West-side residents left unrepresented on DNV Council

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
November 1, 2018
460 words

Homeowners around Edgemont Village have spent several years putting up with construction delays and disruption to their neighbourhood.  Delbrook residents around the proposed development at 600 West Queens Road have been attending public meetings to express their great concerns with the five story building that may soon begin construction. Residents of Lower Capilano and Norgate are preparing for years of their own problems as the new town centre is built at Capilano Road and Marine Drive. If any of these people had hoped that the new District of North Vancouver council would better represent their needs they may be out of luck. When the dust had settled on last month’s elections the geographic divide was evident. Of the 31 people running for office in the District only four lived west of Lonsdale, and only School Board candidates Kulvir Mann and Bruce Devon were elected.

It’s not as if voters in Upper Capilano, Norgate, or Edgemont stayed home instead of voting, it’s because they’re outnumbered two to one by voters in Lynn Valley and Seymour. The 88,000 votes cast for mayoral or council candidates in the east side of the District overwhelmed the 43,000 votes west of Lonsdale. That split reflects the voters list, which had an east west split of 43,200 and 20,800 voters respectively.

Edgemont’s Robin Delany says that it’s premature to say this will be an issue. He feels that “we’ve got six counsellors and a great new mayor coming in, and I’ll trust that all six counsellors would represent all North Van District people equally whether you’re from Lynn Valley or Seymour.” Delaney is sure that all members of council understand that Edgemont Village is suffering badly from construction and development fatigue.

The Delbrook Community Association’s Rene Gourlay is less certain. “We are disappointed in (the result), as we were with the previous council as well. What it means is that council members have no context. They may drop their kids off up here for soccer practice, but they don’t spend time in Edgemont Village like we do; they don’t spend time on Mosquito Creek like we do. It means that we have to be super vigilant to paint a clear picture for a council that has no relationship with the western half of the District.”

Newly elected mayor Mike Little is sure that council can represent everyone in the District. “I think you’re going to find that a lot of the issues are similar no matter where you go in the District. People are concerned with density and traffic; I don’t know that there’s necessarily a big geographic difference in priorities. We just have to make sure that council members are getting out and participating in activities in all communities and making sure that we have a close connection.”

A handbook to keep School Board trustees focused on important work

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
November 1, 2018
519 words

North vancopuver School Board LogoWhen four new trustees join the North Vancouver Board of Education this month they’ll have the advantage of a brand new Trustee handbook.

The 69 page handbook aims to explain the things that Trustees need to know, including explanations of how meetings are run, a detailed explanation of “conflict of interest,” and a list of more than 100 acronyms that they might encounter while doing their work.

The four years of the previous Board were notable for ongoing personal conflicts among trustees, culminating this month with a complaint by outgoing trustee Susan Skinner alleging sexual harassment by a colleague, as well as alleging workplace bullying by other trustees. The handbook was one of several recommendation from governance consultant Lee Southern, who was appointed by Ministry of Education to assist the Board in resolving their organizational problems.

Christie Sacré​
Christie Sacré​

The handbook was written over the course of ten months by a school board staff member, with direction and input by trustees. It tries to answer questions that trustees might have, and define the behaviour that is expected. According to chair Christine Sacré the goal was to take information from existing documents, both at the school board and from the BC School Trustees Association handbook, and tailor it to the needs of North Vancouver.

One important part of the handbook is the explanation of the different roles of a trustee and the School Board staff. The handbook explains it as “Governance is the role of the Board of Education. Operations is the role of Senior Staff and deals with day-to-day functions of the School District. It is recommended that the boundaries be observed and respected.”

The handbook goes to great lengths to explain that a trustee’s job is to develop policy which staff will implement. Trustees are not responsible for the day to day operations of the school system – that lies with the Superintendent. In particular trustees do not have any role to play in managing teachers and other employees. At best they can pass on concerns to the Superintendent who will deal with it through regular channels.

One of the most difficult parts of the handbook dealt with “conflict of interest.” According to Sacré this wasn’t because there was any disagreement about the need for the section, just that everyone was concerned that the language used was exactly what was needed. She explains that new trustees often arrive with specific concerns and aren’t always clear that they now represent all of the members of their community, not just one group or another.

The ultimate goal of the handbook is to help trustees to understand that the power to make policy lies with the entire Board, not with individual trustees. Although trustees can speak out if they disagree with a decision, their first objective is to support the work of the board as whole, and the school district in particular.

Sacré hopes that by making everyone clear on expected behaviour and roles the incoming board can spend the bulk of their time on more important matters like bargaining the new teacher contract, and managing upcoming changes to the provincial funding formula.