March Break 2015?


#1

Interesting article about SD 52’s deliberations on March Break in the Northern View.

thenorthernview.com/news/246004051.html

A couple of questions:

Ms. Last are you the owner/operator of a small business that I believe might be impacted, either positively or negatively by the board’s decision? If so, will you abstain from voting on the issue because of a possible or perceived conflict of interest? (Honest question!)

Ms. Beil was it your intention to slam those living in poverty for being unable to provide food to a level and quality deemed adequate? As for those non-impoverished families that just provide unhealthy meals – I would really be interested in the factual / statistical basis for that claim – isn’t that an issue for agencies (other than schools) better equipped to deal with it?

To Ms. Gruber, thank you for bringing some rational thought to Ms. Beil’s alarmism.


#2

An extra week of Black Ops for a lot of the youth… perfect.

Though my place of employment definitely benefits from an extended Spring Break, I see where the concerns are coming from. Adding 10 minutes a day of school! Excellent! Reminds me of the places that have an additional 15 or so minutes each day added on in order to have every second Friday off… except with zero benefit education wise.


#3

[quote=“chien22”]Interesting article about SD 52’s deliberations on March Break in the Northern View.

thenorthernview.com/news/246004051.html

A couple of questions:

Ms. Last are you the owner/operator of a small business that I believe might be impacted, either positively or negatively by the board’s decision? If so, will you abstain from voting on the issue because of a possible or perceived conflict of interest? (Honest question!)

Ms. Beil was it your intention to slam those living in poverty for being unable to provide food to a level and quality deemed adequate? As for those non-impoverished families that just provide unhealthy meals – I would really be interested in the factual / statistical basis for that claim – isn’t that an issue for agencies (other than schools) better equipped to deal with it?

To Ms. Gruber, thank you for bringing some rational thought to Ms. Beil’s alarmism.[/quote]

Well in the spirit of full disclosure on the topic.

You forgot the other takeaway from the article you reference:

Kathy Murphy, president of the Prince Rupert and District Teachers’ Union (PRDTU), said 69 per cent of teachers voted in favour of a two-week spring break.

Any background on why the PRDTU believes the two week break is a good idea?

If the desired two week break is going to be made up only in increments of ten minutes per school day, it seems that the SD may have a case against the concept.


#4

“How can you replace a week in a classroom with a teacher by adding 10 minutes to each day. In my mind all that does is satisfy the ministry’s requirements for the number of hours of instruction,”

This is the first thing that came to my mind.


#5

You can’t take a week of school away from my kid and replace it in 10 minute increments. I’m usually more constrained than this… but this idea is fucking bullshit. How does an extra week off benefit the students? I’m so sick of a system that seems to focus on everything else, but what’s in thier best interest.


#6

If you look at who is driving this, and who benefits most, it becomes obvious why the public is fed up. And this crass selfishness affects public opinion on other issues. Is it any wonder?


#7

I am not sure how many, but several districts already have a two week spring break. Richmond parents voted overwhelming to keep the two week spring break that had been in affect for three years. sd38.bc.ca/district_content/ … simpleview

What I have yet to figure out is the reason for the extension, so the answers to three questions might help.

Question One: What is the educational rationale for adding an extra week at spring break?

Question Two: What are the economic implications of adding an extra week at spring break?

Question Three: If it only takes the addition of 10 minutes a day to add an extra week at spring break, why not add 20 minutes or even an hour a day and get two or even six extra weeks at spring break?

Question Three, of course, is facetious, but if there are legitimate answers to question one then where is the tipping point? If there are in fact educational advantages to a longer spring break, then why just stop at two. On the flip side, if there are no educational advantages, then the discussion should be over - unless of course the saving of money is so advantageous that we are willing to sacrifice the week rather than face more severe cuts to programs.

But please people, whatever your opinion is on this topic, don’t just rant here. Let the trustees know.


