You're absolutely right.
School Districts are a level of government that is not scrutinized enough, including SD61, that has recently been called out for systemic racism and inequity. But like any other level of government, they are supposed to play by the rules, and it's our job to protect the educational rights of kids in our community by holding SD61 accountable.
A recent CBC article about systemic racism and inequity in Prince George SD57 points out that the BC education system as a whole has issues with systemic racism and inequity: "The authors also write that many of their recommendations do not just apply to Prince George but to the B.C. school system in general." https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/review-of-prince-george-schools-finds-clearly-discriminatory-and-systemically-racist-practices-1.6156868
Some School Boards like SD61 have become toxic and dysfunctional, which contributed to the Four Nations calling for Trustee Jordan Watters' resignation as Chair of the Board: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/greater-victoria-new-school-board-chair-1.6137009
Here's an update about Prince George that reveals issues of toxicity on their board: https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fgoudiestephanie%2Fstatus%2F1437493305479106562%3Fs%3D21%26fbclid%3DIwAR3kjjZ90LYLCiN7kDwH0wWyZmuoQCzYbc8Fy8KDP4YZdnbDDrd7YEtslUs&h=AT24Ljajg9H6gLkrMwykmdwtAtUBLzm4OYRFEa44F9htYI57wg_2iyVvTrRjSJPOcHq-VPgLSOB4uOD-bYXy7Ncbd5YKsitss2nDAae3jK40O8jC_Fsh7dNhYXHVNTSFliSKT_I6
As for the City, they don't have the power to compel SD61 to build the track, but they have been partners in this project and certainly have strong influence. However, they don't have the power to modify plans without public consultation, but they did. Check out page 581 - 585 of the CoV June 6, 2019 meeting: https://drive.google.com/file/d/16vccR8nfukFdcR4CceOYTlRO1l4Mj75G/view?usp=sharing
The City confirmed their support for the original plans of Vic High's Memorial Stadium Revitalization Project in their June 6, 2019 document. See page 581: "In the Strategic Plan, Council has reaffirmed the City's support for a proposal initiated by Victoria High School alumni and administration, to renew their outdoor sport field and related amenities next to the school for the benefit of students as well as the wider community."
Yet oddly, they presented much modified plans in the image in Attachment B (at the end of the rationale) that don't match the Alumni's plans. Clearly, Council was voting on modified plans, perhaps without even knowing.
Despite what the District would like everyone to believe, the Alumni did not have the power to modify plans without consultation either. The original plans went through extensive public consultation as per the agreement with the City and the public was asked to make substantial donations based on these plans — right up until the fall of 2020 when our group called attention to the issue.
Even though the City confirmed in June 2019 their 2014 commitment to contributing $250,000 to the Vic High Stadium project as originally planned, they presented Council with a choice to either fully fund Topaz, or partly fund Topaz in order to come up with the $250,000 for Vic High — but only for the field. See page 584 in the link above.
The Alumni, after working for years to see the plans become reality, apparently jumped at the chance to get the funding that had been committed to them to see Phase 1 constructed alongside the seismic upgrade. However, email exchanges show that the Alumni thought they were moving forward with the field and that the track would come later, as per the multi-phase approach that is confirmed in the City's June 6, 2019 document.
What they apparently didn't realize at the time is that the City and SD61 had already negotiated the proposed 8m easement that requires the same land. (And of course, the parking was apparently kicked down the road and considered last of all when the area required should have been secured first, as required by City bylaws.)
It seems that as far as the City was concerned, they were moving forward sans the track, without telling the Alumni or consulting the public, even though their own documents confirm that public consultation would be required to move forward with the field. See page 583: "The next step required for the Victoria High School field project is a similar exercise, which would include community consultation and identifying the cost of constructing the first phase."
As we know, the situation was kept secret from the public all throughout 2019 when consultation was supposed to take place regarding the proposed development. In 2020, the District even conducted a survey asking people if they wanted the track and stadium, which was confirmed. But then they turned around and said later in 2020 that there was no $ for it (repeating it over and over again to the public), knowing full well that there was a land-use conflict caused by deals negotiated in 2019.
So, back to your comment about School Districts. Clearly, the District did not uphold their mandate as a government body to prioritize students in all their deliberations. And quite apparently, the City of Victoria was more than happy to take advantage of Vic High's vulnerability to the District's abandonment of their most fundamental purpose. But you won't see the District trying to get away with it at Oak Bay High because those parents don't face the same barriers to standing up to power.
That's wrong. We can do better for Vic High students, some of Victoria's most marginalized citizens.
To date, I believe that far too many people have assumed that School Districts are benevolent entities that can do no harm. The Prince George SD57 report and the dealings in SD61 show otherwise.
And yes, the Province is welcome to step in and fix this mess any time.
Thanks for the dialogue Ruben!