Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Putting Your Trust In Trustees

Last week I had an opportunity to attend the annual general meeting of the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) in the company of five of our district's trustees. One of the hi-lites of the meeting was watching Trustee Ida Campbell, of the District of Taylor, be honored for her 21 years of service as a trustee. That's seven terms of office! Trustee and board chair Jaret Thompson was recognized at the same ceremony for completing 6 years as a trustee. SD 60 is fortunate to have such dedicated and long serving trustees. For her long service Trustee Campbell was made a lifetime member of the BCSTA. Trustee Heather Hannaford was similarly honored a few years ago and continues to sit on the board. Trustee Linda Stringer has also served multiple terms on the board

School Board trustees are elected officials. Long service is indicative of both a willingness to serve and of an ability to earn the public's trust.  What do trustees do? The BCSTA website describes the role of trustees as follows:

"Trustees engage their communities in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. School trustees listen to their communities; guide the work of their school district; and set plans, policies and the annual budget. Reflecting the strength of local representation, boards report back to their communities on how students are doing: boards are directly accountable to the people they serve.

British Columbia is a large province with many communities, each having different priorities, needs and unique educational requirements. British Columbians elect their 60 boards of education to improve student achievement according to the diverse needs of these communities. As locally elected representatives, the trustees on these boards best understand their respective communities’ particular strengths, challenges and demands."

As Superintendent I get to work closely with trustees. In addition to their governance role they both challenge and encourage all district employees to provide a quality education experience to all students. As fortunate as this district is to have dedicated and long serving trustees, all good things do eventually come to an end. This fall will bring new elections and possibly significant changes to the make up of the board.  Some trustees may be moving on to new challenges, and its the nature of elected offices that contested seats can always see change via the ballot box. Rather than see elections as a challenge, our sitting trustees encourage and welcome other interested citizens to get involved with governance. While continuity of service and board stability have their advantages, renewal and continued civic involvement are the lifeblood of elected institutions. Anyone interested in learning more about the role and duties of trustees is encouraged to attend a school board meeting, contact a sitting trustee or check out the BCSTA website. Who knows - it may be the first step to a new and lasting involvement in education matters!

Monday, 21 April 2014

P's and Q's about Job Action

Most parents are aware that negotiations between the BC Teacher's Federation and the provincial government are not progressing quickly.  Last Thursday, the Teacher's Federation served 72 hour strike notice and announced that Phase 1 of their job action will begin on Wednesday, April 23rd. This phase of job action should have limited impact on students. Schools will remain open and teachers will continue to be available for instruction. What teachers won't be doing is attending meetings with administrators, or participating in regular playground supervision beyond levels mandated by an Essential Services Order.

For schools located in and close to Fort St John, this means administrators and district exempt staff will be supervising schools and playgrounds at breaks. Parents can assist administration by ensuring that they minimize the amount of time students spend at schools before and after the hours of instruction. Your assistance in having students arrive just prior to the commencement of classes and leave promptly after dismissal, is greatly appreciated. Rural schools and those located further from town will continue to be safely supervised with teachers assisting as per the terms of an Essential Service Order.

Negotiations between teachers and the province have a long and rocky history. Like all disputes this one too will be settled eventually. Your patience and proactive approach to the circumstances will help determine how well we all weather this challenging time. Job action is designed to increase pressure at the bargaining table. No doubt, as administrators pick up other duties deemed to be struck work, there will be an impact on the system. Some activities may need to be postponed, rescheduled or put off to another time. The ability to maintain a positive outlook may be increasingly challenged, but patience is always be appreciated. Any major announcements, changes or developments will be made known through local media, the district website and other forms of social media.

Regardless of where they stand in the current dispute, all SD 60 staff remain committed to providing our communities with the best education possible. Hopefully a fair and lasting settlement will be found soon, and we will all be able to concentrate on learning and education matters.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Spring into Wellness - April Campaigns

April is here, and is finally delivering the warmer temperatures needed to cause the gurgling run off that really marks the start of a northern spring.  Spring's return also brings with it a couple  important health and wellness initiatives.

 April 7th is World Health Day. This year's theme deals with vector carried diseases. Math and physics students might be familiar with vectors as a way of determining the position of a point in space, but in health terms, a vector is an organism, usually a biting insect or tick, that spreads disease. The campaign is timely as spring thaws inevitably bring the standing water that breeds another harbinger of spring - mosquitoes! In Canada we are fortunate that insect bites are usually no more than an irritating and sometimes painful nuisance, but for more than 40% of the world's population, an insect bite can lead to more serious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever or yellow fever. Closer to home, ticks can cause Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fortunately, as we all get outside more and more, precautions can be taken to limit contact with biting pests. Appropriate clothing, judicious use of repellents, and careful, prompt and appropriate medical attention to bites that do occur, can help us all enjoy getting outside.

April also brings the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Campaign. Current statistics show the number of new cancer cases rising steadily as our population grows and ages.  Almost half of Canadians are expected to be affected by cancer in their lifetimes, and the disease remains a leading cause of death in Canada. Last year, an estimated 187,000 new cases were diagnosed and 75,500 Canadians died. SD 60 students at several schools have volunteered to assist with this year's campaign, by contributing paper daffodils for the society to distribute in locations where actual daffodils are not permitted. Community members can donate to the Society in many different ways including buying and wearing daffodil pins, donating online or when a Society canvasser comes to your door, participating in a Relay For Life event or by sponsoring a Relay participant.

Donations during Daffodil Month help fund cancer research, to provide information and deliver programs and services to prevent cancer, to support people living with cancer and their families and caregivers, and to advocate on behalf of Canadians on important health and cancer issues.
Persons interested in learning more about this campaign can go to cancer.ca.

SD 60 is committed to supporting and promoting social responsibility. As our long northern winter gives way to spring, giving consideration to campaigns that ensure we all enjoy the new season in good health is both socially responsible and something we can feel good about. Whether its learning about health initiatives from around the world, across the country or within our own community, good health matters to everyone.