Vancouver Continues Pairing Down the Budget

The combined committee III (Education and Planning) and committee V (Finance) met at the VSB offices last evening to hear delegations speak regarding the proposed ‘phase I’ cuts to the VSB operating budget (see November 12 entry for details). The necessity to cut the budget has arise as a result of a serious under estimate of Vancouver’s declining enrollment. Previously this fall the board cut 48 full-time equivalent teaching positions from the schools. What they are calling Phase I involves an additional 1.6 million dollars of cuts.So-called phase I cuts involves a combination of not filling currently vacant positions, reducing (by a small amount) school-based administration positions, cuts to the districts research agenda. Phase II cuts (to be considered in December 20060 would include an across the board cut to school supplies in the order of almost $700,000.00.

Superintendent Chris Kelly acknowledged the difficulty that the district has been facing given the so unanticipated decline in students. “It is important to acknowledge,” he said, that there is no assumption that this [proposal to cut] is a better educational solution, an improvement to education, it’s quite the opposite.” Noting the difficulty the superintendent stated that the reduction is not what they wanted. Rather, they have tried to “go about this in a reasonable, balanced way to face the negative consequences of the decline in student enrolment.

The phase I cuts that were most discussed by the delegations to the committee involved the reduction of school-based administration at Britannia Scondary and Sir Charles Tupper Secondary. The District Management Team (DMT) has recommend that based upon strict enrolment numbers these two secondary schools are ‘over staffed’ in terms of administration full-time equivalents. DMT was supported in principle in this contention by the Vancouver Secondary Teachers Association whose president, Bill Bargeman, and Tupper VSTA Union Rep, Bonnie Brunell, both commented that the VP’s were in fact taking away from realtime teaching blocks and therefore the reduction of administration would benefit students. Bill Bargeman qualified the unions comments by suggesting the choice of Tupper and Britannia were misplaced, but the overall concern with administration positions was of less impact then the proposed 10% across the board cut to the school supplies and discretionary budgets.

Britannia PAC Chair, L.K. Chieh and Vice-Chari Cynthia Wong, spoke passionately about their school, the diversity and the unique features of the school which would be put in jeopardy by the reeducation in school-based administration. Their commentary was followed by school teachers who also spoke to the importance of retaining the local vice principal in their school on a fulltime basis.

While the likely outcome of all of this will be the adoption of the phased in cuts the issue that has not been addressed in any public forum is the ongoing problem of management by crisis. We need to move to a longer term, more predictable funding structure so that we are able to operate the system with some degree of certainty and regularity.

Vancouver School Board Cuts Spending

The enrollment miscalculation continues to dog the Vancouver School District. The following is cribbed from VSB info released at this evenings school board meeting (see VSB Oct. 11 Committee III minutes; see also previous post on this topic, October 6, October 4. ).

In order to obtain input from the public and stakeholder groups with respect to the proposed Budget Reductions, a Committee lll/V meeting will be held at the Ed Centre on Tuesday November 14, starting at 7:00 to receive delegations.

Individuals or groups wanting to register as a delegation for this meeting should contact Trustee Support in the Secretary Treasure’s office by November 10th. It is anticipated that the Board will make decisions on the proposed budget reductions for phase 1 at the nov 20th board meeting.

This does not change the regular cttee lll meeting the next day. That date will go ahead as planned.
This is an extraordinary one, as promised, to discuss the cuts to staffing and programs relating to the low enrollment.

Phase 1 is planned to be implemented in January, phase 2 next fall.
Here’s Phase 1:

1. Savings from vacant positions
vacant PASA and CUPE 15 positions (july – October) savings $228,000

additional savings if new PASA positions remain vacant for the remainder of the year. (Supervisor-LIT; Systems Audit Coordinator savings $97,650

2. Eliminate 1.0 FTE elementary school Vice-Principal effective Jan 1, 2007
Champlain Heights is targeted to lose a vp, as they have under 400 students this year savings $47,500

3. Eliminate 1.0 FTE secondary school Vice-Principal effective Jan 1, 2007
Britannia and Tupper will share a vice-principal savings $35,000

