Georgia Straight VSB candidates questionnaire: In their own words
In a column two weeks ago, I listed 10 questions for VSB candidates. I emailed all the candidates who listed email addresses in their nomination documents. Twenty out of 33 candidates replied. I analyzed the responses here, and I have compiled their responses below, in the order I received them, for each question. Read for yourself to see what they had to say, presented here unedited.
Question 1: What are the top three challenges facing the VSB?
Kelly Alm (KA): Leadership, funding & property management.
Jennifer Reddy (JR): Inconsistent governance coupled with lack of transparency. Incomplete representation of populations in decision-making. Inadequate communication and advocacy on behalf of and with students, parents, educators and community members, and ministry.
Allan Wong (AW): Gaining FUNDING increases (increasing inadequate ANNUAL FACILITIES GRANT (AFG) for maintenance and OPERATING FUNDS for the restoration of important student facing programs). FRONTLINE Focus. More teachers/staff required in the district. Recruitment of specialist teachers (shortage teachers).
Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP). Balance to ensure students families have available and strong neighbourhood schools.We need new schools and addressing crowded schools (eg downtown core and Cambie corridor)
Erica Jaaf (EJ): I identify the top three challenges as follows: recruiting teachers and support staff; fully supporting inclusion and independence for students with special needs; and the equitable distribution of programs across our district. All of these challenges, of course, have a great deal to do with overarching challenge of a public education system that has been underfunded for nearly two decades. Public education is a public good, and we must invest in it.
Carrie Bercic (CB): Staffing shortages which are complicated by the high cost of living and the housing crisis. Class size and composition language that isn't being followed. This negatively impacts every student in the district. Loss of resource time for students with complex learning needs. Loss of time due to resource teachers being pulled to cover classes as well as the board vote to remove even more resource positions from the budget (which I did not support).
Tiffiny Kindrid (TK): Funding for seismic upgrading, recruiting and retaining teachers, programming in schools, dealing with lead in the water lines. Allocation of space for before and after school programs and extracurricular activities. Providing equal opportunities and outcomes for all children.
Tony Dong (TD): The first challenge is the shortfall of candidates willing to reside in Vancouver and work for the VSB as teachers, due to the high cost of living. The second challenge is addressing and assuaging the concerns regarding the perceived increase in the prevalence of school violence as a result of events in the United States. The third challenge is modernising and revitalising dilapidated and ageing school infrastructure, particularly on the east side of Vancouver.
Mrs. Doubtfire/Tavis Dodds (MrsD): The VSB has operated on unceded coastal first nations territories. If the Board is able to reconcile with this it is only because they have met with a vast and undeserved kindness. Another challenge is that the number of kids in Vancouver is shrinking while rising in neighbouring municipalities. Our budget must shrink accordingly or what we are in effect saying is that our kids are more important than their kids, and while that approach may garner votes it is by no means ethical or sustainable.
Barb Parrott (BP): Underfunding, seismic upgrades and recruitment and retention of staff.
Morgane Oger (MO): Keeping students and staff safe by accelerating VSB’s seismic upgrade program and catching up on deferred costs.
Prioritizing that the public education funding VSB receives gets spent in the classroom. Fact-based and transparent governance in consultation with all stakeholders including the public.
B.K. Barbara Anderson (BKBA): Classroom space for Kindergarten and Grade 1 students living in the West End, Yaletown, False Creek, and the Cambie Corridor because too many schools in these areas have very long waitlists. The new catchment review and sibling priority- I am in favour of sibling priority. Keeping Student support workers and aides for Special Needs students and other CUPE 15 staff due to the high cost of living in Vancouver and the low starting wage and pay grid for these workers. Ensuring all schools have music and arts programs for all students.
Janet Fraser (JF): Ensuring that provincial funding is reliable and adequate so that the VSB has sufficient staffing and materials resources to meet every student’s needs. Getting all schools seismically upgraded and keeping schools well maintained. Ensuring that every student has an equitable chance of success. Success should not depend on a student’s family or individual situation and we know that, for example, students living in poverty, and Indigenous, LGBTQ2+ and special needs students may need additional supports.
Lois Chan-Pedley (LCP): Hiring and retaining staff and supporting them in their roles, funding, and mental health of students and staff.
Julian Prieto (JP): Need for abundant out-of-schools care. Need for financial literacy and useful life skills programing. Need for better citizen consultation.
Erin Arnold (EA): Staffing - to ensure we have all teachers (enrolling and non-enrolling) and support staff in place to for direct support for our students. This is our frontline for our students. I have been hearing particularly the shortage of School Support Workers for our special needs students. Funding for Public Education - We are still near the bottom of all provinces in terms of education per-pupil-funding. This is due to almost two decades of continuous cuts to our education system. Stakeholder relationships - Building on the connections we have with our stakeholders. This is ongoing and will require having sincere and valued consultation.
Aaron Leung (AL): Recruitment and retention of teachers, education assistants, and specialists (meeting class size and composition requirements as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada). Potential negative impacts on the 2019/20 Operating Budget from the provincial funding formula review. Improving mental health services for VSB students.
Stéphanie Descôteaux (SD): Proper funding and resource available to teachers and staff. Hiring and retaining properly qualified teachers and supporting staff. School safety.
Ken Denike (KD): Oversee an excellent system. Guide the Board to answer the pressing question “students are heading back to class but is the B.C. school system ready for them?” Solve the shortage of language, special needs teachers and support staff. Address the declining enrollment in the public schools while enrollment in private schools is climbing. Return school tax to schools. Taxes on property in Vancouver generates tens of millions of dollars more than Ministry allocates to district.
Sophia Woo (SW): I am recognized, applauded, for raising opportunity for public participation in board decision making, increasing transparency. Increasing school connectedness strengthens families. As a mental health clinician, I have perspective on human resource issues and youth behavior. I deal with matters of a sensitive nature—families with special needs children. Schools need provide education, prevention for youth. Without my intervention, the drug prevention program would have been seriously cut in 2012, again in 2013.
Pratpal Gill (PG): Insufficient funds to fully fund worthwhile programs, infrastructure maintenance (ie: refit lead pipes), and recruit and retain staff/teachers. School safety (ie: seismic upgrades). Missed opportunities due to school board and parks board not working closely together (ie: repurpose school space after 3pm).
Question 2: What do you believe are the two most important responsibilities for school trustees?
