New board gets down to business
An eager group of new and experienced trustees met for their first official monthly education board meeting at the Boundary School District board offices in Grand Forks on Tuesday. The evening started off with a welcome to the new trustees and a wish list from Boundary District Teachers’ Association representative Norm Sabourin. Teachers want the trustees to turn to them when they are making decisions about the directions or policies affecting local schools. “Make a point of soliciting opinions,” Sabourin told the board. “Teachers want to see the trustees in the schools and even in their classrooms. Be in the schools and ask them how things are going.” He also asked the board to maintain their campaign promises of greater transparency by limiting closed meetings. He wants them to ask the government for more school funding and to support teacher’s rights to collective bargaining and push the government to come to an agreement. JumpMath ready to go Grade 4 to 8 students will soon be enjoying the benefits of a new mathematics program in district schools. The JumpMath program will start next school year and will be taught over the next two years. The program resource materials cost the district $25,000. Twenty-eight teachers are participating in the program across the district. They attended an in-service training program last week. An opportunity for feedback Community members may soon have an easier way to comment on Boundary School District policies and issues. Val Rich, a grandmother and concerned community member, attended the Dec. 13 board meeting and asked the trustees to make it easier for people to respond to new or changed policies. Other districts she’s seen have a feedback form on their website and she would like to see the same here. “I was thinking of transparency and inclusiveness and how we can make it better,” said Rich during the meeting. “We have it on our wish list for the website,” said trustee Vicki Gee. “But our website needs to be revamped (before we can provide a feedback form).” Gee said they’ve also been exploring Facebook as a way to communicate with the community. Grad rates at five year high The number of students graduating from Grade 12 in this district is at an all time high of 94.2 per cent. The Six-Year Completion Rate has improved over the last five years. This year it was up by 8.8 per cent over last year’s 81.2 per cent. Despite the economic down turns in the region — the state of the economy does play a role in the outcome of student success rates — the students are doing well, said Michael Strukoff, superintendent. “As a district we have been supporting our vulnerable students and we’ve put a lot into our special education programs and supported the family centres,” said Strukoff of the reason for success. “Can we maintain that level of graduation — only time will tell.” Boys on the radar While grad rates are up, the girls are still out-performing boys in humanities courses according to the superintendent’s report. In the Grade 10, 11 and 12 examinable humanities courses over the last five years 15 per cent more girls achieved a grade of C+ or better over the boys. “We’re missing an engagement piece with the boys,” said board chair Theresa Rezansoff. “It’s on our radar.” She said there has been a lot of research done on how to encourage boys, so there will be lots of options for the district to explore. Maxine Ruzicka, director of instruction for the district, said there are already some programs starting up this spring to address the issue including a boys mentoring program in Greenwood and West Boundary region. “I think as we move forward (with these new programs) will will see some gains over time,” she told the board. “With fewer dads and male teachers (in the schools) I wonder what impact that has on boys and how they progress,” said Boundary District Teachers’ Association representative Norm Sabourin. “Our circumstances are not unlike other districts in the province,” said superintendent Michael Strukoff. “Gender gaps are becoming more apparent everywhere.” A meeting of the minds The Board of Education will be inviting other elected officials for a meet and greet early in the new year. Teresa Rezansoff, board chair, proposed the meeting to foster a good working relationship with all areas of government. “It would be a nice opportunity for us to be the host and invite councillors and all other elected municipal people,” she told the board. The board already has a good working relationship with the City of Grand Forks, which they worked collectively with to establish high-speed internet throughout the schools and the community. Board reps assigned With a new board comes a new group of representatives for the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) and B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA). During the Dec. 13 meeting five trustees were nominated by secret ballot to represent the Board of Education in 2012. The Provincial Councillor for the BCSTA Provincial Council is trustee Cathy Riddle and her alternate is trustee Dave Reid. The BCPSEA Trustee Representative will be Cindy Strukoff and her alternate will be trustee Vicki Gee. Trustee Dave Reid will also be the Okanagan Labour Relations Council Trustee Representative and Jeanette Hanlon, secretary-treasurer will be the alternate. Don’t expect report cards to show progress The report cards may be coming out, but they’ll be blank. “It’s a huge waste to hand out blank report cards,” said Norm Sabourin, Boundary District Teachers’ Association representative during the regular board meeting on Dec. 13. “I think it’s being done to make the B.C. Teachers’ Federation look bad.” The school act legislation specifies that despite job action, report cards must be issued said superintendent Michael Strukoff. The Ministry of Education delayed the release of report cards until this week to see if report cards would be deemed an essential service during the on-going job action by B.C. teachers. The report cards will be going out this week. Boundary Central Secondary School will be mailing their cards out, while Grand Forks Secondary School and all the other schools will be sending their cards home with students, said Strukoff. The report cards will only have basic information and no marks in them, unless the class is taught by an administrator like a principal or vice-principal. Administrators are not part of the union and will continue to provide marks. 2012/2013 Budget expected to be at status quo The Ministry of Education funding for the 2012/2013 is expected to have some changes but all should balance out in the end, according to secretary-treasurer Jeanette Hanlon. She said the budget is the same as was projected in Oct. for the 2011/2012 school year. Transportation may take a hit in 2012/2013, though. Hanlon said the funding may be based on population density which could mean a $235,768 cut to the existing budget. “We could be a winner or a loser in transportation,” said Hanlon. On March 15 the 2012/2013 budget numbers will be released from the Ministry of Education. Year in Review and revised policy Wireless technology is now available in all the SD 51 schools. “The uptake of students has exceeded our expectations,” said board chair Teresa Rezansoff during her year in review report. Beaverdell’s enrolment numbers are up and are anticipated to increase further for 2012, so school closure will not have to be considered, said Rezansoff. A revised Child Protection Policy will now be released for consultation with teachers and staff. The board will also be considering how to include parent volunteers in the policy. The Ministry of Education directed superintendents to have a policy in place. “This is another response to capture situations before they become desperate for a child,” said superintendent Michael Strukoff.