Local parents learned the New Westminster school board won't hear their appeals related to a certain math teacher at New Westminster Secondary School because they don't fall in the "scope" of the School Act or the school district's own policy.
Lisa Chao and Kal Randhawa have been speaking out about what they believe to be an unusually high failure rate in classes taught by a certain teacher. They eventually submitted several appeals to address their concerns with the school district, after they felt stymied by the complaint process.
"Sadly, the letter was not surprising," Chao said in an email. "Parents have stressed the time-sensitive nature of our concerns since October. The semester is finished, the next about a third done. It appears the district thinks we will go away if they stall long enough."
The time and money spent "avoiding" the issue could have gone into classrooms, helping students and supporting the teacher, she said.
"Lets not forget the money spent on lawyers to find loopholes to put off our appeals," she wrote. "The district, from school administrators up to trustees, has a lot to answer for."
In their appeal, the math moms wrote that the district placed the teacher's well-being above the students, and they wanted an extensive review of the math teacher's previous classes. They cited a lack of response from the district, lack of teacher evaluations, and lack of information as some of the issues they wanted heard. They also wanted to make changes to the district's current appeals process to have the superintendent rather than the secretary-treasurer review an appeal.
"What are the educational qualifications of the secretary-treasurer ...?" they wrote. "The secretary-treasurer has a background in finance."
Chao and Randhawa will continue their campaign to shake up the district. Chao wrote that they will re-submit their appeals in a manner acceptable to the district's lawyer, contact the ombudsman regarding conflict of interest, take their appeals to the province's superintendent of achievement and work with the British Columbia confederation of parent advisory councils.
After Chao and Randhawa raised their initial concerns with the math marks last fall, the district responded to the situation by reviewing the class - Foundations of Math 11 - from last semester and bumping up students' grades in an effort to resolve the issue.
The letter said that though the parents' concerns didn't fall under section 11 of the School Act, the school board found that the parents had raised important issues relating to board policy and operations of the school district. In response, the board has struck a committee, which includes three trustees and district administrators, to review the concerns the parents raised, including the district's administrative practices. The committee will meet with parents to discuss their concerns and to share "to the extent possible" the district's perspective on the issues. The discussions will not involve personnel issues, the letter, signed by secretary-treasurer Brian Sommerfeldt, states.
Board of education chair James Janzen told The Record the committee will likely meet with the parents by the end of the month.