School District 51 discusses sexual orientation policy

The new SD51 board had its first official meeting last week and amongst the topics discussed, a sexual orientation policy.

From L-R: SD51 Director of Instruction Maxine Ruzicka

Last week marked the first official school board trustee meeting with new and experienced trustees gathering to discuss past success and next year initiatives.

Topics ranged from new math programs and policies, to issues of involving young boys in classrooms.

Sexual orientation policy

Recent news reports of bullying and name-calling around the country have raised the issue of creating a sexual orientation policy for School District 51 (SD51).

SD51 currently has a broader policy that mentions name-calling and bullying within a list of other topics, but nothing specified towards the education and treatment of sexual orientation.

“It’s a bit jarring to be reading about sexual orientation issues then the next item is about bringing weapons to school,” said trustee Vicki Gee.

Gee noted other school districts had some policies, but hopes to make sexual orientation a separate policy in this district.

“Those policies that combine the issue with general bullying missed the point,” she noted. “The reason I think it should be a policy is because I think it’s different from other forms of discrimination and bullying.”

Norm Sabourin, president for Boundary District Teacher’s Association, brought forward the topic of sexual orientation because it is an important to discuss.

“I urge the trustees to pursue this and look into it,” said Sabourin. “I realize that there’s a lot of work and research that needs to go into this, in light of some recent suicides attributed to gay bashing and I hope that the board looks at this in a pro-active way.”

JumpMath aims high

A new mathematics program aimed at Grade 4 to 8 students involves pre and post-testing on numeracy for the next two years.

Developed in Toronto, the program involves 28 teachers participating across the district.

The program resource materials cost the district $25,000.

“One of the first schools to use it was Big White, then West Boundary jumped on.

“This whole issue around numeracy started because of complaints from Grade 8 teachers about elementary school teachers not being prepared adequately (to teach),” explained SD51 Superintendent Michael Strukoff. “We’re thinking the Grade 8 teachers should jump in as well.”

More engagement needed from boys

Girls continue to out-perform boys in humanities, and now mathematics and sciences.

“Boys are still graduating,” stated Strukoff. “But when you look at academic achievement, you can see the difference.”

According to the Superintendent’s report, 15 per cent more girls in Grades 10 to 12 achieved a higher-grade average over the boys over the last five years.

Board chair Teresa Rezansoff stated a lot of research is currently being done on how to encourage boys in classes.

“We’re missing an engagement piece with the boys,” said Rezansoff. “But it’s on our radar.”

Maxine Ruzicka, director of instruction, said, “I think as we move forward we will see some gains over time.”

Ruzicka pointed out that there are already some programs starting up this spring to address the issue, including a boys mentoring program in Greenwood and West Boundary region to start after Christmas, and one in Grand Forks to begin in spring.

Board, council and directors to meet

Rezansoff proposed a meeting between city officials, regional district directors and the board to foster a working relationship with all areas of government.

“It would be a nice opportunity for us to be the host and invite councillors and all other elected municipal people,” she stated.

Board representatives assigned

New representatives were elected for the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA), B.C. Public School Employer’s Association (BCPSEA) and the Okanagan Labor Relations Council (OLRC).

Cathy Riddle was elected a provincial counsellor for the BCSTA, with Dave Reid as her alternate, while Cindy Strukoff was elected as trustee representative for BCPSEA, with Vicki Gee as her alternate.

Okanagan Labor Relations Council trustee representative is Dave Reid, and secretary-treasurer Jeanette Hanlon will be the alternate.

Gradeless report cards

Even though report cards have gone home, no marks have been assigned to students.

Strukoff stated, “The School Act legislation specifies that despite job action, report cards must be issued.”

The release of report cards was delayed until last week as the Ministry of Education pondered if report cards should be deemed an essential service.

Boundary Central and Grand Forks Secondary School has planned to mail report cards out to ensure it is taken home, while elementary schools in the SD51 district will be distributing the cards home with students.

Report cards will contain basic information but no marks, unless an administrator teaches the class.

Sabourin felt it was a waste to send out blank report cards.

“I think it’s being done to make the B.C. Teachers’ Federation look bad,” he added.