New spirit of cautious optimism in SD40 – VOICE salutes P4PE and new Superintendent

The emergence of a new parents group, New Westminster Parents for Public Education (P4PE), can only be seen as positive and helpful in the effort to improve education in New Westminster and, indeed, in the entire province. Parental involvement in education should always be welcome in this regard.

VOICE New Westminster has been encouraged to see recent opinions expressed by parents involved with P4PE in so far as VOICE has been making almost the same – if not the same – points about the New Westminster school district (SD40) since our inception seven years ago in January 2007.

The widespread dysfunction that has plagued the administration and governance of SD40 for so many long years is something clearly evident to even the most casual of observers. We therefore want to encourage the members of P4PE to keep up their vocal pursuit of change in SD40.

There is, however, one aspect of P4PE that does concern us and that is the close relationship that several of its self-declared founding members have – or have had in the recent past – with the very organization that has supported and enabled the aforementioned dysfunction to take place in SD40.

We certainly hope the formation of P4PE is not merely an effort to rebrand previous political efforts and special interest agendas with the intention to distance the new group from the debacles of the past – debacles which have put the New Westminster school district into such a terrible financial situation.

Nevertheless, we are sincerely hopeful that P4PE represents the same desire for positive change that VOICE has been articulating for almost a decade now (and which some of our members have been articulating from long before that).

We are also encouraged by the commitment of SD40’s newly-appointed superintendent whose actions have recently put the school district on the path toward sustainable, sound decision-making and management practices.

It all adds up to a new spirit of optimism – cautious optimism, but optimism nonetheless – that things may finally be falling into place in SD40 and that the kind of true change VOICE has been advocating for over the past several years may now be within sight.

Overcrowding concerns resurface at Herbert Spencer

A proposal that would increase the student population at overcrowded Herbert Spencer has prompted some frustrated Spencer parents to start an online petition.

The proposal would see a second Early French Immersion kindergarten class added this September with 19 of its 22 students coming from outside the Herbert Spencer catchment area.

As the petition preamble states, “the current students of Herbert Spencer Elementary School already have limited and inadequate access to the resources and educational experiences expected from a neighbourhood community school.”

Moreover, three modular classrooms have recently been added to the site which has further reduced the play area available for students.

The sponsors of the petition hope to provide the school district and the board “with a mandate to avoid further over-populating” of Herbert Spencer and to “use the existing facility resources for the benefit of the community and the majority of our students.”

Facility issues are certainly not new to the New Westminster school district, and this one is no exception.

For those who are interested in this issue, the text of the petition is posted below:

Stop Over-Populating Herbert Spencer Elementary School

The Petition

Please note that this petition is not intended to be a condemnation of our school district’s Program of Choice tracts, but rather the issue of unnecessarily over-populating Herbert Spencer Elementary School.

Premise Behind Petition

This petition is to provide our School District and Board of Trustees with a mandate to avoid further over-populating Herbert Spencer Elementary School and use the existing facility resources for the benefit of the community and the majority of our students.

The New Westminster School District Board of Trustees is considering a proposal to add an additional full class of students to Herbert Spencer Elementary School in September of 2011. This additional “One-Time” 2nd Early French Immersion Kindergarten Class of 22 would consist of 19 students from outside the normal Herbert Spencer Elementary School neighbourhood catchment. Adding 19 more students, who could be supported by the community schools in the neighbourhoods where they live, will adversely affect access and availability to our community school’s facilities and resources for its existing students and our children.

The current students of Herbert Spencer Elementary School already have limited and inadequate access to the resources and educational experiences expected from a neighbourhood community school, as well as those that are actually mandated by the Ministry of Education. Adding more students to the Herbert Spencer Elementary School site unnecessarily, which already has not been constructed or intended to hold even the current population it has (i.e. the modular buildings taking up a large portion of the play area), will further reduce our children’s access to the limited resources and learning opportunities.

By signing this petition, I attest that;

I do not support the proposal to further increase the student population at Herbert Spencer Elementary School, due to the establishment of a 2nd Early French Immersion Kindergarten Class from which the majority of students reside outside the normal Herbert Spencer Elementary School neighbourhood catchment. I request that Herbert Spencer Elementary School’s facilities and resources be used to provide the needed and necessary educational and community services that our families require, such as; more uncongested playground space, additional gymnasium and physical recreation space and time, increased computer lab access and availability, restoration of onsite before and after school child care, and a school district that focuses on the needs and best interests of ALL of its students.

Incinerator issue flares up again in Sapperton

Late last week, word leaked out about a new proposal for a waste-to-energy incinerator in Sapperton — the third or fourth proposal in recent memory (we’ve kind of lost track — this incinerator thing is kind of like an undead zombie that can’t be killed).

Needless to say, the residents of Sapperton and elsewhere in the city are expressing renewed concern and there are more questions than answers at this point.

You can read about the proposal here, and we understand city council is receiving the proposal at a meeting today.

Companies are certainly well within their right to submit proposals to the city. However, more than one person has pointed out that the wording of the proponent’s cover letter to the city suggests that the city may have solicited the proposal in some way.

Once again, consistent with the position we’ve taken in previous postings on this topic, the Mayor needs to come clean on his waste-to-energy dreams for the city.

Was this proposal sought out by the city? How does all of this factor into the UBE?

And given the fact that extensive consultations need to take place for any waste-to-energy proposal, what impact does this proposal have on the tight timelines connected to the federal government funding for the UBE?

The questions are certainly many but the answers are few and this has lead to an intense level of distrust around the whole issue. So stay tuned for more as this seemingly unending incinerator saga continues to unfold.