On April 25-28, close to 500 trustees, senior district staff, and others attended the 115th Annual General Meeting of the British Columbia School Trustees Association at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond, BC.
With a theme of “Supporting Effective Boards of Education”, the program offered all an opportunity to learn together, work together, and spend some social time together in a collaborative setting. With a large proportion of school trustees in their first term in the role, the theme was most fitting, and by all accounts, the event was extremely successful.
Thursday was a day for both information and inspiration. Shelley Moore, PhD Candidate, UBC, Inclusion Advocate and Consultant, was first to address the participants in a pre-conference session. As always, Shelley provided insight and hope as she talked about inclusion over time and how it has impacted BC classrooms. Deborah Grey followed by talking about strategic planning and how it all boils down to relationships.
In her keynote address in the opening of the conference, Gabrielle Scrimshaw shared stories about her life, outlined demographic shifts in the Indigenous population that are changing Canada, and talked about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the role of education in the process. Attendees left better informed and buoyed by the positive messages delivered over the day.
Friday started with branch meetings held onsite, followed by a full day of education. Starting with more stories and inspiration from Monique Gray Smith, the program continued to be powerful. A wonderful story-teller, Monique weaved a tale of her own journey to Truth and Reconciliation, encouraging the attendees to explore their own roles in the process.
The Honorable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, addressed the group in the morning, expressing his government’s appreciation of the work of boards of education in the province. He referenced the decisions of other provinces that have questioned the value of public boards of education, decisions which he says they “will sorely regret”.
One highlight of the day was the Queneesh Extreme Super Team Drummers, a bucket drumming group from Queneesh Elementary in SD71 (Comox Valley). As Kevin Kaardel, Superintendent from Central Okanagan said of the students, “inspiring performance! So talented!”
Other topics of the day included governance, child care, an experiential approach to working in groups, rules of order, Section 11 appeals, and emergency preparedness. Both new and experienced trustees and others attending were able to find sessions that applied to their own learning journey as people committed to public education in the province. Kulvir Mann, Trustee from North Vancouver SD 44, tweeted “Fantastic Conference – great learning, meeting other BC trustees, … and listening to fantastic speakers.” A sentiment clearly shared by most.
An Innovative Addition to the AGM
For the first time, the BCSTA provided attendees with a mobile app for the AGM. By downloading this app, those attending the conference were able to navigate the event agenda and logistics – even without Wi-Fi or data. They could access useful information about the surrounding area and could effectively network with others at the conference. And, they were able to participate in event activities through session likes, comments, ratings, live polling, tweeting, and more. Given this was the first time the Association employed this kind of tool, it was successful, although a few glitches were identified. It was certainly successful enough to be used again, and more work will be done in the next months to ensure any problems that surfaced will be addressed for the next event.
Saturday was spent conducting the business of the Association, beginning with the election of the 2019 – 2020 BCSTA Board of Directors. Gordon Swan, now past-president, was honoured during the conference in a moving Indigenous Blanket ceremony. The new BCSTA President, Stephanie Higginson, was acclaimed, Carolyn Broady was elected vice-president, and directors Valerie Adrian, Tim Bennet, Mike Murray and Donna Sargent complete the board which was installed on the Saturday.
Debate and decisions on twenty-nine substantive and extraordinary motions took up the largest part of the day. The Legislative Committee, having reviewed the motions submitted for consideration, grouped the motions into eight categories as follows: Extraordinary, Students, BCSTA, Boards of Education, Educational Programs, Teachers/Personnel and Employee Relations, Education Finance, and School Premises, Facilities, and Services.
Lively debate resulted in the majority of motions being passed. Learning from the previous days came to the forefront when trustees referred to messages from speakers such as Gabrielle Scrimshaw and Monique Grey Smith to support motions advanced. Through motions, trustees approved advocacy for additional supports for students in a variety of areas, support for staff and teacher recruitment and retention, and support for facilities and transportation. In addition, motions to support boards of education and to reconsider aspects of the structure of the BCSTA were considered. The full list of motions and their disposition are included in the AGM Report of Proceedings.
Another AGM Successfully Concluded
A big thank you is in order to all the participants who brought their open minds and thoughtful comments to the three days of learning and business. Thanks to all who addressed the group and offered their greetings and inspiring comments. Thanks to the Profession Learning Committee for their work. Responses from the feedback surveys are being tallied, and it is clear that the event was a success. For those who were unable to attend, materials from the AGM are available on the BCSTA HUB. Staff are now preparing for Trustee Academy 2019, where opportunities for more collaboration and learning will be presented.
You can view more photos from the event on our Flickr page.