Parents may be missing out on a golden opportunity to interact with their elected officials, by choosing not to attend school board meetings on a regular basis.
A discussion about the issue was sparked by trustees at Tuesday night’s board meeting at Harrison Hot Springs elementary, while deciding on protocol for trustee attendance at Parent Advisory Council meetings.
The board was sent a letter reminding them to select PAC trustee liaisons, who would attend the parent-led meetings at the schools in their area.
Trustee Tom Hendrickson said “some parents may be intimidated” by the mere presence of a trustee, and suggested they only go to PAC meetings if they’re invited.
“Leave the PACs to work with the principals,” he said. “And let them do their job.”
Trustee Rose Tustian agreed with that statement.
“Those aren’t our committee meetings,” she said. “I agree with Tom. If we’re not invited, we shouldn’t go.”
But the board didn’t see eye to eye on that sentiment.
“I have the opposite view,” Trustee Linda McMullan said. “If you’re there, they can ask you questions and that may be their only chance (to do so).”
Having a trustee at PAC meetings can only help the PAC do its job, Trustee Al Fraser said.
“What they do at their meeting is enhanced by having us there,” he said.
But it was brought up that school board meetings are always open to the public, and the public often doesn’t show up. Because the Fraser Cascade School District spans such a wide area, the monthly board meetings are held in a rotating list of schools, along with the board office in Hope. This way, parents and staff in communities such as Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Boston Bar are able to meet with their elected trustees in their own area.
The beginning of each meeting includes a presentation from the hosting school’s principal. This month’s meeting was hosted by Harrison Hot Springs principal Mark Classen, for example.
Tustian suggested that could be solved by traveling even more, to be more accessible. But Hendrickson said the issue is “everywhere.”
“You go to Hope, and how many people come out?” he asked.
Principal Classen and the media were the only members of the public to attend this month’s board meeting.
For those who are not able to make it to meetings, the school district has initiated several ways of interacting with the public online. District Dialogue is a downloadable newsletter available at their website. Also on that website is a list of audio files of the meetings as they happened.
The trustees also just completed a two-day tour of schools throughout the Fraser Cascade District.
“In all the time that I’ve been in this district, I don’t think I’ve been as proud of this district as the two days we went through,” said Trustee Marv Cope.
The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the District Education Office in Hope, on February 28.
Snow day applause
All trustees, along with Superintendent Dr. Karen Nelson, had words of praise for those in charge of removing snow for students during the winter storm in January. District schools began closing Monday at about lunch time, and were closed for the entire week.
The snow also caused the cancellation of the January board meeting, and the planned educational opportunities for teachers and staff on the Professional Development Day on Friday, January 20.
“The snow storm created a lot of problems for everybody,” Al Fraser said. “The calls to close schools were good calls. We could have called students back the one day, but you would have ended up sending everyone home again, like in Chilliwack.”
He said the “micro-climates” from Boston Bar to Harrison make it difficult to call for a District-wide closure.
“I want to thank everyone,” Nelson said. “What happened was when we came back into session, there was still a lot of snow on the sidewalks … Teachers really came out and helped supervise our students getting (to school) safely. Everyone came together at that time.”
Trustee Ron Johnstone added that the snow removal in the District of Kent was “fabulous.”