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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Board Reflection



This may sound more like a self evaluation, critique or a campaign speech rather than a reflection. 4 years ago did I know why I wanted to become a trustee? Did I know what I wanted to accomplish? All I knew was that I had a desire to try. I had developed a passion for education.
To grow one has to step out of their comfort zone. Becoming a trustee is a little different than sitting on an ARC or being a School Council Chair or PIC member. Could I do it? Did I know enough about the System? Was I about to rise to my level of incompetence?
As trustees we are responsible for Policy & Procedure and leave the operations to staff.  What aspects of operations do we need to know to evaluate the effectiveness of our Strategic Plan & Board Improvement Plan? The questions we ask, even the stupid ones, with their answers increase ones knowledge of the system. The questions challenge and the answers verify what the Board is doing.
Maybe going off on a little tangent here but we all too often hear the word accountability. Who is accountable for what and to whom? As more and more, depending how or if you want to say it, control or power is becoming centralize the bureaucracy may overshadow the goal, education. This raises the question frequently being asked “is the role & responsibilities of trustees and even of local boards pertinent?” The further the leadership is from the base, the school & all,  the further it is from the implementation and the observation, what works.  On the same note the more voices a voice goes through the more the voice will change.  What is said, heard, perceived, implemented and meant may not always align. We all played the game where the first person in a group is given a phrase or sentence and it is repeated through the group to the last person. Is the original message ever the same as the last message? There has to be common understanding of roles & authority for the system to work. Everyone is responsible/accountable to everyone.
I recently saw this title. ‘The Shift from Learning to Read to Reading to Learn’.  I thought to myself how appropriate this is and complex. Lets change it to’ Learning to Learn to Learning to Learn.’ When we begin something there is always apprehension but when that journey is successful there is happiness. The happiness continues as the desire continues. What happens when the desire wanes? Does the Happiness? Go back to the original statement,’ Learning to Read’. Most kids enjoy reading as they grow up. It is for enjoyment/pleasure. What happens when that reading is associated with something else? The same can apply to learning. We all remember those inquisitive & passionate but annoying WHYS of our kids while they were kids.  What happens when we go from the how & the want to learn to learning for learning? What do those WHYS sound like?
We have 5 words for that. Engage, Inspire, Innovate...Always Learning.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Coming of 1:1

Our/my school Board, AMDSB, just introduced a 1:1 pilot project for grade 7 & 8 students in a group of schools. I am in favour of the initiative and believe in its success but also see the obstacles to it possible failure. There is no problem searching the internet to find stories of success and failure of both 1:1 & BYOD projects.

We have all heard the saying “The medium is the message.” We don’t want to be developing a new saying “Technology is the message” but “Technology is the means to the message.” Navigating the Digital Self

The Board has taking the initiative to launch the project. They must believe in it. The Purpose of Technology in Education .They must support the teachers, the students and the parents. It cannot be “here it is, go for it”. The training and resources for the teachers is essential.

The teachers are welcome to and excited about the project.What they do with it could the make or break of it. Its Time for Change. As compared to BYOD, 1:1 gives conformity to the devices used and what can be used. Some same diversity is needed. Total equity is still an issue. Will it require additional training & time for the teachers?

“My own Ipad.” “Terrific.” Disruptions: Minecraft, an Obsession and an Educational Tool. With this comes responsibility for the student. One to One Computing Triumph

Conversation Before Transformation. Parents are the wildcard here. They cannot be left hanging on what this all looks like: for the students, within the classroom and at home. It is maybe more of a change for them then the student. Whether it is a teacher, school or board led, parents need to be shown/demonstrated how this works.

Like all good plans it is the planning and implementation that can make or break it. The Board, teachers, students and parents all need to be on the same page or in this case screen, for success. What If? Technology in the 21st Century Classroom

I may have shared more information here than me saying anything but that is me. We will see how this supports our 4 Cs & 1 P and where we go from here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Who is the Teacher?

There is always discussion in educational circles about the role of parents in education and the role of homework in that education. The article Homework Hits Home as Schools Outsource Teaching to Parents throws another take on the discussion.

Two related statements in the article stand out to me: "...children learn much more from their parents than their teachers." & "...parents acknowledged as the first teachers." The interpretation(s) of these statements make for an interesting discussion(s).

