to help school PACs offset the cost of bringing in a speaker for parent education purposes.  Topics and speakers this year included Homework, Internet Safety, Terry Small and Saleema Noon.
  Twenty, $50 Food Safe Grants were offered to school PACs, with a maximum of two grants per school, per year.  Health regulations require school PACs to have one Food Safe certified individual on site while food is being sold or distributed to students.  The Food Safe grants are intended to help offset the cost of the Food Safe training courses.

The grants were not as fully-subscribed as we would have liked this year.  Next year, we need to do a better job of advertising and explaining the grants and their purposes to school PACs.

NVPAC has a substantial financial surplus.  The NVPAC Executive has prepared a budget for 2010/2011 which we hope will reduce that surplus.

In addition to my duties as Treasurer, I attended all General and Executive meetings, as well as many of the School Board meetings and Standing Committees on Finance and Facilities and Education and Programs, and the Budget Challenge 2010 series.  I served as an NVPAC alternate to the Restructuring 2010 Seymour Area Schools Working Group.

Submitted by Jane Lagden Holborne

NVPAC Executive Annual Reports

The following annual reports from the NVPAC executive were tabled at this years NVPAC AGM

Co Chairs Year End Reports: 

As co-chair of NVPAC I can say that 2009/2010 has been an "interesting time" in which to take the helm of NVPAC. The year seemingly started with budget issues from Provincial cuts to PAC gaming grants and the annual facilities grants and continued with more issues as the realization of the significant budget gap we are facing in 2010/2011 sunk in. Similar to many groups and individuals within North Van School District, North Van PAC's year has been dominated by budget driven discussions. 

Throughout the year North Van Pac has worked to ensure that these discussions as much as possible support a long-term plan and perspective for the school district, to ensure the district is working from a plan for our children's education rather than simply reacting to the changes the Ministry imposes on the district. From the first President's Council meeting where we met with other NVSD partner groups to discuss the upcoming year, through the Budget Challenge Meetings, the Policy 610 review committee, The Policy 610 Working Groups and the final Budget meetings I have been proud of the support and broad perspective parents and our team have given to addressing the many unpleasant issues the budget situation has created.

There were a lot of new consultation processes this year, representing a significant effort by the District and the Trustees to involve stakeholders in broad consultation about the coming changes. I don't know what the outcomes will be for the final budget but I do think the processes, as frustrating as they have been at times, have been well supported by the district, trustees, teachers, staff, parents and students. Despite the teething pains NVPAC is thankful to the district and the trustees for insisting that the community have the ability to engage in these discussions throughout the year. The processes have been a big improvement from the past and there are lots of opportunities for further improvements to the processes but if we are to take one thing positive from this year it is that many people care deeply about public education and that commitment, despite financial difficulties, will be what enables NVSD to adapt and succeed.

I have two regrets from my term as chair of NVPAC and these revolve around advocacy and parent engagement. We started the year supporting parent advocacy at the Ministry level over the cuts to PAC gaming grants and the Annual Facilities Grant. Having seen these restored in full and in part it is possible that this early advocacy helped. What I regret is that we were so focused on responding to the financial challenges of the district that we were not able to put significant energy for advocacy around long-term stable funding of public schools that respects the true cost of education. This the true advocacy challenge and as we see the impacts of the cuts that will be implemented next year it is important for us to document these impacts and advocate for a return to realistic funding.

I also apologize for NVPAC's diminished role in terms of parent engagement. The NVPAC executive has spent a lot of time supporting District committees and discussions this year but has not spent as much time reaching out to the community either to inform or gather feedback. We implemented a blog to communicate with parents about issues but cut back on communicating many of the community events and other items of interest to parents previously shared in our newsletter. Too often we have spent our meetings primarily on discussing the current NVSD budget process and little on building PAC's or educating parents on other issues that impact the quality of education and opportunity our children receive. I thank all the PAC reps and PAC chairs that have stuck with us through this and hope that next year we can do more to share in the areas of PAC and student support rather than just budget process.

