Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Year in Review

Guest Post from Jacqui Dockray, a committed parent of elementary students and a member of the SD57 District Parent Advisory Council.  She is a tireless advocate for public education and gave the following address to the senior administration and trustees at the year-end board meeting last night.  Thanks, Jacqui, for your creative consensus-building work on so many levels and for allowing me to share your thoughts here.
As another school year comes to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who work so hard to ensure that our children receive not only a quality education, but also a rich educational experience in our public education system.

The Board and the District ensure that what needs to be in place is in place (policies, money, resources, staff, maintenance, etc.) and also set standards and future goals for achievement in many areas within the district.  Thank you for your hard work, and especially for the attempts to move toward open, transparent and more consultative process as well as more equitable and collaborative discussion amongst partner groups and parents.

Collaboration, as is defined in Policy 4100, Employee Relations, “means one or more persons successfully working with other persons to attain common or agree-on goals and objectives.  Collaboration requires mutual respect and trust, clear commitments to common beliefs and values, meaningful consultation and involvement, shared decision-making, open, honest, ongoing two-way communication, risk, creativity and mutually acceptable processes and outcomes.”  This policy is brief and reasonably straightforward – (could we perhaps encourage similar treatment of policy 5119?).  It states that “The Board of Education shall promote cooperation in its dealings with individual employees and employee groups, strive to maintain a positive work environment for employees and students, and seek to maintain a collaborative school district.”  A’ collaborative school district’ is one in which the professional autonomy of staff and the managerial responsibilities of the Board are harmonized around the common goal of providing the best educational opportunities for students.

I believe being a collaborative school district is sincerely worked on here in SD#57.  However, I am concerned that “open, honest, ongoing two-way communication” often does not take place in the district because “fear of reprisal and mistrust” stalls that process.

I would like to see the District encourage all feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly – from all teachers, staff, and administrators, as well as parents and students.  Let people know that they should not hold back any concerns they have with proposed programs or changes in philosophy and that they need not fear reprisal for being honest and constructively critical of what is proposed.  Allow enough time for these consultations to take place so that meaningful data and feedback is collected and can actually be utilised to improve the proposal.

It is with the utmost respect for those who welcome our children into our schools and classrooms day in and day out that I take this time to ask you – the Board and the District – to ensure that you value to the highest degree, the people who form the base of this institution that we call public education.  Without teachers, TA’s, administrators and others at the school level, you have nothing to administer or manage. Without their true and full collaboration, your attempts to move this district into an actual working model of 21st century learning, however that ends up looking, will lack the lustre it should have.

So thank you teachers, school administrators, TA’s, secretaries, custodial staff and all other people in our school communities for making our children’s experiences at school rich, rewarding and worth returning for.  I, for one, value your opinions, constructive criticisms and desires to contribute to the continued improvement of education and exemplary practice in this district.

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