Although the article does not state age or grade for this 'outsourcing' does in go against Ontario's Early Learning Program & FDK? If parents are the first teachers and children learn more from them than teachers why is there this rush to get them into school? Did Ontario remove Grade 13 so it could add JK? I don't think so but now we have children entering school that may not be ready and ones leaving school that aren't ready. Every child, family, school and situation is different and JK & SK are not mandatory, you are certainly looked upon poorly if you choose not to follow that route. Is this what JK/SK is for Fast Tracking to Kindergarten as a mentioned in a previous post Questions on Engaging/Involving . 

Parents and teachers all have a role in the education of children. Can lines be drawing who is to do what and where? As stated above 'every child, family, school and situation is different' but school has become the place to equalize the imbalances that there maybe. Right or wrong.  (Poor choice of words here) If the parent(s) are lacking or not providing the skills/etc, parenting, the child needs in the first place, how can mandated involvement help? Maybe I am shifting too much to parent being parent as opposed to parent being teacher. The article does state '...schools are being told to consider running training and development courses for parents and to invite then in as guest teachers.' Parents should want to come into the classroom and school. Parents should want to assist and help their children learn. Is it an open sincere invitation? The line of communication between child/parent with the teacher/school is so important. The involvement/engagement is built on trust, "...valuing parents as part of the education process." (I know others can weigh in on this better than me and probably will.) For past thoughts see posts Parent Involvement, Parent Involvement II, Parent Involvement III & Parent Involvement IV

Homework is its own topic by itself. I will reference a few links:  Alfie Kohn Rethinking Homework , Tim Slack The Role of Homework, Mike McNeff Challenging the Core Belief in Homework, Diane Milne 8 Strategies for Homework Success

One cannot put all their thoughts into one post/blog. One's thoughts maybe go in many directions. The directions are what lead to conversations.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reflection of Thoughts II: The Links

I posted Reflections of Thoughts on the 28th putting some of my views/questions about the current Education sector labour issues in Ontario on paper. This post has links to various articles. Is this a battle of &/or for the past, the present & the future? I am maybe restating too much here.

Ontario's Education Act

When PTDs failed, Boards where left to negotiate contracts. Here is the Act that sets the parameters.
Putting Students First Act: Bill 115

The Act it contradicts? Labour Relations Act 1995

The OSSTF. The ETFO. The OECTA. The OPSBA. The OCSTA . The Ministry of Education . Yours to visit to decipher their views & stand.

The deal that is the framework. OECTA - Memorandum of Understanding Q & A

Some views of the deal. Is there a "Me Too' Clause? OCSTA: Bad Policies Do not Put Students First

There is no ETFO deal to compare. Stop Bill 115

I cannot find the link stating "EFTO will fine member $500/day who do not follow Union's job action". Does this say something?

Some Boards had deals with OSSTF. OCDSB & AMDSB One was ratified (?) UGDSB, 2 voted down & others not voted on. So nothing 'official' to compare. Comment "Fool Me Once" OSSTF District 18

 A little bit of labour history. The Peace Couldn't Last

 A look back and ahead. Cohn: School Strikes Aren't the Apocalypse....

 The contradiction of interpretation. Did Broten "Blatantly" Lie on 'The Agenda'? 

 What people think of Extra-curriculars.Education "Extras" are Really Essentials (Full Version)

What became of this report? Has anything changed? Report of the Minister's Advisory Group on the Provision of Co-instructional Activities 2001

Is it time? Implications? School Boards Group Try to Clarify the Role of Teachers

Trying to make sense of it all! People For Education: Ontario's Labour Dispute...

What some Boards did. UCDSB "Who Is In Charge of the Schoolhouse?"

Should Ontario be watching/concerned? Michigan: A Wake-up Call

The number of resources/articles out there are limitless.  Different messengers, different messages. Where are we heading?


Friday, December 28, 2012

Reflection of Thoughts

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to get moving, in this case writing another post to my blog. It Would Be Easy Not To Care by @sheilaspeaking was my nudge. I DO CARE.

Education & schooling requires the mutual efforts of children, parents, teachers, (unions), administration, trustees, ministry & community to succeed. Nothing new there but the recent labour issues here in Ontario have put a different perspective(s) on this.

I will be blunt here, the labour situation is a mess and there only is going to be losers. Some voices are not being heard , others are not being listened to. Mistakes are being made by all. There are many issues at stake. I will confess I don't know all the ins & outs and I don't have the knowledge to answer everything. I am not a labour negotiator or lawyer. These are my abbreviated views.

For years the education sector through bargaining made great gains for its members. Yes, there were a few bumps in the road and steps backwards but overall teachers have moved forward. Teaching is an important job and does have its increasing challenges. Have they reached the peak or a plateau?

