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Highlights of the NPA day

September 14th, 2008 · 8 Comments

This is a bit late, but since I spent four hours of my short time here on earth listening to this stuff, you should at least get the benefit.

As all you political junkies know, the NPA acclaimed most of the final set of candidates on Saturday and had a vote-off among the four park-board candidates. (Current commissioner Marty Zlotnik barely scraped in, to the surprise of some and not of others, who noted “The party is changing.”)

But there were also speeches by the nouveau candidates, along with mayoral candidate Peter Ladner. I won’t reproduce them, since many people spent more time recounting their biographies than talking about the issues, but some of the memorable lines:

Sean Bickerton, the new candidate from Tinseltown, wants to make city neighbourhooods stronger and one way of doing that is by having more neighbourhood centres and attractions. So he’d like to see a gay cultural centre in the West End.

Michael Geller reminded everyone that the NPA is not the party it used to be. As he said, just like the advertising campaign that went with the slogan This is not your father’s Cadillac: “This is not your father’s NPA.” (It also set off a series of metaphors of candidates comparing themselves to various types of wheeled transportation, with Suzanne Anton saying she was a blend of a Prius and a bicycle.)

Lakhbir Singh, the doctor running for school board, lamented the exodus of east-side kids to west-side schools. He blamed the Fraser Institute, in part, for its ratings that make people think east-side schools aren’t as good. But he knows they are, because he went to east-side schools and he didn’t become a drug dealer. Instead, he became a doctor and worked with the Canadian Navy. (That sensitivity about east/west schools seems to be a theme for certain candidates. Narinder Chhina, who’s competing for a Vision school board nomination, also talked about the east-side exodus at the Vision meeting last week and suggested banning cross-boundary enrolment, a proposal that provoked internal gasps from certain members of the audience who realized the revolution that would provoke among Vancouver parents.)

Finally, Peter Ladner finished off the afternoon by slagging Vision Vancouver and Gregor Robertson in a roundabout way (Our party won’t be beholden to unions or tied to provincial parties; we won’t be fighting amongst ourselves; we’ll have a mayor who has lived in Vancouver for longer than three years), while praising outgoing Mayor Sam Sullivan (the guy he ousted), Sullivan’s parents, and the team the NPA has assembled. He described them as incredibly diverse on several planes: Religion: Christians, Confucian, Jewish, agnostic. Family status: single, same-sex couples (Sean Bickerton), parents-to-be (that’s Korina Houghton, unless I’m very mistaken), parents and grandparents. And geography: From Chinatown to Deering Island (Michael Geller) and more.

I guess he emphasized that because he got tired of having the NPA constantly referred to as the All-White Party and the political arm of the Arbutus Club. The diversity part was nice. But the people at the media table are fervently hoping that they’re not going to have to endure a campaign of tiresome accusations: You’re just the party of developers. You’re just the NDP farm team. Blah blah blah. Let’s hear some ideas.

Categories: 2008 Vancouver Civic Election

  • “…talked about the east-side exodus at the Vision meeting last week and suggested banning cross-boundary enrolment, a proposal that provoked internal gasps from certain members of the audience who realized the revolution that would provoke among Vancouver parents.”

    Besides provoking a ‘revolution’ among parents, the above suggestion is legaly impossible as it would violate the spirit of the BC School Act which supprseeds any local policy.

    “Under the School Act, boards are responsible for creating enrolment boundaries, called catchment areas, for every school in the province.

    Students may attend a school outside of their enrolment boundary, provided there is space available.

    School boards currently prioritize students in the following order:

    1. Students within the enrolment boundary who attended the school in the previous year.

    2. A child within the enrolment boundary.

    3. A child outside of the enrolment boundary who is a resident of the school district.

    4. A child from outside the enrolment boundary and the school district.

  • “…talked about the east-side exodus at the Vision meeting last week and suggested banning cross-boundary enrolment, a proposal that provoked internal gasps from certain members of the audience who realized the revolution that would provoke among Vancouver parents.”

    Besides provoking a ‘revolution’ among parents, the above suggestion is legaly impossible as it would violate the spirit of the BC School Act which over rules any local policy.

    “Under the School Act, boards are responsible for creating enrolment boundaries, called catchment areas, for every school in the province.

    Students may attend a school outside of their enrolment boundary, provided there is space available.

    School boards currently prioritize students in the following order:

    1. Students within the enrolment boundary who attended the school in the previous year.

    2. A child within the enrolment boundary.

    3. A child outside of the enrolment boundary who is a resident of the school district.

    4. A child from outside the enrolment boundary and the school district.

  • On the east-side exudus: candidates and commentators need to do a thorough job of studying the actual data. I have and, the situation is not a tidal wave of students flooding west. Is there cross boundary movement? Yes, there is. Is it a massive move from the depths of the poorest to the heights of the richest area schools? No, it is not.

    However, the simplicity of blaming west-side for east side woes is compelling for those commentators not intersted in the complexities of reality. Please keep in mind that much of this east/west so-called conflict is a serious error in perception not supported in real terms as there is no monolithic ‘west-side’ -there are pockets of wealth such as around Dunbar Hieghts, areas of West Point Grey, Shaunessy, SW Marine Drive, but in today’s Vancouver they are isolates and do not define an entire area).

