Vancouver School Board takes proactive stance on FSA’s


The new Vancouver board of education voted last night to hold a special meeting Jan. 7 to discuss the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) and the planned BCTF boycott.

Board chair Patti Bacchus said the board will be looking for input from stakeholders, such as employee groups and the district parent advisory council. Following the meeting, the board will decide whether it should take action.

Bacchus recalled that one of her predecessors, Adrienne Montani, sent a letter to parents several years ago advising them how to withdraw their students from the tests. “That may be something that we can consider,” Bacchus said. “I don’t know at this point because we haven’t had those discussions.

Vancouver DPAC reiterates support for parent choice in FSA testing

VANCOUVER, December 15: In response to the recent BCTF referendum re member participation in provincial Foundation Skills Assessment testing and to the BCCPAC ‘Parents Support FSA Testing’ Media release of December 12, Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council chair Gwen Giesbrecht has stated that “there is a DPAC policy in place in regard to FSAs, and our previous stated position is that parents do have the choice of having their child participate or not”.

Vancouver is a very diverse school district and parents hold a wide variety of opinions. In a letter sent to Grade 4 and 7 Vancouver parents last January prior to February FSA testing, Vancouver DPAC wrote that “It is the DPAC executive’s opinion that it is up to each family, considering what they know about their student(s) and think is in their best interest…” to decide whether or not their children should participate.

Vancouver DPAC believes that the British Columbia Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, as the recognized voice of B.C. parents, has the responsibility when making public statements to acknowledge that not all PACs and DPACs belong to BCCPAC and that those PACs and DPACs who do belong are not unanimous in support of BCCPAC’s positions.

Contact: Gwen Giesbrecht
Chair, Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council
Backgrounder to Vancouver DPAC media release Dec. 15, 2008
The following letter was sent by the Vancouver DPAC executive to member PACs regarding February 2008 FSA testing.
January 23, 2008

Dear Grade 4 and 7 parents,

The Vancouver DPAC executive is aware that you may have received a letter from the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and that you have received a letter from Vancouver Superintendent of Schools Chris Kelly regarding the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) to be administered to Grade 4 and 7 students February 4 to 15, 2008.

We discussed the FSA and the letters at our January 10th executive meeting. The DPAC executive is not taking a position on whether or not your children should write this test. But we agreed that we want to make sure that parents understand their options.

Should you want your children to participate in the test, you simply need to ensure that they are at school on the days the various sections are given. Written permission is not required.

Should you decide you do not want your child to participate, in accordance with the Ministry rules included in your letter from Superintendent Kelly,
• You should write a letter in your own words explaining the reason you are requesting that your child(ren) not write the test;
• Your reason may be a “family emergency, a lengthy illness or other extenuating circumstances”.

It is the DPAC executive’s opinion that it is up to each family, considering what they know about their student(s) and think is in their best interest, to decide what constitutes “extenuating circumstances”.

If you decide you do not wish your child to participate in the Foundation Skills Assessment, we encourage you to let your principal know your reasons in writing as soon as possible so that the principal has time to “notify a parent or guardian if they intend to excuse a student from participating in one or more components of the FSA” prior to the February 4 start date of the FSA testing.

If you have questions about the FSA, we, as does Superintendent Kelly, encourage you to discuss them with your principal/vice-principal.

Your 2007-2008 Vancouver DPAC executive:

Additional Information:
FAS Blog entries on The Report Card (J. Steffenhagen)
Past commentaries on the FSAs on this blog.

Patti Bacchus New VSB Chair!

Patti Bacchus was sworn in last night as a new trustee on Vancouver’s new Board of Education and elected as the Chair of Vancouver’s Board of Education. Patti, a tireless parent activist, will lead the progressive Vision/COPE that brings together a combination of radical education activists (Bouey), community activists (Clement, Gregson, Wong), and former teacher unionists (Blakey, Lombardi). There are a lot of expectations for this board. All the best as your journey begins!

