Ken Denike, Sophia Woo launch platform

Gender policy still an issue

Vancouver 1st school board trustee candidates Ken Denike and Sophia Woo say the Vancouver School Board should transfer ownership of the VSB-owned Kingsgate Mall property to the province to hasten coordinated, long-term planning for new elementary and high schools in Southeast False Creek.

The recommendation is part of their election platform announced Nov. 3.

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The school board previously transferred the Anne Hebert school property to the provincial government to speed up planning for and construction of University Hill secondary and Norma Rose Point elementary and middle school.

Trustees were asked whether they favoured selling VSB property at the District Parent Advisory Council’s trustee forum Oct. 23.

Every candidate except the representative of the Workless Party, who “abstained” from answering the question, said they wouldn’t support selling school board property.

Denike says he and Woo haven’t changed their tune.

“The question wasn’t quite put that way,” Denike said. “It was something about selling schools.”

The incumbent trustees say they want a Chinese parents group associated with the DPAC to improve communications with and involvement of Chinese-speaking parents who lack strong English language skills. Woo forwarded a related motion at the Sept. 15 board meeting.

“Last time when I talked to the DPAC chair, basically she say there’s no need for a Chinese parents [group] and parents have to learn to speak English to go to a DPAC meeting,” said Woo, who moved to Vancouver from Hong Kong in 1978.

DPAC chairperson Melanie Antweiler says she never said Chinese parents need to learn to speak English to participate in DPAC. She notes DPAC’s vice-chair is fluent in Mandarin and English and could translate. She said DPAC members speak multiple languages and wonders about the need for a Chinese-specific group.

Woo says SUCCESS settlement services agency assisted a Chinese parents group in Vancouver in the 1980s and 1990s, and that similar groups in Richmond and Burnaby persist, but meetings in Vancouver ended because the city is geographically vast. She believes a group could flourish with communications via social media and conference calls.

But the motion Woo forwarded requests trustees to direct staff to organize a series of meetings to talk to parents about the sexual orientation and gender identities policy that was approved in June. Woo says her motion is to be discussed at an education and student services committee meeting.

Denike and Woo want to continue to act as vocal opposition on the board that has been dominated by Vision Vancouver trustees. They want more transparency about the budget and policies, including the revised gender identities and sexual orientation guidelines.

“It’s not translated into different languages,” Woo said. “[Parents] don’t have enough time to really digest the policy.”

She and Denike want the board to reinvest in additional workers for the School Age Children and Youth — Substance Use Prevention Initiative (SACY). They also want property taxes collected by the city for schools be connected directly to the VSB to boost accountability and give citizens more of a say.

The pair wants to see closer connections between the Mandarin immersion program at Norquay elementary and the Mandarin bilingual program at Jamieson elementary and Asian Studies for grades 8 to 10 that would include a new course on Chinese history.

First elected in 1984, Denike is Vancouver’s longest-serving elected official. He told parents at the trustees forum that he’s been chairperson of the VSB five times.

Woo, a mental health clinician, was first elected in 2011. Both she and Denike were elected as NPA candidates but were expelled by the party in June over comments regarding the gender and sexual orientation policy.

Denike said they have an active and “diverse” group of volunteers backing their campaign.

Susan Bhatha is also running for trustee with Vancouver 1st. She participates on the executive of John Henderson elementary’s PAC and volunteers with an organization that serves meals to homeless people on Downtown Eastside. Bhatha believes parents shouldn’t have to fundraise for school playgrounds.

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