In these times of fiscal restraint and drained provincial education budgets, the offer of free money for community school projects doesn't come around very often.
As a financial planner and chair of the district parent advisory council for School District 57, it just seems natural to Sarah Holland that when gaming grants are made available to pay for adventure playgrounds or other school equipment, parent advisory councils will do what it takes to access those funds.
But it seems not all of those parent groups are going through the necessary steps. Showing parents how to jump through those fundraising hoops will be one of the workshop themes of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) regional conference this Saturday at the Civic Centre.
"We do have some PACs here in the Prince George district who don't even apply for the gaming grant, and that's $20 a student of free money that can be put to good use," said Holland, who took over as DPAC chair from Don Sabo this school year.
"It's possible there are people who have no idea this exists or there is not any kind of active PAC in the school. A lot of the time, PACs have no idea what they can spend from gaming and what they can't spend."
The conference workshops, from 10:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., are geared to two separate audiences -- parents now active in parent advisory groups and parents in general.
The PAC-themed workshops, with the facilitator for each group in parenthesis, include: bylaws and parliamentary procedure (Holland); gaming fund applications (Michelle Albinati); beyond the basics of PACs (Ann Whiteaker); care and feeding of your principal (Heather Park elementary principal Steve Fleck/Spruceland elementary principal Linda Picton and PAC members); Treasurer 101 (Gillian Burnett).
Holland suggests parents not involved in PACs should consider the following workshops at Saturday's conference: Body Smarts: From Child to Teen (Kerri Isham), personalized learning (Jeff Hopkins); navigating special needs in the school system (Bev Zorn), anti-bullying strategies (Bnula Larsen and Theresa Campbell); and aboriginal education (Shelly Niemi and Angela Carter).
"School District 57 is on the leading edge in B.C. of including education around aboriginals to all students," said Holland. "It's not a workshop that's geared just towards people who are aboriginal. There are some interesting things happening in this district.
"I'm looking forward to the care and feeding of your principal workshop. One of the most important relationships that the people in a parent leadership role in the school in the PAC executive will have is with the principal. How do we build that relationship and how do we work it so that if there are issues we can deal with things in a respectful matter?"
Hopkins, superintendent for School District 64 (Gulf Islands), will give the keynote address Saturday at 9 a.m. on personalized learning and changing graduation requirements and how those elements will fit with the B.C. Education Plan. Hopkins is a former middle and secondary school teacher who served as the first provincial safer schools co-ordinator.
The BCCPAC has been in existence since 1990 and it traditionally hosts two conference each year, typically in the Lower Mainland. The Prince George conference was originally set for Terrace but was moved to Prince George because it is more centrally located. SD 57 will cover transportation costs for its rural PAC members who extend as far as Mackenzie, McBride and Valemount.
The cost to attend the conference is $65 each, or four for $195. Each PAC will receive two free tickets and Holland is encouraging unused tickets be given to parents.