New West School District and the driver’s licence that isn’t ID

When you register you child to be enrolled in the New Westminster School District, you need to supply some kind of proof that you actually live in New Westminster. This proof consists of two pieces of documentation.

The first is one that shows some kind of tie to a piece of property located in New Westminster. This can be a property purchase agreement, a long-term tenancy agreement, or a property tax statement with home owner grant eligibility. I would like to point out that a property purchase agreement is not a proof that you actually live in the property you’ve purchased, because people do in fact buy property outside of the city in which they live. And let’s ignore all of those people living in co-op housing that don’t have any of those three pieces of documentation because they haven’t purchased property, they aren’t tenants, and they only indirectly pay property tax.

The second piece of ID can be one of the following: an income tax statement showing name and province of residency, correspondence from a government agency, a letter from a lawyer confirming your application of long term stay in BC, a letter from Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada confirming your application of long term stay in BC, vehicle registration, a recent paystub, a Medical Services Plan health card or enrollment letter, or a BC Identification Card.

Conspicuously missing from this list is a BC Driver’s Licence, which is the primary piece of identification for most people in BC.

When we registered Elizabeth for kindergarten, we only had recent paystubs, income tax statements, and an MSP health card. We lived in a co-op, so we didn’t have any proof of ties to an actual residence in New Westminster. The MSP health card we did have was one of the old style cards that only had the account number and our name on it, so that wouldn’t do for proof of address.

Needless to say at the time we were pretty pissed. I ranted a bunch on Twitter about it (not like I ever do that sort of thing) and eventually one of the School Trustees (Michael Ewen) called me and said he’d try to get things changed.

Given we eventually managed to get Elizabeth registered for school in New Westminster we forgot all about this, but trusted that the school district would actually change the documentation requirements.

Then a couple of days ago a friend of ours was registering her son in kindergarten in New Westminster and was bemoaning all of the documentation she had to pull together. I looked at the current registration form and lo and behold a BC Driver’s Licence still isn’t listed!

So I ranted a bunch on Twitter again, and here’s what two School Trustees had to say:

The underlying argument is that a BC Driver’s Licence isn’t allowed because you can just call up ICBC and change your address, so the address on your BC Driver’s Licence isn’t trustworthy as a proof of residence.

That argument is garbage for a number of reasons.

First, Section 31 of the Motor Vehicle Act states:

If the residential address of the holder of a driver’s licence issued under this Act is changed from the address stated on the driver’s licence, he or she must, within 10 days of the change of residential address, notify the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia of the change stating the number of his or her driver’s licence and his or her former and new addresses.

That means that by law the address on your driver’s licence must be your residential address.

Second, to change the address on your BC Identification Card, which is listed as acceptable documentation, you only have to call up ICBC and change your address. It’s the same procedure as for a driver’s licence, yet one card is accepted while another isn’t.

Third, one of the pieces of identification is a vehicle registration. Same change of address routine applies for that as for BCID.

Fourth, one of the pieces of identification is an income tax statement. This doesn’t have to have your residential address on it, it could have an entirely different mailing address on it. It could be a PO box, and I’m pretty sure those aren’t large enough to live in.

Fifth, every school district bordering New Westminster that requires a second piece of ID accepts a BC Driver’s Licence! Vancouver does, Burnaby does, Richmond does, Surrey does, Coquitlam does, Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows does, but New Westminster doesn’t.

Jonina Campbell says that the “district wants to make sure that seats go to students living in New West.” This is a fine goal, but the documentation required does absolutely nothing to actually ensure this. Suppose I live in Burnaby. I buy an apartment in New Westminster and rent it out. Because I have a purchase agreement for a property in New Westminster, that checks off the first piece of required identification. Then I get a PO box in New Westminster and have my income tax statements sent there. Now I have a second piece of required identification. My children can now go to school in New Westminster, even though they live in Burnaby, and everything that I’ve given the school district “proves” I reside in New Westminster.

Now, allowing a driver’s licence doesn’t fix this, as any of the other pieces of ID could be used. However, it has much stricter requirements that the address is actually your legal residential address than any of the other pieces of ID they allow. It’s the only one that is actually required by law to be your residential address. And yet the less stringent pieces of ID are allowed.