#8

10 minutes a day that is a joke why not take the teachers instructional days, ie when school is out for one day of the month and just take them during the 2 week spring break


#9

Sir Ryan: In the body of your comment you stated:

“Though my place of employment definitely benefits from an extended Spring Break, I see where the concerns are coming from.”

Thank you for recognizing the concern I started this thread with.

More specifically the District’s Master Policy Manual states in part (2.3.1) that board members must:

“represent unconflicted loyalty to the interests of the community at large. This accountability supersedes any conflicting loyalty to advocacy or interest groups, other councils or boards or personal interest.”

My question was based on the Board’s policy…. it was a question, not an accusation. It will be interesting to see what decisions are made.


#10

Old Major: In the interests of full disclosure, I did fully disclose the article by providing the link. I stated clearly my intent – to ask a couple of questions and raise a concern…and followed through.

As you are aware, I suspect, in any ‘take away’ situation you don’t select the whole menu…only what you are interested in. Sort of like you did by choosing to focus on the union and thus ‘change the channel’ for a time.

As to why the PRDTU members decided to vote that way – no idea. But as in most democratically run organizations the overall reason for a vote might be hard to determine.

Section 87.01.7 of the School Act referring to setting the calendar requires the Board “consult with parents of the students enrolled in the school and representatives of employees of the board assigned to the school”. Our board appears to widen its’ consultation process.

Since the process for setting the yearly calendar is determined by the school act the Board is following its’ responsibilities to consult with partner groups. Any partner group can, I believe, ask for a change to the calendar…the PRDTU, parents, business groups etc. The final decision and determination of which, if any, changes will be made, is the sole responsibility and right of the board.

Crazy Horse: I believe the provincial government and the local school board are ‘driving this’ –as required by the School Act and Board Policy. If you are so upset you might decide to vote them out at your next opportunity.

Old Major: by saying: “If the desired two week break is going to be made up only in increments of ten minutes per school day, it seems that the SD may have a case against the concept” you are suggesting that rather than meet their obligation to ‘consult’ the Board is approaching partner groups to ‘build a case’…well see my advice re: the local school board in my response to Crazy Horse. (By the way a recent court ruling indicated going into a consultation with a plan and your mind made up is not consulation.)

To all: Imagine: You’re in a restaurant with a companion. You ask your companion what they would like. Your companion chooses. Someone jumps up, says that ‘idea is fucking bullshit’ and launches into a mini rant because they disagree with your companion’s choice: you’ve just met Crazy Mike. (Don’t be concerned with the behavior, just ignore it – everyone else does).

Overall, such negativity toward the Board and the elected Provincial Government, people!


#11

You might have your wires crossed a little I think… possibly assuming you know where I am employed or who I am?

My places of employment benefit greatly from Spring Break, and even moreso if Spring Break is extended… except that my places of employment have nothing to do with Mrs** (yes, she is married) Last or her personal life outside of the Board.


#12

Sorry Sir Ryan, I was assuming nothing about your place of employment…I was referring specifically to the last part of your sentence, specifically: “I see where the concerns are coming from.” I am not even suggesting that you agree with my concern - only that you recognized it.Thank you again. My apology. Chien22


#13

Why quote me "“represent unconflicted loyalty to the interests of the community at large. This accountability supersedes any conflicting loyalty to advocacy or interest groups, other councils or boards or personal interest.”"in the follow up post if you weren’t…

I have to agree with CrazyMike, there is zero benefit to adding 10 minutes to each day, to allow for an extended Spring Break. That would end up being what? 2.5 minutes for each class (Oh boy!) which would just end up being 2.5 minutes of FlappyBirds playing in each class at the higher levels of education (high school). I would rather see an additional hour added to every Monday or Friday each week. At least in an hour something productive could happen (high score for FlappyBirds!)


#14

Couple of points:

  1. I have never read a study that indicates that extending Spring Break is a good thing for students.

  2. I have read a number of articles that state that one of the problems that is often encountered in education is called “Summer Learning Loss”. Essentially, children fail to retain through the summer all of what they learned during the school year.

