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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

Note: This blog would have been originally written in 2012-14, I am sure it was originally posted to my blog  but only appears in my drafts now. So reposting. )

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 2003, 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.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Direction Of PIC

I see 3 directions PICs may take: encourage/strengthen School Advisory Councils (SAC) at the grassroots; provide Board wide SAC/PIC events that parents can participate in; be a sounding platform to the board on how/when to engage parents and provide input (consultation).  I will concentrate on the first and explain ‘once those are in place the third becomes unnecessary’.

All schools are to have School/Parent Advisory Council to promote and provide parent involvement/engagement. 'Involvement Matters: What to Tell Parents' All boards are to have PIC to support & promote parent involvement/engagement throughout the board.

I see the main role of the PIC is to support and strengthen the local SAC. How will they do this? Well like everything else, each situation is different. Many parents and schools struggle with parent involvement, due to the fact that it can and does look different to so many people. Bloggucation's 'The Family Path'   Whether it is discussing school at home, helping with homework, volunteering at the school or in the classroom, organizing school activities/events, providing input on school & board policy & direction are all involvement. Some value one over the other but they are all vital to the child/student and the effective education system. Where parents feel comfortable and see the need is where they will participate, whenever, however. It is up to the School Advisory Council and school to promote and assist and welcome this participation. Some areas need to be worked on, to make parents feel their time and voices are important. The PIC can support the local SAC by providing information, resources, and workshops for members/parents to assist in their personal and group growth. The need for communication whether done by notes, newsletter, emails, phone, twitter, facebook, skype or website is first step and maybe the deciding step. Your School Doesn't Need A Webmaster' The need may be not to just to inform/educate parents and to encourage involvement/engagement but also those in the system on how to promote and accommodate it in their particular role or situation. Mechanisms need to be in place so that ALL parents can be involved. 'Understanding Parental Involvement' This can be a challenge for the SAC or school.  The stronger, the more knowledgeable the SAC (parents), the more entrenched parent involvement is at the school level and affects the role of the PIC.

The second point comes out of PIC as a ‘Let’s do something different’. Whereas SACs are at the school level PICs operate at the Board level.  As stated they are to support local councils. Doing a Board wide event, whether a workshop, discussion meeting or hosting a guest speaker, can bring parents across the board together.  We all know the benefits of networking to learn. Connect people. 'IgniteParents'
I said that the third point would ‘become unnecessary’ with strong SACs. If parents are informed & active (involved and engaged) SACs become a place of collaboration between parents and school for effective education. The mutual acceptance of everyone’s role can do so much. When parents are knowledgeable and their voices welcome the need to request input will not be needed as it will be happily given. The consultation and input will start from step one, the where, when & how becomes automatic. Grassroots participation at work. 'Parent Involvement Is Smart'

I have stated many times ‘knowledgeable, educated or informed parent’. This is a two way street. The needed/wanted information needs to be readily available to and understandable for parents. Whether this is a Ministry directive, board policy or curriculum question, with today’s technology, information and resources   are at click of a button. Parents need to take the step to obtain this information (or better still offered to them to start with) to become informed. Why is this being taught? Why is it being taught this way? How can I help? What programs are in place for assistance? What are the bases for this policy? The education system does not need to be confrontational but can it be better? Yes.  Does it start with a small step by parents or a small step by educators? How about taking the steps together. 'Study Group - Parental Engagement'

There are still areas that are appear off limits but many issues arise due to not knowing how to or how able to accommodate parent involvement.  Is it still the student’s work, the teacher’s classroom, the principal’s school, the board’s direction, the Ministry’s policy? Parent Involvement Coordinators' Some parents think the meaningful inclusion of their voice is taking too long. Could it be that parents and the system wanted this but both were unprepared how to incorporate it? Your thoughts - 'Lifting Bans on Parents in Classroom'