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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