KA: Leadership and solid values with compassion.
JR: Ensuring the current and long-term protection and development of public education. Leading transparent governance and advocacy.
AW: Governance role—Responsible for governing the District as set out by the School Act. Update, build, amend the Board’s policy to give direction for the Board. As a Trustee, I find it is crucial to keep an open mind to be ready, listen, understand issues, participate, deliberate and make fair decision making taking all information into account.
Advocacy role—After stakeholder discussion and agreement at committee, to strongly advocate for proper funding for public education. I advocate respectfully with objective reports and statistics to garner support (eg fiscally responsible to perform maintenance of buildings while seismic upgrading when the school is already under construction phase).
EJ: Trustees are responsible to the Ministry of Education, as set out in the School Act, for “the improvement of student achievement in the school district.” In practice, I believe this means working with VSB staff and stakeholders to this end; I also believe trustees have a responsibility to represent and balance the values, priorities, and expectations of the communities we represent.
CB: Putting the needs of all students first. This is more than just words. It is the job of a trustee to do so in practice. This includes supporting the staff that work with students every day. Working closely with all stakeholder groups (including teachers, staff, parents, and students) to foster communication and trust in a team atmosphere.
TK: Advocacy and accountability.
TD: Firstly, school trustees must ensure efficient operation of the VSB governance in order to provide students, teachers, and parents with quality education. Secondly, they must enact policies that benefit the state of education in Vancouver as a whole and remain consistent with provincial regulations.
MrsD: Two responsibilities of school board trustees include balancing the budget and attending each school in the district in person every month or two. I mean, I could say attending board meetings that are open and transparent, but that would be too obvious, right? Two responsibilities I'd personally accept would be to have Emo and Brony associations in consultation with the board. To say nothing of Pokemon and Beyblades, but I digress don't I?
BP: To develop policies which will create a school system which meets the diverse needs of its students and ensure that each student meets their potential. To advocate for parents and students.
MO: School trustees are entrusted to govern our school district so that learners can access an excellent education—while ensuring decisions are made transparently and with meaningful and genuine consultation with affected parties. School trustees are also entrusted to raise issues they identify regarding the delivery of education with the Provincial Government as needed to help improve excellence in education in BC.
BKBA: Good governance of the District’s assets and creating good policy for equitable access for all students to be successful in their education
JF: Trustees must support the success of every student in their district and to achieve this the most important responsibilities are to ensure schools are safe and inclusive and well-resourced for student learning. Safe and inclusive schools are not only physically safe and well-maintained buildings, but also places where every student feels welcome and is ready to learn. Well-resourced is sufficient teachers and support staff who have excellent teaching materials and support.
LCP: Clear, direct communication & accountability. We all know they have to set the direction for the district etc. and everyone will no doubt fight to showcase their best idea of how to serve students, but these will follow naturally if the trustees take responsibility of their words so they communicate clearly and honestly, with each other, with staff, and with the community at large.
JP: To set priorities on allocation of resources. To offer consultative leadership and manage challenges.
EA: Advocacy—being the voice of the community. I played a strong role as a member of District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) to ensure our parent community was heard. Now, I would like to bring the voice of the larger community—seismic upgrades, funding, staffing, childcare etc - to access adequate funding for our students. Understanding and making informed decisions on issues (particularly the budget) before the Board. Do due diligence with issues before the Board before decision making. I believe in consultation and learning from professionals and those impacted by decisions. I have
an open mind and woule take the time to understand all sides before I make a decision.
AL: Upholding transparency and accountability for VSB decision-making processes and ensuring that stakeholders are proactively and adequately informed, and included in consultation processes. Advocating for the needs of the Vancouver school district.
SD: The responsibilities for school trustees are to operate the school districts based on the desired educational objectives of the local community and the students it serves in accordance with the general direction established by government. Ensure safety, wellbeing and quality education for all children.
KD: Oversee an excellent system and advocate for the district. Overseeing involves checking financial budget reflects priorities and sustainability of staff to deal with change such as new curriculum with increasing reliance on critical thinking can be successfully adopted.
Advocacy involves seeing a problem as I did with the lack of federally supported Settlement Workers in Schools in BC, which were in Ontario. I successfully lobbied to have them in BC.
SW: Trustee must deal with matters of a sensitive nature in a discrete [sic] way and in matters of larger scale bringing together broad public to provide education and prevention for youth. “Some argue mental health programs be funded, operated through MoH. Wrong - Health mandate emphasizes a clinical rather than education focus.” A second focus is advocacy. I have success in bringing mental health resources to VSB from public agencies.
PG: Ensuring all actions taken are aligned with the primary goal of successful and safe students. Ensuring stakeholders are consulted and parents are heard when allocating funds that aligns with the first goal.
Question 3: Do you fully support the VSB’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities (SOGI) Policy and are you committed to implementing it? If not, why?
KA: SOGI Controversy: N/A hotpotato, litfirecracker, thirdrail type question OTR( I was bullied in elementary and secondary school).
JR: Yes. Passing the policy is necessary but insufficient to create meaningful change for students - educators need to be supported with resources including mandatory training and access to community expertise to assist in implementation and monitoring with students and educators
EJ: Yes, I fully support SOGI 1 2 3 policies and resources, and support all board policies that protect LGBTQ2+ students. If elected, I will continue to do so unreservedly. That we are having this conversation, in the 2018 election campaign, tells me the VBE should reconvene the Pride Committee; there is work to be done.
CB: I 100% support SOGI123 and all policies and curriculum that support diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ2+ students. I am committed to both implementing these policies as well as finding ways to continually strengthen them.
TK: Definitely, I don't understand how anyone could not be on board with this program
TD: I support SOGI, but only to the extent that all parents, students, and other stakeholders at large have had a meaningful opportunity to provide input regarding the policy. Parents should retain the final say with regards to the best interests of their children, especially with policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Parents should also have the opportunity to speak with parents of LGBTQ+ students, in order to understand their lived experiences and perceptions.
MrsD: If there is resistance from parents to the SOGI program implementation then the board must consider this. That said, I am a man named Mrs that wears dresses.
BP: Thank you for using the full title of the policy. I believe we do its contents a disservice when we use the acronym. The VSB has been the leader in developing policy to protect its students from harassment, bullying, and violence. It was the first board to develop policy around sexual identification and gender orientation. This policy is well-worth supporting. I would like to see a review of where we are in the implementation of the policy to see where problems are, if any, in its implementation, and then develop a plan for its complete implementation.