This nonsense has been going on for more than three years, and despite assurances from School Trustees nothing has changed. The School District drags its heels while parents scramble to comply with their outdated and completely illogical requirements. Will things change this time with two trustees looking into it? I’m not holding my breath.

Take May Day out of the schools and into the community

In New Westminster we have a May Day celebration that’s currently being put on by the school district. Elementary school children perform dances in Queen’s Park and a Royal Suite, made up of a boy and girl from each elementary school, is selected.

Back in November 2015 the New Westminster Board of Education directed that a task force be formed to examine the district’s participation in the annual May Day celebration. The report from that task force is now out, and here are some quotes taken from a survey done of district staff. Remember, the school district handles the event, and most of the planning and implementation falls on teachers, principals, and other district staff members, so they’re intimately familiar with what it takes to produce the May Day celebrations and how much effort it takes.

“…a generalized unhappiness and concern over the cost, the educational time lost in preparation for the event, the amount of preparation work involved in addition to an already challenging workload and the current relevance the existing May Day program has in 21st century learning…”

“…too much time diverted from teaching and learning. Too much energy and time reinforcing colonial traditions instead of embracing a more inclusive world view…”

“…easier to continue with the event to avoid conflict rather than re-evaluate our purpose behind it.”

“…the community can continue the event and the public can choose to take part.”

“Make it fun, not forced.”

“I think the May Day is an event that was designed for one cultural group only. It does not look at first contact, the role of immigrants in the formation of BC, the contributions of women, the development of political parties, the creation of infrastructure, the creation of Indian reservations, residential schools, etc.”

“It does not fit with our redesigned curriculum, it does not fit with our multicultural focus and our First Nations lens.”

“I feel that the redesigned curriculum promotes engagement with all histories of BC, and I’ve been confused for a long time as to why New Westminster teachers have their autonomy restricted when it comes to our professional judgement to teach BC history when May Day is NOT in the curriculum specifically.”

“[May Day] reinforces a patriarchal, settler‐dominated and exclusive culture that does not reflect the values of the District’s mission or vision.”

“…the whole Royal Suite election process has been a popularity contest that has caused social problems and conflicts within the grade 5s. It is divisive and unhelpful. It is particularly divisive in a dual track school.”

“…as long as I have been in the district I can’t remember a child with a visible disability being a May Day rep.”

“Many people have little understanding of what happens to make this event happen. It is not ‘just one day.’ All staff and students are affected by this event.”

“…students lose hours of instructional time…”

“…students are negatively affected as teachers have to arrange their placement during dance instruction.”

“…an increasing number of families now choose to keep their grade 5 students home on May Day because they feel it is very repetitive after going to May Day in grades 2, 3, and 4, which shows that the event doesn’t have full parent support…”

“It’s an exercise in crowd control; it’s a ridiculous use of teacher and student classroom instructional time, and I feel very strongly that we would better otherwise engage students in a school learning environment working on creative academics, or interest‐focused end‐of-year projects.”

Is the New Westminster school system the right place for May Day celebrations? The report and survey strongly suggest that no, it isn’t. 72% of the respondents stated that May Day was no longer an important annual event for the school district. 65% felt it doesn’t promote critical engagement with the province’s history. 72% felt the Royal Suite does not align with the school district’s values of inclusion and diversity. And 84% felt it was not a good use of district staff time and resources — estimated at $50,000 — to organize and stage the May Day ceremony.

77% did feel that the May Day ceremony should be exclusively run by the community. And this is how I feel as well. When the Royal Lancers dance was cancelled by the city, the community stepped up to do it themselves. There is nothing to suggest that the same couldn’t happen with the May Day ceremony. Perhaps it could be rolled in with the popular Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery Salute held on Victoria Day to honour Queen Victoria?

So yes, let’s get the May Day celebration out of the hands of the school district and into the hands of a community organization such as the Hyack Festival Society or the organizers of the May Day picnic.

I’ll leave with this one last quote from the report:

“I agree it is time for change so let’s work together to make it effective such as connecting more to our community and history in New Westminster.”

