2013 has just begun and education is again in the media. Relations are strained and our students’ learning has been impacted.
Local school boards’ hands are tied as funding comes from the province. As the year continues to unfold, I can only hope that solutions surface to stabilize our classrooms.
There’s an old African saying that goes like this: “When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.” Let’s be honest — no one really wants our students to be like the grass in this old saying.
I hope that the Liberal leadership decision at month’s end will result in a new beginning. From my perspective, politicians of every stripe are responsible for influencing and sustaining essential services, to include maintaining good relations with those who provide those services.
Turning to local issues, the public school board will be looking inward as it takes to heart a consultant’s report on governance practices. Care must be taken to ensure changes to long-standing practices and rules improve public access and transparency of action, and sets clear boundaries for when very limited closed sessions can occur.
An exciting opportunity exists to apply a new practice of delegations meeting with trustees at the sub-committee level to influence content before it reaches the full body of trustees for debate.
Beyond governance, as a member of the policy committee, I will be asking for a refresh of the Ward Information Night (WIN) policy that came into effect in 2005/2006. For all its good intentions, this policy has not been consistently implemented.
The preferred forum for two-way dialogue is trustee/school councils. In fairness, over the past 18 months, broad-based school consolidation meetings have taken priority over WINs. The policy committee is also streamlining the website to create an easy to access repository accessible to parents to guide them in their interactions with their local school and the system overall.
Let’s turn to school buildings. Consolidation decisions made in May 2012 were difficult, but did create a foundation on which to build a long-term facilities plan. Plans are in place to build new schools and remaining schools are in need of improvements to bring them to pristine condition.
The community, staff and the trustees have worked hard to create a system solution with a mix of renovated and new schools, but we are unable to move major pieces of these critically important initiatives forward until they are approved by the Ministry of Education, including finalizing the location for the new Mountain secondary school.
Finally, in light of all the above and more, if we face a provincial election this year, my wish would be that Hamilton Mountain choose a strong voice to ensure promises made are kept and constituents needs are addressed — regardless of political stripe.
Laura Peddle is the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustee for Ward 6 (east Mountain). Columns from the Mountain’s trustees appear monthly on a rotating basis.
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