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Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Good The Bad The Ugly

My May Trustee Reflection. This maybe some what tongue & cheek and if taken out of context, thoughts behind the post will be lost. Web links were added to the enrich the Blog post. This is the most inspiring yet depressing yet hilarious yet horrifying yet heartwarming grad speech

"The Good The Bad The Ugly

 A simplistic, maybe naive look at what does the good the bad the ugly look like in an education setting/scenario.

Every meeting we have good news. Our students do great things, our staff do great things, our schools do great things. It is not fluff. We our proud of the achievements and accomplishments within our system. Can we always pin point the policy, procedure, pedagogy, practice or philosophy that nurtured that good news? Often not. Everything within the education system is so intertwined. Our students and our front line on the ground staff are our best good news. 10 Ways to Determine the Strengths of Our Students

The bad unfortunately sometimes happens. But is the bad bad? Engage Inspire Innovate .... Always Learning. We tell our students to learn from their mistakes, that mistakes are a learning experience not a failure. What about so called mistakes from staff, To Engage To Inspire To Innovate? Are they given the freedom and support to try the uncharted? Being at the forefront and jumping on the bandwagon before it is trending may leave one vulnerable to criticism and maybe the realization things are not working. Do they alter course and admit miscalculation or stay course in hopes the mistake goes unnoticed by others? What direction to take? All too often the status quo prevails which leads to the accusation that education reform/transformation is too slow or even not working. Is the resistance to making change from the fear of the unknown or the fear of what one must give up to achieve change? The conversations around these mistakes are maybe just as valuable as the good news. Advancement. The bad may ultimately be the best practice. Always Learning. When School Leaders Empower Teachers Better Ideas Emerge

The ugly, you never want to deal with. It is out there though. Whether it is an ARC decision, curriculum & programming offerings, staffing & staff issues or finance & budgeting, there will always be those that disagree with the decision. The decisions can be divisive and controversy. This is when we as trustees feel like we are under attack. How we approach the ugly, how we deal with the ugly and how we resolve the ugly can be a challenge and a building opportunity. The ugly allows for the bad and the good. Improving Schools: A Response to Kumbaya

In this scenario it almost appears the good is provided by our students, the bad by our staff and the ugly by us. I believe that is the way it should be. 4 Questions to Improve Your School

You can tell you are doing things right when the ugly and the bad empower the good."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Personal Life Reflection

To make connection they say let people get to know you. Here are a few brief interconnected tid bits of myself. This introvert, reserved person does not often open up. A step.

This time a year brings both joy and sorrow for myself, family, friends, acquaintances and community. The joy will always be the memories. The sorrow will always be that the memories are all we now have of the joy. (Besides the blessing a three daughters.) Yes there is still joy.

For years I lived with this though in my mind. 'I am afraid of dying alone.' Life kept me busy and I had almost come to accept the possible fate. April 28, 2001 changed that. You never know when or what life will bring you.

I wish I had said these words that day. " Today's the day my life begins. All my life I've been just me. Just a smart mouth kid. Today I become a man. Today I become a husband. Today I become accountable to someone other than myself. Today I become accountable to you, to our future, to all the possibilities that a marriage has to offer. Together, no matter what happens, I'll be ready. For anything... For everything. To take on life, to take on love, to take on possibility and responsibility. Today, our life together begins. And I, for one, can't wait." ( Grey's Anatomy, Season 5 episode 22 'What a Difference a Day Makes') How many re-writes did that take? Only if life could be scripted!

May 4, 2013 changed things. Now I live with this thought in my head. 'I am afraid of dying too soon.' We didn't get to say good-bye as a family. Maybe it was easier that way and maybe you made that decision for us. Were we naive, in denial or optimistic, realistic? 

We all have heard the cliches about mourning. Seen the numerous Facebook post. The truth is We all grieve differently. Grief and loss are personal. How we move forward is unique. Memories are always there. How we fill the emptiness varies. This song will always touch me. Let Her Go But can I? The grieving process has no rules (maybe stages). Sorrow has no timeframe. Pain has no boundaries. Mourning hurts. Sometimes the regrets and the self doubting run rampant. Faith can be shaken. They say don't live in the past, live in the present, live for the future. 

I used to live by this philosophy. "Your children maybe are your life but they don't run your life." These days I have to admit that they do run my life. I am blessed, though.There is a difference between being a single parent by choice versus circumstance. I struggle. I have made mistakes. I have not always been there. What have they missed out on? I do my best. I cannot thank those around me enough. It does take a village.

The ring is still on my finger. Is it a reminder? Is it a safety mechanism? Am I ready to move on? Can I? How? It took us both awhile to find that one person. What about that second time? What baggage do I bring with me?

