Sunday, December 27, 2009

Spending in New Westminster school district - Report Card

Spending in New Westminster school district - Report Card

The above article from the Vancouver Sun, December 21, 2009, outlines the expenses of School District 40, (who owns the Massey Theatre) for the year 2008-2009. This information is provided here to give context to decisions that the School District may make with regards to the future of the Massey Theatre.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trustee is sorry meeting cancelled

Trustee is sorry meeting cancelled


Trustee Casey Cook opposes the cancellation of last night's public meeting on the long-awaited replacement high school and says waiting until after the holidays means another month of "inactivity."

Cook, along with the district parent advisory council, had been calling for a public meeting to discuss where to build a replacement high school on a limited site, which includes an old cemetery.

"I don't agree with the direction we are going," Cook told The Record. "I think it's an opportunity missed."

Cook said a number of people made arrangements to attend the meeting, which was cancelled Monday - just a day before the meeting was supposed to take place.

The Vancouver Sun ran a front-page story on Monday on the ongoing saga to build a replacement high school in the district, which began almost a decade ago.

Cancelling the meeting after the Sun's story ran made the district look bad, in Cook's view.

"It's a decision that makes us look questionable," he said. "It helps people come to the conclusion that we need to do better preparation."

New Westminster News Leader - High school project meeting delayed to January

New Westminster News Leader - High school project meeting delayed to January


The New Westminster school board decided to postpone Tuesday's capital project information session and workshop because of lack of interest.

Just 30 people had pre-registered by noon Tuesday, said school board chair James Janzen.
"So it wasn't worth it," he said. "I'm disappointed but we're not going to put it on if we can't reach a large group of people."

According to school district consultant Jeff Malmgren, who was to moderate the meeting, the board felt too many parents weren't able to attend because two school Christmas concerts were scheduled for the same evening.

It will be postponed until January when three meetings will deal with the issue. The meetings are tentatively scheduled for Jan. 9, 13 and 16.

New Westminster school trustee Casey Cook wants Massey Theatre saved | Vancouver, Canada |

New Westminster school trustee Casey Cook wants Massey Theatre saved | Vancouver, Canada |


New Westminster school trustee Casey Cook told the Straight the arts community and local businesses have sent a clear message regarding the fate of the 60-year-old Massey Theatre: “Keep that theatre.”

“I don’t think we’ve heard a single voice that has advocated that we tear down the Massey,” Cook said following the school board’s December 8 meeting. “I think there has been almost, if not unanimous, almost unanimous support for the Massey from the community. That message has been heard very loud and clear.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

CANCELLED: New Westminster School District Information Session

The Board of Education of School District 40 has announced the postponement of the first Public Information and Workshop Session scheduled for Tuesday, December 8, 2009 in order to ensure that full community involvement can be achieved. The proposed date conflicts with school and community seasonal events which has resulted in low registration for the workshop. In order to achieve effective public engagement the Board decided it was appropriate to postpone the first workshop to January 9, 2010. The 2nd and 3rd workshops will proceed on January 13th and January 16th so the decision of the Board is not delayed by this postponement. Additional information on registration and the workshop plan will follow. Information on the process will be posted on the School District website:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Six years, millions of dollars later, still no school

Six years, millions of dollars later, still no school


But Margot Barton of the district parent advisory council (DPAC) is not optimistic.

She said parents have been frustrated over the years by the district's unwillingness to share information about the project, and she's not convinced that's about to change, even though a meeting might help move things along.

"Inevitably, there will have to be compromises, but people will not buy into compromises unless they know the reasons for the compromises," she said. "That information has not been forthcoming."

The parent council recently joined with other community organizations in a determined effort to get answers. "We're saying, 'Look, involve us in the process.' We want to be at the table with the city and the school board. We want all the information to make a meaningful contribution."

Interested in saving Massey Theatre? Attend Tuesday's meeting | Vancouver, Canada |

Interested in saving Massey Theatre? Attend Tuesday's meeting | Vancouver, Canada |


On Tuesday (December 8), the New Westminster school district will host a workshop to "present issues relating to capital projects and the location of the new secondary school".  

It's at Century House, Douglas Fir Room, 620 Eighth Street, New Westminster. For information, call the school board office at 604-517-6240.

You can confirm your appearance by e-mailing

Friday, December 4, 2009

BCTC | Newsletter | 2009

from BCTC | Newsletter | 2009


A Vital Piece of Cultural Heritage - Planning is underway for a new secondary school in New Westminster. This is great news. But, the future of the Massey Theatre is now threatened by site selection proposals for the new school. The landmark Massey Theatre is a unique and valuable asset to New Westminster. At 1260 seats, it is the largest theatre outside Vancouver filling the gap in available venues between 800 and 2000 seats. The theatre hosts 200 performances and events each year. It has been an inspiration and home to generations of artists, students and community members for 60 years now. The loss of the Massey Theatre would be a huge loss.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Black raises New Westminster education issues in Legislature

Education Minister Margaret McDiarmid is recovering from a serious illness so Advanced Education Minister Moira Stilwell is filling in for her at present.  During the Ministry of Education budget estimates debate last Wednesday in the Legislature, Dawn Black raised New Westminster education issues and received a commitment from Minister Stilwell that she was willing to meet “with anyone” to discuss the New Westminster Secondary School replacement project.  The Hansard transcript is printed below.


