The Vancouver District Students’ Council is floating the concept of student trustees at Monday night’s management coordinating meeting.
The Ontario government mandates its school districts have at least one—and up to three—student trustees.
Leah Bae, a Lord Byng student and the council president, has friends who are student trustees in Ontario. She’s introducing the idea at tonight’s meeting to gauge the committee’s reaction.
“What I’m doing tonight isn’t asking for an endorsement or asking the board to do anything specific—it’s more introducing the idea because we don’t want to impose an idea upon them,” Bae told the Courier. “It’s more introducing and asking questions and observing what the attitude would be towards student trustees.”
Ontario regulations call for one-year terms for student trustees. The Toronto District School Board has two student trustees, according to its website, as does the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.
Rules require them to be elected directly or indirectly such as through student councils. The election process is up to boards. A student must be full time and in Grade 11 or 12 on Aug. 1 following the election.
They must have the same opportunities to participate in board meetings and committees as board members, subject to restrictions in the province’s Education Act. They can participate through teleconferencing, videoconferencing or other electronic means, but they can’t be absent from three consecutive meetings without board authorization.
Ontario student trustees are not board members, so they’re not entitled to a binding vote. While their vote “doesn’t count,” a student trustee can request that a matter before the board or any of its committees be put to a recorded vote, in which there must be two votes. One is a recorded non-binding vote that includes the student trustee’s vote and the second is a recorded binding vote that doesn’t include their vote.
Student trustees can’t move a motion but are entitled to suggest a motion on any matter of the board or one of its committees on which the student trustee sits. If no member of the board or committee moves the suggested motion, the record must show the suggested motion.
They can attend in camera meetings expect those that require “the disclosure of intimate, personal or financial information in respect of a member of the board or committee, an employee or prospective employee of the board or a pupil or his or her parent or guardian.”
Ontario student trustees earn an honorarium of $2,500 for serving a full term.
In Vancouver, the Vancouver District Students’ Council is meant to provide student input in the planning and decision-making of the district. The executive has nine members who plan, organize and execute its projects. The council has representatives on the management coordinating, planning and facilities, education and student services and finance committees.
The VSB told the Courier that in order to have real responsibilities and authorities, the B.C. School Act would need to be amended to allow for student trustees, which was done in Ontario.
Mike Lombardi, a Vision Vancouver trustee and chair of the management coordinating committee, said having student trustees seems a natural extension of the current structure.
“It’s been in place [in Ontario] for a few years and from what I gather it’s pretty successful. It ensures a student voice,” he said.
Lombardi noted one of the VSB’s goals is to engage students in policy and program development.
“I personally think it’s a great idea. I just think it’s a natural progression in Vancouver. We’ve really been focusing on leadership and a lot of our student council representatives are participating in the City of Vancouver-sponsored YouthPolitik every year where they learn parliamentary skills and leadership skills,” he said. “So to me it’s a great sign students want to engage and they’re interested in how they can play a role and help formulate policy.”
Although students already sit on VSB committees, Lombardi said a student trustee position would raise their profile and overall involvement.
“The committee table is not as high profile. Sometimes students can’t make it to those meetings, but I think a board meeting gives [the position] a certain kind of status. It’s a more formal setting and that’s where all the decisions are eventually made,” he said.