The Times has asked two questions of the candidates running in the Nov. 19 local elections. Their answers provide more information to potential voters. These are the answers to the following questions from candidates for the Langley Board of Education.
1. Is the Board of Education doing enough to implement the Auditor-General’s recommendations on governance and financial reform?
2. How can the need for more educational spaces in Willoughby be better achieved?
The Times has asked two questions of the candidates running in the Nov. 19 local elections. Almost all of them have responded, and their answers provide more information to potential voters. This pull-out edition, which can be saved for future reference, features answers from candidates for Langley City council (pages 11 and 12) and Langley Board of Education. Responses from canddates for Langley Township council will be published on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Board of Education,
Langley City seats
(2 to be elected)
Candy Ashdown, trustee candidate
1. No. Nine recommendations were made over a year ago by the Auditor-General in the areas of Governance, Internal Controls and Long-term Planning. A recent self-assessment by the Board of Education admits the majority of the recommendations had not been done. Only three of the nine recommendations had been “fully or substantially” adopted. In the area of Long-term Planning, the Board admitted these had not been dealt with at all.
2. We need to develop a strong rationale to the Provincial Government demonstrating a long-term plan for students. The plan should demonstrate the educational and financial benefits of more educational spaces in the Willoughby area. I believe we also need to establish much better communication between the Township, City and the district to avoid this from happening again in the future.
Stacey Cody, trustee candidate
1. I believe that we can always do better. The Board has worked very hard to fulfill all of the nine recommendations from the OAG. We have come a long way since the OAG came in and met with the Board. Having the rotating chair has afforded each trustee to show leadership, to forge a closer working relationship with the superintendent and forced each one of us to have a greater sense of responsibility and accountability to the board and to senior staff. It has been an eye-opener.
I feel there have been good strides made in the area of financial reform but this too, we can improve on. The Action Plan that the trustees have in place has helped us to keep on track and moving in the right direction. I am grateful for having had the OAG work with us. We are a work in progress — but then what organization isn’t?
2. We must continue to lobby government for another school on the Willoughby slope. Trustees, senior management, school administration and community have worked hard together to keep this issue current in the minds of government — it has been very respectful on all fronts but very direct. Also, trustees and Township council must meet more regularly to understand both the needs of the school district and the greater community.
We must work diligently together to ensure that as growth continues, there is sufficient space for students. Information to the community must be accurate and honest — we all deserve nothing less.
Rob McFarlane, trustee candidate
1. Following the last election, the district was found to be in a financial ‘nose dive’ due to inadequate financial and budget controls, a lack of attention to financial matters, and several consecutive years of expenses exceeding revenues. The risk of even more serious educational damage was significant.
The financial priority was to finally balance the budget, begin paying off the debt, and correct specific issues (Auditor-General 2010 report etc.) in order to preserve our student’s education. To date the district has avoided the educational/financial ‘crash landing’, begun repayment of the debt, and is correcting the issues on timelines pre-agreed with the A-G.
While the causes of the district’s problems are unforgivable, progress to date is satisfactory.
2. By developing a long-term plan linking improved student success with specific actions and resources to fund those actions, a sound educational and financial case can be made to the provincial government for additional space.
Board of Education, Langley Township seats
(5 to be elected)
Pamala Combs, trustee candidate, did not provide answers to The Times
Megan Dykeman, trustee candidate
1. The current board in a recent self report on the Auditor General’s Recommendations indicated that there were areas of the recommendations that the board had only partially implemented and others that it would not be implementing. The most notable of the latter is longer range planning. As both financial accountability and planning are significant deficiencies in the district, it appears clear that the board has not done enough.
2. The situation in Willoughby is a significant symptom of the larger issue of planning failure. If proper facilities planning were in place, the now urgent needs of Willoughby would have been appropriately addressed in the context of the district as a whole. As it stands right now the district is living from one crisis to another. Proper planning with less reliance on incorrect information and more forethought is required, otherwise facilities decisions are just a shot in the dark.
Wendy Johnson, trustee candidate
1. The board of Education has made some progress but there is still a great deal of work to do. I believe that the Board’s decision to appoint a rotating chair has resulted in a lack of leadership which has impeded its progress.
2. Communication between the Township and the school district, including meetings between Township councillors and trustees, needs to be greatly improved so that the school district is apprised of development in the area on an ongoing basis. A well-informed board is then in a better position to make a strong case to the ministry of education in regard to more educational spaces.
Brian Leonard, trustee candidate
1. In the update from the A-G, there has been some progess on governance and financial reform. Given the time frame there has been some good steps forward. However the lack of vision on long term facilities planning and a general five-year plan are still concerning. It is also crucial that questions continue to be asked of senior management and new trustees that will be elected know exactly what their roles are. This will continue the strides that have been made in the past year.