Given the phenomenon of Summer Learning Loss, I wonder what the effect of a longer break, smack in the middle of the Spring, does for learning retention?

Frankly, I don’t think there is anything in this for students. The only benefit I can see is for those folks who can afford to take a Spring Vacation. I doubt this group will include the families of most of the students.

Until we get some developments happening which will provide training opportunities for the prospective wage earners of these families, they will continue to barely scrape by and their children will continue to suffer in an educational system that was basically fixed in its design in the 1950’s and 1960’s by people who were enjoying the American Dream.

Historically, summer was traditionally a non-educational period for two reasons:

a) There wasn’t air-conditioning back in the 1890’s.

b) Up to about 1930 family farms were still prevalent and kids were needed to assist on the farm during the summer. Although by the 1960’s this was no longer true, the educational year was now firmly established in the minds of the community. Tinkering with the School Year would only begin to take place when economic pressures (1990’s) meant that new solutions to overcrowded classrooms needed to be looked at and implemented.


#15

To those who have repeated the opinion that there is no educational value to an extended March Break: any facts to support your opinion?

The comment suggesting that there are no studies supportive of a two week March Break seems to be a good argument. But, have you read any studies that do not support a two week March Break? The problem: a two week March Break is a recent addition to the options in British Columbia and possibly no studies have been done to support or disprove the idea. So maybe we need to look elsewhere before jumping to conclusions…

Did you know there are studies that support extending both the Winter Break and March Break? It has been done and studied with surprisingly positive effect (in BC no less!).

The argument for an educational rationale seems well intended but not all educational decisions are made based on educational priorities. Indeed over the last decades ‘educational’ decisions have frequently been made for economic (and other) reasons. An obvious example: the Board changed elementary lunch hours (that actually used to be an hour) to 45 minutes for financial reasons. I’m sure there are numerous other examples.

So maybe the question isn’t ‘where’s the educational rationale’ but should be ‘are there other rationales that might be stronger for making a change’. Side stepping the economic issues…how about: periods of extended social interaction, play, building family ties, opportunities to explore, extend, practice and consolidate learning in real life situations, and just plan ‘de-stressing’ as possible rationale’s.

Ms. Last’s narrow argument of solely meeting Ministry guidelines or what appears to be Ms. Beil’s suggestion of protecting children from poverty or nutritionally unsophisticated famiies….both seem ill thought out or spurious at best as a basis for an important decision.


#16

Am I the only one who feels like an extra week of free play is beneficial to kids? We are so quick to schedule and structure our kids that we forget that free time is beneficial. Lets let kids be kids for a week longer. Remember when kindergarden was to teach kids to “play” with each other and introduce numbers and the ABC’s? Now if you don’t know them coming in to kindergarden you are considered behind.


#17

A great example of Bike Shedding: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bikeshedding

“Bikeshedding involves discussions about relatively unimportant issues which result in extensive debate. It may be the result of individuals who wish to contribute feeling that they don’t have the knowledge or expertise to contribute on more significant issues. Bikeshedding can result in discussions that, whilst on-topic, nevertheless effectively drown out other discussions on more significant issues.”

Perhaps there’s a more important and more complex issue that is being ignored?


#18

[quote=“MiG”] … Bikeshedding can result in discussions that, whilst on-topic, nevertheless effectively drown out other discussions on more significant issues."

Perhaps there’s a more important and more complex issue that is being ignored?[/quote]

I think that it is worse when a position is stated under the guise of ‘questions’ or ‘concerns’, rather than being clearly presented and defended as an argument.

Chien22’s gambit seems to be as follows:

Get readers’ attention by questioning whether Board Chair Last is in a conflict of interest because she may own a business that is impacted by the decision under discussion, and if so whether she will abstain.

