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Class size and composition and BCCPAC

Another personal report, by DPAC Chair. 

I wanted to go into more detail about the discussion that was had about class size and composition at the BCCPAC meeting, and at previous BCCPAC AGMs.

I had put in a paragraph in my previous report: “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.”

It’s really easy to misinterpret the BCCPAC position on this, especially in the current environment of mistrust. I have to say that all of the parents who have worked on this have children in the schools, and have dealt with a lot of these issues personally, with their children. Not one person in that room was in there from the point of view of “let’s do this as cheaply as possible!”, or “our system is perfect as it is!”.

We all know that it’s possible to have a really workable classroom with 30 students – if they’re the “right” kind of students – and a completely unworkable classroom with 15 students – again, if they’re not the “right” kind of student.

Class size and composition are a method of trying to match resources to individual children. It’s a way of saying that we have a complicated system, we have all these children with individual needs, we have to match them with classes and teachers and education assistants and resources and manage teacher workload – let’s make it simple and limit it by number of students and by number of students with particular identified challenges, who are designated and officially labelled.

But is this the best way to do it? We again all know about the “grey area” children – the ones without designations or labels or directed funding. How do these students fit with class size and composition? The answer is that they don’t. And they need support as well.

Do we need to have students officially labelled and designated before we can offer support to them? We shouldn’t.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t want funding for individual students! Very much, we want to protect that current level of funding, and then generate more funding for these other needs. Some strong words were used about the necessity of protecting funding.

So the goal was to focus on the needs of each individual child. Every child is special, every child has special needs. Some have more needs than others, some are more difficult to teach than others, some will be easier to teach.

How do we flip the way we look at it, focus on the needs of each child, and how do we match that with appropriate class sizes, teacher workload, education assistant workload, supports, and money?

I don’t think there’s any one formula that will do that. I think this needs to be a discussion that’s had with every teacher, every principal, for each class. We wanted parent input into this – but I do think that we all recognized the pivotal role of the education professionals.

What are a couple of problems with this sort of model?

Well, one is reporting out and seeing how this works. It’s really easy to pull up a report of all class sizes over 30, and all those that have over 3 students with individual education plans. It’s less easy to track, are each individual student’s needs met?

If we can’t measure it, how can we manage it?

How can we best measure it, how can we best manage it, how can we best tell if it works – and how can we trust that it’s being done for the benefit of our kids?

Let’s have that discussion – a respectful discussion, on how our education system can best meet the needs of all our individual students, in such a way that supports all our students in their ability to thrive and succeed in life.

Can we use the provincial voice of BCCPAC to get our education partners in a room, together, and work on this, with a respectful joint discussion?

Teacher workload is very much a contract concern, and should be dealt with in fair bargaining, and reach a fair negotiated settlement.

Meeting the needs of all our individual students, though – that’s a discussion that should be had by all of us who are involved in the system. I don’t think BCCPAC has the one, true, answer to the solution – but I firmly believe that we can use all of our partners in education to come up with a better answer than what we currently have.

We have all these dedicated, experienced people involved in the education system. We can do better.

Sarah Holland, DPAC Chair

Globe and Mail article on BC Schools

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/why-bc-schools-have-a-lot-to-celebrate/article19408516/#dashboard/follows/

…This is not to say there are no issues in the system, that class composition isn’t a concern or that there aren’t some classrooms with more than the ideal number of kids in them. No education system is perfect. No matter the country you can always find problems without digging too deeply. And we should never stop trying to achieve broad excellence.

But we should also never be afraid to recognize how good an education system B.C. actually has, and this is a testament to those people who stand at the front of the classroom every day. You don’t get the kind of outcomes that B.C. does, get the kind of accolades its education system has been receiving recently, without one of the finest teaching corps anywhere.

Occasionally, it would be nice to hear something positive about what is happening in B.C. classrooms, rather than the usual din of pessimism that doesn’t reflect reality.

Principal Moves

Superintendent of Schools Brian Pepper is pleased to announce the following administrative appointments, effective August 1, 2014:

Kap Manhas – Vice-Principal, Duchess Park Secondary
Kevin Baldridge – Vice-Principal, Prince George Secondary
Parrish Child – Vice-Principal, Prince George Secondary
Lisa Horswell – Vice-Principal, Centre for Learning Alternatives
Linda McGraw – Principal, Edgewood Elementary
Laurie Bryce – Principal, Foothills Elementary
Tracy Kettles – Vice-Principal, Harwin Elementary
Stever Baker – Vice-Principal, Heritage Elementary
Kirk Czechmeister – Vice-Principal, Lac des Bois
Tom Makowsky – Principal, Nukko Lake Elementary
Tracy Baldridge – Principal, Pinewood Elementary
Rob Larson – Vice-Principal, Quinson Elementary
Liza Arnold – Vice-Principal, Ron Brent Elementary
Shandee Whitehead – Vice-Principal, Van Bien Elementary
Brenda Anderson – Principal, Vanway Elementary

We wish these administrators all the best in their new positions.

