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

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
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:

Reducing wait lists for popular programs, improving communication on James Pepa’s priority list [school board]

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.  

James Pepa
James Pepa

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

  • What’s your name? – James Pepa
  • Do you have kids in our school system? – Yes, two currently and more on the way
  • What do our schools do well? – Our schools and teachers have a done a great job in helping our students excel as we heard at the debate the other night. That students in our district are in the top in many areas across the board.
  • What is the biggest area (aside from building schools) that needs improvement? – Communication with everyone in the community including PACs, DPAC, Teachers, School Board and others.
  • What education-related idea or issue is most important to you personally as a candidate? – As well as looking at new programs to offer, we need to strengthen the current programs we offer like reducing wait lists in popular programs by looking at ways to expand them within our district.

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

  • 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
  • Do consultations in many neighbourhoods – example: Queensborough, Sapperton, and others not just in the neighbourhoods where the new projects will be built as it affects our whole city.

3. Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?
Children are our future and we should all be active in their education.

4. Which of the following statements most closely represents your views on bottled water in schools?
Allow it. It’s important for students to have choice, and bottled water is healthier than other bottled drinks.

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 – we should always be open to programs of choice because children are different and excel in different areas.

6. What will you do to expedite building the new schools?
I will work with the rest of the board and all the stake-holders to ensure the process is always moving forward.

7. Would you support prioritizing the construction of the new high school before the other new schools planned for the district?
No

8. What should be done with tiny Hume school?
Keep it open – we need to work with the community to build this schools enrollment. Everyone is looking at the declining rate of enrollment from 66 students to 23 students but many fail to realize that because this school has been put on the chopping block so many times, parents have moved their children to a more stable learning environment like McBride and even out of district. Sapperton is a growing area with many newer residential developments and more on the way so it would be silly to close this school when we know there will be a need for more spaces.

9. What more do you think schools could do to improve the health of children? (physical activity, healthy eating habits, etc.)
I think our schools have been doing alot to improve the health of our children. Is there more we can do? Yes, there’s always more you can do. I believe we always need to be open to new ideas and ways.

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 think the meaning of the term Community School has been lost, we should always encourage all community members or groups to use our facilities as much as they can. This will also help bring community members without children in the schools to feel welcome at our schools and school events. Example: carnivals, concerts and other events.

Jonina Campbell wants to improve kids’ activity levels, expand community use of schools [school board]

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.  

Jonina Campbell
Jonina Campbell

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

  • What’s your name? – Jonina Campbell
  • Do you have kids in our school system? – Yes, two. My son is grade 3, my daughter is in kindergarten.
  • What do our schools do well? – When I am talking with parents and students, they respond to this question with the same answer: the teachers. It takes a team of people to make a school a welcoming, safe and inspiring place to learn and we need to everything possible to support our schools.
  • What is the biggest area (aside from building schools) that needs improvement? – Services and support to children with complex and diverse needs.
  • What education-related idea or issue is most important to you personally as a candidate? – Encouraging more students to lead an active life, starting with walking or biking to and from school.

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

  • Use social media to reach out to parents and the broader community
  • Expand public consultation beyond parents of school aged kids to include those with preschool kids and concerned community members
  • As we look for ways to improve communication between the district and the community, and between the schools and parents, we need to consider a few items. First, what gaps currently exist? What impact would changes have on those involved: staff, students, parents, and community members? What is best practice within our own district and what are other districts doing? Having said that, I would like our schools to be ‘near paperless’ with communication, recognizing that for some families this would not be an option. Electronic communication with the home is more seamless, less work for school staff, and cuts down on paper use and saves money. The district and school websites have great potential to facilitate communication with the public but it does require someone to keep them up to date. Social media has possibilities as well, but this would need to be carefully considered as not everyone, including staff and parents, use it on a regular basis. The city has a staff member that handles all communications. This may or may not be possible for the school district but it is worth looking at how the district and schools can improve communication and the broader public.

3. Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?
Education matters to everyone. How we educate and raise youth affects all society. Furthermore, there are issues relating to schools that affect local neighbourhoods such as traffic planning, playground space, and space for community use. Already our schools are open for recreation and the arts (ie. Massey Theatre). I’d like to explore ways we can continue to expand the use of our schools. For example, because New Westminster has limited space available to build new recreation facilities, our schools could be used for recreational opportunities on the weekends. This might include something like a yoga class or open gym for children.

4. Which of the following statements most closely represents your views on bottled water in schools?
I need more information on this issue to respond.

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)?
There are many pathways to student achievement and well-being. New Westminster has a number of successful programs of choice and I will work hard to protect and strengthen those. New programs of choice, such as sports academies, should be considered but we need to ask: what is the demand, is it sustainable, and what impact will it have on existing programs?

6. What will you do to expedite building the new schools?
We need to expedite the request for Ministry approval of the capacity of the elementary school on the St. Mary’s school site. We need to quickly move forward beyond preliminary discussions on preparing requirements for the St. Mary’s and John Robson’s school facilities. We need to engage in a consultative process with staff, parents and community members to determine these requirements. The School District needs to develop a plan to address the archaeological risks to the John Robson site.

7. Would you support prioritizing the construction of the new high school before the other new schools planned for the district?
Given the information available to me at this time I support building the schools in oder that they have been approved: first the elementary school, then the middle school, and lastly, the high school.

8. What should be done with tiny Hume school?
I will support Hume Park parents as they determine and potentially strengthen the support for their local school. In March 2012 when the Hume Park School report comes before the Board of Education we will need to begin thoughtful conversations around factors such as enrollment, growth projections, the student capacity at McBride. Ultimately the school needs to have an enrollment high enough to keep it open.

9. What more do you think schools could do to improve the health of children? (physical activity, healthy eating habits, etc.)
One of my platform issues is to promote physical and mental wellness for students and staff. If elected I will initiate a task force with the purpose of getting more students walking and biking to school. We need to do more to support schools and teachers in the implementation of the ministry mandated daily physical activity. We also need to look at our playground designs and gym availability to determine if there are ways students could be outside and undercover or more active inside during the rainy, winter months. Many schools participate in programs that promote healthy eating and I would continue to support and strengthen those types of programs. Finally, we need more school counsellors. The mental well-being of our students must be a priority.

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.
See my previous comments for #3.

MaryAnn Mortensen: New West programs ‘provide many pathways to success’ [school board]

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.  

MaryAnn Mortensen
MaryAnn Mortensen

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

  • What’s your name? – MaryAnn Mortensen
  • Do you have kids in our school system? – Yes, a daughter and a son
  • What do our schools do well? – From my observations, Principals and teachers and support staff work collaboratively and support each other. I see a great respect between Administrators and Senior Administrators. The selection of program choices from mainstream to Early and Late French Immersion, Punjabi, Montessori, Trade apprenticeships in Plumbing, Culinary Arts and Hairdressing, Music Program, International Baccalaureate Program, Home Learners and our alternate programs (SIGMA, POWER and RECAP) provide many pathways to success and I strongly believe this is vital to encouraging families to send their children to our schools and offers children greater opportunities to achieve success. I see a dedication in our teaching staff that goes beyond their duty from the District Track meet to every day after school activities such as basketball, track and other extra-curricular activities that further deepen the important bond between teachers and students. I see support staff that care deeply about our schools (remembering on particular Custodian who would use his break to teach students how to play basketball and hockey and join in on games with students who already played these sports. There are so many things that our schools do well and they do this even while waiting for our buildings to be built and upgraded.
  • What is the biggest area (aside from building schools) that needs improvement? – Bar none, the biggest issue in our school district is how decisions are made at the Board table. Consultation must happen before decisions are made. I believe that we need a Board and District Mission and Vision Statement and that our policies must be guided by the principles agreed to by those who work in our school district and the parents/guardians who send their children to our schools and the community of New Westminster. We must evaluate our communications in the district using a communications audit. To keep more dollars in our district, I believe we can cost-share the services of other districts communications staff to perform the evaluation and from that our Mission and Vision Statement will guide us in how we address the communication gaps in our system.
  • What education-related idea or issue is most important to you personally as a candidate? – Children are our most valuable “asset” and we must foster in them a love of learning, offer them many pathways to success and ensure that we provide a positive, healthy and safe environment to achieve their full potential. Equally, we must ensure that we provide a healthy and safe environment along with the services and resources to our staff to ensure that they have the best teaching environment in which to teach, inspire and challenge our children.

