Sponsorship policy divides school board, some parents 

The Howe Sound School Board has struck a committee to look into revising the district’s policy on corporate sponsorship in schools, but the District Parent Advisory Council feels the board is wasting valuable time.

DPAC was asked to solicit input from all District 48 parent advisory councils and make a presentation to the board on the issue.

The Howe Sound Teacher’s Association, CUPE, the principals and vice principals association and members of the public were also invited to make comments at a committee of the whole meeting last month.

Board chair Amy Shoup said DPAC’s message was that if the current policy ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The principals, however, have real concerns over the potential for corporate intrusion in schools, noted Shoup. Some members of the public – like Paul Harrington who made a presentation to the board – also have strong feelings on the issue. Harrington, said Shoup, is involved in the labour movement. Unions, in general, are against the privatization of education and they maintain the creeping intrusion of corporate sponsorship in schools is the thin edge of the privatization wedge. The B.C. Teachers Federation, for example, has called for either a total ban on exclusive contracts or for strict limits to be placed on them.

CUPE, although invited, did not make a presentation to the board.

However, Whistler secondary’s new DPAC representative, Chris Vernon Jarvis, was so upset the board did not take DPAC’s advice not to change the status quo that he quit his position in protest.

"He attended one meeting and that was it," noted Shoup. "The DPAC is right, given the situation that exists right now," she said. "Our policy deals with what happens now but I think we need to be prepared and give some thought as to what is going to happen when a big corporation comes knocking on our door, because I have no doubt they will at some point in time," she said.

"I think everyone realizes it is there. It is something that we will have to deal with and we want something in place for that day in the future when IBM or Nike comes knocking. We will need to have some process in place to deal with these people."

Shoup said if the provincial government funded education properly, the board wouldn’t need to even go down this road.

"It wouldn’t be an issue. The government is saying they have a big surplus and we are saying, ‘oh isn’t that nice, how much will education get?’ But no one is crossing fingers."

Although DPAC representatives were unanimous in feeling that revising the current policy on sponsorship was a waste of time, neither the Whistler secondary nor Myrtle Philip PAC’s polled parents on the issue of corporate sponsorship and no formal position was taken by those PACs.

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