A+' for Effort School board plays Janus: Looking back helps look forward By Chris Woodall New schools and better plans marked the last term of office for Howe Sound District School Board trustees in clearing the decks for the term to come. The last three years saw new Whistler secondary, Pemberton secondary and Brackendale elementary schools open, as well as major renovations to Squamish secondary (new theatre) and Garibaldi Highlands elementary (new classrooms and library). A district technology plan ensures all board schools will have the same level of computer hardware and training. Part of the plan — developed with input from unions, support staff, teachers, principals, and the board — will ensure teachers and support staff are brought up to speed on new computer developments. Ensuring all schools have the same equipment will be service cost effective and will help students prepare their futures using real-world computers, says Whistler trustee Ele Clarke. Clarke was re-elected to a second term in last week’s local elections. Rookie trustee Andrée Janyk will take the second Whistler seat at the board table. Incumbent trustee Laurie Vance was not re-elected. The board is proud of its career preparation program to get students into the workplace to earn credits learning what it's really like out there. A roving vice-principal, Marg Pallot, supervises the program. "We're ahead of the game," says Clarke, because the board started its program in advance of the B.C. education ministry telling all school boards they must have one, too. Parents advisory groups have been given a stronger voice in board business, says Clarke, through more liaison and communication between the board and parents groups. Partnership agreements between schools and levels of government have proved successful, Clarke says, noting Whistler's two schools getting official "community school" status — and $75,000 in annual funds for each — from the provincial government. Pemberton got a community centre out of its old high school, thanks to a partnership with the village and regional district. The board had to wrestle with what to do with the Coast Mountain Outdoor School, eventually mothballing it. "It cost $250,000 to run, which we couldn't afford," says trustee Clarke. "Closing it was a very unpopular decision." The school now has a caretaker and costs the board $25,000 a year for basic heating and maintenance. All is not over, however. Clarke says five groups have expressed interest in the school, with one serious contender in the wings. The province-wide amalgamation of school boards battle royal that began in November, 1995, had a cash-conscious side effect as the board took a close look at how it could operate more efficiently, including reducing the number of trustees, Clarke says. Among other milestones, establishing a zero tolerance policy for at-school violence ranks high, Clarke says. Working closely with the Squamish campus of Capilano College paid off, too, in developing an "articulation program" that allows high school students to fast-track their diploma by taking college-level credit courses.