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
  • Using the shared services of another district’s communications specialist, perform a communications audit, identify the gaps in the system and follow our Mission and Vision statement to guide how we will fix our broken communication system in New Westminster school district.

3. Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?
A healthy school community is vital to the community as a whole. We have roughly 6,000 students in New Westminster and we know that while some residents are transient, most stay and raise families here. One of the roles trustees play is to ensure that through sound policy making, we provide the best learning environment and safe buildings in which students can learn and teachers and staff can teach and support students and staff. Trustees are also charged with the duty of distributing a budget. This money is all our tax dollars at work. Part of good governance also means that we communicate with services/agencies/organizations in the community that encourage, support and engage children in their learning and lives while they are in our school system. The cost to society is enormous when we do not pay heed to our school communities. The seven trustees you elect oversee the management of our school district. Many have only to think about the concerns around the Massey Theatre’s future or how the lack of planning for new schools has impacted not only our students but also the community around where to site the elementary, middle and high school. Our schools are called community schools because they are shared hubs for all community members. Resident Associations were impacted by a decision to charge insurance fees for their meetings, extra-curricular activities and activities for children and adults are impacted by the decisions of our Board of Education. Too often, people do not realize the impact a school board has on its community and they vote only for council and Mayor. It is my hope that the community is awakened to the reality that your seven-member school board does matter to you whether or not you have children, whether or not you have children in the system or whether your children are grown. Your tax dollars pay for public education and our school buildings. You have a right and obligation to ensure that you vote for individuals who you believe will spend our $60 + million dollar budget responsibly and equitably and manage the schools in your community with good governance.

4. Which of the following statements most closely represents your views on bottled water in schools?
The Medical Safety Officer for New Westminster provided the Board of Education with a recommendation on the sale/use of bottled water. This recommendation was brought to our Parent Advisory Councils and our District Parent Advisory Council. The recommendation stated (paraphrasing) Provide safe, clean drinking water and stations where our water comes from, (fountains) stop the sale of other beverages other than healthy juice drinks, stop selling single use containers – in that order. As trustee I will advocate for and encourage the use and provision of reusable bottles (perhaps using any proceeds for arts/sports related activities in our schools).

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)?
As your trustee, I would put forward a motion to research the demand, funding costs, necessary staff, support from staff, parents and community and the availability of facilities for all academies. If we were able to meet approval on these and other necessary criteria, I would support requests for proposals on sports and other academies.

6. What will you do to expedite building the new schools?
It is my understanding that an announcement about the Ministry’s approval on the elementary and middle schools is imminent. As trustee, I would call for consultation with the John Robson School and community to determine the needs/wants for the new schools (elementary and middle) in order to expedite the building process.

When Ministry approves the plans for New Westminster Secondary; I would follow the same process as explained above. It is important that we consult on the design build of our new schools with those affected and this includes all of New Westminster. Until we have room in our buildings to house the high school students, we cannot begin construction on the New Westminster Secondary School site.

7. Would you support prioritizing the construction of the new high school before the other new schools planned for the district?
No
During construction, it is essential that we ensure the safety of our children/students and staff in the district. Were we to construct the high school first, we would need to house well over 2,000 students in portables at an enormous cost. The phased construction of the elementary and middle schools will provide us with facilities in which our high school staff and students can safely teach and learn during the construction phase of NWSS. I believe that with the decoupling of the elementary and middle schools, we are able to begin construction of both of these buildings in tandem though, again, we must be careful to ensure the safety of our students and staff at this time. While the St. Mary’s site is without a building, students and staff, construction on the John Robson site must be carefully managed. Think of how unpleasant it is to live near a massive construction site and you can appreciate what that might be like for our staff and students to teach and learn during this time. The Ministry’s funding of over $100 million dollars is the largest in the history of the Province of BC. We must take care not to waste any dollars that will otherwise provide our students and staff the best facilities in which to learn and teach – something we have been waiting ten years for!