Kudos for the NWSS Funding Announcement

The New Westminster Secondary School replacement funding announcement has been a long time in coming, and correspondingly there has been a lot of work done behind the scenes. People like me often complain about the whole process without giving praise where praise is due, so let’s stop complaining and start praising!

First and foremost, the biggest kudos belong to Jonina Campbell, chair of the school board. She has worked long and hard to keep the pressure up in getting NWSS replaced. She is a tireless advocate for education in New Westminster and deserves all of the praise anybody could ever give her. I’ve been at DPAC meetings where she’s given updates, and I could tell she was getting a little frustrated with how long things were taking, but she was professional and collected throughout the entire process. Thank you Jonina!

Praise also to the two new members of the school board trustees: Kelly Slade-Kerr and Mark Gifford. They’ve also worked hard, not only to get everything lined up from the school board’s point-of-view, but by bringing a unified, harmonious, and level-headed voice forward on behalf of everybody involved in New Westminster. Previous school boards were fairly dysfunctional, and Slade-Kerr and Gifford both brought much-needed stability and unity to the table.

Kudos to Danielle Connelly and Mona Boucher for raising the pressure on behalf of parents. The rally brought the issue to the forefront in provincial media, and that pressure helped get the funding through.

Thanks also to Judy Darcy for organizing petitions and meeting with Mike Bernier daily to make sure that replacing NWSS was truly at the top of the Ministry of Education’s list.

There are probably countless staff members at School District 40 who have worked on the plans through this entire process, making sure that all of the boxes were checked, and they deserve our thanks as well.

We’ve been waiting a long time to thank someone for getting NWSS rebuilt, so let’s thank everybody I mentioned here!

Hyack Football vs The Machine

With voting day in the School District 40 by-election just 9 days away, the usual arguments in New Westminster politics have started coming out. One of the candidates, Dee Beattie, received the endorsement of the New Westminster & District Labour Council while the other, Mary Lalji, did not. This has lead to the usual spilling of ink about how The Machine will lead Beattie to victory, as if assuming that she has no other qualifications that people may want to vote for beyond the endorsement.

And, frankly, that’s kind of the case. Both candidates offer pretty much the same things. They would both be capable school board trustees. They both want the best for the children of New Westminster. While I have issues with some of their issues (in Beattie’s case I find her previous lack of engagement with the community to be a weakness and there’s no way Richard McBride Elementary should remain standing, and in Lalji’s case I find her endorsement of school buses for Queensborough children lacking a grounding in understanding the school district’s budgetary constraints) I would be perfectly happy with either candidate becoming a school board trustee.

So in this election, I believe that the differentiation between the two candidates comes from the community of people who backs them.

In Beattie’s case, it’s labour. As she says, she’s a CUPE person. She has the backing of nearly every other person elected to public office in New Westminster, all of whom were endorsed by the NWDLC, coincidentally enough. Her lack of engagement within New Westminster is being propped up by these endorsements. To some people, that’s a plus. The NWDLC interviews candidates and endorses those that it believes offer progressive views. New Westminster is a relatively progressive city, so it only stands to reason that more people in New West would want to vote for someone that shares those views, and the endorsement by the NWDLC is a good way for candidates to show they have progressive views.

That process tends to work best in general elections where candidates are first nominated to be elected, after which they seek the NWDLC endorsement. In this by-election, a few people were interviewed by the NWDLC first, the NWDLC chose Beattie to be the endorsed candidate, and then Beattie filed her nomination papers. This strikes me as backwards and almost anti-democratic as it probably discouraged those who sought but did not receive the endorsement from running. Frankly, the more people running the better, and if even one potential candidate didn’t run because the NWDLC wouldn’t endorse them, then that’s a failure of democracy that lies in the NWDLC’s lap.

