School board has listened
I wish to provide some background to the current discussions about the 2010 school calendar for Whistler Secondary School. Concerns are being expressed about both the substance and the process of board decisions. When considering their positions on these issues, members of the public may find it helpful to take the following points into consideration:
1. The board developed its original plan in a very open process that included public meetings and extensive surveying. The survey was designed and implemented by a professional contractor. All feedback received (and there was a lot) was carefully considered and discussed.
2. This was an issue on which trustees did not hold all the same initial views, and it took much deliberation to reach a decision that felt right. The eventual decision required several hours of passionate, principled and reasoned debate, all of which took place in a public meeting.
3. The board considered a number of key factors when making this decision. These included the following:
• academic responsibility to our students
• responsibility to parents and employees
• careful management of staff and school district assets
• professional advice
• partner and public input
• the experiences of other Olympic communities
4. A suggestion has been made that the board has not welcomed or considered input that is contrary to the initial decision. This is incorrect. The board has regularly monitored and discussed the calendar in light of new information and advice. Modifications have been made to calendars at three schools in Squamish (to date) and some changes have been made to the calendar at WSS. The board has achieved a Whistler calendar which makes a sincere attempt to balance various legitimate interests, some of which are competing or mutually incompatible.
5. A recent presentation to the board by WSS PAC members was reasoned and passionate, but did not raise, in the view of the board, any issues that had not already been considered and discussed. The board responded quickly, and in writing, to the PAC presentation.
6. Some have stated that the board, in its current plan, will be locking students out and depriving them of their education. This is, of course, not true. The board believes that the current calendar ensures the maximum access to the maximum number of students for this unusual school year. In fact the current calendar provides hours of instruction that are in excess of Ministry of Education requirements.
7. Key reasons for retaining the current calendar are as follows:
• the risk of substantial student absenteeism, with no chance for absent students to make up work if schools remain in session (the WSS PAC, in their recent presentation, told us of a significant number of families that have already finalized plans to be absent)