MO: In 2014, I helped organize parents and community members to support the VSB when they passed the SOGI policy and am committed to implementing it. I went on to organize explicit protection in our human rights law in BC to ensure every school in BC does the same. I am committed to implementing the VSB SOGI Policy.
BKBA: I fully support the District’s policy and the Ministry’s SOGI resources and SOGI 123 curriculum. I am committed to the district providing any training / education for staff to fully implement the policy.
JF: I fully support the VSB’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities Policy and am fully committed to implementing it.
LCP: Yes I do.
EA: I am 100% committed to SOGI Policy and committed to implementing. It is crucial for our students.
AL: As a former student who identifies as an LGBTQ2S+ individual, I’m fully committed to the VSB’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities Policy and its implementation. Moreover, I’m also committed to the continued support of SOGI 123 in all of our schools and upholding and strengthening our inclusivity policies.
SD: Support education in diversity that includes ethnicity, religion, culture and gender. A policy where community is fully consulted, including students, in an open dialogue prior to any roll out.
KD: The provincial curriculum is mandated. Each board chooses specific learning resources. VSB’s Sexual Orientation and Identities Policy meets that direction. I strongly supported the 2004 LGBT policy from which it was amended and during eight years VSB received no parent complaint against the policy. As for the 2004 policy, I am equally committed to implement the new policy.
SW: At the beginning of my term in 2012, I supported VSB’s 2004, LGBT policy. There had been no complaints from parents in the prior 8 years. This was a marker of acceptance. As a trustee I am accountable to the provincial government for curriculum that reflects VSB’s Sexual Orientation and Identities Policy. As with 2004 policy, I, as a trustee, am equally committed to implement the provincial curriculum.
PG: Left answer blank.
Question 4: What’s your position on school closures?
KA: School Closures: Site by site independent investigation into zoning causes. Recommend new zoning changes if necessary.
JR: In a city that continues to develop and grow with increasing diversity, closing schools is irresponsible, costly and is driving families away from our city
AW: If there are benefits for students and learning environment. For example, in the last few years several schools were shuttered due to attrition. It was better for remaining students to attend a school with a viable student population that offers proper school programs where students can participate in teams or learning with larger peer groups. These schools had student populations that were very low below a class. It is also very expensive to operate these schools with extremely low enrolment. Educationally it would be best to offer education programs in their larger parent school. Moreover, we also need to look at the balance of areas where schools are overcrowded and how we may helps them - eg downtown core and Cambie corridor.
EJ: Neighbourhood schools are the heart of communities. I have opposed closures as a parent advocate (even when my own school was not on the chopping block), and would continue to do so as a trustee.
CB: I do not support school closures of any kind.
TK: I think we need to look at all possible avenues to avoid closures of schools.
TD: Schools are critical focal points for engagement and investment in the local community. Closures are a short term, knee jerk solutions to a problem that requires significant investment up front, both in terms of money and time. Closing schools is a Band-Aid solution that ultimately does not benefit the community or the reputation of education officials in Vancouver.
MrsD: I have not ruled out shutting down schools. If we shut down some schools those buildings could be used for housing as incentives to attract and recruit human resources and otherwise combat the unaffordability underlying so many of the board's problems. It may not be the most popular answer to this question, but in the end which is more traumatic to students, teachers, and their families? In the last legal election, I was the only candidate to not promise not to shut down schools. Several of those candidates have now openly admitted that they were incompetent.
BP: It’s seldom a good idea. The school needs to be the hub of every neighbourhood. Research however indicates effective schools have a maximum and a minimum size. (Schools designed for special programmes are not considered neighbourhood schools.)
MO: I oppose school closures. In 2016, I helped organize Vancouver parents to oppose the school closures being considered by VSB. Schools are the anchor of communities and form communities and closing a school has powerful consequences on the community it serves.
BKBA: I am not in favour of closing schools while the district needs spaces for classrooms, child care and displacement of students during seismic upgrading.
JF: I do not want to close any schools and want to have local schools in every neighbourhood but every school district faces many constraints that could lead to consideration of school closures. For example, the province is funding seismic upgrades but will only fund sufficient student spaces to match student enrolment, and the VSB’s student enrolment continues to fall and last year there were more than 500 fewer students than the year before.
LCP: I would do everything in my power to not close schools. Our population is growing. All of our schools will likely be bursting at the seams in a decade - if not already - and we should be building schools for the future as well, not just for right now or even just the next five years.
JP: Should be a last resort.
EA: I am in support of neighbourhood schools and want to ensure every community has access to a neighbourhood school. As such, I am opposed to school closures. However, I do understand that in the past, there has been schools closed due to attrition. This was done in a very collaborative and consultative way. The bottom line, for those closures it was made with an educational lens. Better educational environment was available in the main school.
AL: I am for keeping students and families in their local neighbourhood schools. We need to refresh the LRFP surplus space count so that it does not include resource rooms, music rooms, and libraries as empty space. We need to have accurate data to make good decisions around the future of our facilities.
SD: A lot of thought needs to be put into a big decision like closing schools. We need to put kids’, staff and teacher’s safety and wellbeing first and foremost. Each situation needs to be evaluated appropriately.
KD: The center of local community is often the school so closure threatens the community. This is conditioned by viability of the school. Viability depends on a threshold of student population, save in exceptional circumstances. Enrollment drives budget and programs. Below threshold, the school is considered for closure, that message resonates, parents do not return children to school next year. Yet the trustee focus needs to be the education focus not strictly the form of delivery.
SW: School closures are very sad experiences. Closure may be necessary due to demography or flight to more successful schools. Yet every effort is warranted to retain them as the schools often serve as the local community center. Rotating other programs into the facility is often tried but the focus for the community is lost. The downside of keeping a school open when programs are not viable is it creates contingent liability covered by viable schools.
PG: Left answer blank.
Question 5: What’s your position on the sale of school board-owned lands?
KA: Sale of VSB land: Land lease with development partnership for child and seniors’ daycare facilities and possibly staff housing.
JR: inadequate budgets can lead to poor governance and poor governance can lead to inadequate budgets that then lead schools boards to in-related decision-making in selling public lands—my position is to never allow such a decision pass.
