1. – What is the most important issue facing the Board of Education, and how would you propose to deal with it?
There isn’t one “all important issue” facing the board. Funding, Willoughby slope, under-populated schools, Policy 7200 are all important.
i. Funding – the government has washed its hands of education, they got their negotiated settlement and as far as they’re concerned, it’s a done deal until it’s time to negotiate again. In the meantime, we have new schools on the slope that have opened at or over capacity and students in portables. And a government that is saying “don’t bother submitting any capital expenditure plans.” That isn’t acceptable. Concentrated, frank talks with the government are required to remind them that education is a critical component to the wellbeing and economical feasibility of any community.
ii. Under-populated schools and over capacity schools in the same district. This isn’t easy – while neighbourhood schools are the best option, close to home and more involvement from parents is possible, we may have to seriously look at busing students from over-populated to under-populated areas. This is not the ideal solution, but it is a solution for the short-term.
iii. Policy 7200 – is an excellent start to addressing the harassment and bullying that is a fact of life for some students. Steps are needed to ensure the policy is followed, maintained and adapted as needed. We need to be proactive in watching out for vulnerable individuals.
2. – Should the school district sell surplus school sites to help fund capital projects in Willoughby?
This isn’t a cut and dried question. We desperately need new schools but they take at least five years to build from concept to doors opening, cost anywhere from $40 to $60 million and the school boards are expected to contribute up to 50 per cent. Selling properties now to cover those expenses requires thoughtful discussion, not “quick, call a realtor” panic sessions. We need to make sure we aren’t going to need those facilities in the near future. I think each site needs to be judged individually: Is there a possibility of population shift? Does it already have a school? Is it near its end of life? Do we jump on building schools on the slope and in 10 years people leave the slope and we’re now left with empty schools on the slope? More planning and input should’ve gone into the slope prior to all the development, so the school board could’ve been prepared for the influx. If you build it they will come. We need to be sure we don’t get caught again. Only this time it could be with half-built schools and no students.
3. – Is there enough timely communication between the board and the two local governments regarding development and its impact on school population?
No. Something went seriously wrong in the communication channel. I think we need to look at how we project our figures for incoming population. Langley is going to continue to grow as more and more families find they just can’t afford a home on the other side of the river. We need to make sure we aren’t caught unawares by the next population spurt.
The provincial government has to accept that Langley is a “go-to” place and people want to live here. They can’t really say, “sorry, no funding.” The kids are here and they are entitled to an education.
4. – What is the best way to deal with class size and composition issues, so that all students get the maximum attention from teachers?
This will always be a bone of contention between the employer and the employee – the boss always wants more for less and the employee feels over-worked and under-appreciated. Just because teachers were able to teach multiple grades in one-room schools in decades past doesn’t mean it’s the best solution. How many students were “lost” because they didn’t get the specialized attention they needed? Far better to provide support for those students now, in their school years, so they can grow up and become productive, employed members of society instead of a burden on society for their entire life. Not all students are destined for the corporate world, or doctors or lawyers, but all children deserve the best education they can get to set them on the right path for a successful life. The only way to accomplish that is to provide proper support in the classroom so the teacher can efficiently teach the curriculum without having to spend her time with a select few children that need specialized help while the others are left to their own devices.