Tuesday, October 30, 2012

School District Funding Priorities Discussion

NorthVanPAC has been asked to submit a list of parent priorities for the use of any proceeds from surplus School District properties by Nov.15th.

To facilitate this discussion we are using a system called Thoughtstream which will help us collectively gather, group and vote on everyone's input.

I would appreciate your input into this process to help us understand your thoughts on two questions: 

1. What should the School District do with any funds generated from the sale or lease of surplus lands to best make use of any proceeds?

2. What criteria would you use to assess whether any lands proceeds were being used / invested appropriately?

Once we have gathered people's input we will then use the tool to vote on the suggested priorities.

Please enter your thoughts by clicking on the link below which will start the process

Please complete this process by: Monday November 05, 2012 12:00 PM

David Whitehead
NorthVanPAC Chair 2012/13

Friday, October 26, 2012

Oct 23rd NVSD Board Meeting observations

The Oct 23rd Board Meeting saw the approval of the capital plan prioritizing Argyle and Handsworth for seismic upgrade or replacement, the selection of Queen Mary as an IB candidate school and reports on class sizes and special needs support changes this year.

International Baccalaureate at Queen Mary

Because of the limited opportunity for consultation on the selection, the most contentious decision of the evening was the selection of Queen Mary as the site for the next potential introduction of the International Baccalaureate primary years program (PYP) in North Vancouver.

Since the introduction of IB Primary Year at Capilano Elementary the school's enrolment has grown to the point it is full and no longer has capacity even to accept students within its own catchment. There is no doubt that the program is in demand by parents across the district. As a result the school district determined there was a need for a second elementary school offering the IB PYP program.

The selection criteria for where to site this school were discussed at the October 2nd Toward the Future of Schools meeting. The desire at that time was to locate IB at a school with space to support student enrolment from across the district and that could readily feed students into the IB programs at Carson Graham. At that meeting Queen Mary was identified as the top candidate.

While there was little debate that Queen Mary would be an appropriate site for IB the eventual decision was contentious because of debate whether sufficient consultation had taken place to confirm that the community, staff and teachers supported the introduction of such a program.

The concern at the board meeting was that it had only been 21 days since Queen Mary had been selected as the top candidate and that there had been little time to discuss the option with the community. How much consultation is needed in any situation is always hard to say. The introduction of IB is a potentially major change for the school, for its staff and for its students. However it was also clear that the consultation that was done with the teachers, students and community since Queen Mary was selected had resulted in a clearly supportive response from the community.

Now, with the site chosen, the difficult task of going through the 3 year process to become accredited falls to the district, school, community and staff.

The reality is that many schools would like to offer the IB program and as we see the demand for the program grow the District needs to decide what its long-term plan for IB is and to what degree they should invest in the wider rollout of IB.

Class Sizes

While no longer required by the Ministry, Superintendent John Lewis reported on the class size distribution within North Van schools. Last year's legislation removed district class size averages as a requirement, leaving only maximum class sizes stipulations for schools to work within. The change means that school boards no longer need to have a number of small classes to offset big ones, such as French immersion classes, in order to keep the average under the limits.

With more flexibility to manage class sizes, the school district has elementary class size average has gone up by almost 1 student per class this year from last, this means more classes are operating near the maximum class sizes this year with fewer small classes. Making this change has enabled the District to allocate more teachers to secondary school classes and by doing so eliminate many of the large classes over 30 students in our secondary schools. In our secondary classes, the district is down from 337 classes over 30 students last year to only 100 this year.

Graduation Requirements

The Ministry of Education is conducting public consultation sessions in an effort to revise the graduation requirements for the BC education system. The North Vancouver session will be held on November 19th, 2012. NorthVanPAC will be posting further information on the event once it is available.

Priority Educational Needs

The President's Council dinner is an annual tradition at the school district during which the partner groups (Trustees, School Administrators, Teachers, Staff and Parents) meet to discuss some of the main themes for the coming year. This year's discussion revolved around identifying priority educational needs to which potential funds from any disposition of lands could be applied either as capital or operating funds.

Each partner group was asked to submit our input on the Priority Educational Needs for the District after the meeting but it was generally agreed that we needed more time to consult with our members. A report on the Priority Educational Needs for the District as identified by the different partner groups had been expected at the meeting but instead partners were asked at the meeting to submit our input by Nov 15th.

NorthVanPAC had prepared a rough initial submission which was developed without significant parent input but will try to expand upon this over the coming weeks in order to provide a more representative input to the process.