I leave you with this song 7 Years . It touches so many cords with me and my life. Everyone has a song that makes a connection.

I write this not for your sympathy but as a reflection on myself for myself and maybe others. A glimpse of me, that few get to see. A novel is needed to say everything. Maybe that is needed. Is closure in the making?

Monday, February 15, 2016


If we didn't have to make decisions life would be easy. So why would someone take on the responsibility of making decisions that affect other people? 

Tough or complicated decisions can be a nightmare. The backlash over decisions can be over whelming. Transparency is essential.

Those making the decision will always be accused of 'not listening' by those who disagree with the decision. Ultimately a decision needs to be made. Is there always a possibility of a compromise, meet half way, or give and take? Is it always black and white or different shades of grey? Shall the two ever be one?

Will the rationale of  'Short term pain for long term gain' play into the decision making? Does that result in what is the best for the majority? What about the minority? Perceived constituents over the whole of the entity. 

Do you look around and see how others are doing it or do you start from scratch and develop your own? What works for others may not work for you. One size does not fit all. What is the decision based on?

We learn from our failures. Our decisions may have led to those failures. When the decision could lead to the failure of others one hopes there is enough all round trust to make that decision. 'Failure is not an option.' Is failure best made by making the decision or by not making the decision?

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Decide!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What We Do With Voices

Dec 11, 2010 , I wrote this statement in my blog post Your Words My Words "Someday I may write that original tweet or compose that thought provoking article. For now My Words maybe Your Words but they are Good Words." Unfortunately this still pretty much runs true. My blogging has almost disappeared.

There has been many days I said to myself "you need to blog something". Whether it came down to lack of time or lack of inspiration nothing happened. This past week I joined an exchange on Twitter between @sheilaspeaking and @dougpete about the article A Teacher. A Committee Member & A Parent Walk Into a Blog ...

The use of social media does allow people to connect all over the world. Whether they are similar minded or at opposite ends of the spectrum they now have a voice and an audience they may not have had before. You hope their voice is an informed voice. 

Education is something that almost everyone has an opinion on. So whose voice do we listen to? The quiet or the loud? The few or the many? The learner or the expert? The reformer, the innovator or the status quo? Do we move too quickly or too slowly? Do we have knee jerk reactions to adopt the 'flavour of the month' or stay with the tried and proven but outdated? 

As Trustees and our Education partners we need to hear and listen to all voices no matter where they come from. Do we or can we respond/act to them all. Unfortunately we can't. The old saying 'in trying to please everyone you please no one' comes into play. Did we learn some thing from those voices? Probably yes, no matter how minute it may have been or even subconsciously.

If you are hearing voices, listen, they maybe are your own. Input always needed and welcome. Whether you have an audience or not, blogging or social media gives you an outlet. Express yourself.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Charter Public Debate

Usually when the issues of school choice, operations, performance and reform are mentioned, Chartered Schools are always brought forward, if not thrown in our faces. I am no expert on Chartered Schools and at times have failings of my own knowledge of Public Schools, so I am maybe putting myself out here for a lot of mistakes/errors or criticism.

I believe I will always defend Public Education even with all its flaws. The writing of this post was triggered by this post by @SheilaSpeaking Appointed vs Elected School Boards and my comments, not to mention previous posts by Sheila and others. We have to be careful in comparing the Roles & Governance Models of Trustees and School Boards between Provinces let alone the American system.  Now what does that have to do with Chartered Schools?

What I am going to focusing on here is the Role of School Councils. Charter Schools have basically the freedom to operate as they see fit. The Principal/Administrator/Superintendent (or corporate office) does the recruitment, hiring, determines the direction and culture of the school. Parents choose these schools for what they see in them, whether it is the culture, academics, curriculum or teaching methods. Now compare that to the public system. Within the Public System Structure and after Ministry directives and Board implementation, what is left in the Principal's hands to create 'that' school? Parents choose the school because it is the area school and with exceptions can attend a neighbouring school or an alternative/specialized school. Why is there discrepancy/difference between the two?

I will try to pull it together here. I will start with my previous comment in Sheila's post: "I have opposed charter schools with public funding unless highly regulated until public schools have the similar freedoms. Flexibility within the system."  School Councils' Mandate "improve student achievement and enhance the accountability of the education system to parents". What if the School Council 'determined' the 'School'? Would each school now have its own elected Board of Trustees (maybe going back to the days of the one room school)? From the PDSB ,  a council role - selection criteria for Principals and Vice Principals.The first step in creating 'their' school?  In Alberta School Principals can recruit and hire teachers that 'fit' their vision of the school. The second step? If the Principal and teachers all have the same vision as the parents what better way is there for their involvement. Step three? Who is left, the students? That would be step four? I poise the steps as questions because things are never that easy in a bureaucratic system. An old saying comes to mind though "Too many cooks in the kitchen..." Sustainable and stability cannot be overlooked.

