Q&A – School Board – Pieter Dorsman

1. What community involvement have you had?
Vice-Chair, West Vancouver Arts Centre Trust (Kay Meek Centre) (2013 – present)
Summits of Hope, fundraising for BC Children’s Hospital (2013 – present)
Chair Lions Bay Community Centre Taskforce (2009 – 2011)
Chair PAC, Lions Bay Community School (2007 – 2010)
Member, Tree Committee Lions Bay (2007 – 2010)

2. How many school board meetings have you attended in the past 3 years?
2 – although I would add that attending board meetings should not be taken as a measure of involvement in local education. Apart from my years as PAC chair, I have had many one-on-one meetings with administration, trustees and teachers as well as volunteered at many events in the West Vancouver district with a view to engage and bring new ideas forward. With two children in the West Vancouver school system right now I have first hand experience with the workings of the district and the way it is governed.

3. What are the challenges facing the school district? How would you address them?
(1) The first one is demographics as reduced enrollment has a direct financial impact on the district and thus on its ability to provide the best possible education which in turn would also mean its ability to compete with private schools.
My Approach: As trustee I will make it a top priority to work with West Vancouver, Bowen Island and Lions Bay municipalities to see how we can address this as it is an issue that affects different levels of government. I am also not opposed to attract students from other districts in order to maintain current enrollment levels.

(2) Challenges of a rapidly changing global environment driven by technology require us to educate a new generation of students for a very uncertain world.
My Approach: I want to ensure our schools are able to adapt to this new landscape and are given all the necessary resources to accomplish this. Schools need to contribute to raising creative, resilient, tech savvy, multilingual, global citizens who have the foundational skills to reinvent and have multiple careers.

(3) What we have in West Vancouver is unique and there is always a danger that districts may be amalgamated by the province and that smaller schools are closed to save costs.
My Approach: I will strongly support the independence that school districts have now and where possible seek to enhance this independence while at the same time supporting and nurturing smaller schools and their unique learning environments.

(4) The labour dispute this summer has left many teachers, parents and students unnerved. While there is a long term contract in place now, the conflict left wounds and the underlying bargaining structure has not changed so this could potentially happen again in the near future.
My Approach: As a school trustee I will make it a top priority that we realize that not a lot is needed to see a breakdown in social relations and that all parties need to work together, every day, to maintain and build out our success as a free, open and shock absorbent society. The art of compromise is central to that. We will have to work with other districts to take this issue to a provincial level and try to establish a new model for labour relationships in education.

(5) Finances in general.  Districts will have to learn to look for alternative sources of funding and build up reserves going into an uncertain economic environment. This is not exclusive to education, all publicly funded sectors in BC will have to become more creative with funding while balancing the books at the same time.
My Approach: I want to start to seriously look at how we can better leverage our resources and find alternative funding mechanisms so we can deliver what our students need and what our staff requires to deliver the education that enables students to compete and co-operate, but also enables the school district to compete effectively with alternative schooling options.

4. What makes an effective school board?
The board provides leadership and good leaders listen.  I think we need to have our ears on the ground and fully understand what the broader community, parents, teachers and administrators value about education and how it should be delivered. That means having an open door for all as informed decisions need to be based on broad community input.
Boards also work best if a variety of skill sets is represented at the table and the five trustees actively collaborate in finding consensus.  Boards that fit this description should be able to figure out any problem or challenge.

5. What action might be taken to compensate for financial losses caused by reduced enrollment of international students?
There is a lot we can do. As I experience daily with 2 children in West Vancouver schools, we have a great public education system and it is in all our interest to not only maintain but build upon what we have. Reduced foreign enrollment can be compensated by increased marketing activity in and close to West Vancouver (win students from other districts and from private schools), but also internationally as Canada is a very attractive place to learn.
But there are other ways to strengthen the district financially.  The previous board set up the framework for the West Vancouver School District Foundation for education.  We need to build this out so as to have a reserve for special initiatives in the future. Other areas that need to be explored are partnerships with local businesses and joint use agreement with local municipalities.  The latter would not directly increase revenue, but could help reduce the districts’ expenditures.

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