AW: Opposed to the sale of school lands in the Vancouver District. We need to ensure that a school site shall always be available for a future school in any current school location. There may be opportunities of swapping of lands. Eg. acquiring land for a school site by swapping of property that is in the interest of the School District. We are building one school on land swap. There have been instances of rights-of-ways or below parcel arrangements.
EJ: I oppose the sale of VSB lands, viewing these instead as being held in trust for future generations of students. And I support the policy of previous boards to refuse to lease public schools to private schools. If there are schools with excess space, let’s use that space to meet other community needs, such as daycare, early childhood education, or seniors’ spaces.
CB: I believe that public land should be held in trust for future generations in perpetuity. I do not support land sale. This includes the sale of air or underground parcels or the sale of partial plots of land.
TK: I believe we should be looking for ways to acquire needed land, we definitely should not be selling land we might need in the future.
TD: I believe that the opening of school-board owned lands for sale is a natural response to years of funding shortage from the province and government. In light of this, the VSB should collaborate with private partners, but also retain independent oversight in order to ensure that the best interests of education remain the priority ahead of business and growth.
BP: Selling any property is not a good idea. Unfortunately, the current board majority has determined selling property to pay for new schools is acceptable. I don’t agree.
MO: VSB should not sell public land, and I will vote to oppose any sale of any school land. In the event I am outvoted, I will work to ensure such a sale would go towards furthering the core mandate of VSB.
BKBA: I am opposed to the sale of school board lands at this time.
JF: In 2015 my motion “That the VBE commit to not sell school lands but maintain or increase our current number of school sites to preserve neighbourhood sites for current and future educational and community use. This would not preclude land swaps or the sale of portion of school sites provided that educational programs could still be offered.” was approved by the board and this continues to be my position.
LCP: I don't support the selling of surface rights of school sites. School grounds should be used for the purpose of educating our children for now and into the future. The agreement with BC Hydro must not set a precedent for how we fund new schools—the responsibility of education funding rests with the provincial govt.
JP: The possibility of selling should be very considered carefully, justified if revenues generated from re-investment are more profitable and can be used to provide better resources to kids.
EA: I believe school lands are held in trust for Vancouver students. School lands should not be sold. We see in today's realf estate environment, it would be nearly impossible to get back school lands. Look at the downtown, there are no space for school sites that is easily able to be purchased.
AL: I’m against the sale of public land. As Chair of the City of Vancouver Children, Youth and Families Advisory Committee, I wrote a motion rejecting the recommendation of Peter Milburn Forensic Audit that asked the VSB to consider selling public property and have existing sites appraised. Public lands should stay public for the benefit of our communities. For the long-term benefit of Vancouver students and residents, I’d be open to exploring long-term leases of land and facilities to provide new community amenities (childcare, housing, community facilities for not-for-profits). I’d be open to considering potential land swaps to meet the needs of future generations. Projects like the B.C Hydro Substation deal should be a one-time special exception to how we fund and build new schools, not the new norm.
SD: I believe children and teachers need proper space and resource for quality education. Selling board-owned lands should be avoided or limited. Too many schools in the past year have been closed or playgrounds eliminated, at the end the kids are the one not having a safe space to play and learn.
KD: I am very reluctant to consider sale of public land. The VSB has transferred or sold, most often to public agencies due to changing responsibilities, the Francophone district, road right-of-ways, and commercial development of excess sites. In practice, the cause needs to overwhelm keeping it in VSB. VSB has developed two commercial properties successfully with 99 year leases.
SW: VSB has sold school board land to other governmental organizations or commercial use after serious consideration of future use of it. It needs to be done with due diligence and consultation. Neither is apparent in recent exchange with BC Hydro in the West End. The property exchange should have gone through due process. It still might have occurred but wouldn’t have left the image of an inexperienced board not looking after public interest.
PG: I am against the sale of school-board owned lands because solving a funding problem by selling off assets is all but a short-term solution with potentially long term consequences. Instead we can look at creative ways to repurpose school-board owned land without selling it.
Question 6: What will you do to ensure VSB schools have the funding they need to offer all students the programs, supports, and services they need to be successful?
KA: Ensure Funding and student success: new revenue model with festivals and concerts special event rentals. Solar Panel and Wind turbine grid tie for career preparation programs. For student success the mandatory "Study Method Course" will help them succeed.
JR: Advocacy to the province. Commit to Bercic’s motion to defund elite private schools. Critically analyze budgets to ensure direct services to students are not being affected.
AW: Work with stakeholder groups to arm them with knowledge (via objective reports) as to why we need these support/programs. Describe the detriments of not supporting our students/programs. Supported a needs budget to accentuated the needs of the District. I went so far as to NOT passing a balanced budget because I (with community support) stated Education was not funded to the level it should be. I knowingly knew it would mean the Board being fired. This was how dire the situation was after 16 years of cuts in public Education. Advocacy does work, you just need the conviction of the Board.
We also need to increase the resolutions we bring to the BCSTA to ensure the issues are escalated into a provincial issue. The voice of 60 Boards is better to have our concerns brought to the Province.
EJ: All students deserve opportunities to meet their fullest potential. This year, approximately $16 mi. of public funds were transferred to elite private schools in our district alone. These dollars would go a long way to supporting true inclusion and independence for students with special needs. Advocacy is an important function of the Board, and it must be more than sending a letter to the Minister of Education stating that a motion was passed.
CB: I will continue to be a vocal advocate for the needs of all students. A critical part of advocacy as a trustee is ensuring we connect in a meaningful way with those we are advocating for to find out exactly what is needed. This means developing and maintaining excellent relationships with our stakeholder groups and connecting in a meaningful way with parents and students. Communicating those needs to the provincial government.
TK: Discover where funding is going and why. I think that we can present a strong case to receive more funding provincially and federally. As well as looking to the possibility of third party sponsors and collaboration with Vancouver city departments.
TD: I am an American Society for Quality (ASQ) Certified Six Sigma Yellow Belt (CSSYB) professional. I will look at implementing Six Sigma and Lean techniques in schools to streamline processes, reduce waste, and increase efficiency to make better use of our current resources before we attempt to locate new sources.
BP: I do not concur with the “there is no alternative”, “no money”, or “it can’t be done” models. There is enough money in this province to end child poverty and to properly fund our schools. We can ensure that our students are safe and have a strong sense of belonging. The current system of financing our schools needs fundamental change. And, a new way of taxing wealth needs to be implemented. This latter change will not be easy and must be able to be supported by the majority of our citizens. The VSB can advocate and encourage other groups to advocate for necessary changes.