8. What should be done with tiny Hume school?
The current Board of Education has made a promise to the Hume Park school community to develop a plan to increase enrollment numbers. The plan takes into account the educational and financial considerations to assist Hume Park in growing their school to acceptable numbers. As trustee, I support this plan and will work with the Board and the Hume Park Community in achieving this goal.

9. What more do you think schools could do to improve the health of children? (physical activity, healthy eating habits, etc.)
I believe our schools do a reasonably good job in educating our children and families on healthy living. A caveat is that I am not fully versed with all that our twelve schools do to improve the health of our children. As your trustee, if not already undertaken in our schools, I will advocate for the following:

  • Full consultation with staff and parents on expanding the lunch break for elementary and middle school students.
  • Continually update health and wellness information for our schools.
  • Work with existing agencies to provide support to our students/families (Cameray Services, UBC Counselling, Ministry for Children and Families and others).
  • Promote mental health awareness and work with agencies to help inform parents/guardians of support services for children and families.
  • Expand our hot breakfast and lunch programs.
  • Work in partnership with Action Schools BC, Fraser Health and other agencies in the promotion of healthy eating/physical habits.
  • Work with local businesses, organizations and associations to provide low to no cost physical activity trials for students and staff.
  • Promote safe routes to school program.
  • Promote and encourage bike clinics and other sport related clinics in our schools.
  • Provide safe, sheltered areas for bikes, scooters, etc and encourage children to bike/scooter/roller-blade etc to school.
  • Work with community sport/art associations/organizations in tandem with our great Community Coordinators to encourage greater participation in healthy physical, nutritional and wellness programs and services.

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)
Not interested, this isn’t what schools are for.
All of our schools are currently used in the evenings for recreational programming outside of school hours. As a committee member of the Neighbourhoods of Learning (NOL), along with my committee members, we developed the criteria for the guidelines on what kinds of services and programs our new schools will offer. The Ministry of Education initiative allows for an additional space of 15% per building (will be smaller for smaller school sites) for such services as ESL for adults, childcare, parent-guardian & child drop-in centres, Speech and Language Pathologist, Health Nurse, etc. during and after school hours. Once our schools are built, a request for proposal will go out to the programs and services that are appropriate to run in each of our schools respectively. Some services and programs will operate during the school day and others will operate in after school hours. Requests for proposals will be accepted for use of a multi-purpose room in all our new schools and non-profit and community based associations and organizations will be permitted to use the space if they meet the criteria. Other than the multi-purpose room, the additional 15% space is dedicated and operating expenses will be shared with the school district. The existing agreement between the City and the school district has caused some confusion and uncertainty for user groups that use our community schools. As your trustee, I will advocate for and support the use of our schools as community hubs for recreational, non-profit and wellness programs. For our new schools, I will follow the Neighbourhoods of Learning initiative where some of the services and programs mentioned earlier will operate both during and after school hours. These services and organizations will be appropriate to the level of school (elementary, middle and high school) and by time of day. Our schools are of the community and paid for by the community and as such, we must provide space within them for the community to enjoy and use.

For more information on MaryAnn Mortensen, you can find her online:

Jim Goring: ‘We need to make the right choices to attract and retain students and teachers’ [school board]

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.  

Jim Goring
Jim Goring

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

  • What’s your name? – Jim Goring
  • Do you have kids in our school system? – Both children attended K to 12 one has graduated one is in Grade 12
  • What do our schools do well? – Our schools do many things well including inspiring, challenging and including all our children
  • What is the biggest area (aside from building schools) that needs improvement? – One that is in our control is Communication
  • What education-related idea or issue is most important to you personally as a candidate? – We must explore how we will engage children and teachers in the future. We need to make the right choices very soon so that we can attract and retain students and teachers.

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

  • 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
  • Develop communication protocols and plans

3. Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?
Public Education has an impact on the quality of life in our community in ways that benefit all, creating good citizens, supporting democracy, providing employees some who become employers.

4. Which of the following statements most closely represents your views on bottled water in schools?
Provide students and the public that uses the school with choice including filling stations and aggressive recycling.