After several posts it is not clear that Mrs Last even owns a business, let alone whether she may be in a conflict of interest under Part 5 of the School Act, such that she should abstain < bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws … .xml#part5 >. All that has been offered is innuendo, which is unhelpful.

Imply that Trustee Biel is “slamming those in poverty” and “alarmist” by raising a concern about students being away from the school nutrition program for another week, while Trustee Gruber is “rational” by pointing out that the students are away from the program even longer in the summer. So nutrition would not be a problem for a additional week because it is an even bigger problem in summer? If the nutrition program does not address a need, why do they have it? Hopefully trustees are free to raise questions and express concerns without being labelled in negative ways.

Then characterize the questions and concerns that others raise as being something other than what they said.

Old Major pointed out that while the board has been discussing the issue the PRDTU has taken a position in favour of the extension. Their rationale, we are told in reply, is unknown and perhaps unknowable, and also off the ‘menu’ for some unexplained reason. Furthermore, Old Major was ‘changing the channel’. Why is asking what an important stakeholder like the PRDTU thinks changing the channel? Perhaps it is an attempt to widen the conversation in a way that should be helpful.

Crazy Mike asked how the proposed change would benefit the students. That’s a fair question, but later we are told that Crazy Mike is an imaginary character in a restaurant engaged in a ‘mini rant’ about something unknown. The implication seems to be that we can ignore Crazy Mike and his question.

By my reading Crazy Horse found merit in Chair Last’s question about how 10 minutes a day replaces a week of class, but is inexplicably urged to help vote the board out. Why that leap should be taken is unknown.

After critiquing comments from Crazy Horse, Old Major and Crazy Mike, there is a closing comment about “such negativity toward the Board and the elected Provincial Government”. How is that inferred from their diverse comments?

I could say more but I’ll wrap up with this.

Old Major wondered whether the Board is building a ‘case’ against the change. An inference was then drawn that Old Major suggested that the Board wants to make a case rather than consult. I am doubtful that Old Major was going that far. In any event we are told that “a recent court ruling indicated going into a consultation with a plan and your mind made up is not consultation”.

If the reference is to BCTF v BC (2014 BCSC 121) there is no problem going into a consultation with a proposal or plan (or ‘case’) to talk about; the consultation has to start from something concrete. The problem was that the government had started “from the position that its mind is made up no matter what the other side presents by way of evidence or concerns” (para 192; also see para 351 on ‘meaningful consultation’) < courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/ … 21cor1.htm >.

Reading the Black Press article that was cited I don’t get the impression that the Board has made up it’s mind. Some have questions or concerns, but there is nothing wrong with that so long as they keep their minds open to other views or positions before making a decision. The Board appears to be approaching the issue responsibly.


#19

BTravenn:

“I think that it is worse when a position is stated under the guise of ‘questions’ or ‘concerns’, rather than being clearly presented and defended as an argument.”

In regards to my first question: To be presented and defended as an argument (in the gambit scenario you suggest), then there should ideally be some basis in fact. Asking a question and seeking information is quite different from presenting an argument (although it may be a precursor to presenting an argument). As you have suggested at this point in time we are no closer to knowing the answer to my questions. If the answer is No – case closed. If the answer is yes – then the second part of the question applies – and I’d be interested in the answer.

Your opinions seem initially to be on rockier ground than I usually expect from your analysis. I will restate, what I have stated previously – I am merely asking a couple of questions and seeking some information by asking what I believe is an honest question. Your assumption of a ‘gambit’ at work here, while not necessarily out of character in my case, is erroneous.

