Sunday, April 29, 2012

Parent Education, PACs and IT, Parent Surveys

NVPAC is looking to fill our executive positions (chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer) for next year at our upcoming AGM (May 17th @ Lucas Centre)

But we are also looking for parents helping us with 3 different initiatives next year: Parent Education, Information Technology Leadership and Parent Surveys.

Parent Education
Working in conjunction with the families of schools, NVPAC would like to organize elementary and secondary parent education sessions similar to the recent Parents as Career Coaches workshop that taught parents how to help their children research and prepare for their future careers. We are looking for interested parents that would like to help us source and organize these events.

Information Technology Leadership
This years survey of PACs and IT in schools revealed significant variation and fragmentation with regard to information technology in schools across the district, some of which has been caused by the varied of approaches used by PACs at individual schools. NVPAC is looking for someone to take on a role of liaison between the different PACs, to keep the schools aware of what other schools are doing, share it with others and to help PACs take a less fragmented approach to the evolution of Information Technology in their schools.

Parent Surveys
NVPAC is looking to work with the School District and other stakeholders to develop an annual district wide parent survey to understand parent priorities and impressions of the school district to help us provide guidance of areas of particular appreciation or concern that the district should be aware of. To do this we need parents interested in working with stakeholders to develop, refine, conduct and report on the survey.

If you or anyone you know is interested in helping NVPAC with these projects next year please let me know or even better, come out to our AGM on May 17th and join the team.

What to do with surplus property

It is perhaps fitting that so many suggestions at this past weeks School District open house concerned turning vacant schools into housing and recreation options for seniors as so many North Van schools were built to meet the needs of the baby boomers in the first place.

School Board - Surplus Land Planning & Consultations

School Board - Surplus Land Strategy

Next Meeting: May 29th @ Lucas Centre. Time TBD.

The School District held an open house this past week to gather ideas from the public on what to do with the 12 surplus properties it currently has spread across North Vancouver. As demographics and land use have changed the needs of the school district have followed but what to do with these properties raises many issues.

Of these issues, the most important one not really discussed at the open house is what the current needs of the district are and are anticipated to be. Why does something need to be done with these properties?

The answer is that the School District has a lot of surplus property but it also needs to operate numerous schools across North Vancouver and most importantly, needs to provide a quality education in a welcoming environment for its current and future students. The school district needs more funds than it has, both operating and capital funds to keep its operating (and aging) schools running properly. At the same time it is costing the school district various amounts to keep all of its surplus properties in their current state.

The public comments reflected what we would all like to see, the maintenance of the North Vancouver we all know and love. People want the property to stay as it is, to provide recreation facilities, playing fields and to not have it taken over with traffic generating high-density development. People listed many things they don't want the land to become. The potential of future need was raised repeatedly. And these are all true.

But the other side of the equation was not discussed. What options are there for using land. What does the School District need to continue to deliver quality education in the schools we have and what potential good could come from using these lands.

If we must do something with these properties it is best to understand what we need to achieve through them and use that to help us understand the choices and options in front of us. At the next public meeting on this issue, coming up Tuesday May 29th, it would be good to ask these questions and get a better understanding of this critical side of the issue.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

NVPAC Annual General Meeting - 7pm, May 17th, Lucas Centre

This years North Van PAC Annual General Meeting will be held Thursday, May 17th at the Lucas Centre (note the change of location)

North Van PAC Annual General Meeting
when: 7pm. May 17th, 2012.
where: William Lucas Centre, 2132 Hamilton Ave. North Vancouver

  • All executive and member at large positions will be elected at the meeting: Chair, Vice-chair, Treasurer, Secretary, Registrar, Members at Large
  • Nominations for executive positions will be accepted from the floor
  • All PACs in attendance are eligible to vote.
  • Any parent of a child in the school district in 2012/13 is eligible to run for the NVPAC executive
Parent Involvement Needed
Parents and PACs, without you we cannot keep you informed and we cannot move forward. Parents and PACs this is a chance to help us build the team who will be representing you at the district level next year. We are looking for people to help us represent parents on district committees including potentially such issues as surplus land, 21st century learning, new programs and others. We also have a number of plans that can only move forward with your involvement including a district parent survey and parent education sessions on career coaching, student evaluation and others.

NVPAC Executive Roles
Together the executive act as parent liaison's with the School district. We attend, report on and provide parent input into the various School District committee meetings throughout the year including the NVSD Board meeting, Finance & Facilities, Education & Programs, Toward the Future of Schools, and various ad hoc and on going district committee meetings that occur throughout the school year. The executive also meet monthly as an executive and at the PAC general meetings. Commitment levels vary but executive should expect to attend 3~4 meetings a month over the school year.

Specific positions available include:
BCCPAC Liaison

I hope you can join us for our yearly wrap-up and an opportunity to offer advice to the new executive and let them know how they can assist your PAC next year.