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)?
First we need to consult on how we should evaluate programs of choice so that our decisions can be thoughtful, transparent and right the first time. We should evaluate current programs against this model to ensure they correlate. Adjust the model if necessary. We may also decide to alter the current program. Then we need to look at what programs are out there, not just the last presentations, gauge public interest and support for the likely candidates and apply the model.

6. What will you do to expedite building the new schools?
I moved a motion [2010-274] that we strike a community task force to develop and evaluate strategies to reduce the time it would take to build the three schools. As soon as we have an approved project agreement I would commence the consultation process plan.November 9, 2010 – Capital Project Schedule Moved and Seconded by Trustees Goring and Graham: THAT the Board of Education of School District No. 40 (New Westminster), upon approval of the Project Agreement for the three schools, commit to a public process to examine the timelines for the construction of the three schools; AND THAT the process provides detailed information about the projects and allows for input and ideas; AND THAT the public be invited to comment on the ideas and rate the acceptability of the suggestions; AND THAT the process would start no later than two months after the approval of the Project Agreement; AND THAT the process would not interfere with the commencement or timeline of the individual School Design Committees. CARRIED. Trustee Atkinson Opposed.

7. Would you support prioritizing the construction of the new high school before the other new schools planned for the district?
No
There is no need to delay the start of the elementary school. The preparatory work that needs to be done on the NWSS Site will take some time. We could have the other schools started and at least one completed while the NWSS work proceeds.

8. What should be done with tiny Hume school?
There is process of school closure /consolidation and it involves consultation over a set period and a decision at the end based on all of the consultation and the Report of the Superintendent. We have gone through such a process recently and the board voted unanimously to proceed with the current review / study to examine ways to grow the school and I am committed to support the Community’s efforts.

9. What more do you think schools could do to improve the health of children? (physical activity, healthy eating habits, etc.)
With the time and resources available there is only some much that can be done. We do not want to increase one important activity if the result is the decrease in another important activity. The challenge may be to increase interweaving where appropriate so that multiple objectives are accomplished in each activity. The collaborative curriculum design processes in SD40 should enhance the opportunity for this to happen.

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. We work closely with Parks and Recreation now to share spaces. With the Neighbourhoods of Learning space in new schools the community services will increase. We need to be mindful of cost, benefit and liability.

For more information on Jim Goring, you can find him online at http://jimgoring.ca/.

Brenda McEachern Keen questions if business company is best use of school resources [school board]

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.  

Brenda McEachern-Keen
Brenda McEachern Keen

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

  • What’s your name? – Brenda McEachern Keen
  • Do you have kids in our school system? – 2 graduates of SD40 2009 2011
  • What do our schools do well? – programs of choice – many ways for students to excel
  • What is the biggest area (aside from building schools) that needs improvement? – Structural readiness for new learning opportunities
  • What education-related idea or issue is most important to you personally as a candidate? – see above. Also business company disclosure. Is it the best use of our resources?

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

3. Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?
Empowered students = empowered citizens. The social skills students learn as children will be the social skills they take into adulthood. The values our schools instill will be the values they live.

4. Which of the following statements most closely represents your views on bottled water in schools?
Allow it. It’s important for students to have choice, and bottled water is healthier than other bottled drinks.

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)?
Choice is good. But within budget is only one criteria. Is this the program with the most demand, the available human resources, and the clearest outcome? Would assess it in context of other programs that parents have been asking for.

6. What will you do to expedite building the new schools?
Implement project management criteria. What are individual steps, obstacles, timing, approvals, consents, consultation. Bring in outside resources as needed. Develop each project as ready, and concurrently if possible.

7. Would you support prioritizing the construction of the new high school before the other new schools planned for the district?
No
Play ready golf. Proceed with whichever project is ready first.

8. What should be done with tiny Hume school?
Await the input and recommendations of the study that is currently in progress.

9. What more do you think schools could do to improve the health of children? (physical activity, healthy eating habits, etc.)
SD40 is already active in breakfast and lunch programs, and after school care. An increased emphasis on physical activity throughout the school day, including in class, is both achievable and proven to enhance learning.

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.

If you’d like to learn more about Brenda McEachern Keen, you can find her online: