Laurie Bowen

Westside votes: Laurie Bowen

Laurie Bowen, with ParentsVoice BC, is running for the Westside seat on the Central Okanagan Board of Education

The West K News asked the Westside trustees candidates to answer a series of questions about issues facing the Okanagan School District. Responses will be published in the order they are received.

Laurie Bowen

Do you feel school board policies reflect the values of Central Okanagan communities?

At their very root, I do not believe they do. Policy 110-Policy Development, which outlines the process for policy development, provides for no clear opportunity for parental/community consultation on policies. It only references school board committees, official partner groups (which, according to the Glossary of Terms, includes only COTA, COPVPA, CUPE, and COPAC). Draft policies can also be sent to “other groups and organizations” at the superintendent’s discretion. Consultation through PACs provide a very limited opportunity for input by parents/community on policy development. Often, parents only hear about policy creations or amendments that significantly impact the education of their children once they reach, or get closer to reaching, the board table, which is much too late. Other methods of consultation should be utilized to give parents and the community clear opportunities for input. There are some very good public consultation tools on the market today which easily allow for that.

In what way, if any, are parents not given the opportunity to play a role in their child’s education?

As stated in my response to the previous question, parents are not given clear opportunities for input into the development of policies that may significantly impact their child’s education. Based on last year’s enrollment numbers for students within the Central Okanagan, whether that be public education, homeschooling, or private schooling, there are over 8,000 students represented by parents who are choosing alternatives to public education – alternatives that typically provide for more direct input into their child’s education. That represents 25% of students in the Central Okanagan. And those are only families who feel they have a choice. If parents of only 5% of public education students are dissatisfied but feel they do not have other options, that brings the total percentage of parents choosing alternatives to public education, or wishing they could, to 30%. Perhaps this question should be posed to parents instead of trustees or trustee candidates.

What is the Central Okanagan School District doing well or not doing well to allow our students to become productive adults?

The school district is doing a good job of providing a variety of hands-on, experiential education opportunities for students that focus on career paths they might like to pursue, such as fire-fighting, hairdressing, trades, technology, health and human services, to name a few. Many teachers try to incorporate outdoor education into their teaching plans, recognizing it is well-documented that regular exposure to the outdoors aids in students’ concentration, engagement, behavior, learning and overall well-being. I believe the school district could do better at helping students think critically. Rather than telling students what they should think through parroting political slogans and throwing around labels, they should be grounding students in the solid, chronological study of history so students can gain an understanding of how decisions made and worldviews adhered to in the past impact the future. Most students will come to responsible conclusions without being told what those conclusions should be.

What role should our education system play in supporting students facing gender identification issues?

The same role that is played when any student is facing issues. Many of the school district’s policies pertaining to students contain wording such as, “prompt notification by administration to parents or guardians is essential”, “promoting students’ health is a responsibility shared with parents”, “consent for medical treatment can only be granted by a parent”, “parents/guardians must also be notified as soon as possible”, “the principal is responsible for notifying the parents/guardians”, etc. In most cases, parents/guardians are the experts on their children. Therefore, the education system should be supporting teachers and administration in facilitating discussions with parents/guardians whenever their children are facing issues of significance so those issues can hopefully be addressed and/or resolved in a manner that satisfies the needs of both public education and the families who use it.

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