The following is an open letter to Langley Board of Education and Langley Township Council:
The purpose of this open letter is to express my strong concerns about the proposed consultation process for the possible revision of the School District 35 (SD35) School Calendar. I am writing this to you as my democratically elected School Trustees and my democratically elected representatives on the Township Council. I write to both bodies because it is my opinion that both bodies have a significant stake in the outcome of this process.
As described by Sandy Wakeling, Communications Manager for SD35 the survey that will serve as the primary feedback on the proposed future school calendar is reserved for "parents, guardians, secondary students, and staff. She explicitly states that "the survey itself will be limited to those currently in the system". Her specious argument for excluding other stakeholders is that opening up the survey to others will "open up the survey to anyone on the planet who wishes to participate". This ignores the fact that the survey can ask individuals to self-identify and any number of on-line tools is available to cross-check survey results.
The basis of my concern is that the Langley School Board was not elected by "parents, guardians, secondary students and staff" but by the taxpayers of Langley. Any decision on a change to the school calendar, will not only affect "parents, guardians, secondary students and staff" but the entire community of Langley. While existing students will be affected, so will business owners who will see established business schedules upended and will have staff that need to adjust work schedules to reflect the new schedule; sports organizations who will see field availabilities changed and most importantly the families of non-school aged children who will be seriously affected by any change but unable to have a say in the outcome.
Simply put, in our modern democracy we work hard to avoid the creation of first- and second-class citizens. We do not say to one class of citizen that you are expected to carry the freight in the form of taxes while being given no opportunity to have a say in how your taxes are spent. Under normal circumstances an argument could be made that all citizens have the opportunity to vote in the selection of the School Board and in doing so their voices are heard but this is not a normal circumstance. No mention of a change in the school calendar was included during the last election and as such the current School Board has not been granted a specific mandate to make such a substantial change. Through this consultation process the School Board can indeed seek a legitimate mandate to make such a change but only if the consultation is both fair and includes all affected stakeholders.
A further and equally undemocratic feature of this "consultation" is the proposed mechanism. If "parents, guardians, secondary students and staff" are each granted their say then conceivably a grade 12 student with separated parents could represent three votes (one per parent plus the student) while my sister-in-law with two children who are too young to currently attend school (but one who will start school in the first year of any "new" schedule) gets absolutely no say. The grade 12 student will not be in the system when the results of his or her opinions will come into effect while my sister-in-law will be living with the outcome for the next 15 years as her two children wind their way through the system. The grade 12 student, meanwhile has never paid a cent in school taxes while my sister-in-law has being paying a school levy on her house since she purchased it and will be doing so for the foreseeable future. Here we have a second-class citizen, she pays for a service, will be beholden to the system for the better part of two decades, but will not have any say in the matter.
At this time I would ask that you, my elected representatives, consider this petition and work to ensure that all stakeholders in the community are given an equal say in the process. As my School Board representatives I am sending you this message before the web site comes online in the hope that you will open up the process to ensure that people like my sister-in-law gets a say in a potential change that will affect her for years to come. As my Township Council I speak to you as my democratically elected representative and ask you to use your power of the bully pulpit to ensure that the voices of your constituents are not ignored by an unelected cadre of School District bureaucrats who lack the technological savvy to conduct a fair survey and so have unilaterally chosen to exclude a significant proportion of your constituents from a decision that will affect their lives for years to come.
Thank-you for your time in this matter,
Blair King, Langley