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Expanding Access to Childcare
Behind the cost of housing, the biggest concern for parents of young children is finding dependable childcare. Inclusive spaces hosted on school grounds reduce stress on families, make better academic outcomes for children, and help secure stable staffing. As the Chair of the Child Care Task Force, I worked with government, parents, educators and non-profits to streamline hosting childcare on school grounds. I am happy to say that elementary schools are opening with childcare on their grounds right away, and I support expanding that access.
Transparency and Accountability
Continuing to support and increase access to our regular meetings with groups such as the District Parent Advisory, the municipalities, the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm nation, and educators. Any person is welcome to attend our public board meetings, which are now online, and submit questions.
Coquitlam School District also participates in the survey conducted by the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at UBC, which seeks information from students about how they are doing in school, starting in kindergarten with the Early Development survey, and then in Grades 4 and 7 with the Middle Development survey. The independent body publishes the results on its website which is open to the public, and tracks the results over time. You can see the results for Coquitlam here. Coming up in this next term, there will be an expansion to the Youth Development survey, which will ask older students about their experience. I’m the co-chair of the Tri-Cities Childrens' Research Action Team, an independent group of representatives that are developing research-based recommendations about how to improve the well-being of children in our community, partially based on the information in the HELP surveys.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
I also supported our first Equity Scan, which individually asked the students and families of Indigenous heritage how we can improve our support for students, and those results are publicly available. The questionnaire will be repeated and results published, so we are accountable to the public on how our system is changing to remove barriers and increase supports.
In the future, with the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Data Act (ADDA), the school district will be able to work with community groups to use disaggregated data to understand how systemic discrimination is affecting populations within schools. It is important to note that this data must be used responsibly, carefully and securely for the best interests of each group, and every effort made to ensure that the data does no harm to the communities from which it is sourced.
I am actively looking to support or mentor candidates with diverse experience that are hoping to join the school board in the future. Please if you are interested, contact me.
Affordability in SD43 and How it Affects Students
For younger students, the affordability crisis is seen through the lens of family. Behind the cost of housing, the biggest concern for parents of young children is finding dependable childcare. Inclusive spaces hosted on school grounds reduce stress on families, make better academic outcomes for children, and help secure stable staffing. As the Chair of the Child Care Task Force, I worked with government, parents, educators and non-profits to streamline hosting childcare on school grounds. I am happy to say that elementary schools are opening with childcare on their grounds right away, and I support expanding that access.
However, there are additional concerns that have arisen out of the spiralling costs – food security, affordable housing, and the effects of the drug poisoning crisis. I am on the Homelessness Task Force, as well as the Tri-Cities Opioid Overdose Community Action Team. As a board member and volunteer for ACCESS Youth, which supports students who are vulnerable to homelessness and other struggles, I have seen firsthand how important it is to connect students to housing, health and employment supports. I also volunteer for the Immigrant Link Centre Society by collecting and delivering food donations – their hampers feed 4,000 people a month, many of them students in SD43.
Although SD43 provides planning for each construction to a LEED Gold standard, we are also now showing the province plans for school buildings that are constructed to Net Zero. I have also personally advocated to the provincial government for a quick development of the mass timber program, which will provide safe and more environmentally friendly construction options for our large buildings.
SD43 has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% in comparison to our 2010 levels, and is on track to exceed our 2030 targets. However, it will be difficult to meet our 2050 targets without substantial changes to our energy infrastructure, which largely relies on less-expensive natural gas heating and cooling. I fully support transitioning to a sustainable energy plan using renewable sources, and look forward to the opening of school like Coast Salish which will have energy-generating features like solar panel banks on the roof. To read more about the challenges of net-zero, please read my article here.
The district and the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm nation, on whose traditional and unceded territory the district sits, have met and signed a Local Education Agreement (LEA) which is a blueprint for how we will proceed in supporting students and the educational goals of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm people together.
The district is also committed to supporting United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the Tri-Partite Agreement, which is between the First Nations Education Steering Committee, the federal government and the provincial government. All those things are good and necessary at a systems level and I support them.
Reconciliation is a personal responsibility as well as a public one. I feel it is my responsibility to lift up the experiences and voices of Indigenous people while learning from their teachings, decolonizing my thinking. I meet with community elders and listen to their truth of the interactions between Canada and Indigenous peoples, and keep those words in mind in my decisions.