As I said, it has been an interesting year and next year will be another one as students, staff and teacher adapt to implement the budget cuts. Communication is an essential pillar supporting the changes that are to come. If my experience with the great team within the NVPAC Exec and all the PAC chairs and DPAC reps that dedicate their time to working with us is any indication I'm sure we will be up to the challenge.

Dave Whitehead
NVPAC Co-Chair 2009-2010

* * * *

I was very pleased to represent NVPAC as co-chair 2009-2010.

The year began with much activity surrounding government funding and joint advocacy. As co-chair, I sat at the President Council meeting together with our education partner groups. This involved speaking on behalf of parent interests in our district in front of the presidents and chairs of the NVTA, CUPE, Secondary School Group President, Elementary Principals, the Board of Education Chair and the Superintendent. The purpose of this group is to be open and to recognize points of view as well as common issues. Throughout the year this has been an important voice for parents in our district.

My role this year has been to coordinate our committee representation within the school district. Our executive has been very busy stepping up and offering their time and expertise on these committees. In particular there has been tremendous involvement in the budget meetings and the working group meetings. Although the year has been very challenging in terms of budget cuts and school closures, parents have become engaged and have brought themselves to many of the district public meetings. I have personally enjoyed speaking to parents and our district PAC reps on the phone and in person to discuss the issues at hand. In terms of communication and public awareness it was good to see much in our local papers this year with comments from David and myself as co-chairs of NVPAC.

In January we hosted our general meeting with two well-received topics: the “Olympic Torch Relay” and “Meaningful Assessment and Reporting” with excellent speakers. The Olympic Torch on February 10th was enthusiastically celebrated by many if not most of our schools and surrounding communities. Three amazing teachers from our district shared with parents their expertise in student assessment-a topic that parents do not know much about but wonder every time their child brings home a report card. This talk showcased to parents the thought, effort and construction that teachers bring to each of their students and their learning.

Our February NVPAC general meeting was specifically designed to encourage parent participation in a forum format on the topic of budget and district plans. This was our first attempt at this particular meeting format and it was very successful in gathering in parent opinion and input which gives our executive the membership direction. All of our general meetings and communications serve in this capacity as well. Our communications extended outward in our springtime survey: “School District Restructuring”. Once again, parent input is invaluable to our organization.

In conclusion, the year ends with challenges as it began. I am confident that NVPAC plays and important role for parents in our district. Our DPAC members and our executive form a diverse group of people –each bringing with them unique skills and abilities. Our job has always been to unify and utilize these attributes cohesively: respecting differences of opinion and recognizing our strengths. Thank you to everyone for your time, your input and your enthusiasm for education in our school district.

Leslie Uhlenbruck
NVPAC Co-Chair 2009-2010

* * * *

Executive Reports: 

In my role as the Past Chair of NVPAC and the BCCPAC Liaison, I have participated at both the district and provincial levels.

At the District level, I have sat on the following committees:

Policy Review Committee, Sustaining Schools Working Committee, Communications Committee, Inclusion Committee, Restructuring 2010 - Working Group on Elementary French Immersion Reconfiguration, French Planning Advisory (on behalf of Canadian Parents for French/North Vancouver Chapter). I have regularly attended the District's public Board meetings and standing committee meetings, have participated in all public consultation sessions and have kept in touch with many parents who contact me for information and advice about PAC issues and individual concerns.

At the BCCPAC provincial level, I have participated in the Fall and Spring conference and AGM on behalf of NVPAC ad other North Vancouver school PACs who designated me as their proxy holder for the AGM with respect to voting on resolutions and for electing the BCCPAC board of directors. I am a member of the Governance Audit Implementation Committee conducting a full review of BCCPAC's Constitution and Bylaws for presentation to the membership, initially at the AGM in Apr'10, but since deferred to an Extraordinary General Meeting in November'2010. I encourage PACs to keep active memberships with BCCPAC and work to keep both our own NVPAC Executive and our local PACs aware of provincial issues.

