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Parents frustrated by school board



Janyk elected new school board chair

Whistler trustee Andrée Janyk has been voted chair of the Howe Sound School Board.

It is the first time a Whistler trustee has held the post and it comes at a time Whistler’s elementary school parents are calling for more representation at the board level.

Janyk took the reins from Squamish trustee Amy Shoup at the board’s Dec. 14 meeting.

School boards must elect a chair before the end of each year. In this district, the same person can be voted in for consecutive terms.

If the election had been held one day earlier it would have been Janyk, and not Shoup, in the hot seat at the Myrtle Philip parent advisory council’s December meeting.

The PAC wants parents to have a louder voice at the school district level and it wants more involvement from its Whistler trustees.

In an effort to better understand the relationship between PACs, trustees and the school board, the Myrtle Philip parents invited then board chair Shoup to speak at their December meeting. And, they quizzed Shoup on the obligations and responsibilities of a trustee.

Whistler trustee Alix Nicoll was at that meeting but parents expressed disappointment that she had to leave before they got to the discussion on the roles of trustees.

PAC chair, Don Brett, told Shoup the school board should be giving more weight to parents’ views.

He said parents largely pay for the school system through taxes and they represent the greatest number of stakeholders in the education system.

Brett noted that the other stakeholders in education are employees of the board.

He said parents are also disadvantaged in that they don’t have the cash to spend on producing videos and they don’t have the luxury of full-time staffers to lobby and sway board decisions on specific issues.

He used the latest debate on corporate sponsorship as an example. Brett noted that the board viewed a 15-minute video produced by the B.C. Teachers Federation on the impact of advertising in schools. The District Parent Advisory Council, on the other hand, was given scant warning to scrape together opinion and make its presentation.

DPAC told the board the current policy on corporate sponsorship was sufficient and that valuable time would be wasted on a review.

Brett noted that Whistler’s trustees voted in favour of the review despite the parents’ stance.

"I think we should be heard more loudly… why can the board not view parents’ views as the most important guiding views?"

Shoup said all "partners" need to be present for education to occur and all views have to be taken into account, including those of parents, teachers, support workers and administrators.

She noted some board decisions are made based on information discussed in-camera. "There is some information we can’t share with the public or are not at liberty to discuss and sometimes the board makes decisions that, on the surface, may not appear sound," Shoup told the PAC.

"But you entrust a trustee to make those decisions based on the information available, and if you are not happy with your trustee, there is an election every three years."

Shoup said three of the trustees on the Howe Sound School Board are also parents themselves and are "very cognizant" of the needs of parents and their children.

She encouraged even more parents to get involved and run for the trustee positions when elections are held in two years.

The Myrtle Philip PAC is also questioning the effectiveness of the District Parent Advisory Council and is considering pulling out of that body.

It was noted that if DPAC is to be a viable entity, assurance is needed that DPAC’s views will be taken to the school board.

New district superintendent Linda Rossler has committed to working with DPAC. It was noted that "the only apathy that has plagued DPAC" in the last couple of years can be attributed directly to past superintendent Mike Fitzpatrick.

However, some parents still feel it would be more effective for the PAC to express itself directly to the board instead of going through another level.

Parent Chris Vernon Jarvis – who represented Whistler Secondary at one DPAC meeting before quitting his role over the corporate sponsorship issue – said the DPAC view may not necessarily reflect the PAC’s view.

"Then we would have to go to the board ourselves anyway."

The PAC voted to monitor the effectiveness of DPAC until its annual meeting at the end of the school year. The PAC will then decide whether DPAC is an effective conduit for the collective voice of parents.