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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.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Trustee Choice

Every time I start to write a blog on this subject, I feel like I am about to shoot myself in the foot. So be it ! "There is only one way to avoid criticism (failure) do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." (Aristotle)

In business and employment usually the best rise to the top. That is not always so in politics and that includes School Board Trustees. Eight Characteristics of The Innovative Leader

There is quite the hierarchy involved in education plus all the research and pedagogy to determine how and what is taught. Who's Responsible for Your Child's Education ? The roles and responsibilities of Trustees are changing and at times just how to fulfill them is a challenge or staying within the guidelines.

Who should be a Trustee? What qualifications should they process? A quick glance. The Agenda: Overlook Your Trustee At Your Peril Why are they important?

There is some things in this article I agree with and some I don't.  How Can We Get Better School Board Trustees? A timely article. Appoint Trustees or become a committee of council, look at the disasters in the American system. Education becomes political. Is being a trustee a job, maybe the commitment?

Trustees More Than Human Shields  I have thought the same at times and also that trustees are window dressing when it serves the Ministry or Board. Would decisions go over any better if made centrally as opposed to locally? Where or how would the line of communication and dialogue take place? Would it be more top down than it is now?

I have no educational background. No business background. No degrees. I have a passion. I don't have an agenda besides the best education system. No other political aspiration (at least planned). I am acclaimed this election so this is not a campaign speech.

Should you be a Trustee if you have kids in the system? Is there no better reason? Could your decisions be swayed by the affect on them? Should former educators be Trustees? Bed fellows? Who knows the system better but maybe old school?  What about business people? Would dollars be more important than education? What about politicians? Are Trustees politicians? Maybe but no party politics even thought the system is at the whim of what ever party is in power. Should you have a degree in sociology or psychology? Teachers are expected to be everything so why not Trustees? If Board Staff cannot explain and the merits of a program or a strategy or their implementations, are they good? Where does the expertise and knowledge lie?

Anyone can become a Trustee but should they? Four Qualities of People Who Change the World

Be informed. Be ready. It's All In Your Hands  (Site added to post Oct 19/14)

"Engage Inspire Innovate.....Always Learning" Is not just for students but also parents, teachers, administrators, staff and Trustees.

Have I shot myself in the foot or enlightened myself?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Who Does the Imposing?