4. Reduced Learning Enquiry activity for 2006/2007
A reduction of $200,000 means that no new sites would be added for this year, and next. The funds remaining would allow for the sites from last year to be supported in their implementation phase, and allow for an Aboriginal Learners’ Inquiry to be undertaken. savings $200,000

5. Transfer of remaining GVDES Special Purpose Fund balance from 2005/06 to operating fund
Beginning in 2006/07, the MOE will be funding Distributed Learning students through the operating grant. Balances remaining in the GVDES fund on June 30,06 to be transferred to the operating fund.savings $540,000

6. Transfer from Local Capital Reserve
One time funds would be transferred from the Capital Reserve to the operating fund.savings $523,850

total savings for phase 1 is $1,672,000

VSB Document on cutting plan, November 9, 2006: Download file

Students Still Against BC Graduation Portfolio

Campaigning against the current BC Graduation portfolio continues with more online petitions from BC Students. Copied below is the text from the current online petion which as of November 9th has almost 7,500 signatures.

Parents are encouraged to sign this petition as well. Teachers, parents, BCTF and the representatives of the Ministry of Education, who are conducting the grad portfolio review, are informed about this petition. The petition will be closed on Nov. 19 at midnight, and the signatures will be sent to the BC Minister of Education. SIGN it NOW and spread the word! If we want to win, we have to take matters into our own hands!

To: To the BC Ministry of Education

Every student in BC – with the exception of the graduates of 2007 – still have to do the graduation portfolio in order to graduate from high school.

The graduation portfolio became optional for the 2007 graduates. The students in BC, who will graduate at a later time expect from the Government of BC and the Ministry of Education to be treated equally, and ask for the graduation portfolio to become optional for them as well.

Furthermore the students, along with the teachers still do not understand fully the complete requirements of the graduation portfolio, making it extremely difficult and very time consuming for the students to work on it. Because of the lack of exact instructions to do the portfolio, the students are losing precious studying time for the other subjects and the provincial exams.

Is it fair to let some students have the portfolio optional, while for the other students it remains mandatory?

If you wish to better the lives of the students in BC, please sign the petition below. After obtaining 1000 (or more) signatures, the petition will be sent to the BC Minister of Education, Shirley Bond.


The Undersigned

Previous posts on the grad portfolio: November 6, November 3, September 5, August 13, January 27 .

Graduation Portfolio Review

On Wednesday, November 1, I was one of among 50-75 parents, teachers and students who were able to meet Ministry of Education staff as part of the current review of the graduation portfolio. The key points that were raised by parents at the meeting are as follows (with thanks to Van DPAC coordinator for the notes):

  • Lack of extra resources and funding for its implementation
  • Query re value of portfolio in its current form – too much like a series of checklists
  • There were so many mistakes in implementation – can they be rectified or is it a lost cause?
  • There was not enough representation – e.g. wider numbers of teachers and parents – in this review process. (and what is the difference between a consultation with wider participation and a review, which seems to bring in fewer people?)
  • Students aren’t being listened to
  • Fatal flaw: issues of equity between districts, between students in a district in ability, family support to do all portfolio strands
  • Need for training and in service for teachers (as was pointed out before implementation by BCCPAC, trustee, superintendent and teacher organizations)
  • Need for clarity of purpose: why are we making the kids do this?
  • Lack of consistency from one district to next re verification requirements, physical activity requirements, etc.
  • Mandatory nature of portfolio reduces the choice – and room in timetable to take – arts and technology courses
  • Some people expressed a desire to somehow keep the community service, physical activity and reflection bits in students’ graduation programs.

For those interested in listening to most of the evening’s proceedings click here for an audio recording of the nights commentary.

You can contact the government directly with your comments by using this email address:

Ministry of Education portfolio review page.
Surprise announcement putting portfolio on hold.
Student petition against graduation portfolios.

Deputy Minister’s cheery comments on the graduation portfolio.
BCTF graduation portfolio review page (October 16, 2006).