UVic historian of education paints a bleak political picture, and blames all sides.

By Crawford Kilian, 3 Jan 2012, TheTyee.ca

Title: Worlds Apart: British Columbia Schools, Politics, and Labour Relations Before and After 1972

Author: Thomas Fleming

Published by Bendall Books (2011)

Just about everyone with an interest in B.C. schools will have to read this book — parents, teachers, trustees, administrators, politicians, the media. None of them are going to like it.

That’s because Thomas Fleming, a professor emeritus at UVic, has studied our schools for many years; he knows the system we set up back in 1849. He knows how it’s changed, not always for the better. With energetic impartiality, he finds fault with teachers, trustees, civil servants, and politicians, especially since the first NDP government took power 40 years ago.

From his earlier books and articles, I was familiar with his thesis: B.C. education had been effectively nonpolitical from 1872 until 1972. A handful of dedicated ministry officials had run the schools in an “imperial” style from Victoria, while sending equally dedicated inspectors out to make sure the system was running well. Those inspectors were often veterans of rural and urban schools who had risen through the ranks.

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The Vancouver board of education commenced a review of its schools and services Thursday with the launch of a new website intended to be a one-stop shop of information for parents, students, staff and community members.

The website, called Your Schools, Your Community, Our Future (http://ourfuture.vsb.bc.ca), marks the start of an extensive review and public consultation process to determine what programs and opportunities Vancouver students need now and into the future, deputy superintendent Jordan Tinney said in a release. The review will also include public hearings at a later date.

The website will provide an array of information about alternative and special-needs programs, enrolments, seismic and heritage rankings, staffing numbers and student catchment charts, the release says.

The board approved the sectoral review after voting in late 2010 not to close five small east-side schools that had been targeted due to low enrolments. At that time, the board instructed staff to prepare a report outlining the educational opportunities available in the district.

“The question of whether the [district] has the necessary facilities and resources to support its programs in all areas of the district will be a key consideration when the final report is presented to the board in March 2012,” the release says.

Despite declining enrolments, Vancouver has closed only one school: a small annex in 2003. Vision Vancouver and COPE trustees, who form a majority on the board, have said they do not intend to close any schools.

Story by: Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun


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