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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.


  1. Your post has me reflecting on the time and input I gave to the School Board Governance consultations and the Provincial Interest Regulation back in well as what I learned...

  2. Robert: This is a very honest and thoughtful essay. The first item of its kind I have ever received from your board.
    The decentralization you speak of is certainly the dominant process now in Ontario education. Only boards with guts stand up to it. Your administrators, as in many boards, operate as fifth columnists, biased as they are towards their own version of local centralization.
    Your board show no respect for the community now that the community has almost no power to influence them. They have continuously fed the community misinformation, cheated on the ARC process, and the Ministry holds its nose and accepts your bureaucrats skewed reports. If our community mattered, they would ensure that the records are true. Even when I proved that specific public pronouncements were false, your chairperson supported the pronouncements.

    With this kind of dishonest governance the public is losing respect for public education. That is a shame. Public education should be the best we have available and should not be losing students to school systems which lack the principles of pluralistic, open, society.

    I admire your inquiring thoughts, and I understand how difficult it must be to work in the kind of environment that seems to exist in the Avon Maitland board.

    I wish you well

    Brock Vodden

  3. Upon reposting, the blog posted to its original posting date.