Many of these gains were initially obtained through local bargaining. However, maybe for the better, local bargaining (except for local issues) gave way to provincial bargaining. The SAME for ALL across the province. I cannot say whether boards liked this arrangement or not but the province does control the purse strings and it took a lot of responsibility off the local boards. However, there was no legislation outlining the parameters, lengths or degrees this bargaining would or could take. It went well when things were good.

The Ministry (government) realized it was in a financial bind but it had been good to education (always could use/want more). It wanted constraints and savings but instead of saying "This is what we want" and asking "How we can achieve it?", they said "This is what is happening", Bill 115. This created two issues: financial implications & bargaining rights. Can the two be separated out from each other?

Provincial bargaining failed for the Public System but agreement was reached in the Catholic System. I cannot speak how those in the Catholic System see or feel about the process & the agreement, so I will leave it at that. There were no ground rules in place for failure but local boards were now to negotiate what the province could not. Who was now going to look like the bad guy?

Should have local boards spoke up sooner about Provincial bargaining? Was it an issue before? Things went okay in the past so why rock the boat? When things went south this time though, boards did oppose and ask for changes to what was to be negotiated and how. A bold move to maybe bite the hand that feeds you. Could local & provincial bargaining occur at the same time? Some Boards & Trustees took very vocal stands while others took various other degrees to show displeasure or concern.

What avenues were/are open for teachers and educational workers to show their opposition? What drastic steps can Boards take?

Bargaining, negotiations or discussions (what ever term you want to use) requires two or more sides. The sides or players in this bargaining changed at the end from provincial to local parties (boards & unions). What players should have been involved? What players were involved? What players were never asked to the table? What players walked from the table?  Can or should the two issues of financial & bargaining be separated out? The details would make for a long(er) post.

It is interesting to see the sides play out/ promote their positions. At times you think 'They are not talking about the same thing'. As trustees maybe we hear or follow staff & ministry too much. Can the interpretation of various things be so different? Is each messenger giving a different message? You may ask yourself "Who is correct?" Maybe each side should pitch they side to the other's members. Discrepancies have been there from the beginning. Could teachers strike? Can the Bill be challenged in court? Who is the employer?

Some Boards did come to what appeared to be settlements/agreements, then the floor fell in. What changed? The Province had to agree to the contracts.

No matter who you side with, there are 2 groups that are being affected by this unrest that have no direct say or course of action.  Parents & Students. They can voice their opinions & demand action. Should they be pawns or victims of things? There have been established cultures, traditions &/or expectations in schools. What is the role of the teacher? Should they be clearly defined or once defined leaves no room for change? Schooling/education is more than what is taught in the classroom, extra-curriculars have become part of the process. How did they evolve to what  & how they are today, considering they are not happening? This (these) is another issue even though it clearly cannot be separated from the current ones.

The moral of a school means so much. Are these short term or long term actions going to have long term or short term affects? We all say "We are there for the kids." I think everyone needs to step back and rethink the consequences of their actions. Is the short term gain &/or pain worth the long term ...?...? or is it the long term gain &/or pain worth the short term ...?...? . Should teachers be made toe the official line?

I have maybe tried to simplify a complicated situation too much. Is inaction leading to reaction instead of pro-action? Is this the accepting or un-accepting the better/worst of 2 evils/goods.

My Path of Learning has been very bumpy recently and educational but has created more undefined territory.

I posted this awhile ago at @yesknowno.  "If talks dn't lead 2 talks & actions dn't lead 2 actions or talks dn't lead 2 actions & actions dn't lead 2 talks, what is left? Start new?"

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Trustee Dilemma

As another school year has started, one looks ahead to the potential of the new year. One should also reflect on the past.

The Avon Maitland DSB has adopted a new Strategic Plan and changed their Mission Statement from 'Cultivating Potential' to 'Engage Inspire Innovate...Always Learning'. AMDSB We even came up with a video.

I will be beginning my third year as a Trustee. Each year has had its dominating happening. Year 1 - learning the ropes; Year 2 - accommodation reviews; Year 3 - labour negotiations. As you can see 'Always Learning'. My reflections will be on the dilemma of the role of Trustees & Boards in a serious of quotes from various blogs.