Sexual orientation and gender identity discussions in school are health and science based. These conversations are there to provide students with factual information, and an understanding that everyone’s choices about their bodies deserve respect. Discussions are age appropriate. If any parents have concerns, please contact your child’s school – they would be happy to share information with you. Educators are partners in keeping children healthy and safe.
Accessibility is a developing challenge, where students with diverse needs and abilities are affected by the affordability crisis more than others. One challenge is the physical space, especially in older buildings, which can be challenging for students with mobility issues, and I will continue to advocate for inclusive buildings. There is also the challenge of learning supports, where students are not provided with the tools they need to be successful. I will continue to ask for funding from the provincial government, budget within the district, and accountability for developing classrooms that are universally designed for learning.
Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Section 2 of the Charter guarantees to all Canadians freedom of religion, belief, assembly, and association. Schools have a duty of care for students, and although are flexible to some extent, do exercise control over schedules, attendance, and expression of certain beliefs, especially those that are discriminatory or harmful to other students. SD43 does not enforce a unified dress code, but does forbid the wearing of clothing with racist or discriminatory language.
COMMITTED TO EDUCATION IN COQUITLAM
Since being elected to School Board in 2018:
- Board Member, ACCESS Youth Outreach Services (2022 - Ongoing)
- Co-Chair, Tri-Cities Child Research Action Team (2021 - Ongoing)
- Director, Coquitlam Foundation (2021 - Ongoing)
- Master's Candidate for Degree in Educational Leadership
- SD43 Board Representative to Metro District BC School Trustee Association
- Chair, Tri-City Task Force on Daycare (2018 - 2021)
- SD43 Board of Education Representative to BC School Trustee Association Provincial Council (2021, Ongoing)
- Member, TCCAT (Tri-Cities Task Force on Opioid Addition)
- Member, Homelessness Task Force
- Volunteer, The People's Pantry
As a 2018 recipient of the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers, Jennifer was recognized for her commitment to many school district, community, and provincial initiatives, including:
- Community Advisor to City of Coquitlam during consultation process for Rochester Park restoration, 2015-2016
- Secretary/Member of PAC for Maillard Middle School, 2014-2018
- Association Director, Odyssey of the Mind British Columbia, 2014–202-
- Organizer of STEM day camps in Coquitlam & Burnaby, 2014–2020
- Member of the Citizens Advisory Council for Metro Vancouver East Correctional Area, Federal Corrections, 2014–2017
- Parent Reading Program Coordinator, Rochester Elementary, 2014–2016
- Board Member, Creative Problem Solving Society, 2013–2018
- Coach of Odyssey of the Mind team; 2013, 2014, & 2015 World Finalists; 2013–2018
- Reading Link Coach, School District 43, 2013–2016
- Social Coordinator for Rochester Elementary School, 2012–2014
- Girl Guides of Canada Troop Leader, 2009-2014
- Board Member, Life Skills Training Program in Surrey for young mothers to achieve graduation, 2004–2006
- Volunteer tax preparation for low-income seniors, 2001–2006
- Conversation partner and tutor for new Canadians, 1996-1998
Reason for running
Community involvement is a way to give back to the places we call home. Raising five children here in Coquitlam, I interact with the school system on a daily basis and know how valuable each resource is to our students and their families.
I've been lucky enough to be able to volunteer at all school levels, on Parent Advisory Committees (PAC) and on the District PAC. Before I ran for school trustee in my first term, I also served on the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Corrections Canada. Many of the young people who go through the justice system are barely out of high school, and they are up to 10 times as likely to have a learning disability. I found myself thinking more and more - how did we get here? I knew I was too far upstream. Working as a trustee, I could passionately support early intervention for learning disabilities and work towards ensuring there was safe, quality, affordable childcare to support kids in their out-of-school time.
This last term reinforced my belief that working together is the best way to achieve change. Our current school system is excellent, and schools can continue to build on that good work to improve outcomes for all students, especially for racialized and Indigenous students. I am committed to furthering the thoughtful collaborations with municipalities and the province that maximize public assets by sharing buildings, fields and park space. Working together brings valuable assets to our communities, like the recent announcement of a Tri-Cities Foundry, a centre for supporting youth mental health.