We also wish all the best to Steve Wyer in his move to School District No. 6 (Rocky Mountain) and to Rick Urquhart in retirement.

Grade 7 Dance at the Hart Community Centre

Friday, June 13 at 7:00pm
Hart Community Centre
4900 West Austin Rd., Prince George, British Columbia V2K 5Y8

Grade 7 Dance at the Hart Community Centre

A time to celebrate, going from Hart Elementary Schools – Kelly Road Secondary. This is a grade 7 celebration for Heather Park, Hart Highlands, Glenview and Nukko Lake. Please invite or inform any Grade 7′s from these schools.

Tickets will be $20.00

For tickets please contact Tara 250-565-1894 or tkmeise@telus.net or Darcie Rae

The tickets will include the Dance, and snacks.

***Parents: There will need to be an adult picking the kids up from the dance**

Snacks, drinks and music.

 

This is a parent-organized event, not affiliated with the schools in any way.

CUPE reaches tentative settlement with BCPSEA

http://bcschools.cupe.ca/www/news/reaches-tentative-provincial-agreement

CUPE reaches tentative provincial agreement for K–12 education support workers

BURNABY – On Saturday, June 7, 2014 the K-12 Presidents’ Council and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) reached a tentative provincial framework agreement.
“We’re pleased to conclude a strong agreement that improves education for students and benefits our 27,000 members,” said K-12 Presidents’ Council Chair, Marcel Marsolais.
The tentative agreement fits within the provincial government’s current mandate. Additional details of the agreement will be released tomorrow morning, after the K–12 Presidents’ Council has reviewed it.
Once the agreement is ratified by K-12 Presidents’ Council members, it will form the basis of local agreements between K-12 local unions and their respective school boards.
“I want to thank the members of our bargaining committee,” said CUPE K-12 Sector Coordinator Rob Hewitt. “We bargained hard to arrive at a settlement that recognizes and respects the work our members do and improves the learning environment for students in B.C. schools.”
CUPE represents more than 27,000 education support workers in 59 locals and 53 school districts throughout B.C. including: education assistants, school secretaries, caretakers, First Nations support workers, IT workers, Strong Start facilitators, trades and maintenance workers, and bus drivers. CUPE members do many different jobs to provide safe, clean, well-run and supportive education for students of all ages.
The current contract would have expired on June 30, 2014. The K-12 Presidents’ council represents K-12 support staff unions, with CUPE being the largest. CUPE members will vote on the provincial agreement as part of their package after local bargaining with their respective school boards is concluded.

 

More information on settlement: http://bcschools.cupe.ca/

Superintendent Speaking Notes – June 9, 2014

2014.06.09
SUPERINTENDENT’S SPEAKING NOTES
District Parent Advisory Council

A. Question and Answers – Strike/Lockout

1. Is there a difference between Government and the Employer – are they not one and the same?

From the outside looking in – you may think – YES. However the Provincial Government, Board of Education and the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) operate as independent organizations – so NO they are not one and the same.

2. What advice would you provide to parents during this time of labour unrest?
Ensure students remain focused on their assignments and studies. Our teachers and support staff continue to provide a safe and productive learning environment for students.
For those students asking about the labour dispute – please direct them to the BCPSEA, BCTF, and SD57 websites In this way students can see the understanding/focus of each organization involved in the strike/lockout.

3. Will provincial exams be cancelled this year?

Our Minister of Education has directed that provincial exams will continue as scheduled.

4. Can you share any other helpful information?
Please understand the strike/lockout landscape can change each day. For instance, there will be another Labour Relations Board hearing later this week. The decisions made by the Labour Relations Board (LRB) may provide additional clarity in a number of areas. Please look for the news releases that will likely follow the LRB decisions. In addition please continue to visit the following websites for the most up-to-date information: your school website, www.sd57.bc.ca, www.bcpsea.bc.ca, www.bctf.ca.

B. Principal and Vice Principal Moves

A number of moves will be announced later this week. Principal and Vice Principal moves provide for organizational growth and development, individual capacity building and learning improvement across our system.

C. District Achievement Contract
The District Achievement Contract is a public statement of commitment by the Board of Education to work towards success for each student in the district. School District No. 57 remains committed to “Learning that enriches the life of each student.” To this end, actions are required to support the learning of all students and adult learners.
Please visit our website: www.sd57.bc.ca to see a draft of the District Achievement Contract. Please consider reading the document and providing feedback to the Board of Education as provided for in the website link.
D. Thank You!
Thank you to DPAC and school PAC volunteers! Your support and advice, and donation of time and expertise are appreciated! We look forward to working with you again next year.

