Video Source: City of Surrey
Video Source: City of Surrey
I’ve been an advocate in community for number of years. I have two children that have attended school in Surrey, one’s graduated now and I have a son in Grade 9 so I’ve been attending PAC meetings and DPAC meetings, and attending Canadian Parents for French. So that’s where the advocacy has taken me, and how I met Cindy and Charlene. We’ve been working together for the last three years…
My other passion besides education is environment, and I think that if we can’t have a good environment, what’s the point of anything else? So I really want to make sure that teachers have the support to raise social justice warriors and I have mad props for Annie Ohana and the work that she is doing, because kids need to be so engaged, because they’re just inheriting a big mess.
When I started with the advocacy a few years ago, we thought we were asking questions about French Immersion and we kept getting answers back about space and capacity, and lack of capital, and portables. Obviously making sure that we have proper space for our students is the number one issue.
[Trustees are] the ambassadors of the District and it’s our job to amplify why Surrey is a good place to work. So many families live here, why wouldn’t you want to work here as well? Making sure that we have the space and resources and programs and the flexibility and the creativity and the personal autonomy in your classrooms to do all the cool amazing things that different teachers want to do to engage your students and making sure that that is really resonating with new hires.
In French Immersion, we know that we’ve lost so many teachers to the English stream, so that speaks to the retention. Why are we losing teachers? They’re still teaching. But why are we losing specialist teachers in one area, and why are they going to a different area? We need a plan to rectify that and change that.
I’ve been really pleased to see that post-secondary institutions are opening up more spaces to train more teachers for the teacher shortage across BC.
That really does come down to an advocacy piece, and making sure that we’re having conversations with the levels of government that provide funding, but also that the collective agreement is being better looked at and adhered to.
I think that that’s a communication piece, and they, both parties, have to really be aware of the decisions that they’re contemplating… how that affects students on the ground, how that affects teachers in their delivery, and all the other support staff that are in schools as well. The point is to make sure we always keep students at the focus of our decisions.
I’ve been frustrated over the years, when I send emails to the trustees and get no response. But also, the whole question & answer periods at the board meetings are just bizarre. They adjourn the meeting, and then the questions
come up, and so they’re not part of the public record. There’s no access to the people; and then staff answer the letters; the trustees don’t answer the letters. This is a public meeting, and why are we not engaging with our community, and our parents better in those meetings? I mean that’s honestly the simplest little tweak – making it public record. We actually created a little Facebook Page: Surrey School Board Questions and Answers so whenever we do get a letter back, we post the letters and the response on this page and then people can check out the answers if they want, and comment on them – which they do!
That’s a great question. We did meet with Joanne Mills (Executive Director for the First Nations Friendship Centre) because we know the protocol agreement is coming up for renewal this year and wanted to see what she had to say, because again, that’s not our personal experience and we don’t want to make assumptions about things. And, really had a very good engaging conversation with her about poverty. Usually when we think of poverty, we think in terms of money and assets but she was really looking at it from a suicide rate when people are in their twenties. So it’s not enough to engage kids when they’re little, we have to make sure that they’re fully supported all the way through to grade 12 and some years after. That just really struck a chord with me, to think of poverty in a life cycle like that. So I think there’s simple, honorable things that need to be done, like land acknowledgements at the board meetings. The key thing; always just to show respect.
I believe my role is to make sure that schools are safe and inclusive spaces for all students of all genders, colours, whatevers, right? It is frustrating to see that there is so much resistance to SOGI, and I’m shocked that there are 2 candidates running on an anti-SOGI platform for trustee this election. I think the kids are all going to be alright. I think they need to know there is support behind them, and then they’re going to drive their destinies forward and create their safe spaces.
That’s what it comes down to. I’m really pleased that we have an NDP government in power right now, and that we’ve seen some really good progress over the last year, in terms of funding announcements for new schools and for additions, and that’s one step, but I think the other, there is a separate advocacy piece that needs to be done with the city. And that has been shockingly and woefully ignored over the last 4-8 years. The politician to politician meetings aren’t even happening other than once every three to four years. There’s a huge engagement piece that needs to be done with the city. It needs to be done.
A needs based budget is an honest reflection of what it takes to do your job. And a balanced budget is this is the money that I’m going to get, and these are the expenses… so that’s where cuts happen.
We’re not seen so much diversity in the admin roles [which] is important because representation matters and it’s important for kids to be represented.