Burnaby principals give parents the inside scoop on B.C. schools

Want to know why your kid’s school has split classes? Whether a private school would be the right fit for your child? What the big deal is with the Fraser Institute’s school rankings? How much money the province pays to meet your child’s special needs? What the difference is between a superintendent and a trustee?

Two Burnaby principals and a Surrey colleague have answers for you in a new book.

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Byrne Creek principal David Starr, Cariboo Hill vice-principal David Mushens and Surrey principal Faizel Rawji came up with the idea for Insider’s Guide to K-12 Education in B.C. last September over glasses of wine.

They had been talking about common questions parents ask them every year.

“You tend to see the same questions coming up over and over and over again,” Starr told the NOW.

The three principals, who have a combined 50 years of experience between them, decided to put their heads together and write a book.

“Our purpose was really just to provide parents with a tool that, up until now, hasn’t existed,” Starr said.

They approached Pacific Educational Press – the publishing arm of UBC’s education faculty – and got an enthusiastic thumbs up, according to Starr.

The book, hot off the presses this month, is divided into six parts: how the school system works, choosing a school, programs and schooling options, learning support and behaviour interventions, assessment and evaluation and frequently asked questions.

While all three authors are public school educators, Starr said they tried their best to present an unbiased picture of all the education options open to B.C. parents, including private schools.

“We didn’t want to come across as ‘public school good; private school bad, elitist,’ that kind of stuff,” Starr said.

The Byrne Creek principal said he and his fellow authors also tried to present a balanced view of the controversial annual school rankings put out by the Fraser Institute, which is described in the book as “an independent research and educational organization with no affiliation with the BC Ministry of Education”

“You can’t talk about schools in this province and fail to mention the Fraser Institute,” Starr said. “What we didn’t want to say is, ‘These jerks at the Fraser Institute are a bunch of right-wing whatever whatever who want to dismantle the public system … We didn’t want to add to the polarization.”

Starr said lots of parents value the rankings but many don’t know how they are generated, so the book provides links to both the Fraser Institute website and an academic paper called “Ending the Reign of the Fraser Institute’s School Rankings” by University of Victoria education professor Helen Raptis.

“Parents really need to educate themselves about, A, how the rankings are done, and, B, to what end do they serve,” Starr said.

Ultimately, the Byrne Creek principal said the new book doesn’t provide all the answers but acts as a starting point.

“What it does is give people the tools to start the conversation with their local school,” he said.

Starr, Mushens and Rawji will launch their book in Burnaby at the Ismaili Centre (4010 Canada Way) on Sept. 11.

The event, which begins at 8:30 p.m., will feature a presentation followed by a Q&A with the authors.

For more information, visit www.theinsidersguide.ca.

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