Casey Cook: better planning needed to improve decision-making [school board]

Incumbent trustee Casey Cook believes New Westminster is on track in terms of programs of choice and the number of support programs offered, however he believes more planning is needed to improve decision-making, including strategic, communications, performance management and transparent budget management plans.

The following questionnaire was sent to all New Westminster school trustee candidates a little over a week ago. Questions were selected based primarily on comments from readers of Tenth to the Fraser collected via Twitter and Facebook, with a few of my own questions added in. Responses are published in the order they were received. Spelling/grammar are not corrected and candidates’ responses are published unedited.  

Casey Cook
Casey Cook

1. First, let’s hear a little about you:

  • What’s your name? Casey Cook.
  • Do you have kids in the system? Both of my kids were in the system, currently my grand-daughter is.
  • What do our schools do well. Every day, a myriad of wonderful things take place in our schools. The wonder of teaching and learning. We have a diverse curriculum, which features several programs of choice and a wide array of support programs. We are moving forward with the reality that we are in a digital age, and the need for our technology to also move forward with that.
  • What is the biggest area (aside from building school) that needs improvement? The area that needs improvement the most is the process of decision making. We need to have policy, practices and procedures in place to ensure that we make the correct decision the first time. To be able to achieve this, we need to have the appropriate organizational elements in place:
    1. A strategic plan
    2. A communications plan
    3. A performance management plan
    4. A transparent budget management plan

None of these, are currently in place (no. 4, partially). Having them in place will enable the School District to engage the community on a Community Development Model, where it is viewed as a resource, of knowledge, passion and commitment. We need to listen, consult,inform and have procedures to jointly identify issues and then, also jointly, resolve them. With this approach, appropriate outcomes can be delivered effectively and efficiently.

  • What education related idea is most important to you personally as a candidate? The goal that all children are able and encouraged to reach full potential. As a board, we represent all kids

2. How do you think schools could improve engagement and communication with parents and the broader community? Select all that apply.

  • Identify a dedicated communications resource for the district (employee or shared services) to improve communications protocols and materials
  • Use social media to reach out to parents and the broader community
  • Increase frequency of public consultation opportunities
  • Expand public consultation beyond parents of school aged kids to include those with preschool kids and concerned community members
  • Improve collaboration/trustee involvement with parent advisory councils
  • The District should do a communications audit and with the findings develop a communications plan

3. Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?
Everyone should care about education and School Board issues. A healthy school system is a great contributer to a healthy community.furthermore, today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. They are tomorrow’s decision makers. On a practical level, residents are taxpayers and should have a level of interest as to how effectively their taxes are being spent.

4. Which of the following statements most closely represents your views on bottled water in schools?
I subscribe to the recommendation from the Medical Health Officer.

  1. Make sure that the water delivery systems in the schools are clean and safe.
  2. Stop selling all drinks other than healthy juices.
  3. Provide clean and safe water refilling stations.
  4. Stop selling water.

5. Assuming it is possible within our district’s budget, should New Westminster expand programs of choice to include sports academies (hockey school, for instance)?
Definitely – choice is good.
The motion that I made at the last board meeting was to develop a policy to consider all acadamies, be they sports, the arts or environment/ecology based. The criteria to be used is called the six pillar approach. Once policy is enacted, applications for individual acadamies could be entertained. If the criteria is met, I’m all for more choice.

6. What will you do to expedite building the new schools?
The announcement for two new scools, I believe, is imminent. We need to get on with the tendering for design/build of these new schools. At the same time we need to finish the due diligence needed at the high school site and move it forward for project agreement. we can start the public process for design as soon as the project agreements are received.

7. Would you support prioritizing the construction of the new high school before the other new schools planned for the district?
No, the project is too far into the process to consider change. Furthermore, to stage the construction in a different sequence would be very costly. We would be diverting valuable $$$$ to create temporary accommodation for students.

8. What should be done with tiny Hume school?
If there is a viable plan to secure a sustainable future for Hume Park school, I will support it. The plan needs to examine both educational and financial considerations.

9. What more do you think schools could do to improve the health of children? (physical activity, healthy eating habits, etc.)
Encourage and regularly update safe routes to school program. Encourage and facilitate biking to school. Continue to offer, and upgrade nutrition content of curriculum. Expand lunch eating portion of noon hour. Partner with sports and activity organizations to provide introductory sessions during school hours. Promote the performing arts. Continue to provide, and expand on, the breakfast and hot lunch program. Get the new scools built, so that we decrease the crowding in playgrounds during recess and lunch period. Use the information from H.E.L.P at U.B.C. and the involvement of Dr. Clyde Hertzman in planning programs and services. Continue, and expand on work done with other agencies and service providers in meeting children’s needs. Provide, where possible, facilities for child care services, and partner with providers.

10. What do you think of the idea of expanding the use of school facilities to act as satellite community centres in neighbourhoods that lack such amenities? (For example, offering recreational programming outside of school hours or offering free space for nonprofit groups to meet, such as residents’ associations)
Great idea, I support it.
The School Board does a ghreat job of partnering with the City and other agencies in oproviding programs and services. This can be expanded on. The new schools will have Neighbourhoods of Learning, which speaks to the very issue you raise. We will be able to greatly expand our services by using this approach.

For more information on Casey Cook, you can find him online:

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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