SD51 votes on writing Ministry of Education about free collective bargaining

School District 51 discussed the success of online education, Bill 22 and its new Facebook page at its school board meeting last Tuesday.

Jennifer Turner

Jennifer Turner

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to correct an error on the amount the school board will receive per student.

School District 51 (SD51) discussed the success of online education, Bill 22 and its new Facebook page at its school board meeting last Tuesday.

Bill 22

Board trustees voted on a motion to write a letter to the Ministry of Education for free-collective bargaining.

Trustee Dave Reid moved to create a motion to write to the ministry about not getting into bargaining tactics but support free collective bargaining.

“I don’t agree with either side, but I do agree with the principle that you should be able to bargain freely,” said Reid.

Superintendent Michael Strukoff reminded trustees, “I think we’re a small district at the mercy of big union, big labour and big government.”

Trustee Vicki Gee agreed with Reid.

“I think we should keep it really simple, because if you look at the points, it says they can participate in free collectively bargain after you do this, and all these thing’s too,” she said.

After some discussion, the board is working on writing a letter to the ministry.

Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary Districts Teachers’ Federation, was happy with the verdict.

“I just want to say thank you to this board for passing a motion to write the letter,” he said.

Online education

SD51 has been working on a pilot program for online education since last October.

Online education in the school district is focused on a blended learning style, which incorporates the use of a teacher or facilitator and technology.

The courses are accessed via Moodle (a course management system), and students can learn the course during school or at home.

The program is being used at the Walker Development Centre, Grand Forks Secondary School (GFSS), Boundary Central Secondary School (BCSS) and Big White Community School, and is focused largely on Grades 11 and 12, but also has online courses for Grades 7 to 10.

“The Ministry of Education’s statement of personalized learning is a shift from a set of broad, unified learning conditions to one that is increasingly student-initiated and self-directed,” said Jennifer Turner, co-ordinator for the online learning program and vice-principal for Big White and Walker Development. “That really got all of us in secondary school thinking about what it means and looks like. Are we meeting these needs?”

The online courses have been successful, starting from 11 courses in October to 94 courses, with currently 216 students.

“What is most efficient is a blended method so you use technology, you use course curriculum, you use content material, you use things on technology to enrich what the teacher is able to deliver,” stated Turner. “So there is a side-by-side facilitation of content to increase learning achievements.”

Courses include sciences, law, grad transitions, english and geography.

As SD51 expands on online education, next year will also see a common bell schedule for GFSS and BCSS starting September 2012.

A common bell schedule would see both schools run on the same hours.

New bus

SD51 has purchased a new bus using capital monies of $127,370.

Jeanette Hanlon’s Secretary-Treasurer Report stated, “This year the province did the negotiating on prices so we can choose the vendor and order the bus. We standardized on Bluebird (buses) quite a few years ago, so we will buy another Bluebird bus.”

Buses within the school district also underwent their annual maintenance schedule as a part of the Preventative Maintenance Program.

Facebook page ready for trial period

A trial run for SD51’s new Facebook page will run until the end of June.

“What we’ve done is so far is we posted some messages and a photo gallery. We’ve posted pictures from around the Boundary from various communities and the next step is to put up pictures of every school to add to it,” explained Strukoff. “If you friend the school district page, it will show up on your Facebook page.”

The Facebook page is aimed to keeping parents quickly informed about meetings and school updates, such as spring break and agenda items for a board meeting.

Board trustees are currently deciding when Facebook should be allowed to be accessible during school hours.

“We have the ability to say before school, during lunch and after school, students can access Facebook,” added Strukoff. “We can do those sort of things so that during the instructional periods, the bandwidth is available for the learning work and not Facebook.”

To join the Facebook page, go to


The 2012 budget for SD51 will be announced April 11 and 12.

Hanlon pointed out the board will maintain a per pupil amount of $6,784.00.

“(The province) gave an extra bit for the Education Plan, $27,000, but there is currently no parameters set for that,” stated Hanlon. “It’s a one time only.”

SD51 is funded through the province based on full-time equivalent students.

Hanlon stated the only time a student wouldn’t be considered a full-time student is when they are in Grade 10, 11 or 12, and each course is worth 1.25 credits.

Programs for young boys

In partnership with the Boundary Family and Provincial Services Society, SD51 has received a grant to promote more activities for males.

“It’s another after school youth program that’s much needed and if we didn’t have those buses it wouldn’t be possible,” stated Director of Instruction Maxine Ruzicka. “This is a federal grant for three years, specifically for men and boys.”

The after school activities bus allows students to be engaged with activities after school and return home later.

Ruzicka pointed out that a lot of programs currently focus on supporting women through hard times but there are not many services for men.

Two and a half years ago, Ruzicka sat in on a collaborative meeting for a part of a Kootenay Boundary grant that focused on activities for boys.

“Everything was about girls back then, there girls up all night and girls viewing and everybody was wondering ‘what about the boys?’” said Ruzicka. “The questions was, what is there for the boys from Grades 4 to 7 to be involved in.”

This grant has been successful for West Boundary Elementary and Beaverdell Christian Valley students.

The next school board meeting will be held in Midway at the Boundary Learning Centre on April 10, at 6 p.m.