Afternoon Sitting


Committee of Supply

D. Black: It's a pleasure once again to stand across from the minister, who is doing double duty for her government. I'm pleased to be here and ask some questions about my district of New Westminster, which is a smaller district in the province and faces some unique challenges. Just as my colleague mentioned earlier about Vancouver, New Westminster also faces unique challenges because of its geographic land space and some other challenges that we face in New Westminster. 
The cuts that have come to education have a very negative impact, but it's not just the cuts. We have seen cuts in New Westminster to three programs –– the loss of the annual facilities grant for New Westminster alone, which, as I said earlier, is a small district with a smaller budget. It means a $1.1 million cut to our annual facilities grants. 
The other cuts that have come in –– actually with no notice and are quite a shock to elected school trustees who try to manage with long-term planning…. Then when these cuts come, it is a real shock to them, and they have to adjust all of their funding. 
The other cut, of course, is the cut to B.C. School Sports, which will have a negative impact on the students at New Westminster senior secondary, at Queensborough school and at Glenbrook school. Then, of course, there's the cut to the PAC funding, which will impact on all the student bodies in New Westminster. 
But besides just the actual cuts to funding from the government, what we've also seen is a downloading onto school boards for outgoing costs that are mandated by the government. In fact, the wage increments for teachers…. They're legislated, but they have not been properly funded. We've seen the impact when the government chose to increase the MSP premiums –– the Medical Services Plan's premiums. This will have, again on New Westminster, a small school district, an impact of $45,000 a year. 
The impact of the HST that the government brought in after the last election. After promising they wouldn't do that, as a matter of fact, they did it. The HST will have an impact of $240,000 to $250,000 a year in increased costs — again, to a small board like New Westminster. 
There's also the climate action initiative. The impact on New Westminster for the climate action initiative will probably be in the range of $100,000 a year. So again, we're not just seeing cuts to funding for school programs. What we're seeing is downloading of costs and legislated costs that the government is not assisting the school district with. 
I just wanted to give one example of what some of these cuts mean. In New Westminster in September — in fact, I think it was on September 22…. Because they had to lay off a custodian, there was a very unfortunate incident that happened at F.W. Howay school, where a young student — this is an elementary school in New Westminster —  was ill and vomited. 
There was no custodian on staff. There had been in previous years a custodian at the school who came at 10 a.m. every day. There was no one there to help clean up, and they had to shut the bathroom down, lock it down. There was a lot of concern by parents around, of course, the talk then about H1N1 — and this child was sick — and the health implications of not having staff on hand who could help to clean this up. 
Now the district, in an attempt to deal with the shortages of support staff and custodial staff, had put together what they called a fly crew, which the district could call upon in an emergency when there was no custodian on staff. Unfortunately, on that day the fly crew wasn't available to come, so it really meant that the school was in an unsafe and unclean condition for a full day. 
I would like to ask the minister: do parents in British Columbia and parents in my community of New Westminster not have a right to expect that their schools will be clean and that their children will be in a safe and healthy and clean environment for the day when they're sent to school? 
Hon. M. Stilwell: Certainly, as a mom and a concerned parent I can understand that parents would be upset at hearing the story that came home from school. I am relieved that on that day the people at the school did exactly the right thing in the face of handling body fluids and shut the washroom down. I do also understand that there were extenuating circumstances that particular day with janitorial staff being ill and so on. 
The school boards do have the responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for all students. Our expectation is that they do, and in my experience they do work to the highest and best purposes of the students to, in fact, do that. 
D. Black: Well, I agree that the school boards have that responsibility, Minister, but I would also say that the B.C. government has a responsibility to ensure that school districts have the funding in place to allow them to do what they want to do and what they are elected to do. That is to provide safe schools for our children and to provide the kind of education that parents have a right to expect for their children. 
The other issue that I wanted to ask the minister about today is the long-awaited new high school in New Westminster. This has gone on for a long, long time. The high school in New Westminster was built in 1948. As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of significant challenges in New Westminster because it is the oldest city not just in the province, but in western Canada. That results in some particular challenges in our community. 
One of them is that the site where the high school is now is built on a graveyard, a cemetery. The nature of the city is that it's a compact space, and there's not a lot of land available. So the challenge for the board and for the community is in building a new high school on a site…. Where the high school sits now you cannot build on because of the graveyard. 
There are two other community features on that site. One is Massey Theatre, which has been in place there for 60 years and was part of an initiative across Canada, I think, highlighted by a past Governor General to ensure that there was an opportunity for arts to work as part of a unification of Canada. So we have Massey Theatre on the site. We have the old high school on the site, which is in deplorable condition, and I would invite the minister to come and see just how deplorable it is. I really believe that there are some real safety issues there as well. 
Then we also have on the site Mercer Stadium, which is the stadium that the school uses and that community organizations use. The other complication is that the city owns some of the land and the school board owns some of the land. So it has been very challenging not just for the school board but for the city and for community organizations to come up with a plan that meets the needs of all of the community in building the new high school. 
City council passed a resolution recently asking that the Minister of Education meet with the two locally elected boards, the city council and the school board, to discuss the challenges that they're facing and also to perhaps ask the government, ask the minister, if they would consider that it's not just New Westminster Secondary School that needs to be replaced. 
There are two other schools being built in New Westminster, one on the site of the old St. Mary's Hospital, which will be an elementary school, and one at the John Robson site where there is a school presently, which will be a middle school. But my understanding is that the three schools are presented to the school board as a package and that all the ducks have to be lined up in a row for one to go ahead. 
So what the city council is asking is: would the minister meet with them and with the school board to discuss the challenges they're facing at the site of the New Westminster senior secondary? And would they consider decoupling, if you like, allowing the middle school and the elementary school to go ahead while the city works together to work out the obvious challenges around building on a site that has a graveyard, that has two other facilities on it that the community would like to be able to maintain, but knowing that they need very badly a new high school in New Westminster? Would the minister consider that? 
Hon. M. Stilwell:
There are three points. I want to go back to your first question and highlight — I think that you have been here when we have been talking about it — that we have a trend of declining enrolment in the face of what I think has been a true commitment to education, and that is increasing budgets. 
When I look at the school district of New Westminster, in five years the enrolment has decreased by 3.6 percent; the budget went up approximately 20 percent. More impressively, in ten years the enrolment overall went up 10 percent, but the budget went up by 50 percent. Again, I think those are pretty impressive numbers against a trend of broadly declining enrolment. 
I want to speak to the issue of safety, because I think it's important. As a mother I certainly understand that we want our children to be the best educated. But the truth is that when you send your child to school every morning, your fundamental concern is that they will be safe. It is of paramount concern. Where schools or school districts have issues that they think are related to safety, we are committed to trying to work with them to find a solution that keeps the children safe. I want to make that clear. 
With respect to the new high school, three new schools, ministry officials have met with city officials and school district officials and are aware of the constellation of factors that you've described. In terms of your question, I am happy to meet with anyone to hear about whatever situation is in your school district that they want to make the government aware of. I'm happy to learn more about what sounds like a slightly complicated situation but, I'm sure, solvable.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - Community coalition sends open letter to city, school board - Community coalition sends open letter to city, school board