MO: I will continue to review spending, prioritizing that public funding that VSB receives are spent in schools. All VSB programs should be made available to all students in an equitable way, and I will work with staff to ensure this is the case. I will explore opportunities to find funding from registered charitable organizations to organize district-wide programs.
BKBA: I would ask staff to look for any necessary cuts away from the classroom and pressure the city and the province to provide funding for more classrooms from the Community Amenity Contributions collected from developers and the “School Tax” collected from Vancouver residents.
JF: Approximately 90% of the VSB’s funding comes from the provincial government and as the current funding level is too low there must be effective advocacy. One priority was set by the current board by unanimously passing a motion to prepare a Needs Budget for Vancouver’s students, which would be informed by the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan, consider past VSB budgets and be created with input from VSB stakeholders.
LCP: Advocate to the BC govt for funding. Besides reminding them that it's their responsibility to fund education, also argue that properly funded education helps reduce costs of other provincial areas, such as mental health care, social assistance and policing cost.
JP: The VSB should set priorities given a finite budget, and advocate on behalf of public education. Financial literacy programing can done at low cost, drawing resources from volunteers from banks, universities etc. After school care can be increased through better use of space.
EA: As an ally and parent I will prioritize learning and accommodation for vulnerable students. Supporting special needs students has been a long-standing priority for Vision Vancouver trustees, past and present. My Vision colleagues and I are supportive of working towards adequate staffing our classrooms, so that every student that needs an education assistant has one. We need to ensure programs are available to support student needs (eg autism spectrum, ELL) with specific support workers and programs (eg extended learning assistance class ELAC program). We have seen effective programs, and we do not need to re-invent the wheel. We would consult with staff and stakeholders how best to support our students dependent on what increase in funds we get from the Province. We will continue to advocate.
AL: I’m proud to have been an advocate for public education since I was in public school. I’m committed to further advocacy to ensure that our classrooms are well-resourced so that all of our students are successful. I hope that we can restore some of what we’ve lost over the past 16 years including ensuring that students who may have additional needs are identified early and have an IEP put into place. In terms of mental health, I want to work with Vancouver Coastal Health to better integrate their services into our system and supplement our services not replace them.
SD: Review budget and insure [sic] funds are appropriately & equally distributed amongst each district, collaborate with philanthropic organizations like Giving Well to seek corporate funding that match our selection criterias and values.
KD: First step is to address the changing role of school taxes. Government took over the property tax to provide equity amongst districts, aimed at balancing tax on manufacturing properties in centers with lack of property value in areas supplying the resources to manufacture. Rising residential values have swamped the revenue resulting in serious inequity between urban and rural areas. Due to efforts I have made with Auditor General and Comptroller General we have a case.
SW: One of the things I will do to ensure VSB has the funding required is to go after the extra funds generated by the education tax. It is highly questionable that it can be put into general revenue and not returned directly to boards. Perhaps equity amongst districts is required but gaining millions from residential property and a school tax generating more than school budget is not.
PG: To ensure adequate funding, I am open to the option of exploring partnerships with public and private sponsors. For example our neighbouring school district in North Vancouver has a policy that allows for responsible partnerships between the Board and businesses that provide benefits to cultural, educational, athletic and artistic programs for students. Our other neighbouring school district in Surrey also expanded their school board policy to include responsible partnerships with sponsors and went a step further creating a business development department that has raised over 2million dollars in one year which went directly into their schools. In particular, I would be open to finding funding in the form of well vetted sponsorships with public and private sponsors in order to refit our lead pipes and keep our children’s water supply safe. However, all sponsorships and partnerships would be carefully vetted and must align with the values and principles of our school board policy. I would not be open to sponsorships such as those with Coca Cola vending machines, or ones that exposed our children to corporate logo’s [sic] or other such branding.
Question 7: What will you do to make the VSB an attractive place to work in order to recruit and retain teachers and support staff?
KA: Recruiting and Benefits: Possibility of developing staff housing "Rent to Own" or rental only on site corners.
JR: Honour teaching experience from other districts around B.C. Offer housing allowances. Ensure adequate access to teaching resources.
AW: We need to showcase all the great schools, programs and teachers in the District. We have a lot to offer and people already aware of our success rates. There are many initiatives we can take that attracts teachers and support staff. We can support housing for new teachers and new support staff. We need to advocate for more funding for public education to move from the bottom of majority of provinces when it comes to per-pupil-funding to be on the leading levels. Continue the Advocacy. We see a recent move in the last couple of years due to provincial funding and the Supreme Court ruling. It’s a move, but we still have a long way to go. Advocate for staff mentoring and support programs for teachers and support staff.
EJ: Vancouver (indeed, BC) teachers and support staff need a raise, comparable to their colleagues in other provinces; barriers to class size and composition limits must be removed, including hiring more SSAs, EAs and non-enrolling teachers; housing allowances or other means of providing affordable housing must be considered; prep time must be honoured; professional development must continue to be offered. The working conditions of Vancouver’s teachers and staff are the learning conditions of our kids.
CB: Explore using portions of VSB land for staff housing. Explore urban housing allowances—similar to rural allowances. Insist all classes meet class size & composition language. If our district has numerous classes with unmanageable numbers of students with complex learning needs, it stands to reason that staff might choose to work in other districts. I want to look to other districts that are similar to Vancouver and find out how they are facing these challenges.
TK: Some of my ideas will come with collaboration from the city in being able to provide affordable housing and outside support services. I have some internal to VSB ideas I am looking into as well.
TD: Establish more meaningful and personalised collaborations with teacher training programs from accredited universities. Conduct a comprehensive analysis and revision of current teacher salaries, benefits, and perks to assess suitability in attracting new candidates. Finally, conduct a survey on culture in the VSB for employees, in order to improve staff morale and motivation.
BP: In 1993, the Vancouver Teachers’ Federation tabled a bargaining objective for a housing allowance for members. Needless to say, its foresight didn’t go far. Now we find ourselves in a position where it is too expensive to live in this city. Housing needs to be more affordable. Staff housing possibilities could be investigated. There needs to be a moratorium on asking our employees to take on new initiatives. Working conditions in schools have become anxiety-ridden. Staff needs a time to rejuvenate, rest, and find the joy in carrying out our important work. New teachers want a mentorship programme. Lets expand ours.