School IT Plans


Education is changing, both as a result of technology and changes like those in the BC Education plan that put a greater emphasis on personalized education to provide students with teaching matched to the different ways children learn.

Technology is not essential to personalized learning but it does enable it in many ways and makes it more possible for teachers to incorporate more ways of learning and more flexibility into their interactions with students.

In general the school approach to IT has been very ad hoc. Teachers, schools, students and parents have taken it upon themselves to invest in and explore the use of technology to different degrees. This is generally good but has led to a fragmented set of tools, practices and experience throughout the district. As the needs for investments have increased from PACs in terms of tools, from teachers in learning from the District in infrastructure and training there is a need to put a framework around these investments so we can have a constructive conversation about them, figure out best practices and tie the investments to the results we want to achieve.

A recognition of this need has lead to the introduction this year of a request for school IT plans that are tied to the educational needs of students, the professional development needs of teachers and the necessary tools via the school plans

At our October general meeting we had a presentation from Monty Bell, Director of Learning Services and David Jennings, Director of Information and Communications Technology on the District's efforts to raise the level of technology usage in schools through the newly introduced school tech plans which intend to help schools match their technology needs to the educational goals in the school plans. 

PACs are being asked to play a role here by participating in the discussion to connect the IT equipment support we often provide to the IT needs of the school by ensuring they are matched to educational goals. This is the start of a process across the district. We have a lot to learn from each other about how this could work and it was clear from the discussion that ensued that it is the start of a lot of interesting discussions.

At NorthVanPAC we will be working with the District IT committee to help carry this message to PACs and help us as parents share best practices about the use of technology in schools and how to effectively develop these school IT plans.

We look forward to discussing this effort with PACs and your feedback on how to make IT investments successful for students.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

District Committees Representatives

A key role for North Van PAC is to represent parents within a number of school district committees. These committees involve teachers and administration and discuss many of the issues and help to inform the different policies and activities within the District as they take shape.

North Van PAC is currently seeking volunteers to represent North Vancouver parents on several of these committees, especially those with vacancies and would welcome parents interested in any of the committees with representation to make themselves available as alternates in the case our regular representatives cannot attend.

North Van PAC attends both public committee and representative committee meetings within the District

Any member of the public can attend the public committees and these are listed on the District's calendar. I highly recommend the Education and Programs committee to any parent wishing to understand more about how children are taught within the district while Finance and Facilities tends to discuss expense items and Toward the Future of schools discusses different current and potential programs within the district.

Representative committees involve invited representatives of different groups within the school district relevant to the issues at hand including parents, teachers, district administrators, district staff and school administrators. Our role is to represent all parents across the district within the committee.

Public Committees
Board of Education Meeting: David Whitehead
Education and Programs: Jane Lagden-Holborne, Janice Sardari
Finance and Facilities : Todd Dea, Mike Sexsmith
Towards the Future of Schools: Todd Dea, Mike Sexsmith

Representative Committees
Communication Committee: Jane Lagden-Holborne
Emergency Preparedness: Suzanne Till, Kevin Barefoot
Inclusion Committee: Todd Dea, vacancy
Information Technology Advisory: Craig McMahon, Michael Ouchi
Policy Review Committee: Jane Lagden-Holborne, Vivienne Megas
Safe and Caring Schools: Deborah Johnstone, Joanna Woronchak
School Planning Council: Mike Sexsmith, Vacancy
Education Week Planning: Jane Lagden-Holborne, Vivienne Megas
Outdoor School: Suzanne Till
Middle Years Matter: Vivienne Megas

Oct 18th General Meeting Summary

I'd like to thank all our PAC reps in attendance at our Oct 18th meeting for making it such a lively event full of discussion and interest in the areas of discussion.


District Plans for 2012/13

We began the meeting with an introduction from our Trustee Liaison Christie Sacré followed up by a short summary of the main themes for the year from the district perspective from Superintendent John Lewis. Of these the need to re-establish the trusting relationships between the teachers and the school system that was broken up by last years labour action is a key one from my perspective. When we are unable to communicate everything becomes more difficult than it should be and it is very good to have those lines of communication open again, if needing some repair.  Superintendent Lewis' presentation was a shortened version of the one provided at the Toward the Future of Schools board meeting.

