By Carolyn Broady, Board Chair
As 2015 comes to a close and I reflect on the past year, I would like to extend my best wishes to students, families and staff for a happy holiday season.
There has been much to learn since the Board of Trustees was sworn in last December, and we have enjoyed the many opportunities for our new trustees to learn about our school district, spend time in our schools and continue to advocate for public education both locally and provincially.
Advocacy has taken place both through our provincial organization, the BC School Trustees’ Association (BCSTA), and directly with the government. Trustees have also learned much by attending numerous events in our schools, talking to students and helping to celebrate our students’ successes.
In January, after the delayed start to the school year, we had our annual opening day celebration with keynote speaker Josh Dueck, who shared his inspiring vision about the importance of perseverance and determination. It was a timely topic as we looked to reset after the lengthy and difficult labour dispute the year prior. Trustees started the New Year with an extensive orientation, working with staff to gain in-depth knowledge about all areas of the school district. Time was spent working with and learning from our staff in Student Support Services, the International Department, Human Resources and Finance and in the facilities yard to help trustees better understand our school sites and the work involved to keep schools safe and welcoming for our students. Trustees also began to reach out to visit their liaison schools and settle into their committee assignments.
Once our orientation was complete, our attention turned to strategic planning, as we began out outline our vision for our four-year term. As we defined and focused on the values that will guide our work — excellence, inclusiveness, accountability, authenticity, innovation, community engagement and happiness — we were able to set our strategic direction, focussing on four key areas: Educational Excellence, Visionary Governance, Thoughtful Transitions and Community Evolution.
As 2016 begins, we will be undertaking a board self-review; as part of the process, we will look at focussing on one area of the strategic plan each year. The one over-arching theme, which we will continuously weave through all our work, is a continued and sustained focus on educational excellence, ensuring that we continue to maintain the high achievement levels for which West Vancouver Schools are known, while continually looking for opportunities for new and innovative programs and practices.
Over the past number of months our Board has had the opportunity to liaise with West Vancouver Mayor Smith and Council, the Police and Kay Meek Boards and has attended various events with the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, West Vancouver Community Foundation and North Shore Congress. We are also looking forward to a liaison meeting with the North Vancouver School District in the New Year, and sharing our strategic plan with the mayors and council of the three of the municipalities we represent.
Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to spend a morning with Education Minister Mike Bernier to share our West Vancouver story with him. We toured two of our schools to show him some of the programs that make West Vancouver Schools so special – the ACE-IT Carpentry program and the incredible Special Education Department at West Vancouver Secondary School and the innovative and exciting primary IB/French Immersion program at École Cedardale. We also had the opportunity to raise our concerns around salary harmonization, the administrative freeze, the financing of legal shared services and the impact of increasing ELL pressures on our classrooms. It was a very productive visit and a start to what will hopefully be a collaborative and positive relationship with our new minister.
It’s been a fabulous year in our schools with a renewed focus on applying innovative educational practices in our classrooms and implementation of the new curriculum. The Board stands solidly behind our educators, administrators and support staff as they carry out the work required for this transition, and we look forward to continued work together in 2016.
On behalf of the entire Board I would like to wish everyone a very relaxing holiday season and all the best for 2016.