With the NWDLC endorsement comes The Machine. I’ve been told that the following is all optional but the majority of NWDLC-endorsed candidates seemed to have accepted this help in the past election. The Machine is the colloquial name for all of the machinery that comes with a political campaign: phone banks, lists of phone numbers and email addresses of potential supporters, door-to-door canvassing assistance, and election day support (driving potential supporters to the polls, calling supporters to remind them to vote, that sort of thing). Candidates often pool their resources to save money and have a more effective campaign, but additional support comes from outside (I’ve heard rumours that this is supplied by the NDP, but don’t hold me to that). Candidates are obviously free to accept and reject any part of this support; they don’t need to take all of it if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Side note and full disclosure: in the last municipal election I supported Patrick Johnstone both financially and by volunteering. At least, I tried to volunteer for him, but when I showed up at the campaign office he was sharing with other NWDLC-endorsed candidates (another Machine perk), I ended up being a runner to help out other volunteers who were volunteering for the entire suite of NWDLC candidates. Someone I know was in the same boat: volunteering for Johnstone but actually phone-banking on behalf of a different candidate altogether. This isn’t to call him out (I know he did a hell of a lot of campaigning on his own and raised a shedload of money from individuals in New West), this is merely to throw a little light on how The Machine works.

In this by-election there is no pooling of resources because there’s only one NWDLC-endorsed candidate. That hasn’t stopped other parts of The Machine from being put into action, however. I’ve received three phone calls (two automated, one real person) and one email from Dee Beattie’s campaign, even though I’m pretty sure I never gave her my phone number. My phone number came from someone’s list. Maybe the NDP’s — I’m a member so it could have come from them.

The Machine is up and running, and one would think that Mary Lalji stands at a disadvantage because of it.

But I think that’s actually her strength. Lalji has completely different roots in the community. She’s heavily involved with Hyack Football, which is an extremely successful group in New West. Hyack Football isn’t just the high school football team, they also do youth football and cheerleading starting from kindergarten. They’re very involved in the community, not just as an organization but they encourage students to become engaged in the community. They’re a Big Deal in New Westminster, and Lalji definitely gains support because of it.

She also works at Key West Ford, which is a major sponsor of a number of festivals and events in New Westminster. Hell, she’s their Public Relations Manager, so you know she’s got contacts with the community through that. A community that actually knows someone is more likely to support them, and this is Lalji’s strength.

A friend of mine asked me if I thought the blowback from The Machine would be as bad if Lalji was the endorsed candidate. I think it would have still been there, but not nearly as strong. There are people who are going to vote against the NWDLC-endorsed candidate no matter what. You can’t appease them, so there’s no sense in trying. But Lalji comes from outside the labour camp. She’s not a union member like Beattie is. She has strong ties to local organizations and businesses that have nothing to do with labour. There are people I know who are big backers of Hyack Football who are likely going to vote for Lalji because of that, and with an NWDLC endorsement I think they still would, because the NWDLC endorsement would have less influence than her ties to Hyack Football or other community outreach she’s done. She could have easily said “look, the NWDLC endorsement is nice because it shows I have progressive ideas, but my strength comes from my community ties”, which would have been a good way to defuse any naysayers.

Lalji’s true endorsement comes from her ties to the community and not the NWDLC. Having both endorsements would have been powerful, and if the NWDLC interviewed and rejected her, I think that’s a mistake on their part.

So now the only real differentiation between the two candidates is their backers. Lalji is backed by a large part of the community of New Westminster, and Beattie is endorsed by the NWDLC and not much of the community. All things being equal, this by-election is Hyack Football vs. The Machine.

So here’s my prediction: in this by-election I think that the NWDLC endorsement of Dee Beattie will be a larger negative than it was perceived to be in previous elections. I don’t see Mary Lalji losing this election.

Please note that this isn’t me endorsing Mary Lalji. I believe that voting is a personal and private matter, and I’m not going to tell you who I’m going to vote for. I also believe in Dogwood’s views on endorsements: read the facts, make up your own mind, and most importantly go vote for the candidate you believe in and not the candidate someone tells you to vote for.

Mary Lalji answers my questions!

I asked some questions of the two school trustee candidates in the upcoming by-election, and Mary Lalji answered them!

Question: New Westminster Secondary School is going to be rebuilt one way or another within the next decade. One of the challenges with the site is the Douglas Road Cemetery under the existing high school. When the current NWSS is bulldozed, this will undoubtedly anger the spirits and unleash them on New Westminster. My question for the candidates is this: name three people who will join you as Ghostbusters to save our city.

