Ensuring student achievement is the essential focus
- Supporting student achievement, (helping students achieve their full potential) is what an excellent public education system does. It is the reason the Board of Education exists and is identified in the District’s Vision and Mission statements. That means every decision made at the Board table should be considered in that context… that is to say the Board must consider how a particular decision will impact the growth and development of students “as successful learners and respectful contributors to society”. During the past term the School District achieved one of the highest grad rates in the province at 95.6% in 2021 (5.6% above the provincial average and up from 79.2% in 2011). Indigenous graduates totalled 84.1% (17% above the provincial average and up from 62.1% in 2011). Special education graduates rose from 61.1% in 2011 to 85.3% in 2021, well above the provincial average.
Developing a common vision
- All of those involved in our schools need to be on the same page to achieve the greatest benefits for students. During the past term the school community updated a strategic plan titled the “Roadmap to Excellence”. http://www.sd42.ca/assets/media/Strategic-Plan-February 2022.pdf Action plans are currently being prepared in all areas of school district operations which will document the steps necessary to achieve the vision described in the plan. All of the recommendations which come before the Board will be assessed to ensure alignment with adopted goals. The Strategic Facilities plan is currently being updated. The previous plan was critical in obtaining approval to build the new C’esquenela Elementary School which in now under construction. Working together the school community needs to establish what the preferred future looks like and develop a realistic multi-year strategic plan toward achieving that vision. All of the recommendations which come before the Board should be assessed against the Vision and Strategic Plan to ensure their alignment with adopted goals.
Establishing a climate of mutual respect
- This doesn’t mean the parties involved in a subject currently before the Board of Education will always agree with the Board’s decision on the matter or that Board members will always achieve consensus. It does mean Board members should actively seek and give full consideration to all points of view by listening carefully to those offering varying perspectives before making a decision.During the past term the Board of Education met with Municipal Councils, MLAs, the Katzie First Nation, and partner groups to discuss matters of mutual interest. Board members sit on a number of external and internal advisory committees as well and have made presentations to PAC groups, service clubs and other organizations. Prior to the covid pandemic, the Board also held workshops with students in each secondary school to discuss their education and obtain direct student input.
Encouraging excellence, innovation and creativity
- Providing the best education for students necessarily means having a commitment to the notion of continuous improvement. Testing new technologies and organizational models and measuring their effectiveness is critical to achieving continuous improvement. Taking measured risks is necessary to achieve this end but will only occur if encouraged without fear of failure. Innovation has been a hallmark of this School District. New Approaches like the self-paced learning model at the Thomas Haney Secondary School have been successful because the school community as a whole was open to trying new approaches with modifications as required during the implementation phase. During the past term the District expanded learning opportunities in several areas including a full inter-national Baccalaureate program at Garibaldi Secondary and new technical trades programs.The Environmental School (now in its 12th year) is another outstanding example of innovation showing great results. A new student assessment and reporting system was also introduced to schools which focusses on an enhanced level of dialogue between students, parents and teachers.
- Win-win relationships with partners like the Municipality, community organizations, post secondary educational institutions and others can be extremely beneficial to students and their families. For example the artificial turf sport fields located at all five secondary schools were funded in large part by the Municipalities. They benefit students during the day as well as extracurricular school programs after school while the community sport organizations benefit from their availability in the evenings and on weekends. As in this case such partnership arrangements can be very cost effective. Another partnership has recently come to fruition with the opening of the new Albion Community Centre alongside the C’usquenela Elementary School.
Fostering community integration
- Schools often serve as the hub of many neighbourhood services. As an integral part of the community’s assets public resources controlled by the Board (like school buildings and grounds) should be made available to enhance community and neighbourhood development wherever possible. Healthy neighbourhoods support healthy families which in their turn are better able to provide the required support for students. The Strong start centres and the Eric Langton Hub program provide great examples of the benefits to students and families of this type of sharing.
Exercising prudent fiscal management
- Exploring innovation, partnerships and integration wherever possible are all part of exercising prudent fiscal management while providing the best possible educational environment for learners. Getting the best “bang for our buck” is not something one should only focus on once a year during budget discussions but must be part of the day to day culture of any organization which hopes to achieve the best possible learning environment for students within the context of available resources. Budget deliberations should be reserved for discussions about available resources and appropriate service levels. With good fiscal management and long term financial and strategic planning there should be relatively few surprises and a greater opportunity to focus more energy on finding ways to achieve system enhancements, providing educators with the resources they need to do their best work.The Board met with MLAs and the Minister of Education and forwarded several letters advocating for additional funding, providing a plan for government to do so while maintaining a balanced budget. http://www.sd42.ca/board-of-education/trustees-advocacy/ They also recently addressed the concern about implementation of the employer health tax which, thankfully, government reversed. If the EHT had been implemented as originally intended a full $700,000 would have been unavailable for students and classrooms. The Board submitted three balanced and terribly challenging budgets given the limits of provincial funding. Of course, capital funding for new schools, additions and retrofits has been the focus of several recent government submissions.
Advocating for universal early childhood education
- It is well known that children learn more in their first six years than at any other time in their lives. Investing in early childhood education is something many other countries and provinces do better than we do here in British Columbia. Full day Kindergarten is a first step toward improving early childhood education as are the Ready Set Learn program and the strong start centres which are now in eight schools within the District. SD#42 has also benefitted from provincial funding to establish eleven childcare centres on school grounds and in schools.
Advocating for youth leadership development opportunities
- Youth leadership development is at the heart of the District Student Advisory Council where youth leaders from all of our schools explore concepts of leadership and citizenship together. Older students mentoring younger students is another essential element of our education system to be encouraged and expanded wherever possible. During the past term student leaders participated in many ways to shape the delivery of public education through:
- their involvement with the student led Fraser valley Student Conference
- their participation in local student forums held by the Board and Senior Staff of the district including regular workshops in secondary schools.
- their participation in the Superintendent selection process
- their involvement in the development of policies like the safe and caring schools policy
The Board values student input and will continue to look for opportunities to engage students in decisions which effect their education
Advocating for Youth Mental Health Supports
- The Integrated Child and Youth Teams are opening in schools this Fall and are the first to do so in the province. They reflect the District’s enhanced support of this critical area of student need.
Advocating for Equity and Inclusion
- The recently received Deepening Indigenous Education and Equity report was derived from an in depth scan commissioned by the Board of Education and offers 84 recommendations which the Board has asked staff to review and develop implementation plans.
Ensuring accessibility and adequate support for students with special needs
- Ensuring all citizens have access to the public education system is critical, including the required supports for those who have special needs to participate and be successful. As a member of the North Fraser Therapeutic Riding Association Board of Directors I have seen first hand the benefits of providing some dedicated attention to those with special needs. What is critical is that the required support is in place to the full extent required to achieve the desired positive results of classroom integration and personal development. With fiscal restraint and declining enrolments I know this is sometimes a challenge for the school community to address. Nonetheless it must continue to be a priority to ensure access for all and that educators can do their best work.
Participating in ethical decision making
- Best captured in the Rotary Four Way Test…when making decisions one should always ask these question:
- Is it the truth? (are our decisions based on facts which we know to be true?)
- Is it fair to all concerned? (have we considered all points of view and everyone’s needs?)
- Is it beneficial to all concerned? (have we done everything possible to achieve a win/win end result?)
- Will it build good will and lasting friendships? (will our decision contribute toward the development and maintenance of positive working relationships?)