As the 2018 school year comes to an end, it is important to take time to reflect on the many challenges and successes the board and district has encountered over the past four-year term.
When this board was first elected in November of 2014 the district was not only experiencing declining enrollment, but was also in funding protection. Due to declining enrollment, the lack of predictable, stable and sustainable funding required some very difficult decisions be made to balance budgets.
It was also during this time that our two top senior executives of the district left, which presented the board with the additional challenges of hiring a new superintendent and secretary treasurer.
In 2016, the turnaround came in enrollment. With the influx of new students, we were no longer in funding protection and with the strong leadership of our Acting Secretary Treasurer Sheldon Lee, we were slowly able to build a good news budget that was now slowly injecting a little more money into the system.
The Supreme Court decision changed the entire educational landscape by adding more money, more teachers and more resources, and while all that was great news, it also presented its own challenges of adopting old contract language and the need for additional classrooms to address class size and composition requirements.
The district was now faced with the daunting task of ensuring that we would be up and ready to go in September. To be up and ready would require that we have space for over 60 additional teachers and over 50 new classroom spaces.
It was also during this time that the board heard very clearly from the community that we needed to improve on a number of issues. Communication and community engagement were two of the main concerns and issues. To address these issues the board formed a Community Engagement Committee. The board adopted a new communications plan and is progressing on the communication recommendations to increase engagement and decision transparency.
The board also made the decision to shift from a top down decision-making model to a more site based approached for decision-making. This will enable each school's community to provide input into school priorities so they align effectively with their school's needs. This will also give parents/guardians greater voice in their children's educational experience and will enable schools to be unique, valuable and attractive to their local community.
Under the leadership of our superintendent and senior leadership, the district is also embarking on a program evaluation process that examines how we deliver our programs, an in-depth process designed to ensure that our programs are meeting the needs of our students and provides the board and community with data and information to measure program success.
Through our board's community engagement model, we have increased our interaction with stakeholders to ensure that we are providing our students with the best possible programming. For example, we regularly engage with our students to seek input regarding school programming. We are also connecting with parents/guardians and community members about a variety of topics ranging from policy and school programming. Teachers and support staff also provide input into planning and building a stronger and more resilient organizational culture.
As our term comes to an end and we reflect on the past few years – whether in our work, reading it in the paper or on social media - there are many wonderful things happening in our schools that reinforces the importance of public education. More than ever, this emphasizes the importance of continued advocacy for a strong, sustainable and fully funded public education system.
As you are aware our current term ends on October 31, 2018 and there will be at least four new trustees sitting at this table come next term. Four trustees have declared they are not seeking re-election.
Four-term trustee Tom Weber, Area B (Lazo North), who served as board chair, vice chair and chair of the policy committee. Tom's strong leadership will be missed. Two-term trustee Peter Coleman (Town of Comox). During his tenure Peter served as board chair and chair of the finance committee. His strong educational background and finance knowledge will also be missed. First-term trustee Vickey Brown (Village of Cumberland) who brought a passion for community schools and environmental stewardship and served as chair of the finance committee as well as the alternate district rep for both the British Columbia Public Schools Association (BCPSEA) and British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA). Vickey has decided to run for Cumberland Council and we wish her well. Finally, first term trustee Cliff Boldt (City of Courtenay). As a retired teacher and community school advocate, Cliff's educational knowledge and background were greatly appreciated and welcomed during his tenure serving as a trustee.
Janice Caton will be seeking her fifth term as trustee representing the City of Courtenay.
Sheila MacDonnell will be seeking her fourth term as trustee representing Area A and Ian Hargreaves will be seeking his second term representing Area C.
The roles of trustees have changed over the last few years. To address these changes, BCSTA has developed a guide for trustees around roles and responsibilities particularly concerning the fiduciary and pecuniary roles. For those interested in running for trustee, an evening workshop presented by Board Chair Janice Caton, Vice–Chair, Ian Hargreaves and Superintendent of Schools Dean Lindquist is planned for early September to provide information about trustee roles and responsibilities and to answer questions.
If you wish to learn more about the role of a trustee prior to the September workshop, please contact Janice Caton at Janice.Caton@sd71.bc.ca or call her 250-338-6858 and she will be happy to provide you any information or answer any questions you may have.