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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 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 SchoolsMix of Charter and Traditional SchoolsHow 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.


  1. Thank you for extending the conversation and topic from my post to your blog, Robert. Agree, we have to be careful about comparing different districts. But it often happens and changes can get made or influenced without understanding the contexts of other situations. I hope there can be some extraction from the issues to help districts and countries learn from one another. Not easy, I recognize though.

    As for the school council principal selection criteria input angle... I think the whole process and the intent of the process gets misunderstood a lot. I may be from a much "quieter" end of Ontario, but parents don't participate much in principal selection. There may be some input about the needs of a school, but as always, it is just input. I don't think you will find many parents sitting in on interviews of principals or VPs in my area... at board or school level any time soon. We are very different in practices just between the north and south of one province.

    1. Thanks for your input. With the Principal selection criteria, it is stating what qualities/etc you want in the principal not in the actual selection.

    2. Is that the general understanding out there in Ontario though?

      Good point about sustainability and stability in your post. With your description of the "steps" I wondered if there is a reminder in all this to be careful what we participate in.