    To get a sense of what is actually happening a couple things have to be understood. First, there are district programs that draw directly from a cross-district student population. These programs, like French Immersion, High School Mini-Schools, International Baccalaureate, Alternative Education programs (Total and Ideal or Bing Satellite, for example), Montessori, Special Ed (Access, GLD, ELAC, for example). These programs pull from a wide area of the district. For some schools, Like Churchill and Kitsilano Secondaries cross boundary can be a high proportion of the overall student population. These are, in fact only one portion of total cross-boundary enrolments.

    The second category is from one regular program to another regular program. ON this score the Vancouver School Board data shows that if a student moves boundaries the move is typically from home school to a school whose’ catchment is adjoin the home school. This is not a major east to west drain.

    Many of the readers of this blog will likely find the complexities and details more then they asked for. But it seems to me that people should inform themselves of the reality and the real evidence before making blind statements based upon their assumptions and misconceptions.

  • One other thing – there is another series element of cross-boundary enrolment that is being overlook and downplayed in this east-to-west- claim; it’s the west-to-east forced movement of several hundred children from the University area. Since we are not part of Vancouver proper we do seem to get ignored. But for about half a decade a growing problem of under-capacity in our local schools has led to hundreds of children of elementary level being bussed to schools more than 10 kilometres away. At the high school level this is contributing to overcorwding at nearby Byng Secondary where students will likely soon find themselves being forced further east again.

    Last year, partly in jest, I suggested that high school students should be shipped east in order to solve the overcrowding at U Hill Secondary. Who knows, perhaps we will start to see happen because there is not immediate solution.

  • “talked about the east-side exodus at the Vision meeting last week and suggested banning cross-boundary enrolment, a proposal that provoked internal gasps from certain members of the audience who realized the revolution that would provoke among Vancouver parents.”

    Besides provoking a ‘revolution’ among the parents, the above suggestion to “bann cross-boundary enrolment” would most certainly trigger a challenge from the MOE as it would violate the spirit of the School Act.

    Provincial stature, School Act supercedes any local policy.

    School Act is specific and clear on the subject of choice, enrolment boundaries/catchment areas:

    Under the School Act, boards are responsible for creating enrolment boundaries, called catchment areas, for every school in the province.

    Students may attend a school outside of their enrolment boundary, provided there is space available.

    School boards currently prioritize students in the following order:

    1. Students within the enrolment boundary who attended the school in the previous year.

    2. A child within the enrolment boundary.

    3. A child outside of the enrolment boundary who is a resident of the school district.

    4. A child from outside the enrolment boundary and the school district.

  • Dawn Steele

    Real or not, the east/west exodus was more an issue last year when the NPA was warning it would have to close schools because we supposedly had “10,000 empty seats”

    Turns out we’re not going to be closing schools after all because it’s not as bad as they thought and because the Premier now wants us to repurpose schools to serve everyone from Grandma right down to the rugrats. So all that empty space is going to open up all sorts of opportunities for new community programs (or am I just swallowing someone’s carefully-spun pre-election line?)

    The issue that is very real is that for whatever reason, many east side schools have suffered significant enrolment losses in recent years. As those numbers decline, the schools have lost many of the non-enrolling staff like librarians or ESL teachers who played crucial supporting roles. So that’s the problem we need to address – it’s about being able to provide the necessary resouces to meet the needs of all students in their own communities. We don’t need an east-west war to do that, but we do need to get together and have a serious chat with the folks in Victoria.

  • The NPA is the same party it always has been. They can try to spin it differently, but it has always been a vehicle for wealthy, White business and corporate interests and their families. Just because the mayoral candidates bikes to work doesn’t change the face of the party, nor their voting record.

    School issues and those who will form the next school board are crucial. As Charles explains above, there are reasons for the optics about “east-west drift,” which primarily have to do with specialized programs which draw students across boundaries.

    The real election issues are resourcing of schools, increasing the ratio of teaching assistants to support children & youth with special needs. How about more funding to clear waitlists for psycho-educational assessments. I know of a child whose severe learning disabilities were ignored for years on the east side. After moving to a westside school, in less than 2 months, she had a full psycho-ed assessment, which the school promptly used to support her learning. How about more funds and innovative learning opportunities for Aboriginal students.

    How many of the NPA’s candidates for school board have visited eastside and inner-city schools, breakfast programs, and examined how & why some of the neediest schools weren’t able to even apply for provincial funding for improvements to their school yards, yet westside private schools received thousands in government funding.

    The offloading of child care responsibilities, under the guise of “early learning programs” from the BC Liberals to the school boards is one of the biggest developments that will be coming down the pike. Vancouver needs the most experienced and committed education advocates it can get and I’m not convinced that is who the NPA will be running.

  • We need a realistic understanding of the geography of Vancouver. It is not a simplistic east/west geography.

    Unless one hods up the so-called inner-city schools as the example of ‘east-side’ and say the circle of schools south of 16th from about Dunbar to MacDonald as west-sed, that’s about as far as one can go using simplistic geography.

    In real terms city change over time. Right now there are three centers of growth in this city: UBC, Yaletown, and South Fraser. In each of these areas (none of which are classically either west or east -side) rapid multi-family housing units have come onto the market -unlike earlier decades centers of growth -like 1950s/60s Dunbar Heights, single family detached housing is not the possibility today for most of us.

    At the same time as these areas of the city grow the single family dwelling ares are either gentrified or depopulated of children as families move to areas of growth or out of the city all together.

    The problem with many of the east-to-west advocates is that they aren’t taking into account real demographic shifts that are occurring in response to real estate pressures.

    Talking with Victoria will help with some issues. Other issues require real data, not ideology (of either the right or the left) and a commitment to bring our education system into the 21st century Vancouver.