In regards to Ms Beil’s comments paraphrased in the article:

“it would mean students who have unhealthy meal plans at home or who live in poverty would be away from their school’s nutritional food programs longer”

I assume that the reporter may have done a poor job of paraphrasing Ms. Beils statement. I think there is a great difference between families living in poverty with very limited resources and consequently very curtailed meal options and those who just have unhealthy meal plans at home. I honestly do not think that Ms. Beil intended to equate the poor with those making poor nutritional choices…hence the question. My use of the word alarmist: (possibly a poor choice) is based on my perception of a rising societal desire to take away even more supports and benefits from those living in poverty rather than looking for viable solutions to the issues of poverty. If however Ms. Beil’s position was accurately portrayed – then I think my use of the word ‘slam’ was appropriate. I would hope that it was not.

A question is a question…not an argument.

As for my other responses – you suggested that I was attempting to “characterize the questions and concerns that others raise as being something other than what they said”. Sort of like you just did to my original questions? – rather heavy handed gambit ya think?

Certainly we are able to draw different conclusions and inferences from the same pieces of information. However, to place a value judgement such as ‘worse’ and use that as the starting point for your argument might suggest your argument is tainted by a definite bias. Not something I usually expect from your posts.


#20

[quote=“chien22”]

… In regards to my first question: To be presented and defended as an argument (in the gambit scenario you suggest), then there should ideally be some basis in fact. Asking a question and seeking information is quite different from presenting an argument (although it may be a precursor to presenting an argument). As you have suggested at this point in time we are no closer to knowing the answer to my questions. If the answer is No – case closed. If the answer is yes – then the second part of the question applies – and I’d be interested in the answer.

… I will restate, what I have stated previously – I am merely asking a couple of questions and seeking some information by asking what I believe is an honest question. Your assumption of a ‘gambit’ at work here, while not necessarily out of character in my case, is erroneous.[/quote]

You say that I have “suggested at this point in time we are no closer to knowing the answer to my questions”. I made no such suggestion. I think that what we are no closer to understanding is why you are posing these questions about Chair Last and Trustee Beil.

I do not share your concerns about Ms Beil’s comments about the school nutrition program. Rather than assuming or hoping that the reporter did a poor job of paraphrasing Beil, let’s assume that her comments were accurately reported: “it would mean students who have unhealthy meal plans at home or who live in poverty would be away from their school’s nutritional food programs longer”.

She did not say or imply, as you seem to fear, that living in poverty equates with having poor meal plans at home. Her concern is about students who live in poverty “or” who have unhealthy meal plans. She does not conflate those two situations. A plain reading of what she said rebuts your allegation that she was “slamming” the poor, or if you prefer, answers your question about what she was saying.

All that I gather from her comment is that she does not want to see students lose another week of the school nutrition program. That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable concern.

As for your question about Mrs Last being in a conflict of interest, what prompts you to ask that question? Why are you “merely asking”? Do you know or suspect something about Mrs Last’s business affairs that may put her in a conflict? Have you checked her disclosure statement, for instance, and found that something was amiss? Or did the question just come out of the blue; just a thought that crossed your mind for no reason that you were conscious of, so you decided to pose it in a public forum?

The problem with a question like that is that even posed as a question it could be found to have raised doubts about the legal propriety of Mrs Last’s conduct in this matter. There are strict rules in the School Act governing conflict of interest. If a Board member breaches those rules a Court can declare that their office is vacant, and if an abuse of a position of trust resulted in a financial gain restitution can be ordered.

The common law definition of defamation is that it is a “communication” - whether framed as a statement or a question does not matter - that “tends to lower the esteem of the subject in the minds of ordinary members of the public”. A question that necessarily implies, as your’s does, that the Board Chair may be in a conflict of interest and acting contrary to the law can raise doubts among the public about her character. That is a serious matter in any event, and particularly so when the person in question is in a position of trust. The test is not what you subjectively intended when you posed your question; the standard is objective, what a “reasonable person” (the Judge) would consider to have been your intent.

That is why I do not like your question. Now that you have explained yourself a bit more clearly, my suggestion is that if you do not put some facts behind why you are asking that question about Mrs Last you should seek some advice before saying more.

As for biases, of course we all have our biases. During the School Board election I decided not vote for any of the incumbents, including Mrs Last.