Thursday April 24, 2014

question of the week

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Wi-Fi petition presented to board


At the Dec. 10 regular board meeting parent Lesley Barnett presented a petition signed by 158 Coast citizens calling for a halt to Wi-Fi use in the district.

The petition urged the school district to “undertake the hard-wiring of all Internet connections within our schools and to adopt a stringent technology plan that will, whenever possible, protect our children from all sources of electro-magnetic radiation.”

Barnett addressed the board and brought up several adverse health effects that she said have been linked in some way to electro-magnetic radiation including problems with cognitive function and behaviour in kids.

“The responsibility of any institution includes ensuring the safety of the public, and a board of education is no different,” Barnett said. “In fact, it is bound to protect children as part of its mandate.”

Trustee Lori Dixon noted that the board always follows the recommendations of the health authority surrounding things like Wi-Fi in schools, and that Wi-Fi has been deemed safe for students by Vancouver Coastal Health.

School board chair Silas White thanked Barnett for her presentation and said that the board would discuss the issue further at the next operations committee.

New chair

Board elections took place Tuesday night with White nominating Betty Baxter to take over the chair’s role. No one else was nominated so Baxter won by acclamation.

Joining her as vice-chair will be Lori Pratt, who won a secret ballot against fellow nominee Christine Younghusband.

Trustees thanked White for his six years of service as board chair with Baxter noting he “left us in very good shape as a school board.”

White was named the new B.C. School Trustees’ Association Provincial Council representative and Dave Mewhort was named representative to the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.

CUPE 801

Support staff in School District No. 46 (SD46) now has a two-year agreement that will cover them until June 30, 2014.

The new agreement was ratified by CUPE local 801 and SD46 on Nov. 26.

“Fortunately we have an agreement until June of this year and retroactively as well and we’ll be bargaining again soon but it is wonderful to have such a good local bargaining relationship and to be able to conclude this without the difficulties that some other school districts have had in the province,” White said.

WE Day

SD46 will become an official partner with Free the Children, the board decided unanimously Tuesday night.

“Free the Children is an organization that supports very much empowering youth in local and global actions to support social change. They’re a very powerful group in the sense that with all of the children in schools and harnessing that energy and that excitement for making the world better,” said superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking.

Schools have committed to take one local and one global action each year as part of the partnership.

“There’s also privileged opportunity for our students to attend We Day each year and so there’s a number of reasons why it’s very exciting initiative,” Bocking said.

Trustees were pleased with the move with Pratt noting she was “thrilled to bits.”

Calendar input

New rules from the Ministry of Education now allow school districts to make up their own calendars for the year and SD46 wants to hear what the public would like to see.

Assistant superintendent of schools Greg Kitchen said a Survey Monkey on-line questionnaire has been created to get public feedback.

“We want to establish some baseline points as well as find out if there’s any interest around modifications to the school calendar,” he said.

Fill out the survey at

Trustee donations

Trustees are no longer able to give donations to targeted areas in the school district, according to a new recommendation passed Tuesday night.

The policy change now states that trustees can only make “general, anonymous, un-targeted donations to the school district as a whole.”

White said the change was based on an ethical question of whether elected school trustees should be “showing favoritism” by donating funds to specific schools, projects or programs.

Trustees Dixon and Greg Russell voted against the motion, however it passed.

Russell then asked to read a statement to be included in the minutes.

“I understand the value of having general policy as guidelines, but a trustee’s right, responsibilities and obligations are governed by the School Act, not by board policy. As such, board policy should not be inconsistent with the School Act (or other acts of law) and should always reflect what is in the best interests of the students of the School District,” he said.

— Christine Wood



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