I want great schools in North Vancouver

NF Gwen Kids 450

This photo shows seven of the reasons why I am a
candidate in the 2018 DNV School Trustee Election

Gwen and I — a couple since we were early teens — raised three children near the Seymour River and they continue living in North Vancouver. Our seven grandchildren attend public schools in the Lynn Valley and Indian River areas.

Fine schools mattered for our kids and now they matter even more for everyone. On this website, you will learn about my attitudes toward education.


My maternal ancestors built a homestead in upper Lonsdale about 115 years ago. I was born in Vancouver and schooled mostly in Powell River until university. My wife and I bought a North Vancouver residence in the mid seventies and share the same home today.

I am a semi-retired accountant who has worked in financial management of private enterprises. Long a follower of public affairs, I have been publisher of IN-SIGHTS, a site for news and commentary on issues affecting people in British Columbia.

I am probably best known for detailed financial analyses of energy operations, particularly at BC Hydro. You might have heard me interviewed on CKNW, CFAX and other broadcast outlets.

I argue against waste and I criticize our provincial utility for deceptive accounting and unrestrained spending. Corporate empire-building makes efficient delivery of products and services impossible. That’s a fact in all endeavours.

Value for Money, the Focus of Public Spending

We have had years of minimal increases in provincial support for public education and, because of other budget pressures, this will continue. To protect or improve services to students, schools must maximize the value of each dollar spent at the local level.

I would prioritize children, teachers and support staff. Great schools also need great leaders, so developing skilled and innovative administrators is a vital responsibility. Whether in schools or District offices, administration should deliver high value to taxpayers.

My Style as a Trustee

Civil debate is mandatory. Disagreements are inevitable, even healthy, but Trustees should set the standard for cooperation that works toward fair consensus. Public and private conversations should occur without acrimony or distorting the opinions of others. As we teach our children, mutual respect is vital.

Special Education Resources Need Priority

On this website, you’ll find A family’s 15-year struggle for justice. It involved a dispute with the Ministry of Education and the North Vancouver School District over inadequate services to a dyslexic child in primary grades.

The boy was an adult before the matter concluded. Authorities spent more in legal costs than they would have spent treating children like him fairly. That old case should not have happened. But, things are not necessarily better today.

I know the current experience of one family. Their child needed special attention and a different learning environment than available at his school. The family turned to a private program but that imposed a serious financial burden.

But, doing nothing was not a choice. The parents knew their son’s future was at stake. Children who do not fit easily into school may become adults who do not fit easily into civil society.

Without our investment in youngsters with special needs, the future will need more spending on crisis supports, addiction treatments and law enforcement.

It is the classic, “Pay now, or pay more later.”

We can do better.

Sports, Music and the Arts

When our children were active in athletics, I served as a minor sports administrator, including several years on Boards of the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association, North Vancouver Minor Hockey, North Shore Winter Club Hockey and Little League Baseball. Those recreational activities were a large part of our lives and I believe that schools should encourage physical activities of all sorts, for all children, whether for high-level competition or simple recreation.

school sports 400

Our family also took part in music programs, within schools and in community orchestras like the Vancouver Youth Symphony and the Summer Pops Youth Orchestra. As a School Trustee, I would be a strong advocate for music, the arts and other cultural initiatives.

Before-School and After-School Care

Many families need before-school and after-school childcare, I favour the use of school properties for these services, where there is space and confirmed interest of families. The school system and third-party child care providers can work in partnership to give cost-effective supervision of young children.

Safe and Active Travel

North Vancouver School Board cooperates with the City and District to improve safety and traffic congestion made worse by the many private cars taking children to schools.

I would support existing efforts and encourage expansion of Walking School Bus and Bicycle Train Programs.

walking school bus 400

Inclusive Education

I fully support the following Ministry of Education statement. BC teachers also endorse it.

Inclusion is the value system which holds that all students are entitled to equitable access to learning, achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their education. The practice of inclusion transcends the idea of physical location, and incorporates basic values that promote participation, friendship and interaction.

Just be quiet350

Indigenous and Multicultural Programs

School District No. 44 is already partnering with the Skwxwú7mesh and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in whose traditional territory we live. The aim is to improve academic success of students with indigenous heritage but also to educate our community about histories and cultures of people whose ancestors were on these lands for thousands of years.

