Further Refelctions on The Vision School Board Discusions

Some further reflections on the Vision School Board Candidates’ Meeting and in response to Shelly Sullivan’s comments on my account of the Vision School Board debate and my comments regarding the teachers’ questions. Had I had the chance to answer the Bill 33/ Class Size and Composition question I would have said something like this:

Legislation with teeth will provide a clear structure and set of boundaries within which local level collective bargaining can address specific concerns. The Provincial Liberal Party’s legislation, which was the ‘fulfillment of a promise to teachers to have them end the 2005 strike, was a poor excuse at a collective agreement. To be effective it would have required the consent of, if not the teacher, then a school-based representative council of teachers. The legislation should have included real penalties for districts and administrators if they violated the rules. And, it would have required a ‘real’ process of justifying classes over the limits. The issue isn’t that legislation can’t work, it’s that this legislation doesn’t work (keep in mind I was in a minority of parents speaking for Bill 33 -along with the BCTF as I recall) when it was passed. You will find a radio interview that I gave somewhere on my blog in which I talk to these very issues. (Read what I said at the time Bill 33 was introduced click here. Here’s a radio interview I did at the time. click here.

In terms of learning something about the candidates with the questions that were asked consider the following: The first group, who were asked about Bill 33 included two PAC/DPAC parents who entered parent politics through the vantage point of Special Ed and Learning Disabilities (I also count myself in that group), a young man currently a trustee in a smaller district, and a long time aboriginal community worker. The second group of four (who were asked a different question) included a current COPE elected trustee, two retired teachers, and a businessman.

What did we learn? I learned that Patti Bacchus and Helesia Like, who experience the implications and impact of Bill 33 as the parents of children directed affected by the legislation and who were involved in debates around the implementation of the law have fairly considerate and collaborative perspectives. They seem open to the possibility that legislation might work, but also see the problems with the legislation. They also understand the issues of how it affects the lives of their children. The see a role for negotiation. I learned, what one might have already suspected, that Stepan Vdovine was aware of the legal implications given his role as a trustee in a district in which he would have had to deal with this legislation for some time as an elected official. I learned, that Ken Clement didn’t really know much about the legislation but that, not unsurprisingly, he sees the way teachers, administrators, and trustees have failed aboriginal students to be a pressing concern that needs to be addressed now.

The second group was asked a question that focused on facilities issues. Here I learned that one candidate believes the west side is the problem. I learned that Sharon and Mike think comprehensive community schools are great. I learned from Anastassia that she feels that parents like me (that’s how it felt as a district parent who has in fact been lobbying and arguing for equitable access to resources and facilities) don’t do enough for poor parents and that all we do is write cheques to solve problems -if only that were really true).

Here are some of the types of questions that I would have liked to see asked:

  • What have you done as a parent, community activist, a teacher, to ensure that the learning needs of all children can be met?
  • What have you done in your community that has made real , positive, and progressive change for people?
  • Do you have the time in your day to do this job that is poorly paid, poorly understood, and rarely appreciated?
  • For the parents, how have you worked with teachers -have you been happy with each circumstance that you children have been in? How did you work to solve that problem? For teachers, how have you worked with parents -have you been happy with each circumstance? In the face of a conflict how did you work to solve it? For the non-parent/non-teacher cohort -a similar question linked to their actual actions.

I would also have liked the candidates to discuss their capacity to make hard decisions based upon real evidence, not the theatre of public opinion that dominates euro-Canadian community politics. Not sure how I would have asked it, but it is something that I find an inherent problem.

I would love to hear the COPE and NPA candidates answer the same questions.

2 thoughts on “Further Refelctions on The Vision School Board Discusions

  1. Charles:

    You’ve posed four questions above. Though there was no opportunity for you to ask those at the meeting, I would like to take the time to provide answers here.

    A: What have you done as a parent, community activist, a teacher, to ensure that the learning needs of all children can be met?
    A: What have you done in your community that has made real, positive, and progressive change for people?
    Q: The great part of my work in public education has been in the Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows school district, where I am currently completing my first term as an elected trustee. In this capacity, I have (a) consistently spoken out on matters of provincial policies around overall funding, funding formula, school closures, school capacity et cetera. I have been critical and public around neo-liberal agenda for public education (my latest addition to my public record can be found here: http://www.bclocalnews.com/tri_city_maple_ridge/mapleridgenews/opinion/letters/28113724.html other initiatives achieved here: http://www.vdovine.ca/main.html). I have been assertive in asking board to lead advocacy work when the Conservative government changed the direction in the area of child-care, cutting funding for programs/referral centers and instead introducing $1200 credits to parents. On a more practical level, I have expressed concerns with the proliferation of academies and issues of accessibility to programs of choice with admission fees. I have most recently attempted to build momentum for the S-Pass (http://www.vdovine.ca/files/spass_proposal.pdf) proposal – a universal transit pass for secondary students in Metro (Translink service area) as well as an introduction of the existing Translink Employer pass program for the school district employees.

    Q: Do you have the time in your day to do this job that is poorly paid, poorly understood, and rarely appreciated?
    A: As an elected trustee, i understand the challenges of the job. I also have no illusions around the time commitment required in order to establish and strengthen community/education partner group connections and become effective representative at the Board table. My greatest commitment in the past three years has been to my responsibilities as a school trustee in Maple Ridge. I no longer live in that community and thus I am not seeking re-election. However, I remain passionate about public education, I (more than ever before in the more mature of my 23 years) believe in the political process as the most effective way to bring about positive change and I feel I have something of value to contribute to the Vancouver public schools. The job is not an easy one and it does require solid commitment. And yes it does at times feel that it is “rarely appreciated”, though there are more times when one feels rewarded by the achievements to some very fundamental causes.

    The first part of your last question does not relate to me (not a parent/not a teacher) and the last part of that question is left wide for me to interpret. (Apologies if my interpretation is incorrect.) I’d like to briefly elaborate on conflict resolution/relation building as there are many (too many actually) tensions (actual and potential) between various stakeholders in public education. I believe that individual trustees and the collective board have a unique opportunity (though it is more often passed on rather than taken) to unite stakeholders by empowering their voices, providing opportunities for real and meaningful input and aiming to building consensus around issues. Strong and trustworthy relationship between a trustee and each individual partner group is a key achieving goals described previously, working collectively to improve public schools. I am proud to be endorsed and supported by three partner groups (teachers/cupe/dpac) with whom I have worked closely throughout my term as a school trustee.

    Thanks for asking the questions and for your work and efforts in keeping education issues on the voters’ radar.

  2. Pingback: In Support of Public Education » Blog Archive » Choices on Tieleman’s Blog for Vision’s School Board.

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