Answer: The highly trained ghostbusters themselves, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray of course!

Question: Concussions and other repeated head blows in football and rugby have been shown to be the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE), leading to player suicides, memory loss, depression, and dementia. The NFL has been sued by ex-players because of this link. High school students are more likely to suffer concussions, and seven died in the US in 2015 from concussion-related injuries. What will you do to ensure the safety of NWSS students playing football, rugby, and other heavy contact sports?

Answer: First of all, there is no rugby program at NWSS, just football and lacrosse as far as contact sports are concerned. Fortunately, my husband Farhan has been on the front lines of the concussion issue for football both at NWSS and provincially and has implemented a number of initiatives to improve the care of the kids playing the sport. Provincially while he was president of the BC Secondary Schools football association, they implemented mandatory baseline testing for all players, adopted a medical policy which included re-return to play protocol, higher standards of medical qualifications for all sideline medical staff, and increased education and awareness for players, coaches and parents. Currently a newly formed safety committee is recommending contact limits during practices, designed to reduce the amount of head contact exposures over the course of a week and season. Locally at NWSS, the football program was the first in BC to purchase a new product called guardian caps, a padded helmet cap used in practice that reduces the force of contact by over 30%. Also, all of our coaches have been certified in the “Safe Contact” program through the Canadian Association of Coaches, teaching contact without using the head. In addition, while some programs have trainers present for only games, our program has qualified people on the sidelines for every practice, and they all take a very cautious approach with potential head injuries. Total number of concussions in 2015 was just 3, and more importantly, NO repeated concussions, which is where the CTE danger come into play.

There is no question that football, like all contact sports, has associated risks, but we are doing everything in our power at NWSS to put our kids in the safest possible position. And it’s also important to note the number of low risk activities that result in head injuries (eg. Cycling, playground, etc) as a recent Vancouver Province article outlines.

Question: Parents in the West End of New West are asking for some sort of solution for getting their children to Fraser River Middle School. This is a two part question: 1. How boring is the name “Fraser River Middle School” on a range of watching paint dry to school trustee by-election? 2. Do you support Queensborough parents of NWSS students in telling West End parents to fuck off?

Answer: 1. Port Coquitlam High School was renamed after Terry Fox, who gave of himself for all after him. Maybe this might be an option in New West for the Fraser River School. 2. You seem like a very brilliant writer. I am sure there are many other more descriptive words to use instead of profanity.

Question: What will you do to ensure parents continue to be punished for daring to have children who get sick?

Answer: As a parent whose kids get sick and that I always get sick from them, I think that is punishment enough.

Question: After NWSS, what do you feel are the priorities for capital projects in SD40?

Answer: There is a Capital plan. Every district must submit a capital needs list on a yearly basis. The ministry has the final say on which of the projects submitted get approved. The next school to be seismically upgraded is McBride and then Howay. Neither has been funded, as yet, by the provincial government.

However every parent should know how safe seismically their school is and you will ask the secretary treasurer to release the information to each school PAC.

Question: What restaurant would you like to see in the Anvil Centre?

Answer: Anything that is really tasty.

There you have it! Thanks to Mary Lalji for answering all of my questions. You can follow Mary on Twitter at @MaryLaljiNW or visit her website at marylalji.ca.

Dee Beattie answers my questions!

I asked some questions of the two school trustee candidates in the upcoming by-election, and Dee Beattie answered them!

Question: New Westminster Secondary School is going to be rebuilt one way or another within the next decade. One of the challenges with the site is the Douglas Road Cemetery under the existing high school. When the current NWSS is bulldozed, this will undoubtedly anger the spirits and unleash them on New Westminster. My question for the candidates is this: name three people who will join you as Ghostbusters to save our city.

Answer: My ghostbuster friends I will invite all of the Lumineers.  I don’t know them personally but their new CD is totally awesome.

