Parents contribute their 'thoughts' to Coquitlam district budget

The president of the District Parent Parent Advisory Council says parents responded wholeheartedly to a call for input into a new online survey for gathering data for school budgets.

As many as 15,000 "thoughts" were added to a new online survey program called Thoughtstream, and Heidi Hass Gable said the information will be sorted into themes and used to help administrators determine how best to use scarce resources.

The survey, which closed Monday, is a way to get parent input into the discussion on how to spend the district's $260 million operating budget, Hass Gable said. Unlike teachers, principals and support workers, parents don't know enough about the workings of the district to make recommendations on district spending.

But she said they do know how their own school might better serve their child's needs.

"To really be able to come into it with parent feed back and data behind is very different [than in previous years]. To be be able to hear the themes emerge and [say] 'here is the data,'" will be helpful, Hass Gable said, and she expects the board of education will consider the information in its budget deliberations.

The Thoughtstream survey was a first for the district, and parents were asked to comment on what their schools do well, what challenges they face, and make some suggestions.

The data will be organized into themes by school, and then aggregated across the district with the information available for budget deliberations, which begin in early April.

However, Hass Gable acknowledged that the district won't have a lot of money to spend on new programs, because it's currently facing a deficit. But the data gathered from Thoughtstream will still provide information on resource allocation from a parents' perspective.

Parents were allowed to add as many thoughts as they wanted, so Hass Gable said she didn't know how many people actually contributed information. But she said she thought it was a great way to get more parents involved in the budget process.

"I'm hoping it will [be used] to show how the board considered our information and used that [in its budget deliberations.]"

The first special public meeting on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 in the Gallery Rom at Winslow Centre, 100 Winslow Ave., Coquitlam.

Earlier this year, SD43 revealed it had a $7.5 million deficit, which it is whittling down with $5 million in cuts, leaving a possible $2.5 million deficit, which will likely have to be carried over in future years. It passed an amended budget for the current school year in early February.





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