From the New Westminster News Leader, December 1, 2009


We understand that meetings between the city and school district staffers have been taking place over the past few weeks. We look forward to hearing a full report at the information session on any developments that have arisen from these meetings. Further, we respectfully suggest formal recognition and inclusion of this coalition in future discussions related to this site.

Collaborative planning of this nature is not only desirable, but in 2009 we feel it is crucial to responsible planning and balancing all the interests of the multiple users of this dynamic part of Royal City heritage and daily life.

We deeply believe that the decisions surrounding this site are far too important to take place behind closed doors. We urge you to throw open those doors and consult with the multiple community stakeholders dependent upon the site who also work in service of our youth.

We believe that real, informed public consultation will lead to a more diligent and responsible decision-making process. Besides, we know that in the absence of real information, further delays and costly assumptions will fill its place.

A never-ending construction project in New Westminster - Report Card

A never-ending construction project in New Westminster - Report Card

Excerpt from the original article published in the Vancouver Sun:

A newly formed coalition, which includes the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), is pleased the board is seeking public input but has sent an open letter to trustees indicating that its members expect answers to a lot of questions.

Here is the list of people the coalition wants to hear from at the Tuesday meeting (taken directly from its letter):

- The regulator of cemeteries, to speak to what can and can’t be done on a de-commissioned graveyard.
- Golder and Associates, to answer geotechnical questions about site buildability and anthropological issues.
- Jim Wolf, to speak to the history of the site.
- A provincial government representative, to talk about regulations and expectations around school construction.
- Staff members from the city, including the heads of Development Services, Engineering, Parks Culture and Recreation and Traffic Planning, plus the City Manager.
Should these people be unavailable, we request the presence of their deputies or at least access to the unredacted documents they produced in coming to their conclusions.

We understand that meetings between the City and School District staffers have been taking place over the past few weeks. We look forward to hearing a full report at the Information Session on any developments that have arisen from these meetings. Further, we respectfully suggest formal recognition and inclusion of this coalition in future discussions related to this site.

The letter is signed by Margot Barton from the DPAC executive; Don Ellam, DPAC capital project subcommittee; Jessica Schneider, Massey Theatre Society; Shawn Cody, Royal City Youth Soccer, and Casey Lazecki, Royal City Track and Field Club.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at Century House.