Qualicum School District trustees want answers from B.C. Liberals

A motion to send a letter to B.C. Liberal Party president passed 3-2

A motion by School District 69 (Qualicum) Trustee Julie Austin to write to Premier Christie Clark and Education Minister Mike Bernier in response to a B.C. Liberal Party convention resolution was amended to instead ask the party president for “clarification and ramifications” of a call to return to letter grading in public schools during Tuesday’s school board meeting in Parksville.

Austin’s motion came in response to a resolution submitted by a pair of Prince George constituencies at the party’s convention earlier this month seeking “the return to issuing letter grades at every level in every course to ensure a clear assessment of relative (student) progress at each step.”

Austin argued the resolution, which passed, seems to contradict the current direction of education policy set by the government. The Ministry of Education is in the midst of a province-wide curriculum update that includes more local control of communicating student learning, even to allowing the old report card method to be scrapped.

Austin asked the board to sign a letter to the premier and the education minister “seeking clarification and ramifications to public education of this motion ….”

But SD69 Board Chair Eve Flynn noted the resolution was not a government policy, and was still in the domain of the Liberal Party convention.

“However much we want to disagree, it’s a long way from (policy),” said Flynn. “It’s the property of the convention floor. For us to participate in this, I don’t think it’s our position to take at this time.”

School Superintendent Rollie Koop added he had spoken directly to Deputy Education Minister Dave Byng earlier Tuesday about the implications of the convention proposal.

“(Byng) was clear this was typical activity in party conventions in the run-up to an election,” Koop said. “In every case, what you’re seeing is delegates trying to send a message to the party on things they want to see in the platform; this motion is not binding on the party or the government.

“He was clear the minister and the cabinet are committed to the current direction as they relate to student assessment, communication and reporting of student assessment.”

Austin thanked Koop for that information, but said she had found out about the resolution on social media, which placed it in the public domain. She and fellow trustee Elaine Young both agreed it called for a public response, but Trustee Jacob Gair asked if the premier and minister were the right people to make that response.

“If it’s not binding on the government, should we address it to someone else?” Gair asked. “For example, the party president or the representatives at the convention? Would that be appropriate?”

Trustee Barry Kurland initially said he “saw no problem” with sending the letter, but then reversed himself, saying he was satisfied with Deputy Minister Byng’s response to the superintendent.

After more discussion, Gair’s suggestion was taken as an amendment. The board struck the premier and the minister as recipients but voted 3-2 to write and forward the letter to the party president.

Austin, Young and Gair voted for the motion, with Kurland and Flynn opposed.

– Also, see EDITORIAL: Reacting to balloons, under Opinion on this website and page A10 in the Nov. 24 edition of The NEWS

A motion by School District 69 (Qualicum) Trustee Julie Austin to write to Premier Christie Clark and Education Minister Mike Bernier in response to a B.C. Liberal Party convention resolution was amended to instead ask the party president for “clarification and ramifications” of a call to return to letter grading in public schools during Tuesday’s school board meeting in Parksville.

Austin’s motion came in response to a resolution submitted by a pair of Prince George constituencies at the party’s convention earlier this month seeking “the return to issuing letter grades at every level in every course to ensure a clear assessment of relative (student) progress at each step.”

Austin argued the resolution, which passed, seems to contradict the current direction of education policy set by the government. The Ministry of Education is in the midst of a province-wide curriculum update that includes more local control of communicating student learning, even to allowing the old report card method to be scrapped.

Austin asked the board to sign a letter to the premier and the education minister “seeking clarification and ramifications to public education of this motion ….”

But SD69 Board Chair Eve Flynn noted the resolution was not a government policy, and was still in the domain of the Liberal Party convention.

“However much we want to disagree, it’s a long way from (policy),” said Flynn. “It’s the property of the convention floor. For us to participate in this, I don’t think it’s our position to take at this time.”

School Superintendent Rollie Koop added he had spoken directly to Deputy Education Minister Dave Byng earlier Tuesday about the implications of the convention proposal.

“(Byng) was clear this was typical activity in party conventions in the run-up to an election,” Koop said. “In every case, what you’re seeing is delegates trying to send a message to the party on things they want to see in the platform; this motion is not binding on the party or the government.

“He was clear the minister and the cabinet are committed to the current direction as they relate to student assessment, communication and reporting of student assessment.”

Austin thanked Koop for that information, but said she had found out about the resolution on social media, which placed it in the public domain. She and fellow trustee Elaine Young both agreed it called for a public response, but Trustee Jacob Gair asked if the premier and minister were the right people to make that response.

“If it’s not binding on the government, should we address it to someone else?” Gair asked. “For example, the party president or the representatives at the convention? Would that be appropriate?”

Trustee Barry Kurland initially said he “saw no problem” with sending the letter, but then reversed himself, saying he was satisfied with Deputy Minister Byng’s response to the superintendent.

After more discussion, Gair’s suggestion was taken as an amendment. The board struck the premier and the minister as recipients but voted 3-2 to write and forward the letter to the party president.

Austin, Young and Gair voted for the motion, with Kurland and Flynn opposed.

– Also, see EDITORIAL: Reacting to balloons, under Opinion on this website and page A10 in the Nov. 24 edition of The NEWS