Thank you for Joining the Conversation!
Mark Gifford, Chair of our New Westminster Schools Board of Education invited you to join the conversation between Jan.7 and 14. See some of the top thoughts here.
We asked and you answered: Thank you everyone!
It has been an amazing week. At New Westminster Schools, we started 2019 with an open and interactive conversation with you – parents, students, staff, community members.
Thanks to your participation in our online platform called Thoughtexchange, we saw 1,297 people share more than 1,560 thoughts about the most important things we can do to meaningfully support learning opportunities for all of our students. The conversation ran from Jan. 7 to 14.
Whether you were a student sharing your priorities for more field trips; a parent raising concerns about better support for inclusion; or a community member hoping to see support for student well-being – you each voiced your priorities while seeing what was important to others.
Karim Hachlaf, Superintendent of New Westminster Schools, noted this is the first time the school district has embarked on such a broad and inclusive conversation.
“Using this tool is something new that allowed us to reach a huge audience – it’s a much more robust way to have a dynamic conversation than a survey soliciting static feedback.”
“On behalf of the students we serve, thank you for taking the time to support learning in our District,” said Hachlaf.
“We believe that by understanding your experiences and priorities, we will be able to improve our education system and better serve the needs of our students.”
Flexible seating, from Hokki stools to comfortable pillows, gives students options to support their focus and their learning. That’s one of the ideas shared through our online conversation….
We are now ready to take the next steps…
Over the next while, we’ll be digging deeper into the results of the exchange to understand what’s important to our stakeholder groups — parents, staff, students, community members, and school sites.
Thoughtexchange allows us to uncover opposing priorities in the conversation, identify gaps in perception, build on areas of agreement among various groups, and discern key themes to understand what’s important to our whole community.
We have a new Board of Education and a new leadership team ready to chart a course for the coming year. Your thoughts and ideas will guide us as we determine how to best allocate our 2019-2020 budget resources to meaningfully support learning opportunities for our students.
Please stay tuned for more in-depth results in the coming weeks.
The conversation last week included calls by some participants for more technology – such as chromebooks and ipads – to support student learning. Others, including students, wanted to see more library books available to them…
From Talking Tables to a Student Symposium, our mantra is
“transparency and engagement”….
At New Westminster Schools, the inclusion of broad community input is new – and just one of several key steps in developing our 2019-2020 budget in support of student learning.
New Westminster Schools currently has an annual operating budget approaching $70 million to provide educational programming for our students from kindergarten to grade 12.
“Our mantra this year is transparency and engagement,” said Kim Morris, Secretary-Treasurer at the school district. “We are casting a wide net to kick off our engagement process.”
As well as gathering feedback through Thoughtexchange, the school district will be holding a symposium with middle school and high school students on February 7 at the Shadbolt Centre in Burnaby to engage in a full discussion of student priorities.
“Involving students can bring new perspectives and help educate participants at the same time,” Morris said.
She noted that students might be interested in issues like sustainability for their school buildings, or may seek to understand staffing changes that affect them, which in turn leads to insights into collective agreements that help explain those staffing changes.
Another innovative step the district will incorporate in the process is “Talking Tables.”
That event is scheduled for February 21 and will involve representatives of key educational groups – including support staff and teacher unions, parents, students, and school board trustees.
Each table will bring people with sometimes differing perspectives together to share a meal and enter into a guided conversation.
“It’s a very powerful process,” Morris noted. “The more diverse the decision-making teams are, the better the decision- making will be.”
Investing our resources in our
students’ learning success…
In BC, school districts must prepare an annual budget by June 30, based on projected student enrolments for the 2019-2020 year.
Basic funding for each district in BC is provided on a per-student basis. Every child who registers in a school in New Westminster brings about $7,400 in ‘operating’ funds that support all programs in the district. Unique students bring additional funding.
Other funding sources for the district include capital funds for land and building acquisitions, and special purpose funds from third parties and the Ministry of Education that go to specific programs and activities, such as scholarships, classroom enhancement, early learning, and meal programs.
At New Westminster Schools, 83.9% of the Operating Fund is spent on instruction, 10.1% is spent on maintenance and upkeep of buildings, grounds and technology, and 5.5% for administration. Another .4% supports transportation, including crossing guards and bus contractors.
“This is not a ‘status quo’ budget,” Morris said. “We’re assessing where the gaps and opportunities are in our departments, from staffing and facilities to information technology. We’re incorporating data regarding student achievement highlighting where student needs are – through such measures as questionnaires called the Early Development Instrument and the Middle Years Development Instrument, along with graduation completion rates, Aboriginal student achievement, and more.”
“And, as we look at our overarching goal of improving learning opportunities for all students, there will be trade-offs,” she noted. That will depend on how the budget is shaped by enrolment projections for the coming year, expenses to date, and other factors.
An overarching goal is to complete the budget process by April 30 to allow for clarity and action in preparation for the coming year.
Along the way, parents, students and community can see where changes are made in draft budgets and what ideas and priorities have been incorporated.
“Financially, we are solid,” Morris said. “There is no deficit, and there are no emergency cutbacks.”
“But,” she asked, “Are we investing money in the right places?”
That means asking how we can re-invest in ourselves to improve on the key values that guide us at New Westminster Schools – inclusion, collaboration and engagement; equity, innovation and integrity.
The ultimate goal? Continuous improvement in our students’ learning success.
Students at Fraser River Middle School shared their learning journey in West Coast First Nation culture with school trustees who held their first meeting of the year at the school. Through the hands-on process of making masks, the students explained, they discovered a world of learning across the curriculum – from social studies to chemistry and math.
See related: The New Westminster School District's new consultation tool is up and running