Some articles for reference. Just the FAQs-Charter Schools ,  Mix of Charter and Traditional Schools , How Charter Schools Get Students They Want . These are American articles. Or is this the future: Performance Contracting.

One has to remember that Charter Schools are not perfect but neither is the Public System. Which is the one worth the fight? So what does this have to do with Elected or Appointed School Boards? Their vision of what Education and the System should look like and accountability. Students First

PS: What I find wrong with Charter Schools will probably be a future post. Would make this one too long.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Communicating or Stirring

As part of our first Board meeting of every month a trustee does a Reflection (blurb) on part of our Strategic Plan. January was my month. Part of the background to the Reflection was this Ottawa Citizen article.

"Disclaimer. This is maybe a reflection not necessarily a strategic plan reflection. 

Some say what you are critical of in others is also the same fault in oneself. Therefore I am pointing a finger at myself as much as anyone else. At times the words advocating, consultating and communicating could be interchangeable here as can be trustee, board  and administration.

The relevance of school boards &/or trustees is becoming under more scrutiny these day.  What has help lead to this? What is being done to countervene this train of thought?

Maybe I am trying to simplify a complicated situation. Okay, yes I am. Does some of it come down to a current catch phrase, transparency? Communicating about what we are doing. Seeking input & consulting when necessary and even when it might not seem necessary. Advocating for the needs of our students. Sometimes the issue of policy over operations may come into play or trustee of constituents over trustee of board.

Not just communicating what we are doing but also why. The why should include background information and desired outcome. We expect that of our teachers with their students and parents, about what is happening in their classroom. The relevance. How good of job do we do in communicating new pedigogy or strategy or initiative to our communities? Whether it be face to face or Facebook, Twitter, websites  or blogging the tools are there. The communication department does an excellent job of getting the 'good news' out there.

Do we make effective use of parents, school councils, student senators, pic, community or even staff when envisioning or implementing? Director Doherty did just that in developing our current strategic plan. What of ministry consultations? Do we notify and provide the public with necessary information and in a timely fashion for them to participate? Who and how is the public informed, trustees or administration? Participation is beyond our control but we did our part if it is out there. ARCs are maybe a different story. Like parents, at times it seems we as trustees and a board we are left out of ministry consultations. 

Who drives the change? As trustees and as a board do we reply to ministry and OPSBA consultations? Take a look at the OPSBA eqao survey, 82 responses from all the boards and trustees within the province. Not very good. The new health curriculum and the PARG, how are they playing out? Do we use the various organizations to voice our concerns over issues being imposed that we view as not 'best for the student'? Do we do a good job at advocating on issues for our board and ultimately our students? Complaining is not advocating. Do we just 'Grin and bear it'?

An unattributed quote 'the biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply'. Questioning is part of understanding. 

If we do an effective job at communicating, consulting and advocating our relevance is obvious. A goal of mine."

Maybe this is what I am trying to accomplish. Stirring the Pot

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Character of Knowledge

I am bad for this, remembering only part(s) or some details of things. Is it because I glance as oppose to read or hear but don't listen (or is that listen but don't hear)?

This clip from Good Will Hunting was shown to myself and fellow trustees at either a trustee orientation session or an open session shortly after I began my first term as trustee by our Director of Education @teddohe. It resonated with me then and still does. Which character am I?

I have always wanted to know what was going on. This led me to be part of our school's Accommodation Review which led me to become part of the School Council and eventually Chair, to member of PIC and finally (I hope it is not the end) to become a Trustee. Information and knowledge are vital components of everything you do. Knowledge comes from experience and information and learning. What you do with this knowledge is critical to all.

I struggle with all the knowledge I have obtained. In this techie & social media society one can become overwhelmed with information. How one deciphers and correlates this information determiners your thoughts. These thoughts are often stuck in my mind as I stumble to share them in a meaningfully way with others. I don't want to regurgitate what someone else has said, even though at times it can't be said any better. What good is knowledge if you don't use it or share it?

I even hinted at similar thoughts back in 2010 with Your Words. My Words. or in July with The Void . It is a common thread through many of my posts.

Which character am I?   As I begin my second term as an AMDSB Trustee this is one area I hope to improve on.  Communication is vital for one's success but more importantly the success of others.