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.

When it rains, it pours — Election Fatigue 2011?

We’re not the first to make note of the “perfect storm” conditions for election fatigue that have emerged in 2011.

We’re barely half way through May and we’ve already had two provincial party leadership races, a federal election, and a provincial by-election in Vancouver-Point Grey.

In the Fall we’ve got a civic election (Voice’s sphere of interest) and most likely a provincial election on top of it.

Sandwiched in between, of course, is the HST referendum in June — which means hardcore political junkies will be getting more than their fill of excitement this year.

But what impact will this tsunami of election activity have on the average voter? That’s the question many are asking.

Will voter fatigue set in and cause an unprecedented lack of interest in this year’s civic election?

Keep in mind that voter apathy (in general) is already at an all-time high, and civic elections typically post the lowest voter turnout rate.

As an example: During the last civic election, most of those elected in New Westminster were elected with less than 10 percent of the eligible vote (a sad commentary in and of itself).

And if voter fatigue sets in it could conceivably lead to candidates being elected with as little as 4 or 5 percent of the eligible vote.

Voice will certainly be doing its part to shake things up and engage voters over the coming months.

And, just as we did in the last election, Voice will be working to support community-based candidates capable of putting the interests of the community above all other interests.

The District Labour Council will, in all probability, also gear up to support their special interest slate-that-claims-not-to-be-a-slate slate of candidates, just as they’ve done practically from the beginning of time.

In fact, if the past is a guide to the present, the District Labour Council is probably screening their “labour friendly” candidates for endorsement right about now.

Insight into the District Labour Council’s screening process can be gleaned from a July 15, 2008 article posted on CUPE BC’s website.

Under the headline, “Political action committee gears up for fall elections” (with the sub-headline, “Holding candidates accountable”), the article states: “Each candidate in the local elections is asked to complete a profile of his or her position on P3s, contracting out, pay equity, and other important issues.”

Digressing for just a moment, it’s important to note that Voice has absolutely no issue with CUPE, or any other union, defining and articulating the concerns and interests of its members.

CUPE staff contribute directly to the success of our community. They deserve to have a voice, to have their concerns listened to, and to have their interests accounted for in the consensus building and decision making processes.

In fact, many will no doubt recall that it was Voice that stood up for the school district’s CUPE staff who had been exposed to asbestos when the district attempted to sweep the incident under the carpet a couple of years ago.

Perhaps the District Labour Council should ask their New Westminster school trustees about this sorry episode when they re-screen them as candidates for endorsement this year.

But getting back to the main thread of this posting: From the July 15, 2008 article noted above, it’s quite clear what happens to District Labour Council candidates who do not live up to the DLC’s special interest expectations.

As the July 15, 2008 article states: “Four elections ago, [Marcel] Marsolais stood up at a district council meeting and shot down endorsements of four incumbent school trustees who, during the previous term, had done nothing to stop services and jobs from being contracted out.”

In our view, not only is the District Labour Council’s approach to selecting and endorsing candidates too narrowly focused on a single special interest agenda, it also seems coercive and punitive in nature. Some might even say there is an element of bullying involved.

There is certainly a lot of money involved: District Labour Council endorsement typically leads to thousands of dollars in campaign funding as well as other campaign support such as a phone bank. All of these benefits are quite clearly lost to the District Labour Council’s candidates if they don’t toe the special interest line as noted above.

Voice takes a very different approach to its candidates: Whereas the District Labour Council seeks to promote a single special interest to the exclusion of all other interests and considerations, Voice seeks to achieve balance and consensus (and without coercion or bullying).

Voice looks for, and endorses, candidates who can be counted on to approach all issues with an open mind and place the community’s collective interest above any and all special interests and agendas. Put another way: Voice values sincerity over ideology.

But getting back to where we started; the question of election fatigue remains. Will it be a factor in this year’s civic elections? Will the District Labour Council candidates once again ride into office on a wave of voter apathy as they’ve done for so long now?

Let us know what you think.

Voice congratulates all Federal candidates

Our congratulations to Peter Julian, Fin Donnelly and all of the other candidates who stood for election to Parliament for New Westminster.

Standing for election and putting oneself through the rigours of an election campaign is not for the faint of heart. And everyone who does stand deserves to be publicly recognized and commended.

We also want to acknowledge the dedicated volunteers who helped these candidates through the election process. Without the efforts of these volunteers, campaigns would not be possible.

Again, we commend all of the candidates and their supporters for the commitment they’ve shown to the democratic process and to the service of our community.