Q&A – School Board – Irene Leschert

1.    What community involvement have you had? How many school board meetings have you attended in the past 3 years?
My main community involvement encompasses two areas:  our schools, and the broader North Shore.
My work in the schools began when our youngest entered kindergarten 10 years ago, and continues today.  I have held Chair positions on both the elementary and high school Parent Councils, and served a two year term as President of the District Parent Council.
My commitment to the broader community is reflected in my 10 year involvement as a Director, including two years as Board Chair, of the Harvest Project; a non-profit charity helping North Shore families through difficult times.
I have attended approximately five board meetings over the past 3 years, and 15 prior to that.
 2.    What are the challenges facing the school district? How would you address them?
I see two main challenges facing the school district, neither of which is unique to West Vancouver.
The first challenge is adequate funding.  To make the right budgetary choices, we must know our educational priorities with absolute clarity.  We must continue to advocate for higher per-student funding levels, knowing the provincial government must make difficult decisions in light of multiple challenges and priorities.  We must be open to additional sources of revenue and tirelessly pursue cost savings.
The second challenge relates to tensions created by the 21st Century Learning approach adopted by the B.C. Ministry of Education.   From Ministry publications:  “Such a system is one that individualizes learning so students engage in issues important to them. … engaging the student in charting their own path”.   One tension affecting our schools lies between the importance of community, and the importance of the individual.   Another tension lies between a student’s desire to follow “their own path”, and the need for a mastery of basic skills.  This mastery (broad and deep readers, excellent oral and written communicators, and students fluent and strong in mathematics) allows for the most effective creative process in discerning and creating an individualized path.  Conversations about addressing these tensions are best had with our Administrators (building community) and Directors of Instruction (enhancing basic skills).

3.    What makes an effective school board?
An effective school board:
1)  clearly understands its roles and responsibilities  (particularly differences  between Board and Management)
2)  understands, and adopts, good governance practices
3)  is united in educational priorities, and united in voice
4)  understands “the market”
5)  works from a platform of confidentiality and respect
6)  is a champion for public education.

4.    What action might be taken to compensate for financial losses caused by reduced enrollment of international students?
The answer to this question ties into Question 2) above.
We cannot assume any provincial budget shortfall will annually be made up by international student fees.  Being absolutely clear on our educational priorities is essential.  The Board must remain open to alternate sources of revenue; ideas can come from alumni, local businesses, educational suppliers, and other school districts.   Cost savings must be adopted wherever possible, whether working from our own district, or partnering with other school districts.  We cannot, however, compromise educational integrity for the sake of expediency.

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