"We feel like we are all on our own." This is one of the underlying themes I’ve heard over and over this week as I’ve visited Secord, Queen Alexander, Strathcona, MacDonald, Britannia, and Nelson. Parents and staff have mentioned concerns about lack of supports for kids with special needs and ESL, the need for more engagement of Aboriginal students, and concerns about seismic upgrades. These concerns are heightened by fears at some schools that they face closure. There is a growing sense that individual schools have to figure out how to build the support for their schools, have to promote their schools to increase enrollment, and have to firgure out strategies to increase resources …all on their own. They feel they have to fend for themselves.
That this fear and tension exists is simply unacceptable. Instead of information being kept secret and schools having to guess what the plans are – information should be shared and meaningful consultation should be happening. Trustees, district staff, parents, teachers, students and the communities around the city could be getting together – sharing information, brainsorming about priorities, and developing plans to stand up for all of our students. The COPE board from 2002-2005 did just that. Then it took the form of a District Advocacy Committee made up of parents, teachers, students, trustees and staff who shared information and developed effective communication campaigns to defend public education, lobby for greater funding and promote all of our schools.
School communities didn’t feel alone. They didn’t feel like they had to compete with eachother. There was a sense that we were all in it together.
The COPE board was effective. Our work with the community stopped $3 million dollars of cuts to inner city schools, pushed the provincial government to announce a plan of action on seismic upgrades, and succeeded in making the funding of public education a big enough issue that the Provincial government increased the funds for education across the province. It wasn’t enough to make up the hughe funding deficit that has developed since the 90’s. But it gave the community hope.
Other than visiting schools, Bill Bargeman, Alvin Singh, Al Blakey and myself joined Vision Vancouver candidates -Patti Bacchus, Mike Lombardi and parent activist Dawn Steele mainstreeting at Broadway and Commercial Thursday afternoon. It was fun and energizing to all be out together.
Vote COPE and Vision for School Board. For a Vancouver for Everyone.