Question: Concussions and other repeated head blows in football and rugby have been shown to be the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE), leading to player suicides, memory loss, depression, and dementia. The NFL has been sued by ex-players because of this link. High school students are more likely to suffer concussions, and seven died in the US in 2015 from concussion-related injuries. What will you do to ensure the safety of NWSS students playing football, rugby, and other heavy contact sports?

Answer: My son played football of of his youth, and luckily he never was seriously injured.  He quit the team when he realized he did not like getting hurt and I was okay with that.

The information is emerging on the injuries and consequences of the injuries that happen in these sports, so I would like to listen to the research and know more before we made big changes in this area. I think I need to listen to the recommendations of experts and doctors on how changes can be implemented.

Question: Parents in the West End of New West are asking for some sort of solution for getting their children to Fraser River Middle School. This is a two part question: 1. How boring is the name “Fraser River Middle School” on a range of watching paint dry to school trustee by-election? 2. Do you support Queensborough parents of NWSS students in telling West End parents to fuck off?

Answer: 1. The Fraser River Middle School.  I totally love the name of this school.  Did you know that I grew up in New West on McDonald St?   Our front room window faced the Fraser River.  My father was a Dutch immigrant to Canada.  His chair sat at the corner of the window facing the river. As a young child I remembered him saying that he was the luckiest man in the world because every day he could look at the most mighty magnificent river in the world.   He felt he had a million dollar view in his $4,000 dollar home.   We had that as a family home for over 30 years.    When my dad died in 1997 my brother and I took a few of his ashes and sprinkled them in the Fraser River.  It was a small tribute to a man who loved that river.  I have no problem with the name of the school.

2. I need to look into this problem and understand it more.  I don’t know what has been done. what planning went into this, and what are some good options.  Tonight I was door knocking in The West End and heard the concerns from many families.  I heard frustration.  A few parents I spoke to have a good solution to get their children to school and a few parents are frantic.  I don’t have the answers to help with this, but I will try my best to understand and appropriately advocate.

Question: What will you do to ensure parents continue to be punished for daring to have children who get sick?

Answer: My background is working in schools, and I think this is a standard policy. I think it is more about protecting the liability of a school district if something goes wrong. Schools are a busy place and if no procedure is put in place it is easy for the safeguards to not be there. To take on the liability of medicating someones child is serious when you have no medical background.

Question: After NWSS, what do you feel are the priorities for capital projects in SD40?

Answer: Seismic Upgrading of all schools is a Priority. Did you know I went to Sir Richard McBride as a child? I would hope to see McBride upgraded and saved. I love bigger older schools. New schools classrooms are small and common areas even smaller. The Stage in the gym disappears in new schools. Having a stage with curtains is like magic to children. The art of Drama belongs on a stage like McBride has! McBride is a Sapperton pride and has valuable heritage. If I can advocate to make that school a lasting piece of history that would be nice!

Question: What restaurant would you like to see in the Anvil Centre?

Answer: I loved taking my 2 boys to ChuckECheese. That could be a great family family fun destination. Just think a restaurant and game centre. ChuckECheese has my vote.

There you have it! Thanks to Dee Beattie for answering all of my questions. You can follow Dee on Twitter at @deelightful or visit her website at deebeattie.ca.

Questions for School Trustee By-Election Candidates

Good news everyone! New Westminster is having another election! This time it’s a by-election to elect a new school trustee after MaryAnn Mortensen resigned back in March! In case you can’t tell, I’m excited! I’m putting in more exclamation marks to make you excited too! OH BOY SCHOOL TRUSTEE BY-ELECTION HOW CAN YOU NOT BE PUMPED UP??!?!?!!!

Anyhow.

It’s my job to come up with satirical questions for any and all candidates that we get for any and all elections in New Westminster. I’ve had a hard time coming up with any good questions (my wife came up with the first one), so this time around I’m actually going to ask a mix of satirical and serious questions for Mary Lalji and Dee Beattie. It’s up to you, my loyal reader, to figure out which is which. Satirical and serious, not Mary and Dee. Although you will have to figure out which is Mary and which is Dee when you vote, you can’t just go “eh I don’t care”.

