Annual report of the Chairperson

As I reflect on the past year, the proverb about living in interesting times comes to mind, and the question it raises about whether doing so is a blessing or a curse. There have indeed been some moments that felt somewhat cursed, but overall I believe we are truly blessed to be part of this complex and wonderful organization known as the VSB.

Like every year in the district, 2010 has been one filled with successes of many kinds, some small and some large.  These successes take place everyday in schools as lives are transformed through teaching and learning.

Last June, 3,873 students graduated from our schools and this September another 52,000 students began another school year. This fall our all-day kindergarten enrolment grew from just under 1,500 students to 2,267 as we rolled out the first phase of the universal all-day kindergarten program. We also have 2,668 students enrolled in adult education   programs and another 1,431 taking courses through VLN.

The school year start up was not an easy one, with the implementation of a series of deep spending reductions and the failure of our student information system. However our schools and the dedicated professionals who work in them focused getting students in classes and supporting them in their learning, even in the face of daunting challenges. As a board I know we all appreciate the tremendous effort and commitment consistently demonstrated by our administrators, teachers, support workers and other school staff members. We see the results of their work each time we visit a school or share in a celebration. There is so much to be proud of in Vancouver schools.

As a board of elected trustees, we continue to work to ensure to support the important work of teaching and learning and we continue to advocate for the resources to enable our schools to fully meet the needs of every student.

Looking back on 2010, I would like to highlight some significant points that helped define the year.

In January of 2010 we were very pleased to welcome our new Superintendent of Schools, Steve Cardwell, to the district. We were very fortunate to have Steve join us and of course he went right to work in taking on the role and getting out to schools.

February of course brought us the Olympic Winter Games and all the excitement that went along with them.

In March we began to work on what was a very challenging budget process as we faced an initial $18 million funding shortfall. A preliminary balance budget was submitted in early April containing a series of deep cuts that caused tremendous concern and public reaction. Parents wrote hundreds and letters and staged rallies to demand for funding for the VSB.

Then on April 14 the Minister of Education appointed a Special Advisor to investigate how we were managing the district's finances. This appointment came in the middle of the budget process and the board agreed to delay approval of a final budget until after the Advisor's report was completed. This meant waiting until June to approve a final operating budget for 2010/11. The Board appreciated the patience of families and employees for all of the uncertainly a delayed budget created.

During this period the board also approved a change to the school calendar, reducing the school year by 10 days in order to achieve some budget savings.

June was a busy month in which we approved a budget that was very similar to the initial proposal although the board agreed to restore some of the initially proposed cuts. The budget meeting also included notification of potential school closure - starting with a look at 11 schools.

In June the board also approved the concept plan for the Kitsilano Secondary seismic school renewal plan.

Board members attended and shared in many year-end celebrations and graduation ceremonies, which is always a great way to end a school year.

In the summer and early fall we also celebrated the contributions and years of service of four of our associate superintendents who retired after distinguished careers with the VSB - Gary Little, Lynn Green, Sonia Hutson and Laurie Anderson.

At the end of summer we welcomed two new Associate Superintendents to the district, Jordan Tinney and Marueen Ciarnello and they quickly stepped in to support our challenging start to the school year.

October took us into phase two of the school closure process and the paring down of the original list to five schools.

School closure discussions dominated much of November and I would like to express the board's gratitude to all of the parents, students, community members and staff who made time to so passionately participate in our robust consultation process. I also want to thank staff members for their work in supporting the consultation process.

The end of November marked the last working day for Secretary Treasurer Brenda Ng, who will also be retiring after decades of dedicated and outstanding service to the district. We wish our retiring employees well and thank them for their immeasurable contributions to the district.

I want to thank our District Management Team members for their support, long hours and professional expertise and advice through this year. Thank you also to the staff in our schools who work daily with the students we're all here to serve.  Thank you to all the other VSB staff members who work in this building and throughout the district. Thank you to the parents who support us and our schools, and thank you to all the many stakeholders who participate in our decision-making processes.

It continues to be an honour to serve on this board and represent it as chair. As we focus our work on finding the best solutions we can for this district, I want to thank each board member for sharing your specific qualities and areas of interest and expertise to our discussions. Each trustee strengthens the whole of this board and I appreciate and value the contributions of everyone.

So thank you - to all of you. And best wishes for 2011. 

Respectfully submitted by

Patti Bacchus

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