MO: Teachers, like all other workers, are fulfilled by a supportive workplace, a pleasant working culture, and fulfilling challenging work. I will work to ensure teacher who are recruited are supported by VSB as needed and will work with labour partners to help ensure VSB remains a wonderful workplace to be an educator.
BKBA: The District has already undertaken to find affordable housing for out of province teachers recruited to Vancouver. Housing co-ops built on city land for teachers and other essential services workers should be built immediately. Currently support staff like student support workers, aides, youth and family workers etc. are under the CUPE 15 agreement. I believe their pay grid is too low for these staff to live in our unaffordable city. For example, a student support worker gets $26. an hour but is only paid 6.5 hours per day, not an 8-hour day. With rental rates as high as $3,000 for a modest two-bedroom apartment, Vancouver is unaffordable for our support staff.
JF: As a trustee, it is important to ensure that the board works with collaboration and respect so that our district is, and is seen to be, a district focused on student success. The board must continue to build strong, respectful relationships with the teachers and support staff and strive to support both new and experienced employees, for example with mentorship programs, professional development and curriculum resources, so that they can best support their students’ success.
LCP: Lead from the top: set an example that we can work together with kindness, compassion and respect, even when we disagree. The Greens are in support of using some VSB land to develop staff housing. If this initiative moves forward, I will push for housing types that fosters community-building and nurtures long-term health of staff community. Find ways to measure success of district that are useful to those on the front lines.
JP: Trustees should be friendly and professional to best fulfill their role as citizen representatives. The VSB can learn from Finland, where teachers receive bi-weekly professional development training, and educators are highly respected.
EA: Vancouver District has always been a district where teachers wanted to come due to being the lighthouse for many programs (TREK, Windemere Leadership, Fine Arts, French Immersion, Mandarin bilingual). Teachers and support staff want to continue working here. A major hurdle now is the housing affordability. I would help to advocate for better funding for public education, more support and mentors, collaborative relationship building amongst all stakeholders.
I am a parent and I am an experienced professional in counselling, victim services, and facilitation. I am familiar with government policy and process after working within multiple provincial government ministries and will be a strong voice for public education. I am the woman for the job with my lived experience, passion and determination to make a difference in my community.
AL: I’m very proud to have championed housing for VSB educators and staff on VSB land back in May. We know that Vancouver is an expensive place to live for staff just starting their careers and we have a role to play in ensuring that they have access to affordable housing through the School Act. I’m also hopeful that through our next round of collective bargaining, we will be able to deal with some of the long-standing issues at the local table to ensure that all of our staff have the support that they need. I’m also hoping that the VSB will become a living-wage employer during the next term.
SD: We need to make sure teachers and staff have access to proper resources they need to deliver a quality education, offer them opportunity for continuing education for themself, value their input, create affordable housing options that will encourage them to stay in Vancouver, hire more staff and teachers to ensure work load is realistic.
KD: There is inadequate availability of special needs teachers and trained aids in special needs classes, and, inadequate pay to live in Vancouver. Housing costs in Vancouver is a big issue for retaining assistants, attracting new teachers, and retaining teachers. The interim solution is a payment for balancing salary with housing similar to what the province provides to attract teachers in rural locations. Amounts would be commensurate with pay gap between salaries and housing costs.
SW: The most critical issue to address to make VSB an attractive place to work is to bring in housing supplements for renters, especially support staff such as special needs assistants and new teachers. Otherwise we can’t recruit and watch our trained assistants move out. In the longer run more is required but without immediate redress we will lose the people we need to build upon.
PG: Left blank.
Question 8: What will you do to get at-risk schools seismically upgraded or rebuilt as soon as possible?
KA: Seismic Upgrading: Career preparation construction program in five secondary or annex COV EQ Systems Storage on all VSB sites. Development permit time reduction.
JR: I will work with the board to lobby the province to address this pressing safety issue for schools
AW: Work with and commit with the province a long-range facilities program (LRFP) that includes a detailed 10-year program to have all schools seismically upgraded by 2030. We cannot have annual submissions in hopes that we get a few schools. The plan must be sent in place as a minimum to reach our goals. We need to reach out to stakeholders to work with the board to work “in parallel” with the board to the province. We need to advocate to BCSTA and bring resolutions for Provincial support. We need quarterly reports and discussions at BCSTA about our progress.
EJ: It’s an Education Ministry decision to fund seismic mitigation projects. Trustees can advocate with parents; explore other public funding, e.g. Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (schools can serve as hubs in the event of an emergency); acknowledge that rebuilds are often faster than mitigation and more cost-effective (in that they will be useable after a seismic event, where mitigation ensures buildings don’t fall on our kids, but may be unuseable the day after.)
CB: Continue to work closely with the Vancouver project office to ensure the provincial government knows the complexities of our district. Continue to push the province to provide accelerated funding for our seismic needs without any requirement for school closures, land sales, or specific blanket school enrolment numbers. (95% utilization)
TK: We have many schools in the design and feasibility phase, and I am looking at ways to expedite these processes and get them to the construction phase faster. Perhaps there is federal support available.
TD: Immediately put into motion a procurement process designed to attract qualified vendors and consultants as well as tender proposals in response to specialised RFP’s developed for each at-risk school in need of seismic upgrading.
MrsD: I don't know enough about seismic upgrading and earthquake preparedness. I have studied at the Earth Sciences department of UBC and had a contract to seismically upgrade parts of the Douglas College Surrey Campus. From what I understand the size of the earthquake we expect in this region is of such magnitude that we have no real idea what to expect or how effective our preparations will be. I need to know more about this.
BP: In order to get this work done urgently, we need to develop an action plan that involves parents and students. See also answer to Question 6.
MO: I will advocate with the Ministry of Education to prioritize funding of seismic upgrades. I will work with all stakeholders for creative ways to collaborate on projects, including multi-stakeholder projects.
BKBA: As a Trustee, I would lobby the provincial government with the Board to add two schools a year to the two per year they are currently upgrading for at least 4 schools to be upgraded per year instead of just 2.
JF: One priority is to continue the VSB’s long history of advocating to the provincial government to provide funding for seismic projects - as soon as possible - so that all students and staff will be safe in an earthquake. The VSB should also look to see if individual project timelines could be shortened, for example by working more closely with the City to enable faster turnaround times for permits, or by using common design elements.
