Stating My Vote, Asking My Questions

At the last Special Open Board Meeting (May 6), we debated the revenue-generating proposals with the intention to let staff know whether they can include the revenue in the budget. I don't know all the details but the Finance Department has been working to cost out all the proposals; the email load amongst the trustees have gotten a bit unruly. I suspect this will  give them a bit more certainty so they can narrow down the things they need to juggle in the air.

I often forget that I get to waltz in and ask esoteric questions and the staff have to come up with an answer. At one of the Facilities Planning Meetings I threw a curve-ball question at Directors of Instruction Adrian Keough and John Dawson: could Henry Hudson become a single-track French Immersion school? What would be the consequences of that? I was actually really impressed by the very calm answer from Mr Dawson. Purely from memory, he listed out the surrounding schools and their capacity – all full or nearly full where English catchment is concerned – and also the status of seismic upgrades in the neighbouring schools – Bayview is the only one and it's past the stage to ask for an expansion. The conclusion I drew from that is that even more English catchment children would be displaced, and to further away schools, as many of the neighbouring schools are already full.

But I digress. The budget proposals vote did not turn out to be a straightforward one (really, no vote has been straightforward so far). Trustee Fraser Ballantyne moved to pass all three proposals, to get the ball rolling. A few of us wanted to make some amendments and had many comments to make. My one big idea was for the school supplies fees (elementary school only) to be paid on a sliding scale. Currently families can opt out or pay a reduced fee if they speak to the school admin. Based on my knowledge of families who have done this, I know this to be a fairly straight-forward, no-questions-asked procedure (kudos to Associate Superintendent David Nelson to DPs and school-based principals for handling this superbly year after year), but ideally I want folks to not even have to ask; sometimes asking is its own barrier.

My second hope, as I stated in the meeting, was actually to raise the fees even higher with the sliding scale. If we rig the scale the right way, we have the potential to bring in more revenue while explicitly allowing everyone to pay what they can. My hunch is that we have many families who are willing and able to pay the upper end of the scale (and a subset who are able but not willing and that's OK too).

My suggestion came late in the process though. I'm getting the sense that it would be onerous for staff to not have a pass/fail decision that night, so I decided to step aside for this year's vote with the intention to revisit the proposal in a future year.

I made a point of stating these assumptions and rationale as best I could before the vote. Trustee Carmen Cho did a really stellar rationale for her EFI vote at the previous open board meeting (April 29) and I'm trying to do something similar. I find the votes of some other trustees a little opaque sometimes – I could make assumptions about their rationales based on their line of questioning and on how they voted previously but it would be nice to actually hear them state it.

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