Retiring trustee discusses education in district 68

While much school talk quickly turns to doom and gloom over budgets, Nanaimo-Ladysmith Trustee Ron Dale is seeing some positives.

“We’re in interesting times,” said Dale, who said he is encouraged by the minister in charge of the education portfolio, George Abbott, who was given the job during Gordon Campbell’s last cabinet shuffle.

This is an election year for the school board and while Dale is calling it quits after nine years, he is still excited about some of the things coming up.

Dale has seen a lot happen over nine years and says one of his regrets is the collapsing of a deal that would have seen Woodlands and Nanaimo Secondary closed and a new school built at the Woodlands site.

“We turned away $63 million of government money and we will never make up for that.”

The Teacher’s Federation negotiating their contract will also  make for an interesting year, said Dale.

Dale had nothing but praise for the district’s teachers, noting the district puts a lot of money towards professional development that is money well spent.

In terms of keeping up with technological trends and how they can be incorporated into teaching methods, Dale said school district 68 is currently undergoing a massive review of its IT department and needs.

“There’s some meeting taking place now with some outside resources … and looking at recommendations for the future as to where we would best invest or money,” said Dale.

Vancouver Island hosted a conference last year in Dover Bay to talk about changes in education.

At the conference, trustees were told the students can’t wait for the schools to catch up to them.

“They’re ahead of us in a lot of ways,” said Dale.

Dale said they must learn the strategies and how to put in place all the resources like social media, effectively.

“You can spend a lot of money and get nothing out of it.”

As far as the extra week off at spring break, Dale said it makes sense from a financial stance.

A lot of parents spring their kids from classes early, noted Dale, and said if people are concerned about the time lost in the classroom, schools may have to look at cutting back on field or activity trips to get the time back.

Teachers, he added, will be able to utilize the extra time tacked on to the end of the day.

“Your professional teacher who is on the ball will take those minutes and make them useful … rather than say, ‘Here’s some extra time to do your homework.”

Open discussion and review of material, said Dale, would help improve students’ communication skills.