  1. New Westminster Secondary School is going to be rebuilt one way or another within the next decade. One of the challenges with the site is the Douglas Road Cemetery under the existing high school. When the current NWSS is bulldozed, this will undoubtedly anger the spirits and unleash them on New Westminster. My question for the candidates is this: name three people who will join you as Ghostbusters to save our city.
  2. Concussions and other repeated head blows in football and rugby have been shown to be the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE), leading to player suicides, memory loss, depression, and dementia. The NFL has been sued by ex-players because of this link. High school students are more likely to suffer concussions, and seven died in the US in 2015 from concussion-related injuries. What will you do to ensure the safety of NWSS students playing football, rugby, and other heavy contact sports?
  3. Parents in the West End of New West are asking for some sort of solution for getting their children to Fraser River Middle School. This is a two part question:
    1. How boring is the name “Fraser River Middle School” on a range of watching paint dry to school trustee by-election?
    2. Do you support Queensborough parents of NWSS students in telling West End parents to fuck off?
  4. What will you do to ensure parents continue to be punished for daring to have children who get sick?
  5. After NWSS, what do you feel are the priorities for capital projects in SD40?
  6. What restaurant would you like to see in the Anvil Centre?

You can send your answers to me at brad.cavanagh@gmail.com. Thanks in advance!

Update: They answered! Here are Dee Beattie’s answers and here are Mary Lalji’s answers. Thanks to both of you for responding!

New Westminster School District’s Parent-Punishing Policies

My daughter has bronchitis. She has a prescription of Amoxicillin that she needs to take three times a day: morning, lunch time, and evening. She goes to school in New Westminster.

The requirement that she takes her medication while at school means that we, as parents, need to jump through all kinds of frustrating and punishing hoops.

First, there’s a policy that states that unless it’s an emergency (and antibiotics don’t count), designated staff can only administer medication to students if:

  1. The medication is required while the child is attending school.
  2. The parent has completed a Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  3. The physician who prescribed this medication signs the Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  4. The parent completes a Medical Alert Form that’s attached to the Pupil Record Card.
  5. The designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

Yes, seriously, the Student Heath & Safety Accident & Sickness Procedures, written to support Board Policy Number 504, states that the designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

That little bit of nonsense is beside the point, however. The chief problem is that these hoops are extremely onerous on parents. First, you have to know about this policy. The only way you can even hope to figure this out is by going to the School District 40 website, searching for “medication“, finding a single link to Lord Kelvin’s parent information page (really?), which then talks about the Request for Administration of Medication at School form, which is only available at the school office. Is that only for Lord Kelvin? Only for elementary schools? Who knows!

For some reason this search doesn’t tie into the actual Board Policies, because if you want to do a search of those you need to download a PDF of every policy and then search through that. Welcome to the 20th century. I’m shocked that we don’t need to fax the form in too.

So, here’s why these policies are overly onerous. About 15% of Canadians over 12 don’t have a family doctor. We don’t. We have to go to a drop-in clinic to see a doctor. A doctor at a drop-in clinic prescribed my daughter’s medications. If we had known about this Request for Administration of Medication in School form we might have stood a chance of getting it filled out at the time of prescription, but that would have entailed a) knowing about the form, and had we known about it, b) dragging a sick and infectious child to school that she’s too infectious to attend to pick up a form. Oh, never mind that she was sick last week, during spring break, and the school was closed so we couldn’t pick up the form in the first place.

Now to get the prescribing doctor to sign the form, one of us has to take time off work to go to the clinic (because this doctor only works mornings) and hope that when our name is called we can see that doctor. You see, at that clinic when a doctor is working drop-in hours you can’t make an appointment to see them, so you roll the dice and hopefully you get the specific doctor. If you don’t, I don’t know what happens, you wait even longer, taking even more time off work.

Okay, so suppose you just want to send your child with their medication and allow them to take the medication themselves? Not allowed. Medication isn’t allowed in the classroom, and it can’t be stored in the staff lounge either without this Request for Administration of Medication in School form.

But you know what you can do? Have a complete stranger come in and give your child their medication. Honest to god as long as you call the school and say “Joe Smith is going to give my daughter medication” that’s allowed. Of course, as a parent you can do that as well, but this unduly punishes the working parent who works in a different city, works at an inflexible job, or for any other reason they may be unable to get to the school to administer medication.

