BETTER LANGLEY: Approximately many school board trustee meetings have you watched or attended over the past term? What current issues do you see as most pressing on the board?
BETTER LANGLEY FAVOURITE ANSWERS HIGHLIGHTED IN GREEN (COMING SOON)
A note about highlighted answers: Better Langley favourites are selected based on discussions with dozens of parents, teachers, local politicians. Each question had select criteria that the aforementioned stakeholders found to be of the greatest importance and I have done my best to represent these. Additionally, my own academic background in political science, philosophy, religious studies, and real estate all provide its own knowledge base, process of critical thought, and, yes, biases. In order to reduce personal bias toward any candidate or organization, however, answers were read anonymously, separate from the candidate before selecting a “favourite” to highlight.
SCHOOL TRUSTEE CANDIDATE ANSWERS (by ballot order)
RAI (Contract with Langley): I have not attended any but do review the minute available on the website.
I see the following as the most pressing for the board:
1.Recruitment and Retention hiring more educators and Special Education Assistants,
2. Working with psychologists and counsellors to create tool to promote Mental Health and Wellness Support,
3. Implementing swifter Anti Bullying protocols by promoting accountability and restorative justice and creating a school environment based on acceptance of differences.
LOCKHART (Independent): About eight, all via Online platform. My interest peaked when my daughter entered the school system in 2021. One of the most pressing issues at the Board level is in relation to managing the growth factor in Willoughby. All of our K-5 schools have over 500 students. This area of Langley is already behind by at least schools and has seen the district spend over $1.5 Million on portable classrooms. I also do not want to discount the importance of mental health in the district as it relates to students, staff and teachers. I believe that if we can better support teachers in their own mental wellness, this can have a trickle down effect to the classroom. Last year there was an organizational survey done, with the intention of getting an overall perspective of mental wellness, culture, organizational morale. The results were fragmented, not shared equally across stakeholders and lacked actionable items. I believe we need to revisit this survey, or commission a new one, with focus spent on mental health of our staff and teachers. There are very few tools for these stakeholders to use, and very few metrics to aid these individuals in knowing if they should be looking for avenues of assistance. A round table approach, focused on collaboration across all working groups, with an eye on de-stigmatizing mental health can happen. I have personally been through a couple of programs designed for first responders and I would love the opportunity to work with the other board members on bringing something forward.
PERREAULT (Independent): I have attended all this past term except three due to loss off family members.
Mental health and wellness are of upmost priority as we lean into our new rhythms and patterns of life. Alongside this we must continue to move towards ensuring students and staff voices are heard through equity scans to permit space for accurate assessments of the needs of the community of people we serve. In that, space is a urgently growing need and the importance of ongoing advocacy and co-governing for advocacy for schools is of the essence.
DICKINSON (Contract with Langley): I’ve watch almost every meeting over the past two and a half years.
The current issues that are most pressing are:
• Langley’s rapid growth means an influx of new students and no place to put them.
o There are no major projects currently approved to increase the spaces needed.
o We anticipate the same amount of growth next year.
There is going to need to be a lot of work done very quickly, in order to play catch up on getting new schools built.
We will need to be open minded and innovative to come up with temporary solutions on how to house all the new students.
• Inflation issues are going to cause major issues for both the boards budget and families.
o In times of uncertainty, at some point, we may need to revaluate and ensure that our students most basic needs such as food and shelter are being met.
• Ensure monthly standing meetings occur with municipalities to:
o Collaborate on how to extend before and afterschool programming desperately needed by families
o Collaborative solutions that will keep students safe during their travels to and from school.
TURNER (Independent): Due to the issues with your online account, I have chosen not to fill out the survey.
WAKELIN (Independent): A positive development that came from the pandemic was the discovery that virtual meetings created accessibility. I tuned in to the majority of meetings when online and viewed agendas, etc.
Mental health: As we consider what life looks like after the pandemic, we truly don’t know what the impact will be on our children and those that have been on the frontlines. School Counsellors should be prioritizing supporting the mental health and well-being of students, not organizing student schedules. There is no better investment than in the well-being of students and staff. As a parent with experience searching for support for our child, I can attest to the lengthy waitlists within our community. We must do better now and not in five years. The well-being of district staff is of great importance and must not be overlooked when having this conversation.
Communication and transparency: while engaging with various stakeholders one common thread is a concern re: lack of communication. Prioritizing relationships is key, as is ensuring communication is thorough and transparent. There is so much to be gained from listening to the needs and experiences of those in this district. When creating policy or decision making a local lens is vital to meeting the needs of students, families and staff.
WILSON (Independent): I have attended all of the school board meetings. One of the main obstacles is continually trying to do more with less. 90% of the budget is comprised of wages, so every other operational part of running the district happens with the remaining 10%. When any additional costs arise that aren’t funded by the Provincial government, the district must find that money within the existing budget. Inflation, for example, the cost of purchasing all materials, has risen dramatically over the past number of years yet the budget hasn’t grown to cover that. Covid funding has dried up, but there are continued cost pressures created by covid that are still occurring. Some other very pressing issues include trying to hire more teachers and support staff including special education assistants when there is a critical shortage in our province, as well as the mental health crisis that is devastating our entire school communities; students, staff and parents.
ROSS (Independent): All. Pretty exciting stuff!
FOX (Independent): As a sitting trustee I have attended every Board meeting and every committee meeting regardless of whether I am on the committee or not. Further, I have attended the meetings of Metro School Districts and I have also been appointed to the BC School Trustees Association Finance and Audit Committee which I have attended all the meetings of.
In my opinion the most pressing issues we face as a Board are;
-having a balanced budget and a sustainable funding model from the Ministry
-new school sites and buildings required to meet the growing population in our community.
-the development of a comprehensive and robust Strategic Plan with full stakeholder input to guide the District for the next four years
NEUFELD (Contract with Langley): I am all caught up on watching the past 2 years of school board meetings and what I see as pressing is easily answered after watching the June 21, 2022 board meeting. Secretary Treasurer Iseli sums it up best with what is keeping him up at night; the thought of where the new students are going to be placed over the next couple years. With record growth and a similar trend predicted over the next year. There are currently no extra spaces and no large building projects approved. That means, more portables are coming, with no space to place them. Even though the District and Township has a great partnership when it comes to purchasing school sites, they do not own park land like other districts, limiting portable placement.
Second issue I see is the Board Chair asking staff, regarding new schools, “when do we act? At some point we are going to have to knock on the door, very seriously, of the Ministry When do we do that, are we looking at September?” Exponential growth in Langley is not something that just starting this past year. Why is this question only be asked now? Langley desperately needs the right team on the school board and council, now, working together for a plan for schools. I don’t want to be writing this answer again in 4 years.
Do you believe in a more economically and environmentally sustainable Langley? Do you believe in the work being done here? Do you want to support the work of Better Langley?