"There are, however, several aspects of my recent experience that I find particularly troublesome. I would like to highlight three of them. The first arises from the excessive centralization of the system, with authority concentrated in the Department of Education and in the central administration of the board itself. Frankly, the fondness for standardized solutions to issues and challenges is stifling creativity, innovation, and student engagement under a blanket of rules, regulations, programs, mandated “outcomes” and standardized tests. I’m reminded in this of a song by Simon and Garfunkle, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”  Students First Nova Scotia

"Since 2033, there has been a considerable consolidation of power in the area of financial management, labour negotiations, and legislation. This has happened with little or no public debate, or any rationale on how this will improve student achievement. It's time to ask the question. "Who is in charge of the school house?". Citizens of Ontario need to debate whether schools will continue to be run locally or from Queen's Park." UCDSB Who Is In Charge of the School House

“Some argue that local school governance is a ‘dinosaur’ that needs to be replaced, but local leaders are going to be the ones implementing these federal policies,” Jacobsen said in a release. “So if they’re going to have a major hand in how these policies get shaped at the local level, then we better pay attention to their resources, their capabilities, and not just dismiss them.” MSU Research

"So while I ponder these conditions and specifics more, I thought I would invite others to my thinking   A few of my questions so far:  Whose confidence should be sought after the most – public, parents, students, other?  Is there stakeholder agreement on what accountability should look like?  I have also been thinking a lot about what makes me confident in publicly funded education and ensures that they are, and continue to be, the “schools of choice” for me as a parent (not that I have been asked or have the right answers)." Ensuring Confidence in Public Education

"A fully engaged, working board must faithfully struggle to form a body within which there are shared values, understanding, tolerance and mutual respect." All A-Board

"Locally elected boards are the only entity that has the mission of keeping public schools public. They have a vested interest in retaining public control of schools and ensuring quality education since their actions directly impact local community life. That don’t always live up to that mission, but democracy allows us to hold them accountable." Why Elected School Boards Matter

"The first question to ask is, do we need school trustees? They lost their most important role when they stopped setting local education tax rates. The province effectively controls budgets, curriculum and labour negotiations. The provincial government could officially take over the system, but trustees do make useful scapegoats, so don’t count on it." Fifteen Years of Amateur Hour

"It begs the question: Is an elected body that is left powerless when it comes to budget decisions really an effective form of governance?" Kootenay School Board Powerless


"What hurts is when folks don’t know that you have, and continue to weigh the consequences of every decision very seriously.The Hardest Part of Being an Elected Official 

No finger pointing, just points to ponder as I continue my Path Of Learning. I still have a lot to learn. '...Always Learning' to do the best I can & for those around me.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Waiting For Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario. Meet The Public Watchdog With Bite 
When or will the Ontario Ombudsman have oversight of Education? My present leaning may show here.
I follow the @Ont_Ombudsman on Twitter with interest and enjoy his #AskUROmbuds conversation. Here are some tweets of interest :


"When we make a recommendation, we usually require a periodic update by gov't on implementation"
" We have jurisdiction over Ont gov't line ministries, agencies, boards, commissions and Crown corporations." 
 "The whole MUSH sector is off limits. At least for now. See pages 13 et al. here "
"We oversee over 500 Ont gov't ABCs. Agencies, Boards, Commissions and Ministries."
"S. 17(2) of our Act allows 4 trivial matters, vexatious, frivolous or bad faith complaints to b rejected"
"Ombuds Act allows me to review laws. We did that in the  investig. Lead the gov't to agree to repeal PWPA"
"The vast majority of the 18,000+ cases we process every year is dealt w/in a low-key, cooperative way thanks to "
"Even if we don't have jurisdiction over MUSH, we may still b able to help. Don't hesitate to ring us."
"The Ombuds must respect the legislative branch of gov't which is democratically elected and directly accountable to citizens."
"Last but not least, as my recommendations are not binding, gov't can, at all times, reject them."
"Courts can exercise judicial review to ensure that the Ombuds does not exceed his jurisdiction or fail to exercise it."
"If our decisions were binding, we'd b more like a court & treated much differently in law."
"Ombud's findings around the world are not binding. It's the nature of the beast. We rely on moral suasion."
" I've always said oversight of some/all MUSH is inevitable. Hopefully sooner than late"


For your reading the 2011/2012 Annual Report of the Ombudsman.
I wonder what the Ombudsman's oversight of Education would look like? Would it create a roadblock/impediment of decisions and implementation?  Could things come to a crawl or halt within a school or Board waiting for the Ombudsman's Report? Could there be hesitation to make decisions and changes? Would its mandate include everything from a parent not liking a child's teacher or classroom placement to Accommodation Reviews and School Closures?
How would Rulings be implemented? Where would the ruling's jurisdiction lie: the School, the Board or the Province?
Is it time to start serious discussion? Time to Give Ombudsman Authority for Schools Overdue 
Until we know what it would look like how can we say yes or no to oversight?


PS: I know some of my followers will jump on this post.