Inquiries to NVPAC:

April NVPAC meeting summary

Thanks to all those that attended our April general meeting. These aren't the minutes but I thought I'd post a quick summary on what you missed.

1. Job Action
The BCTF has voted to withdraw all extra-curricular support as a response to the government's decision to limit contract negotiations through Bill 22. What this means for PACs is a need to work with your administrators to see understand the impacts on you schools and if you can, to see what opportunity parents may have to help out vs lose the different activities the extra-curricular support enables. Clubs, sports, sporting events, field trips and other school events will likely be impacted and only be continuing to work with your administration can you be sure of the impact. At this point its probably best to verify what will be impacted at your school.

One particular issue is the number of school trips to Outdoor School. NVTA are currently working out how the job action may impact Outdoor School events. NVTA have told me that whatever decisions are made the changes won't come into effect till May 1st, but trips after that date may be impacted. PACs should definitely be verifying the impact on this program for their schools.

2. Upcoming NVPAC AGM and Recruiting
NVPAC's AGM is coming up May 17th (at the Lucas Centre) and we are seeking parents to help us out at an executive level, am members at large and as committee representatives. We are asking PACs to please help us identify parents interested in working with us on district level issues as our team defines our ability to inform and contribute. North Van PAC represents the needs of PACs and parents to the district and the are many ways parents could contribute to this initiative.

We particularly need team members to help represent parents and report on what happens at the different District committee meetings. To keeping parents informed we need to be involved. This year the number of committee's has been reduced by the BCTF job action but there have still been discussions on new programs (soccer academy), changes to schools and learning programs (Balmoral) , covered play areas and the start of discussions on surplus land. District plans and policies are often developed through these committees and the more involved parents we have the better we can contribute to these decisions that impact students across the district.

3. Career Coaching and other Parent Education Events.
We had a very successful "Career Coaching" parent education seminar this month with 72 parents in attendance. This seminar on how parents can help coach their children in their career planning demonstrated the power of pooling our resources to offer district wide events for parents. We had to turn people away from the event and will offer it again in the fall.

Working with PACs, we would like to be able to offer this and other programs more often if we have people to help us organize. Some ideas discussed for next year included sessions on how to evaluate your child's learning styles, the school curriculum: what is it and what parents should expect at different grades. If parents are interested in helping us put together these events or others we'd be glad to put them on.

4. NVPAC Survey.
NVPAC is working on an annual district wide survey of parent satisfaction which can be used to help us and the district understand and provide more comprehensive input related to parent impressions and priorities. We are seeking parent and PAC input into the survey to ensure it is meeting their needs for information and asking the questions we think need to be asked. If parents are interested in helping us to develop this they should email

Parents as Career Coaches - Update

The first session of the Parents as Career Coaches Workshop was well attended with a full house of 72 parents. People were very engaged with a lot of conversation among themselves, and sharing information.  The feedback from parents was all positive: causal, stimulating and fun, and well organized. The second session goes this Monday and I'm sure everyone will be back with their homework complete.

Unfortunately we had to turn a few unregistered people away at the door, it was hard to turn them away.  There is clearly a lot of interest in this topic.

Due to the high level of interest in the topic we've asked Marion to do another workshop for us in the fall. We don't have the dates arranged yet but please keep an eye out in the fall for our invitation. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

March School Board Meetings

The end of March and start of April saw a flurry of School Board Meetings.

Amongst other things, the March Board meeting considered covered play areas, IT in schools, District communications strategy and surplus land consultations. The April "Future of Schools" meeting discussed population and enrolment trends and the "Finance and Facilities" meeting examined options for the potential $1,000,000 in unallocated budget for next school year.

It's a bit of a long post, but below are a few comments on each of these meetings.

March Board Meeting

Covered Play Areas
The first main topic for this meeting was the issue of covered play areas for elementary schools. North Vancouver being a rainy location many kids are forced to play outside in the rain at recess and lunch due to a lack of covered play areas. Parents have asked for covered areas for many years but limited capital budgets have kept the option off the table. But parents have argued it would not be as expensive as thought and offered to help. The trouble is that nobody really knows, but it appears we will soon as the meeting the board has asked district staff to look at the cost of a covered play area at Highlands and report back on the options next fall. Within this discussion was also the suggestion of establishing a policy on covered play areas. Whether the School District will be able to set a policy or build covered areas remains to be seen but at least, come this fall, the board and the public will be able to address the issue with more meaningful sets of costs and options in hand.

21st Century Learning
The North Vancouver Digital Media Academy presented a video they had produced for the School District on "21st Century Learning" in North Vancouver. The video showed a variety of different of these teaching methods in use in different schools around the district. What the film showed me was both good and bad. The great variety of different approaches to teaching different students shows how vibrant education can be while these examples of the knowledge, experience and passion of North Vancouver teachers to implement these techniques gives one confidence in the system. The challenge is that as a parent it is hard to know which teachers are teaching in what ways and how well these ways might suit my children. The old ways may not work the best but I was fairly sure I knew what to expect, now I need to know which of many ways my children's teachers will be using. I'm comfortable relying on their expertise but this additional complexity in classroom teaching will require more communication to help everyone understand what is expected of their child and of the school system.