The Report Card on VSB elections

Report Card

Vision Vancouver dominated in the board election as it did at city hall. All four of its candidates were elected, with Patti Bacchus leading the polls. (Her count was second only to Gregor Robertson and Raymond Louie.) The other Vision Vancouver winners are Mike Lombardi, Sharon Gregson and Ken Clement.

COPE incumbents Allan Wong and Al Blakey were re-elected along with Jane Bouey, who was a trustee from 2002-05.

The only Non-Partisan Association (NPA) trustees elected were former chair Ken Denike and vice-chair Carol Gibson.

Patti Bacchus tops the polls for school board!

Parent activist Patti Bacchus tops the polls with 64, 451 votes, outdistancing her closest competitor by a couple of thousand votes and the ninth candidate elected by nearly 20,000 votes.

Patti exemplifies the type of parent who gets involved because they care about education for all children, not just education for their children. Like many of us her first brush with education politics arose from her experiences as a parent, but Patti shows us that concern about education is a community effort. Patti has been involved in advocacy groups for special education, school seismic safety, and proper funding and resources for public schools. During the several years that I have been involved in the District Parents’ Advisory Council, I have had the opportunity to see Patti working as a parent advocate at the district level on a variety of committees and task forces. As a parent and community member I know that we will be well served by Patti.

Patti would make an excellent choice as the chair of the VSB.

University Town parents’ place their choices on the top of the UEL vote!

University Town parents and community members identified five top choice candidates for school board. The local issue of new schools was a driving factor behind many University Town voters. Through a community-based process candidates who had demonstrated their concern and capacity for action were endorsed locally. The results show that, at least in our local voting, that our choices were on the top. We still have a lot of ground to cover though. Of the 5,800 odd people registered to vote only 423 actually voted. While some might say it is due to lack of engagement. It may be more appropriate to suggest that the biased manner by which election for the school board is managed is more at fault. The majority of University Town residents received NO OFFICIAL notification of the election. It was only through our local networks, such as the University neighbourhoods Association, that any notification was sent out. This is simply one more element of the democratic deficit that our community suffers from.

Nonetheless, we should take pride in the fact that our choices topped our local polling division. In addition we can very likely claim that our votes were significant to electing one of our strongest allies at VSB, Carol Gibson who just held on to her seat by 66 votes.
BACCHUS, Patti VV 245
GIBSON, Carol NPA 214
WONG, Allan CPE 201

Vision Vancouver education platform

Vision platform to limit class size, advertising in schools

VANCOUVER I Vision Vancouver says its school trustees would reduce class size, limit corporate advertising in schools and work to eliminate student fees if elected Nov. 15.

In an education platform to be released today, the party also promises to lobby for more government funding, allow community use of school buildings and press the Education Ministry to hasten its plan for seismic upgrades.

Vancouver’s Secret Schools Report

Vancouver Sun blogs

While attention was focused on that west-side neighbourhood, everyone knew a broader report about facility use across the district existed, but no one had seen it. (At least, no one who was willing to speak publicly.)

Former trustee Noel Herron requested the report under the freedom of information law and received a heavily censored copy that he has passed to me.

Out of 58 pages, 38 were fully or partially severed.

This report was discussed at a board of education meeting in June 2007 but I’m told a majority of trustees voted to keep it secret. What has happened to it since then? Will it be on the desk of new trustees after next month’s election or has it become irrelevant?

Irwin Loy on Secondary school teachers and Gregson Vancouver – Blog – Secondary school teachers say no to Gregson

Her gun advocacy and involvement in recreational shooting has cost school trustee Sharon Gregson the support of Vancouver’s secondary school teachers.

The Vision Vancouver school board candidate was given the news Friday in an e-mail. The Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association won’t be endorsing Gregson because of her “previously published stance on concealed weaponry.”

Does youthful activist have what it takes to be a trustee?

Young activist among COPE school board candidates

Some might wonder why a young man in the bloom of his youth would want to spend the next three years toiling away as a trustee on the school board.

But for 24-year-old Alvin Singh, nominated by COPE this past Sunday as a candidate for the board, it’s a no brainer.

“I don’t consider three years of being a school board trustee to be a waste of some of the best years of my life,” said Singh. “It’s really, really important actually. Especially now.”