Details of BCTF and BCPSEA proposals

The collective bargaining proposals can be found here: http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca/bc-teachers/teacher-collective-bargaining.aspx

For example, the June 3rd class size proposal from the BCTF is here: http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca/documents/teacher%20bargaining/Proposals/U62%20Class%20Size.pdf

In 2014 the class size maximums would be 20 for Kindergarten, 22 for grades 1-3, and 28 for grades 4-12. By 2016, the maximum for kindergarten would be 18, 20 for grades 1-3, 26 for grades 4-7, and 27 for grades 8-12. For split classes, the class size maximum would two less than the maximum for the lowest grade.

For reference, the current class size maximums for kindergarten are 22 students, for grades 1 to 3 it is 24 students, and for grades 4 to 12 it is 30 students.

In 2002, kindergarten class sizes were capped at 20 students, while Grades 1 to 3 were capped at 22. In 2002, class sizes for Grades 4 to 12 were negotiated by each school district, so there was no consistency across the province. The 2002 class size limits were restored by the BC Supreme Court in January, but that decision is currently being appealed.

The BCPSEA has a document from March, giving details as to their differences with class size and composition proposals: http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca/documents/publications/No%202014-02%20For%20the%20Record-Class%20Size-Workload%20March%206%202014.pdf

Full text – DPAC presentation to board on May 27th

We may not have a surplus of budget, but we certainly have a surplus of issues. District first, and then on to the province.

District budget. I would like to thank Allan Reed and Darleen Patterson for finding the time to answer some of DPAC’s budget questions. I can’t say that DPAC is thrilled about the budget, and the financial constraints that have gone into this budget. We’re also concerned over seeing a structural deficit appear in the budget again. We would like to see more attention paid to making it more understandable – there is confusion caused by the budgetary hokey pokey of moving items from one area to another – but we also respect time constraints.

There really ought to be more public questions and public information available about the budget, especially given the similarity between the size of this budget and the city budget – where there is much more discourse. Perhaps if there was more school-level budget information provided, that would be of assistance – that’s where it really seems to matter to people.

Which brings us to the Schedule of Fees and Deposits, as published in this board agenda package. As a reminder, having that package available in advance is highly preferable.

As noted, according to the school act, “A board must publish a schedule of the fees to be charged and deposits required and must make the schedule available to students and to children registered under section 13 and to the parents of those students and children before the beginning of the school year.”

Further on in the Act, if you charge fees, then you must have policies and procedures to facilitate participation by students who would otherwise be excluded from the course, class or program because of financial hardship.

You have a financial hardship policy, which states that that access to goods and services, as well as to co-curricular programs and opportunities (for example, field trips) is available to all students, and no student is to be denied that access because of financial hardship. It also states that “All communication with students and/or parents regarding fees and deposits must include a statement that explains that fees will not be a barrier to student participation in school activities.”

Please ensure that all communications – including the communication in this agenda package – includes that the information that fees will not be a barrier for students. This information in this document is not good enough.

On to provincial matters.

Our DPAC position has been to have no public opinion on bargaining, other than expressing a desire that it be fair and negotiated. That is as it relates to wages and benefits. At this point, we now have class size and composition being bargained as well, which is fair game for parent comment. The BCPSEA website, and now DPAC website, has both BCTF and government proposals publicly available, and we have read them with interest. The BCTF proposal seems preferable when it comes to learning specialist staffing levels, although I have to express some concern over where some of these people will be found – I’m not aware of vast numbers of unemployed speech language pathologists, for example. The financial impact of the BCTF proposals for class size are concerning – especially given the province’s downloading of costs – as it would require quite a lot of money, in order for our district to be able to fit in the additional classrooms and schools that would be required. We would also require policy on how to remove students from schools, when they no longer fit. When it comes to class composition issues, the BCPSEA proposal is far too flexible and fuzzy, and the BCTF proposal is far too inflexible. Both suck.

Which brings me to a very important point – the level of public discourse, and especially the level of public discourse used in front of our children. As a parent, when I see this level of discourse happening in my house, I use my mom voice and say: “I don’t care who started it, I want you both to go to your rooms and not come out until you can talk nicely to each other. Stop scaring the other kids by fighting.” We do not want our kids to be told that teachers are in it only for the money. We do not want our kids told that Christy Clark is making teachers eat lunch outside. We do not want to hear name calling, accusations of attempting to ruin public education, accusations of ruining the economy, or thoughtless decision making. We want this conducted rationally, professionally, and kept away from the kids.

I believe that as a district, we can model some of this to the province, as a whole. We can advocate for our children, for public education, with both passion and respect for all.

Thank you, for your time.