Six years ago I asked Vancouver voters to give me the opportunity to represent them at the Vancouver school board—and they did. Since then I’ve worked hard to advocate for the needs of our schools and the children who attend them.
These have been challenging times for public education in B.C., but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. Most importantly, graduation rates are at an all time high and 14 percent more aboriginal students are graduating each year than when I was first elected in 2008.
I’m also proud of the progress Vision has made on the school seismic upgrade program. I’ve had the pleasure of signing more than $200 million in funding agreements with the Ministry of Education to rebuild or upgrade seismically at risk schools. That’s something I’ve been working on since I was a member of Families for School Seismic Safety before I was elected as a trustee. It’s something I’m determined to see through, so that every VSB student can go to school in a seismically safe building.
With fewer families with school-aged kids living in Vancouver, we’ve been under pressure from government to close schools. We had that conversation with Vancouver residents in 2010 and heard loudly and clearly that neighbourhood schools are the heart and souls of their communities and that they want them kept open. So instead of closing them and boarding them up—as the NPA trustees have called for—we’ve found better solutions, like leasing out space to Green Thumb Theatres at Carleton, or moving adult education programs from expensive leased space to under-enrolled schools like Gladstone, which saves us more than $600,000 in rental costs. We recently moved staff offices to surplus space at the Garibaldi Annex, so we can lease out their former West Broadway offices for over $300,000 a year. We also moved a secondary alternative program from a leased space to a surplus building at an elementary school—saving $45,000 a year—despite the NPA’s opposition to the plan.
I will continue to work with the Vision Vancouver school board team to find creative and fiscally responsible uses for surplus school space so those schools are there for tomorrow’s students. In 2010 the NPA opposed our motion to keep McBride Annex open, but this year it had a waiting list for kindergarten. We know more growth is coming and we will work with communities to keep their local schools thriving, instead of closing them as the NPA would. We can’t risk going backward with the NPA.
I’m hoping voters will support me for another term so we can fully implement policies that support diversity and our recently updated sexual orientation and gender identity policy—making Vancouver schools safe, welcoming, and inclusive for all students, staff, and families. But it will take a strong Vision school board majority to ensure that happens.
I want to keep up the good work, so please support me and my Vision colleagues on November 15.