2. This can be achieved by better communication with all levels of government when it comes to planning and funding. Producing a needs assessment to the provincial government should lay out a solid business case, for more schools and fast tracking the process. For now, we will live with a process which does not and will not serve the Willoughby community.
John McKendry, trustee candidate
1. There is a level of feeling in the community that the board is not doing enough to implement the Auditor-General’s recommendations. I have not been privy to board discussions and board thinking; however, having served in a senior position in government, I can say that such recommendations are to be taken seriously and intended to be enacted in an expeditious manner. If there is a problem with enactment then further consultation should be sought with the A-G or ministry or both.
2. Better mid- to long term planning would have gone a long way to avoid the situation in Willoughby. The planning system software has been available to the Board for many years and is used widely in B.C. schools.
One is left with the impression that this has not been done effectively in Langley. The projected growth in this area should come as no surprise. Now it is a matter of finding the ‘best fit’ solution for that area and such a “solution” may not be the most desirable solution for the community. From unexpected deficits, changes of school mandates (Stafford), to area planning, a series of substantial issues have emerged in recent times. These “issues” raise questions about the existence of deeper problems requiring serious attention.
Alison McVeigh, trustee candidate
1. The board received the Auditor Generals report 12 months ago and significant progress has been made in implementing all recommendations. An Action Plan was developed. The board has taken several steps to effectively work together. A well-respected secretary-treasurer was hired and there have been many improvements made to strengthen the district’s internal controls. While there is more work to do, Auditor General John Doyle commented recently “I am encouraged by the positive progress of the board and senior management of Langley School District.”
2. Obtaining more educational space in Willoughby is my priority. The board has taken every opportunity possible to appeal to the ministry of education the need for more schools in this area. Through these efforts, the only new school construction in B.C. was awarded to Langley last spring. The board must continue to advocate the urgent need for more schools in Willoughby to the ministry of education.
Kari Medos, trustee candidate
1. Positive steps have begun but the election will help towards that goal by electing new people to the board table who have a proven history of working cohesively with our district. A three-year plan makes sense for an interim solution but they do need to work as expediently as possible to get our deficit turned around, and begin long term planning as quickly as possible while taking care to do things right. It’s imperative that all internal controls are put into place immediately to ensure that we never face another deficit again.
2. Through continued lobbying of the government while providing them with long range plans, demographics and credible facts which substantiate Langley’s need for more educational space by a board that works together, with senior management and the township of Langley. We need one strong and united voice to reach Victoria.
Cecelia Reekie, trustee candidate
1. No. The board has made progress on some of the recommendations, and some of the recommendations are ongoing, but there is much work that still needs to be done. I would like to see all of the recommendations implemented more quickly.
2. Additional classroom spaces can only be provided by building new schools, expanding existing schools, or a combination of the two. The board needs to press the ministry of education to approve these needed capital expenditures.
Rod Ross, trustee candidate
1. The Board is implementing changes on governance and financial reform. While not everything in education moves very fast I am pleased how the board moved forward together. The board worked to educate itself on the role of trustee and attends to relationship building. The rotation of the board chair position has worked well for us and while it may not be optimum it is working for us. Regarding financial reform, we have instituted the audit aommittee and, together with our new secretary-treasurer, we are daily strengthening our financial reform.
2. The only way one can better achieve more educational spaces for Willoughby is to advocate for more schools from the provincial government. During the last roll out of Capital building money we were the only district to receive a new school. (Read: Thanks to Rich Coleman and Mary Polak). I will continue to advocate for new schools on the slope.
Kirsten Schaffer-Charlesworth, trustee candidate
1. I believe that there needs to be more work done on the Auditor General recommendations, particularly in the areas of communication, long term planning, internal controls, implementation of a 10-year facilities plan and regular updates from senior management. This needs to be done to mitigate future financial loss for the district and protect programs and services for students. All recommendations need continual follow up and monitoring by the board, senior management and the Auditor General.
2. I believe that the school board, community and partner groups need to continuously lobby the provincial government so that we receive additional funding for more schools. We need improved communication with the Township of Langley regarding development and growth. I would also like to see the new modular classrooms made available for Langley schools, clustered in groups, as to provide a more school-like environment.
Douglas Smuland, trustee candidate
1. As outlined by the Auditor-General, the Board has been moving to implement what was asked, but the timeline itself remains in question. The better question will be, at what rate will progress in dealing with the chronic underfunding of the public school system be dealt with by the new trustees?
2. This again is a direct consequence of the ministry not meeting the needs of students and parents in Langley. The typical answer of classrooms being structured in portables is a temporary one that doesn’t address the need to provide infrastructure financing as population numbers rise.