School IT Plans

Following this we had a presentation from Monty Bell, Director of Learning Services and David Jennings, Director of Information and Communications Technology on the District's efforts to raise the level of technology usage in schools through EdCamps to help teachers and others learn best practices from each other and the newly introduced school tech plans which intend to help schools match their technology needs to the educational goals in the school plans. PACs are being asked to play a role here by participating in the discussion to connect the IT equipment support we often provide to the IT needs of the school by ensuring they are matched to educational goals. This is the start of a process across the district. We have a lot to learn from each other about how this could work and it was clear from the discussion that ensued that it is the start of a lot of interesting discussions.

EdCamps and Technology Plans Presentation
School IT Plans

North Van PAC plans for 2012/13

North Van PAC has a full schedule of activity for the year with three major themes: PACs and IT, Parent Engagement and a Parent Education.

PACs and IT

PACs and IT is an effort to support the school district in the development of IT plans for individual schools. This will be a challenge for PACs as we'll be asked to tie investments we make to the school plans. From a North Van PAC perspective our efforts will focus on enabling PACs to share our best practices and possibly to pool resources and take more of a district wide look at how we are funding these practices. Expect to hear much more about this as schools work on their plans throughout the year.

Parent Engagement

As the school district has made welcome improvements in their ability to reach out directly to parents via email NorthVanPAC needs to develop new mechanisms to connect with PACs and gain an understanding of parent perspectives on school issues. With our NVPAC school liaisons we are intending to visit PACs and join your meetings more so we have a better understanding of your issues and can help you with district concerns. We are also working with the different partner groups (District, Administrators, Teachers and CUPE) on a parent survey to help us all get a better understanding of parent issues across the district.

Parent Education

Part of our role at NorthVanPAC is to help parent's better understand how to navigate the school system to support their children. Throughout this year we will be presenting a number of speakers of interest to parents. We started with our session on Parents as Career Coaches in October and will be presenting other speakers throughout the year, including Ann Whitaker in November who will be talking about how parents should advocate for their students within the school system. Within this, we will are also inviting speakers to an event later in the year where they can come and explain their services to each of our PACs. We don't know who to invite to this yet so we are looking for PACs to recommend speakers they would recommend to other PACs.

Other Discussions 

School Liaisons

Expect us to contact you and invite ourselves to meet you at your PAC meetings so we can better share district and school ideas and challenges.

District Committees

With the job action over there are a number of committees getting started again this year and we are looking for parent volunteers to represent district parents on these commitees. Please contact us if you are interested but also if you want to find out more about a committee. We had two energetic parents volunteer to represent us on the safe and caring schools committee and another step up to the emergency preparedness committee at the meeting but still need lots of help. See the page on district committees for a list of vacant positions, but even if a committee says it is full contact us as we're always in need of alternates. 

Traffic Safety

Many schools in the district suffer from traffic issues as kids travel to and from school. While the specifics are tied to the school the effort needed to address the issues is often common. Recognizing this we are looking for parents interested in working with us to develop a district-wide perspective on traffic so we can help figure out effective responses. Interested PACs should send an email to Info@northvanpac.org indicating they are interested and include contact information for their rep(s).


Much deeper than the traffic challenges are the bullying issues in our schools and communities. How do we as parents help to manage this persistent issue. Part of the solution is resources but a large part of the solution is communication and best practices. A number of parents would like to setup a committee to look at sharing best practices surrounding this common issue and it makes sense to do this at a NorthVanPAC level. Recognizing this we are looking for parents interested in working with us to develop a district-wide perspective on anti-bullying so we can help figure out effective responses. Interested parents should send an email to Info@northvanpac.org indicating they are interested. 

BCCPAC Memberships

BCCPAC is the Provincial representative of parents to the school system and its voice is stronger if we support them. PACs should make sure their membership forms are completed and let BCCPAC know that NorthVanPAC will pay the membership fees. 

Available grants

We have grants available for Emergency Preparedness, food safe ($50/person up to 3 per school), Parent Speaker grants and Family of Schools event grants. Please let us know if you have any of these expenses coming up and we will help to fund a portion of the costs. North Van PAC will also pay for registration and other costs incurred by parents wishing to attend the BCCPAC conferences.

Upcoming Events/Speakers

Our next North Van PAC general meeting on November 15th is open to all parents, not just DPAC reps, and features Anne Whiteaker speaking how parents and PACs can work effectively within the school system to advocate for their children and schools.. Click for more information.