An IT framework for the school district.
The district introduced their new technology planning framework at the March board meeting. What is refreshing to see is a focus on establishing general principles supporting the use of the technology to enhance education rather than a focus on the equipment, needs and speeds typical in many IT plans.

The framework provides a lot of flexibility to enable schools, PACs and students to invest in manor appropriate to their current needs. This is helpful in that it encourages everyone to look at how the technology will be used first rather than what technology is supported. PACS working to enhance IT in their schools are encourage to have these discussions with their schools and with the district to help the PACs understand how this translates into recommendations for actual investments and implementations policies.

Land Management Community Engagement Meetings
The board has decided to talk to the community, including the municipalities, about the future options for the various parcels of available surplus land currently the property of the School District. The disposition of land by the district is nearly always contentious and the board would like to provide the public with early input into their plans and planning process and will do so with two sessions, one April 25th and another in May.

Toward the Future of Schools Meeting
This meeting went over in good detail the many sources and analysis methods the School District uses to forecast and examine enrolment in North Vancouver schools, on a district and a school catchment basis.

With the combination of declining enrolment and the right for parents to choose to enrol their students at any school in the province this is an important that the District is asked about a lot. Are parents choosing West Vancouver, are the various District efforts (Academies etc) aimed at providing options for students keeping students in North Van or otherwise distorting enrolment by encouraging students to enrol in schools elsewhere in North Vancouver.

The evidence appears to show that the academies do keep students in North Vancouver as enrolment in other districts is stable but the degree of movement within the district continues to rise as parents become more aware of different options. As long as there is an even mix of options throughout the district this should balance itself out but continued monitoring of this trend remains essential as we open or close programs and options around the district.

Finance and Facilities Meeting
At this meeting the District partner groups. (NVPAC, Student Leadership Council, (NOVA) School Administrators, CUPE and NVTA were asked to provide their input into how the School District should allocate approximately $1 million in available additional funds for next years budget. Each group was asked for their input and then a discussion took place to try and arrive at overall recommendations.

My observation is that 2 years ago the district made significant cuts to the budget and with the experience of the past two years of the cuts we are now learning where perhaps we have cut too far and need to reinvest to make the system sustainable.

I think this position can be seen in the very reasonable requests from CUPE for maintenance staff, from administrators for more administration time and teachers for more assistance for special needs students. These are areas cut and reorganized 2 years and we can now see how those cuts have impacted the system and where, if the option is available, we most need to put money back. This position was also seen in the subsequent discussion as people clearly acknowledged the real need for each of the requests and the potential large impact addressing them would provide.

For our part NVPAC recommended:
1. That attention be given to improving communication both to and from the district to help parents and students sort out the increasing complexity of the options and the changes in teaching practice within the school system and to help the district understand where the complexity may be creating resolvable challenges for parents and students. We're not sure this requires more funds, just vigilance.

2. That the school district ensure there is enough planned budget and contingency to ensure the successful start to the new Carson Graham, Ridgeway school and to the Community Learning Program. Like everyone else, we want to see these investments in education get off and running in a positive and exciting fashion and create a lasting positive momentum for these programs and so request that the district make sure there is enough funding to push through the inevitable teething problems for these schools.

3. That the District help to provide PACs with guidance on their IT investments for schools. We see a wide variety of approaches to IT across the district in different schools and classrooms as many classroom IT investments are made by PACs with input from the schools. We would like to see a somewhat more consistent approach to ensure PACs are investing in initiatives that will continue to support students in the long-term. To support this we would like to see a continued investment from the District to support PACs in their efforts with good information on how we can work together to match our efforts with each other.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Parents as Career Coaches Workshop


Have you ever wondered how to help your children select and progress toward their future careers?

North Van PAC is hosting a free two evening training session, in conjunction with Capilano University, to help you develop your career coaching skills so you can better help you children prepare for their futures.

The "Parents as Career Coaches" interactive workshop, presented by Marion R. Haythorne of Capilano University, is designed to help parents become more effective career development allies for their children. Parents are introduced to the concepts of career coaching and given practical tools and research skills to assist them as they coach their children.

The workshop will be held in two sessions over two Mondays:
When: Monday April 16 & April 23; 6:30 – 9:00pm (2 evenings, 2 consecutive weeks)
Where: Leo Marshall Curriculum Centre, 810 West 21st Street, North Vancouver

If you are interested in learning more about the sessions or registering for the event please send an email with your email address and # of parents attending to our registrar at

Registration will be taken up and including April 14, Saturday.