The first of my European ancestors came to North America in early and middle years of the 19th century. Pictured here is my grandfather (the little guy on the right, between two sisters), his mother, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Smith GW & Amanda Family ca 1890

It took time to bond with social norms of the new lands but they made positive contributions in a variety of ways. This story repeats today; immigrants make our communities richer.

Diversity is a fact and we should celebrate it. Whether residents are relatively new to North Vancouver or from families that moved here generations ago, we share common interests today and need to respect and appreciate each other.


Author: Norm Farrell

Gwen and I raised three adult children in North Vancouver. Each lives in our community with seven grandchildren, 12 years and younger. I have worked in accounting and financial management and publish IN-SIGHTS.CA with news and commentary about public issuesv.

10 thoughts

  1. Well said Norm. You hit on a number of points that resonate with me. One is your support for teachers and support staff. Two is your commitment to hold administrators accountable and three is to encourage more Walking School Bus and Bicycle Train programs. As a traffic control person I can’t tell you how challenging it is to deal with traffic control issues around schools with parents dropping their kids off in the morning and picking them up again in the afternoon. It presents significant safety issues for myself and other tcp’s, the contractors we work with, the public and with the kids and parents themselves. Something needs to be done about that.


    1. Thanks Will. I’ve observed the traffic congestion at schools both morning and afternoon. I understand why many parents drive the kids and the cars are almost always operated responsibly. But, Walking School Bus and Bicycle Train programs present an opportunity for change. Perhaps a little more encouragement from the Board, even a paid coordinator or two could make a difference, particularly with the help of volunteers from PACs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Further to that it might be a good idea to reinstate the CUPE crossing guards in North Van. A previous board decided to eliminate those positions in response to yet another reduction in funding from the BC Liberals. The City of North Vancouver council of the day decided to pick up the tab for the six posutions located in the City but the District of North Van decided not to do that.


      2. When I was in elementary school, we regularly relied on crossing guards to supervise children crossing roadways after leaving the school bus. Our old bus was wrecked after losing its brakes and leaving the road. Luckily, no kids were seriously injured. The replacement bus and driver did not use crossing guards and in the first week, one youngster was hit by a car. That disturbing image is in my mind today, despite passage of much time.

        Well trained crossing guards can assist and protect children in a number of ways besides helping them across a street. It can be the first line in keeping schools safe.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Norm,

    I wish you luck in your efforts to become a trustee. I hope and expect you will succeed. As a long time teacher on the island I do have some words of advice for a trustee. Choose one school and get to know it well. This means seeing the school from the teachers’ and parents’ perspective as closely as you can. They know the challenges intimately and will be more candid with you than the best administrators. Good luck.

    Brad Wilson


    1. Thank you. You make an excellent point and I aim to listen carefully. To succeed, Trustees must be more than cheerleaders for the status quo and people at all levels of the system have opinions to be heard. In North Vancouver, the practice is to assign each Trustee to a family of schools, which is a secondary and its surrounding elementary schools.

      A while back, the District 44 Board of Education surveyed its employees and it confirmed there was much to improve in relations with staff members. Having one of the highest rates of labour grievances is a negative indicator and it demonstrates there is work to be done.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello, I have known Norm and Gwen Farrell for almost 6 decades. Throughout that time I have been so fortunate to stay in touch with such a great team of people who reflect so many of the family and community values that we all aspire to. I have always found conversations with Norm to be of the highest intellect and erudition as reflected in his In-Sights blog posts.

    I only wish that I was a resident of North Vancouver so that I could make sure to go to the polls to vote for him for School Board in October. I urge you to make sure to vote for Norm Farrell as his contributions to the education community will be highly valued by the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of North Vancouver.


    Gary Gumley


  4. Good luck. I hope you are successful in getting elected. The DNV School District (like any other public school district) would benefit greatly from your experience and willingness to ask the hard questions and work hard.


  5. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to read your detailed and objective studies on the energy file in BC. I wish you every success in your latest venture. You bring a wealth of pertinent life experiences to the education field.

    Liked by 1 person

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