As the October event was over-booked we are hosting another session of the Parents as Career Coaches workshop in November. Click for more information.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Towards the Future for Schools 2 October 2012

Enrollment Update:

As of the end of September, 2012, there were 15,874 students registered in all programs.  This includes K - 12 students, as well as individuals enrolled in Continuing Ed and alternate programs.  As predicted, enrollment is down from the same time last year, but not as much as anticipated.  The student population drops by approximately 300 students per year, as about 1,400 students graduate from Grade 12 while only 1,100 register in Kindergarten.  This trend will continue for a few more years, but then it is expected that enrollment will “flatten”.  This means that that the student population will be distributed more or less evenly, with approximately the same number of students in each grade.  This trend is already apparent as the K – Grade 7 population is flat.  The numbers in Grades 10 – 12 are higher, partly because this is where there is the heaviest concentration of International students.

District Priorities for 2012/13:

Superintendent John Lewis gave an overview of District priorities for 2012/13.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Expansion:  Primary Years Program (PYP):

IB Background:
Assistant Superintendent Mark Jefferson provided some background on the history of the IB program in the District.  A study group in 2005/6 resulted in the implementation of the IB program at a few schools in the District.  The PYP program (K – 7) is at Capilano Elementary, while the Middle Years Program (MYP) (Grades 8 – 10) and the Diploma Program (Grades 11 and 12) are at Carson Graham.  The MYP was formerly housed at Balmoral, until that school’s closure and consolidation with Carson Graham.

Greg Milner spoke about the enrollment and interest in the PYP at Capilano Elementary.  In 2007, Capilano Elementary had 257 students enrolled.  The following year, enrollment climbed to 275.  This was the year that a full-day, “user pay” Kindergarten was offered at Capilano Elementary, and was the year that IB discussions began.  Registration at Capilano has climbed steadily ever since.  The 2012 enrollment is 472, with three Kindergarten classes and 17 Grade 1 – 7 classes.

The majority of students attending Capilano live in the catchment; about 100 live “in the vicinity”, that is, in the catchment of schools such as Norgate and Westview, and others; a further 40 -50 live in other parts of the District.  A few Capilano students reside in other school districts – Burnaby, Coquitlam, West Vancouver and Vancouver.  There are, however, a number of students living in the catchment who do not attend Capilano.  Some attend programs (French Immersion) offered at other schools in the District, while others attend faith-based schools.

For the 2012/13 school year, the District received 76 requests for Kindergarten placement at Capilano.  Of these, 53 were placed at Capilano; 41 live in the catchment and a further 12 have siblings already at Capilano.  The remainder of the students do not live in the catchment area, and could not be placed at Capilano.  At the grade 3/4 level, the District received 34 requests for placement at Capilano; 17 were placed at Capilano.  Five students living within the Capilano catchment could not be accommodated at Capilano.  For grades other than K and 3/4, 22 requests for transfers to Capilano were received from within the district.  From this group, only three students, all of whom live in the catchment, were placed at Capilano.  Capilano is at capacity, with all of its 20 classrooms filled.  Since requests for placement at Capilano now exceed its capacity, there is interest in the PYP, and hence a reason to consider expansion of the program.

PYP Theory, Curriculum and Practice:
Jennifer Wilson, Principal of Capilano Elementary, gave an overview of PYP theory, curriculum, and practice.  The aim of all IB programs is to encourage students to be (among other things), internationally-minded, lifelong learners with deep intercultural understanding.  Rather than attempt to replicate Ms Wilson’s presentation, readers are referred to the District's page about the IB Program.

PYP Working Group Recommendations
Mark Jefferson presented the PYP Working Group’s recommendations.  All of the schools which were considered in 2005/6, together with other schools with available space were considered as potential sites for an expanded PYP.  The MYP and DP at Carson Graham are evolving, and there is no need for expansion of these programs at the present time.

The PYP Working Group considered the following criteria, and ranked each of the schools being considered:

 - Geographic location
 - Site space and room for population growth
 - Continuum – students will likely proceed to MYP/DP once they complete PYP
 - Physical plant – condition, need for renovation
 - Public transportation – is the school well-served by public transit?  Access – What does the drop-off zone look like?
 -  Location in relation to Carson Graham.  (See Continuum, above)

Of the schools considered, the top three are:  #1. Queen Mary, #2. Norgate, # 3. Eastview.

The District will hold information sessions at Queen Mary for PAC, parents and staff in the near future.  The PYP Working Group will report to the School Board at its October 23, 2012 meeting.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Demystifying Your PAC — Working Together

For our November general meeting North Van PAC is pleased to offer a presentation by Ann Whiteaker, past president of BCCPAC entitled "Demystifying Your PAC — Working Together"
This presentation would be of interest to all parents interested in understanding how to best support and advocate for their students, and create parent voice within the school system.