Submitted by,
Lisa Cartwright, NVPAC Past Chair and BCCPAC Liaison

* * * *

As Vice Chair of NVPAC for 2009/10, I’ve participated in some committees, I've taken an active role as a working group representative in District public consultation processes, and I’ve been actively representing North Vancouver parents as a member of the Advisory Committee for the North Vancouver Outdoor School – Environmental Learning Centre campus revitalization project.

I sit on the Capital Planning Committee and the Restructuring 2010 – Elementary Schools – Fromme School Working Group.

As a member of the Advisory Committee for the Outdoor School, I also sit on the Marketing and Re-Branding sub-committee, and the Fundraising sub-committee. The overall objective of the Advisory Committee and the various sub-committees is to guide the development of a revitalized Outdoor School into a financially self-sustaining Provincial Centre of Excellence for environmental leadership and sustainability, while continuing to preserve and enhance the rich diversity of programs delivered to our elementary school population. This is a long-term project involving approximately $25m in capital, and includes the development of a new business model and new revenue streams, the development of a fundraising strategy through donors and sponsors, and involving the development of new programs and the establishment of an endowment fund.

I participated in the President’s Council as a 3rd representative of NVPAC (in support of our Co-Chairs) to the other Partner Groups, as well as the Music Academy Study Group.

I also participated for the 2nd consecutive year at the school level as a member of the School Planning Council for Handsworth Secondary.

Mike McGraw, NVPAC Vice Chair

* * * *

As Secretary for 2009/10 I attended all of NVPACs General Meetings this year and captured the minutes for each. I was NVPACs representative for the Education and Programming Standing Committee which had presentations on topics like: The Core Essential (curriculum for K-12); the new programs of the Ministry of Education’s expanded mandate; sustaining the District’s focus on world class instruction; success for every student; meaningful assessment; the diversity of programs in the district such as French Immersion, International Baccalaureate, Distributed Learning, Full Day Kindergarten, to name just a few; and have begun to review the Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement.

I also sat on the Communications Committee for the second year. We began the school year with a review of the implementation of the new branding of the District however the major focus of our meetings this year was looking at the potential of social networking to enhance the District’s educational and communication needs.

Finally I sat for a second year on the Calendar Committee, which received a mandate from the Board to review the standard school calendar for 2010-2011 for any potential revenue savings.

Susan Corcoran, NVPAC Secretary 09/10

* * * *

As member at large, I participated in the following NVSD Committees:

Alternative Working Group (610)

Cyndi Gerlach, NVPAC Member at Large

* * * *

As a NVPAC Member at Large this year I was honored to serve on the Administrative Procedures Working Group which reviewed and made recommendations on the Policy 610 criteria process, in addition to serving as an NVPAC representative in the Restructuring 2010 - Elementary Schools working group (Fromme) process.

In addition to the aforementioned committees I also attended all but one of the regular monthly school board meetings and a majority of the Finance and Facility meetings. I learned much and posed many questions. I very much enjoyed working with and beside the dedicated members of our North Vancouver PAC Executive team this year and am looking forward to a new year which will bring with it new goals for the Executive.

Todd Dea
NVPAC member at Large
Seymour Heights DPAC Rep

* * * *

Committees: School Planning Council
Alternative School Working Committee
Attended 1 of the all Day K Sessions

As a new member at large to the organization I was only participant in a few activities. The largest impact was in the public consultation process around the possible changes for alternative schools. In this work group we explored possible new configurations for the alternative programs and the factors that would influence these changes. The outcome of the working groups was an analysis of the pros and cons of five different alternative configurations and a list of transition issues that would need to be addressed should a change be made. For the SPC committee we reviewed the SPC process and discussed possible improvement to the deployment and analysis of school plans. These were placed into a survey for the participants. Since the SPC process is not yet complete there is no conclusion to report. In addition to the committee work I attended most of the NVPAC meetings and have organized a process by which the digital medial academy students will film and post our meetings to the internet make them more accessible.

Mike Sexsmith Member at Large