Even getting the form punishes working parents as well. We drop our daughter off at daycare around 7:30 am (before the school office is open) and pick her up after 5:15 pm (after the school office is closed) because we work. How are we supposed to get this important form without taking time off work? It’s punitive, it’s backwards, and it’s stupid. Join the 21st century and put the PDF on the SD40 website for crying out loud.

I know some of the School Board trustees for SD40. They’re great people, and they’re extremely focused on improving education for every child in New Westminster. But seriously, School District 40 is the single-most frustrating institution I’ve had to deal with in the past five years. Their policies are stupid and generally lack common sense (the first one I railed about was one that said that a drivers licence couldn’t be proof of residency, yet a vehicle insurance bill was), their website is outdated and difficult to navigate, and there seems to be this culture of doing everything to the letter of the policy. I don’t know if people at SD40 are generally concerned with covering their asses or getting sued or some other such nonsense, but as a parent it’s incredibly frustrating to deal with.

This medication situation is the latest hot mess, and I just know that it won’t be the last.

Oh, and if you’re a parent of a child in New Westminster School District 40 and you’ve come across this post and have some of the same frustrations we do, here’s the Request for Administration of Medication at School form (obtained 29 March 2016, may be out of date depending on when you’re reading this post).

Stop shortening Qayqayt to QQ!

The newest school in New Westminster is École Qayqayt Elementary School. Qayqayt refers to the Qayqayt First Nation, the only registered First Nation in Canada without a land base.

On February 23, 2016 the New Westminster School Board approved a policy to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation, making this the typical first item on the agenda for School Board meetings:

The New Westminster School District recognizes and acknowledges the Qayqayt First Nation, as well as all Coast Salish peoples, on whose traditional and unceded territories we live, we learn, we play and we do our work.

That’s outstanding and commendable. It’s beyond time that we acknowledge that the lands we live and work and play on were not ceded to us by the First Nations people. It’s a time of newfound respect for those who lived and worked the land before Europeans initially settled our area.

So that’s why I really don’t like it when people shorten Qayqayt to QQ. Groups that should really know better, like the Qayqayt Parent Advisory Community, whose website is “qqpac.ca” and Twitter handle is @2QQPAC. Seriously, “qayqaytpac.ca” and “QayqaytPAC” are still available!

I’ve heard from one Qayqayt parent that they shorten it because Qayqayt is difficult to spell. Hey now, that’s a pile of hot mess. Take the five seconds to learn Q-A-Y-Q-A-Y-T. Seriously, it is the very least you could do.

It’s high time for everybody to show a little respect to the Qayqayt First Nation and stop shortening Qayqayt to QQ.

Education Minister tours NWSS

BC Education Minister Mike Bernier recently toured New Westminster Secondary School at the invitation of New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy. NWSS is scheduled to be replaced, and Darcy invited Bernier to show him the deplorable conditions in the school.

“NWSS is in bad shape,” Darcy said. “It’s really put New Westminster on the map, and we want to make sure that the new school reaches new heights in shoddiness to keep New Westminster in focus.”

NWSS principal Phil Cookson pointed out different areas of concern. “As you can see, we have droppings here,” he told Bernier near a crawl space under the Massey wing. “If we can get the Ministry to build the new school in such a way that we attract more rats to our school, we can turn NWSS into the ideal location to study hantavirus and other airborne diseases. Researchers from around the world will flock to NWSS, which will help inspire our children in the future.”

Cookson also highlighted the secondary benefits of the run-down school.

“Any time we have a leak in a pipe, we have to have a hazmat crew come in,” he said. “This helps keep high-paying jobs in the community, teaches our children about safety and disaster planning, and gives our children ideas about jobs in the future. We are also investigating internships with New Westminster Fire & Rescue Services and local water damage restoration and remediation companies.”

School board chair Jonina Campbell was cautiously optimistic.

“Getting the new high school has been a focus of the school board for a number of years. By upgrading NWSS’s dangerous and unteachable state, we hope to keep this issue in the community for years to come so we have something to talk about during the next election.”