LCP: Advocate to the BC govt. Schools are more than just a place for kids to be at from 9-3; they also serve as hubs for the kids, their families, and the community at large.
JP: The VSB should hold the provincial government accountable for stated deadlines on seismic completion. It should streamline bureaucracy whenever possible.
EA: With my strong stakeholder relationships elected in the provincial and federal government, now is the time for all three systems to work collaboratively. The province needs to fund the capital projects and the Board needs to ensure all schools are seismically updated by 2030. The Vancouver Board of Trustees need to bring the Province, the Board and the city to expedite seismic upgrades. Where there is a bottleneck, it needs to be fixed.
AL: As a long-time advocate for seismic upgrades, I’m committed to advocating for provincial capital funding for our most urgent seismic upgrade projects and building new schools in the Olympic Village and East Fraser Lands. We need to work with our communities and neighbours to advocate for this funding. I’m supportive of right-sizing schools whenever possible to build new, modern facilities for future generations of Vancouver students and families.
SD: Review recommendations made to date, evaluate financial needs related to each school and deploy a plan to find funding ASAP to implement plans proposed by experts. It is our responsibility to prioritize kids and staff safety.
KD: I will promote advocacy for seismically upgrading facilities and speeding up approval process within Vancouver. The Ministry has responded to the call for upgrading, although reluctant to consider wider facility improvement. With the new curriculum there is justification for changes in standards and, with coordination with parents will make a telling case.
SW: We need to maintain advocacy to continue seismic upgrading and push City of Vancouver to speed up approval process. Also, we need to expand work on buildings to meet new standards reflective of delivering new curriculum, recently adopted by government. Both seismic upgrading and new standards should be the message.
PG: I am a very big advocate for safe and healthy schools. As such I would advocate the need to have at-risk schools either rebuilt or seismically upgraded as soon as possible.
Question 9: What will you do to expand access to out-of-school care in VSB schools?
KA: Out of School Care: Modular daycare developments on corner edges of VSB land. Summer use provisions.
JR: identify and create readiness criteria (including land size and availability for modular spaces for OOSC on public lands) and shortlist schools to pilot with community partners
AW: Much success in the last few years in connection with seismic upgrades to increase capacity for out-of-school care. The Joint childcare working group set goals that have been met every year. This joint collaboration is very successful and will continue. The VSB has also been very effective in positively assisting childcare providers come to the District (eg CNH runs 5 programs in our schools). We need to continue to work closer with external organizations.
EJ: Work with the Park Board, specifically Community Centres, to better share space and staff. We all have the same goal: serving our communities. I also support the $10 a day daycare plan (as does OneCity), and modular daycare on VSB land where appropriate and where there is need (i.e. everywhere). If there is the political will, these can be up and running within months.
CB: Ask staff for a full district-wide report of any excess space on school sites, prioritize the upgrading of any spaces so they can be used for childcare. Explore building modular childcare on school sites. Explore, and work to address, the challenges partners who wish to lease VSB space face. Develop partnerships with community groups and advocacy groups, including the $10 a Day campaign.
TK: The main problem is lack of space allocated for these programs, which could be remedied by updating the area standards to include making space available specifically for these programs. I have also spoken with park board candidates on a collaboration to provide much needed services.
TD: I will look at re purposing existing and underused school infrastructure to provide the space necessary, as well as partner with non-profit organisations and volunteers to bring adequate resources in for use.
MrsD: As for out of school care, everything has to be done to ensure this. Is there even any choice here? Which leads me to: ensuring that funding is there where it's needed: Trustees can determine much to do with the allocation of the budget and must focus most of their energies on this, however boring this is. But it is Victoria that holds the purse strings and most candidates vastly overestimate the power the board holds in this regard. I've said it before, first balance the budget according to what has been allocated by Victoria, then you get a list of volunteers, board a ferry to Victoria and occupy the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. That's how I roll, yo.
BP: There should be no hold up to this. If we believe in equality, we must ensure that parents have easy access to before and after school care. Make it happen.
MO: I will look for opportunities to partner with non-profit out-of-school providers to identify school sites where after-school care is possible.
BKBA: I would ask staff to find any space available in schools that could be used for out of school care, request the city to fund any required renovations for out of school care from their community amenity contributions from developers and have staff contact all religious buildings, public and private community centres, co-ops and companies for possible space in areas where it is most needed.
JF: The VSB should explore the barriers to providing more spaces in VSB schools by consulting with parents, the non-profit providers, the city and partner agencies. Actions could include reviewing available school space, working with the city to streamline renovations grant funding and the development permit/building permit/inspection/occupancy permit processes, and better connecting with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the provincial lead for childcare.
LCP: Try to maximise use of school space before and after hours. Advocate to the provincial govt to streamline their legislation, policies & area standards so that new or newly upgraded schools are also sized & equipped for out-of-school care.
JP: Encourage better use of space after school hours, this includes gyms and classrooms. Work with the provincial government to streamline licensing requirements for providers.
EA: Childcare and early learning—I will make childcare, early learning and adequate provincial funding top priorities. Vision candidates believe that quality, affordable, and licensed childcare is essential for the livability of Vancouver. I know the real concerns about childcare in our community. We need to continue the very successful Joint Childcare Council. The VSB and the CoV will have achieved its four-year target to create 1,000 new childcare spaces
across the city. We need to work towards childcare space in all our schools.
AL: Affordable, licensed, not-for-profit childcare has always been important to Vision Vancouver. We’ve exceeded our target of 1000 new licensed childcare spaces between 2014 and 2018. We’re ready to make our next commitment to build more spaces and some of that will come from VSB sites. We need to signal to the provincial government that we’re ready for modular childcare facilities on suitable VSB sites. As childcare moves from the Ministry of Children and Family Development to the Ministry of Education, I’m ready to work with provincial partners to bring more childcare spaces into the VSB. In terms of before and after school care, I’m interested in looking into ways we can use our existing space to support on-site programming.
SD: Collaborate and develop a plan with the City Council and Park Board, seek partnership with other community & cultural organizations aligned with the mandate of the School Board.
KD: The Provincial government may take over providing out of school care but until that happens I go on my experience in opening new child care facilities. That is promote efforts of dedicated and talented parent groups. These facilities are basically private ventures. We can encourage coordination/partnership with Park Board and help along the way as I have done in my liaison schools but cannot drive the process where necessary group is not in place.
