The Sooke School District Board of Education had a busy meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 29), touching on everything from gender identity in the classroom to affordability initiatives for staff.
The meeting was the first for the new board since their swearing-in ceremony on Nov. 1, and included no fewer than 24 motions on the agenda.
Among the highlights was a motion by trustee Allison Watson which would have the board publicly reaffirm its support for classroom materials which destigmatize conversations around gender identity and sexual orientation, including SOGI 123 resources. A second motion made by Watson recommended the board engage in gender diversity training and capacity building to adapt inclusive practices and languages.
Both motions passed unanimously.
“I heard from many families who were impacted by the hurtful rhetoric around gender identity during the election period and our board felt it was imperative to publicly reaffirm our commitment to creating safe, accessible and inclusive learning environments for all students and staff,” said Watson in a news release. “We want our families to know that we stand with them and we will continue to work to ensure all students, families and staff feel safe, that they belong and are valued in our district.”
Another highlight of the meeting was a motion from board chair Ravi Parmar, which proposed the creation of a one-time staff affordability fund, which also passed unanimously. The motion directs the district superintendent to create a fund of $25,000 to help staff struggling with the rising costs of living.
“Life is becoming more expensive for people and I’m hearing that directly from SD62 staff who I meet in schools, worksites and in the community,” said Parmar. “Our board recognizes the financial challenges many are facing due to global inflation. The new staff affordability fund is a resource we can use to offer immediate support to staff who may need a helping hand.”
The staff affordability fund will be modelled on the student and family affordability fund created by the province earlier in the year, but the details of the new fund will be worked out in the coming weeks. The district said the goal is to have it accessible to staff before the December break starts.
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