Q&A – School Board – Nicole Brown

 1. What community involvement have you had? How many school board meetings have you attended in the past 3 years?
I have a strong record of public service in our community and am very proud to have been selected to receive the 2014 West Vancouver Community Award for Civic Commitment.
Over the past decade, I have been actively involved with the West Vancouver Memorial Library serving as a Trustee on the Library Board (2004-2008) and later, Chair of the Library Foundation (2009-2014). I ran all major fundraisers for the library between 2008-2012 and over $1M was contributed to programs and improvements for the Library during this time.
For the past two years I have been the Chair of École Pauline Johnson’s Parent Advisory Council and I am also a member of the District Parent Advisory Council Executive.  In preparation for this role I have attended 5 School Board meetings as well as 3 Finance and Facilities meetings. I have also attended many West Vancouver District meetings regarding community affairs.

 2. What are the challenges facing the school district? How would you address them?
West Vancouver has a very strong public school system and parents, students and residents should feel confident that every child is receiving an excellent educational experience.  However, there are challenges that need to be addressed going forward.

Technology in our Schools – Challenges and Opportunities.  Our schools are integrating technology into students’ day-to-day learning in remarkable ways and “bring your own device’ is the new normal.  I led our school’s Technology Committee in 2013/2014 and learned firsthand about the challenges our district is facing in this exciting but transitional time.   A public system must have supports in place for students that cannot afford their own devices.  Our teachers need training on how to use these powerful tools to their full advantage in classrooms. School libraries need to be modernized so that they can continue to be a vital and relevant resource for students and staff. Digital literacy in a competitive 21st century environment is not optional for our young people, it is a lifeskill.
Engage and Support ELL Students.  West Vancouver’s demographics are changing and this is reflected in an increasing number of English Language Learners (ELL).  SD45 has identified 924 ELL students enrolled at school this fall, up from just over 700 three years ago.  Our district’s ability to offer support for these students at school and reaching out to engage their families is critical to building a cohesive school community and society. I will fully support existing District programs like SWIS (Settlement Workers in Schools) that help connect newcomers to West Vancouver but will also focus my efforts on establishing additional relationships with existing multicultural agencies that provide outreach services across the lower mainland.
Collaborative Partnerships – Public and Private.  The building of bridges with other school districts, government leaders and community organizations leads to idea sharing and opens the door for collaboration.  Beyond these relationships in the public sphere, private donors and organizations may also be interested in partnering with our school district to fund unique projects or programs.  My experience on the Library Foundation involved many such partnerships and I will be open to bringing some of the creative approaches forward to the School Board. It is important to be mindful about any marketing or messaging that impacts students, but this sensitive area can be navigated with careful consideration.
3. What makes an effective school board?
The West Vancouver Board of Education for School District #45 is a corporate board and all trustees are expected to work together to make decisions and form policies that are collectively believed to be in the best interests of West Vancouver students and residents. Board solidarity and willingness to work collaboratively and respectfully with one another – and the staff – will result in better outcomes.
An effective school board should be laser-focused on student achievement as the key priority in all decisions.  Trustees are also accountable to the community and are expected to manage their resources wisely.  Taxpayers and parents want policy makers to ask appropriate questions, regularly measure and report on ROI of the education dollars spent and carefully manage their budgets.
4. What action might be taken to compensate for financial losses caused by reduced enrolment of international students?
West Vancouver’s International Student Program has been in place since 1982 and is very successful.  The 2014/2015 school year is hosting the largest cohort to date with 625 students enrolled in the program. Our school district continues to be a big draw for new students around the world and many of our international candidates have decided to return.  Last year, the program brought in $8 million in revenues.  The funds are a significant part of the SD45 budget, however, it is important that a balance is maintained.  West Vancouver, Lions Bay and Bowen Island families must be confident that their children are receiving an excellent educational experience that is not overshadowed by the success of this program. As School Trustee, I will make every effort to ensure that our district can adequately absorb the influx of international students. The goal is excellence in education for everyone in our schools.

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