SW: In the current situation trustees should support dedicated parent groups to develop new facilities. Regulations and lack of available space are hurdles that trustees should help with. Should the government introduce out-of-school care program the task would be to work with government to see it happens in Vancouver.
PG: The need to effectively repurpose schools and provide before 8am and after 3pm care is a priority. Parents are stressing a need for more access to out-of-school care which we will assess and consult with the community and stakeholders on how best to service this need. I would also work with the parks [sic] board and their community centres to strengthen synergies by co-sharing space and working closely together.
Question 10: What will you do to ensure there is transparency and meaningful consultation in all VSB decision making?
KA: VSB decision making: All meetings streamed and or archived by the "digital media career preparation students". I will be on hand to provide leadership and open governance.
JR: As a public official use my role to communicate information in plain language, inform students, parents and educators immediately about safety concerns and decisions being made - keeping public education, public!
AW: STANDING COMMITTEES (5) were always very effective for stakeholders to provide input. These MUST remain and effectively used. I have always attended ALL the standing committees. I have always encouraged all stakeholder groups to participate and I share their views when issues move to the Board. I’m always available and seek inputs from individuals to provide direct opinion, no matter how long it takes. I ensure everyone has opportunity to participate. It is important for everyone to be able to access the Board/Trustees directly. I am open to a variety of modes of communication to be able to dialogue with all community members.
EJ: I am pleased to see Board meetings will be live-streamed to be accessible to more parents. As a parent who has attended board meetings, I also dislike the practice of writing and submitting questions to the Board; parents, stakeholders, and community members should be able to ask questions directly. When a matter is of significant concern to VSB programming or infrastructure, I believe it is the responsibility of trustees to convene public and stakeholder consultations.
CB: I will continue to call for transparency and meaningful consultation. I will call for future consultations with stakeholders and the public to be more than open-house style info sessions. The public should have an opportunity to speak publicly to the board as a whole to share concerns as they have done in the past.
TK: I would start by taking responsibility for the consultation process, unlike the BC Hydro deal with the Roberts annex. We need to have a thorough public consultation process to ensure everyone is aware of what is being consulted upon, use plain language and have translation services provided.
TD: As an individual trustee, I will put myself out in the public eye for scrutiny and questioning and endeavour to respond to questions with earnest, down to earth, and thoughtful answers. As a collective, I will urge my fellow trustees to make decisions in the best interest of parents and students, which in lieu of full and frank disclosure of meetings serves to increase transparency and meaningful consultation.
MrsD: There has been far too much discussion veiled in secrecy. As the Boston newspaper says "Democracy dies in darkness". In cases of legal issues or in the cases of hiring and firing staff, then I can see why the board might have to meet in camera, or in private meetings as they call it, but apart from these sorts of issues I would refuse to go into camera in all but the most extreme cases and I would actively advocate to the others on the board to join me until we did not have quorum and the meetings were either matters of public record, or they wouldn't happen. Transparency is first and foremost in the list of VSB necessities, and those using our services deserve nothing less.
BP: Democracy is time-consuming but the alternatives are worse. Consultation must be done on an even-footing. One group can’t have information that other groups don’t. All information must be shared. The entire VSB budget needs to be provided. Trustees and staff must involve themselves in committee meetings along with other groups. Consultation needs to be more about cooperation and less about expressing opinions to the “powers that be”.
MO: I will work to ensure that consultation has been framed in a clear and meaningful manner, has taken place before the decision under consideration has been made, has included students, parents and other direct stakeholders and the public, has been done in an accessible and timely manner and has had an impact on the decision-making process. Consultation has taken place in a culturally safe and sensitive manner.
BKBA: I would encourage the Board to hold meetings six times a year around the city in various secondary schools in the district to encourage more parents to attend. Public consultations should take place in schools close to where any decisions will affect parents and should include opportunities for direct speeches, discussion groups, letters, emails and paper surveys at schools. Online surveys that use Student school registration numbers would help to ensure only affected parties give feedback.
JF: Ensuring transparency means not only ensuring that all decisions, except those required by legislation to be in private, are made in public board meetings but also communicating well the decisions made. Meaningful consultation will inform and engage the correct audiences, for example employee groups, students, parents and the public, and especially the voices of marginalized populations that are often absent from public consultation.
LCP: I will strive to listen more than preach. Ensure consultation with families, community and other stakeholders happens before we become fixed on a particular solution.
JP: Ensure that parents, teachers and educators are at the table on important or controversial decisions. Hold open meetings, online conferences, with the citizenry.
EA: With DPAC, I placed a strong role in the Board's five standing committees. Those need to remain and possible be enhanced (possibly additional meetings to have issues in a timely manner—eg staff hiring crisis a year ago). VSB to reach out for parent input in other languages and cultures. The Trustees need to be more available for access. If the community thinks something is rushed, then slow down and hear from the community/stakeholders. We want to make every decision to be right rather than to just push things through).
AL: If elected, I’m committed to putting a Motion on Notice to initiate a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy within the first 60 days of taking office and direct staff to develop quick starts to be piloted immediately for the 2019/20 Operating Budget and the review of the Long-Range Facilities Plan (LRFP). This new strategy should set the framework for future consultation processes to ensure that they are meaningful, transparent, and accessible to the public.
SD: Consult with DPAC president and Inform in a timely manner all stakeholders (parents, teachers, communities, etc) of all situations and advocate for community outreach on all major decisions.
KD: The budget process for 2018/2019 undermined public trust in VSB. Initially asking for required changes without circulating a senior management proposal avoided frantic activity normally associated with budget. However when cuts were made, surplus generated, public trust was lost. Transparency and meaningful consultation needs be returned to VSB through an open budget process. Transparency also critical to gaining acceptance of parents, especially new immigrants, of new curriculum. Marks no longer focus of link with parents.
SW: First I would support having senior management prepare and share a draft budget with parents and public. The recent procedure of not doing so avoided some of the unpleasantness of budget but was not a transparent or consultative process. Parents were bypassed. The recent BC Hydro deal was unacceptable and due diligence and consultation are required in all major projects. This will ensure a base of transparency and meaningful consultation to build upon.
PG: To ensure transparency and meaningful consultation I will always be open to hearing innovative ideas and shared best practices. I am a strong believer in sharing knowledge and being open to new or better ways of improving which in its essence translates to transparency and authentic meaningful consultations.