Date: November 15, 2012, 7-9 PM
Location: 2121 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver, BC

This meeting is open to all parents, please RSVP to the Program Facilitator, North Vancouver District PAC (DPAC) at viviennemegas@northvanpac.org

Building relationships requires more than just a common set of values and a desire to see students succeed. We all know parent/community volunteers play a vital role in the success of school-lead initiatives and support student achievement when they are engaged in the school community however what this looks like and how to tap into this resource is not commonly practised or understood.

This workshop will provide a better understanding of the role of parents within our schools, tools to engage this resource to maximize benefits and solutions to common concerns that challenge positive relationships when we engage the greater school community.

Topics will cover the shared rights, roles and responsibilities of PACs, Parents, Administrators, and Staff, how to best support and advocate for students when issues arise and how to gather and create Parent voice through your PAC. Bring your ideas, and challenges for discussion in this lively and fun workshop.

The workshop will be hosted by Ann Whiteaker. Ann was the past president of BCCPAC. She has been actively involved in all school levels: elementary, middle, and high school, as well as the district level for 13 years. She has served as PAC Chair, DPAC Director, and the BCCPAC. Ann was also one of the members on the Panel of CBC On The Coast's live broadcast of "Failing Our Kids? Is BC's public education system broken?” Whiteaker is an experienced advocate for parents often being called upon to assist parents when problems or concerns present themselves to support their student’s success and navigating the system.

Parents as Career Coaches - November Workshop

Our October session of the Parents as Career Coaches workshop is now fully booked, 

If you have been unable to register for the October session please consider attending our November session.

November session:  November 14th and 21st, 2-Wednesday evenings, 6:30 – 9:00 PM
Location: Sutherland Secondary School, 2098 Sutherland Avenue  North Vancouver, BC

A second Fall session is set for November due to the popular demand. If you are interested in learning more about the sessions or registering for the event please send an email with the number of parents attending to the Program Facilitator, North Vancouver District PAC (DPAC) at viviennemegas@northvanpac.org

The "Parents as Career Coaches" interactive workshop (PACC), 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. 

North Van PAC is offering this free workshop to parents. Please inform parents of the availability of this event, especially those with children in grades 7-9 starting to investigate potential careers. 

We are inviting all parents interested in learning how to help their children select and progress toward their future careers to attend a free two evening training session, in conjunction with Capilano University, to help parents develop their career coaching skills so they can better help their children prepare for their futures.

The workshop has been very well received and we are happy to bring it to you once again.

***Registration is required.  Please contact Vivienne if you are interested in attending the workshop at viviennemegas@northvanpac.org

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Connecting with PACs

The role of NorthVanPAC is to represent parent interests at the District level while keeping parent’s informed on District wide issues. As a small volunteer organization we are always in need of parent input to ensure we are aware of parent interests and therefore able to represent them.

Typically we gain this information through PAC representation at our general meetings, and we hope you’ll join us on the 18th. But we’d also like to get to know our school PACs better, so we’d like to come to your PAC meetings to introduce ourselves and have you help us understand parent issues across the district.

We’d like to get out and visit with parents from all our schools and so members of the Exec will be contacting all our school PACs. We’d like to arrange to join you at one of your PAC meetings to talk about what NorthVanPAC is up to and to find out more about how we could help your school.

I’d like to thank each of our School PACs in advance for welcoming us into their schools.

Monday, October 1, 2012

NVPAC General Meeting Agenda - Oct 18th

Our first general meeting for North Van PAC will feature an introduction to District plans for the school year from Superintendent John Lewis and Trustee Sacré and an introduction to a new Information Technology planning framework for schools from Monty Bell, Director of Learning Services and David Jennings, Director of Information and Communications Technology.

As major investors in school IT equipment PACs should attend this meeting to understand how the School District will be working with schools and PACs to support the use of information technology in schools.

Meeting: October 18th, 7pm to 9pm at the Education Services Centre (2121 Lonsdale ave)

Main Agenda:

  • Welcome from the Board - Trustee Sacré
  • School District Plans for 2012/13 - Superintendent John Lewis
  • Information Technology and School Plans - Monty Bell and David Jennings
  • North Van Pac plans for the new year - David Whitehead
NVPAC Business:

  • School Liaisons
  • District Committees
  • BCCPAC Memberships
  • Budget Update 
  • Available grants
  • Upcoming events/speakers
We look forward to meeting with all the PAC representatives at our meeting on the 18th.