Total Pageviews

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.

1 comment:

  1. Robert, I can relate to your experience as a new school board member through my own experience as a municipal councillor.I had a year to try it out by filling in for a vacancy and then decided to run for council in 2010. I am now faced with the decision whether to run for another term.

    The biggest surprise that I encountered was how small the area in which a council can effect real change. You see a budget of several millions, and you ask yourself how can I get council to cut this down so that taxes are not so high. Then you discover that there is only a very small amount of expenditure within that budget that is discretionary.

    The general public don't understand that just as I failed to understand it. The largest expenditure is for staff, because this is mainly a service function and people provide those services. Cutting staff would cause the cutting of services. We have had people say that we should cut staff by 25% or 50% percent. They think that we just need to make the remaining staff work harder. Most staff members have specific competencies and qualifications, In most cases there are no others who could take over their responsibilities.

    The same goes for projects and purchases of equipment and material. Arbitrary budget cuts would in many cases have a direct effect on the community and the lives of our citizens.

    In retrospect, we did achieve some important things in the past 4 years - some of which were tackled and accomplished for the first time - like the development of a Strategic Plan for North Huron.

    Only time will tell whether the public appreciate what the current council has achieved. I am sure that my estimate of what we achieved or failed to achieve is probably very different than the estimate of many of the ratepayers.

    As I look at what has happened in education in the past four years, I am sure that my viewpoint will differ from yours and your board colleagues.

    I look at the Avon Maitland District School Board as a citizen of Blyth. I can say nothing good about that board. I feel that we have had no representation, that we have had our school snatched away from us, and I am not aware of any justification for that loss. Even more bothersome to me is the manner in which that action was taken. The prevarication of senior staff and some board members, the many violations of the ARC guidelines, the lack of representation from our business community and municipal council were just a few of the unethical steps that the board seemed to believe they had to take in order to get the predetermined result.

    When we request information from the Ministry of Education about the behaviour of Avon Maitland, they quote the false reports submitted by the board staff and ministry appointees.

    I don't see how the people of Blyth will ever be able to trust this Board or even the new board that emerges from the 2014 election.

    I think some of the blame for this distrust is the shift of some school boards from being representatives of the community to become representatives of the Ministry. The Director of a large city school board told us at a meeting during the ARC battles that the Ministry is constantly issuing orders to his senior staff and they in turn are telling him and his board what they must do. He told me he has a hard time to convince his senior staff that as a representative of the people of the city they must do what is right for their students and their community.

    Avon Maitland seems to have opted for being toady to the Ministry and the Ministry seems to be very happy with that.

    I think the quality of education in Huron County is a victim of that trend.