School report out soon? Chair says we’ll get a full look at it By Chris Woodall The Howe Sound School Board #48 has decided to release the full review/audit of its finances and operations after all. "Once we have sorted out the personnel matters, we will release the rest of the report in a day or two," said chairperson Constance Rulka last week. The decision was announced during the board’s March 12 meeting. Rulka acknowledged that "several people" — Pique newsmagazine is among them — had requested the full report through a Freedom of Information request. The original school board attempt to report on the review was a two-page press release that spokespersons from the Howe Sound Teachers Association and Whistler parents advisory committees said was inadequate. The review of the school board was carried out over last autumn by B.C. trustees association executive Graham McKinnon. The school board had the report for almost two months before they released a few details in a press release. "It’s difficult to determine what any of the findings of McKinnon are," said Whistler secondary school parents advisory committee president Dick Gibbons at the time. Pique newsmagazine had to fax Gibbons a copy of the press release when the school board neglected to. Pique also faxed a copy to the teachers association. "This is not very helpful information," teachers association president Alex Miller said at the time. Information given out by the school board in its infamous press release would only hint that several areas of the school board — including its budget, budget shortfall, aboriginal education, communication, and the role of the board — "may require attention." There were no further explanations and — when interviewed later — Rulka said none would be forthcoming. "That’s all we’re releasing. I think this is sufficient," she said at the time. The board has now recanted. Rulka now says everything in the report except those issues where names are named, or where the issue directly points to a person, will be included in the re-release. (o o o) In other school board business, trustees wrestled with what its role will be when a new provincial ministry becomes reality. "It’s difficult because I don’t think they know themselves who’s in charge," Rulka says of the impending Ministry for Children and Families. The new ministry may involve district school boards in integrating social services under the school’s direction that used to be a ministerial responsibility alone, Rulka says. "That might be good and well, but where and how is this to be done?" Rulka says. (o o o) The school board will reinstate a system of department heads in its high schools. "It will make a tremendous difference in our schools," chairperson Rulka says. "As a department head, you are responsible for a lot of things like choosing resources and looking after equipment listed on the books," she explains. The heads of the school interact with each other to ensure the school as a whole shares resources. Department heads also act as mentors giving guidance and encouragement to new teachers. (o o o) The school board wants to bring back its series of school visits. The northern-most schools in the district may get a board visit this school year with the full series of visits to all the schools in the district to begin in September. The idea is for the board to get to know the parents, teachers and students face-to-face better that it would being hunkered down at its headquarters in Squamish, chairman Rulka says. "It was discontinued because it was felt it wasn’t wanted" by the public, Rulka says, "but it kept us in touch with the schools." (o o o) And finally, although it’s in mothballs, the Coast Mountain Outdoor School continues to threaten to cost the school board money whether it’s open or not. The latest twist in the Pemberton-area school is a problem with erosion. "We’re losing land at the river bank at quite a rate," says Rulka. "That’s good agricultural land. Something should be done to control the way the current is being forced against the river bank." To that end, the school board is attempting to get the attention of the province’s ministry of the environment.