Tuesday November 23, 2021 | LANGFORD, BC
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
The November 23 regular board meeting of the SD62 (Sooke) School District covered a wide range of detail and concerns.
SD62 Chair Ravi Parmar opened the meeting with a message of support for everyone in BC who has been impacted by the severe storm weather and flooding that occurred last week.
The Sooke Teachers Association (STA) rep emphasized the overload that teachers are experiencing in classrooms during the pandemic, including students dealing with anxiety. More breaks for teachers during the day was proposed.
The CUPE 459 rep, Amber Leonard, said the STA presentation indicated the need for more support in classrooms. She said that CUPE staff should be brought along with their info tech skills at a pace that they can accommodate. As the CUPE rep for the provincial level, Leonard recently had a 30-minute meeting with Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, during which she was able to discuss the experience and needs of custodial staff. She encouraged continuing support for child care “to look after families and communities”.
The SPEAC (SD62 parent group) rep said those who attended the latest SPEAC online meeting appreciated hearing a direct update about the upcoming catchment changes (when the two new schools open on Constellation Ave in Westhills next year), as given by Windy Beadall, Lead Educator for Capital Planning & Projects.
A guest presentation was made about before and after school child care, by CUPE National Executive rep David Fleming. Chair Parmar said the seamless child care program is “brilliant” and mentioned that SD62 has a trial Seamless Kindergarten program is underway at Millstream Elementary in Langford. Parmar asked Fleming about the labour shortage presently being experienced in the child care service sector. The seamless approach uses existing employees.
The stakeholder and guest presentations are tightly limited to five minutes, which Trustee Wendy Hobbs said is not long enough. For example, the Principals and Vice-Principals rep could not report on all schools that had provided reports, in the allotted time. However, over the years, it’s become evident that some presenters have been able to organize their delivery in ways to meet the timeline.
The Superintendent’s Report:
SD62 Superintendent Scott Stinson included a positive commendation to staff “who have endured many things” in the states of emergency in the last two years. He said “issues seem to be hitting us more frequently”, referring to COVID, the flooding, perhaps the bus driver shortage, and similar impacts that require pivoting and emergency response.
Stinson said the staff are “professional and dedicated”. He noted that three bus drivers (who live north of the Malahat) agreed to stay in the west shore overnight during the storm-related closure of the Malahat, giving this as evidence of staff commitment to the well-being of school district families.
Stinson noted that the District Student Council composition has “more diversity” now, compared to when he first started meeting with student representatives. Apparently the student reps would be more likely to participate at board meetings if it were “more meaningful for students” to be there, he said.
Main agenda business:
A social media motion was passed by the board. More details to come on that, but so far, the Sooke Teachers Association remarked that being too restrictive as to what can be said would in some cases impede rights to expression.
Topics discussed this evening included employment equity, and a District Healthy Schools report (in which Trustee Margot Swinburnson said there has so far not been a lot of uptake on a Youth in Action Campaign that offers $500 to “do something in their community”, although the program did well in Oak Bay last year).
In a discussion about providing child care within the schools, there was light debate as to whether some teachers or staff would be prioritized over others, to have the service available to them.
Trustee Wendy Hobbs commented on SD62 receiving a $10,500 grant about youth being recruited into gang life. She said that three years ago a presentation was made to the board which included the observation that apparently the crime rate in Langford is higher than in Surrey. Hobbs feels SD62 could meet with municipalities about this.
Trustee Allison Watson said some parents in Sooke who were short on fuel during this past week’s gasoline rationing wondered if the SD62 school buses could accommodate taking their children to school; Stinson said there’s no additional room on the existing buses or routes.
Trustee Bob Phillips suggested that SD62 might retain more bus drivers if the drivers were paid more. He noted that the budget development process for 2022-2023 is coming up soon. Trustee Margot Swinburnson said SD62 is underfunded for buses and that “every year it’s becoming more acute”.
Trustees at tonight’s meeting were Ravi Parmar (Chair), Wendy Hobbs, Bob Phillips (remote), Dianna Seaton (remote), Margot Swinburnson (remote), and Allison Watson (remote). Trustee Bob Beckett was absent.
Chair Ravi Parmar noted that board elections come up in December. There are three meetings back-to-back in December (Education Policy on Dec 7, Resources on Dec 8, and the board on Dec 14).