DPAC Chair report from BCCPAC Meeting

I attended the BCCPAC meeting on August 16th, in Richmond. Attending were elected DPAC chairs from 28 districts (representing 81% of student population), and elected BCCPAC board members (including Darlene Campbell, a BCCPAC board member from Prince George).

There was a DPAC Summit News Release issued by BCCPAC, but it’s difficult to have a single press release adequately address the full discussion.

Firstly, I have to say that I’ve attended several BCCPAC conferences and AGMs, and I thought that this meeting was the best I’ve attended. The level of discussion was excellent, and we were all focused on what was best for our students, and for the education system in this province.

We had several common goals. Our immediate goal was to have schools open for students September 2nd (which would be September 3rd in SD57). Our goal is to have a settlement negotiated in good faith, with the assistance of Vince Ready, and reached in time for school to start. However, if the labour dispute is still continuing, we requested that the government lockout be lifted, and that the full teacher strike be suspended. We want our students to return to a safe, respectful school environment, while bargaining continues out of the public eye.

There was definitely a sense of frustration in the room over the progress – or lack of progress – of the negotiations. In mid-August, we consider it progress to have a joint press releasing announcing that they may resume exploratory talks?

One comment I heard was “If everyone wants to be back in school, then why can’t we?” Everyone is saying that we want to be back in school, we all believe this is in the best interests of the students – let’s make this happen!

Our longer term goals involve more funding, and changes to the provincial funding model to support appropriate learning conditions, as every student’s right. There was quite a bit of discussion as to how that might look, supported by some of the resolutions on this topic that have come forth for debate and voting at previous BCCPAC meetings. I believe that we all wanted to have some sort of joint discussion, with all partners involved in the education system – let’s have that joint discussion, with all this expertise and experience that we have in the education system, and come together to talk about how can we best support all our individual students.

I believe that part of the changes to the funding model involved the proposal of a classroom resources fund, as a separate fund protected from other cost pressures. There was definitely a strong, teacher-lead aspect to this fund. Personally, I would say that this is more of a starting point for discussion.

Another discussion that occurred was that once school does start again, in many cases you’re going to have demoralized teachers, frustrated parents, confused students – which does not help at a school level. Again, there was a discussion as to how to best come together as respectful partners, at a school level, to make the best possible learning environment for our kids.

There were also discussions on how to best have parent representation when decisions are being made, at a school, district, and provincial level, and what are some good and effective methods for that. Parents wanted to be included – again, how can we all work together?

Back in 2006, a resolution that was passed at BCCPAC was: “That BCCPAC advise all education partners that limiting the number of students in classrooms based on designations or labels is discriminatory and, as such, legislation or employee contracts must not contain wording that promotes or creates such limits.”  I think it’s important to note that we want and need funding, supports, and resources for all our children, but we shouldn’t deny students access based on a group characteristic. There must be a better way of doing things. My notes say “but make damn sure to protect the money!”. Again, very much an avenue for further discussion, on how to best manage issues of student need and teacher workload.

There was an interesting comment about the history of inclusion of special needs in the classroom – someone said that we still segregate students, it’s just now segregated within the classroom, or out in the hallway.

We do have a very good public education system in this province, which is important not to lose sight of. We want to make it excellent, for all of our students.

I was reading some of the Twitter comments about this meeting – I should note that I find the level of discourse on Twitter these days to be not what it could be, and I would like to say that we can advocate for our children with both passion, and with respect for others. Comments as a result of reading this:

  • Some parents there were Liberal supporters. Some were NDP, some were Green, some had no affiliations, and possibly some wanted the Rhino party back. In other words, a cross-section of British Columbia.
  • There were parents of children with special needs in the room, some of whom spoke very eloquently about the need for more funding.
  • There were lots of different opinions in the room on various topics. Very strongly, we wanted to get away from “you’re either with us or against us!” level of discussion. We can disagree with various points, without disagreeing with everything. As an example, it’s possible to disagree strongly with the BCTF’s decision to call a study day, back in June, and still strongly support teachers. It’s possible to disagree strongly with the lockout, and still agree with the government on some things.
  • Regarding the $40 a day plan – this should be utterly irrelevant, as school should be in session.
  • We had wanted to make it clear that the consensus at the meeting was that of the elected representatives in attendance, based on discussions with their executives and discussions in their districts.
  • Parent Advisory Councils are the legislated voice of parents in schools. PACs are not just about fundraising! If you want a voice in your school, attend a PAC meeting, and make your opinion heard. Show up and vote.
  • District Parent Advisory Councils are the legislated voice of parents in school districts. If you want your parents in your school to have a voice in your district, attend a DPAC meeting, and make your opinion heard. Show up and vote.
  • BCCPAC is the voice of parents in the province. All PACs and DPACs have the option to belong to BCCPAC. Our DPAC provides half the funding for a PAC to join BCCPAC, in order to have a vote at a BCCPAC meeting. If you want your parents in your school to have a voice in this province, join BCCPAC, and either attend a BCCPAC meeting, or give your proxy and voting instructions to DPAC and we will cast a vote for you.
  • In short, make your opinion heard. If you can – show up, give your opinion, and vote.

In summary, I was asked by a reporter today what power we have to make this happen. We don’t have any particular power – what we do have the power to use our voice. BCCPAC can, and does, talk to all our education partners provincially. Let’s use our common parent voice.

Sarah Holland

PS: I just have to add – we had one parent attending by Skype, from a campground that offered wifi. That’s commitment. 🙂