Diary of a Mad Trustee December 2nd 2009 Open Board Meeting


Our Trustee Eden

Our Trustee Eden

                                                                                Principiis Obsta…Finem Respice

                                                                             Resist the Beginning…Consider the End


We have a new chair and vice chair as planned and of course there has been a bit of shuffling around to relocate the changed personnel. As usual there is much hope for improvements in the running of meetings and the dominion of the elected over the admin along with a renewed vigour for defending our schools. And that is as it should be…budget, school closure, imminent release of radiation or visit from Billy Bob Thornton should not prevent us from a touching honeymoon moment where anything is possible and everything can be sentimentally viewed through sienna shades. We all need to rest assured for a nanosecond. Did you enjoy it? Now …back to work.

We received the December report to the ministry on progress to date regarding the goals and objectives of our sardonically named Achievement Contract.

This is a compliance document which evidently must be completed and presented to the Board before December 15th each year for approval.  It follows a fairly tight template provided by the ministry and if everything is not carried out exactly as directed, hordes of carnivorous flying monkeys will be released and descend on Cowichan( unless there has been a substantial revision of the School Act lately). Good thing we are so god-fearing. It is not uplifting reading-this document- and merely records the pettiest elements of learning. While it is clearly a waste of money and effort (our educators have better things to do) and no perceived advancements can be detected, there is one aspect that provoked dismay in particular – we have as a board requested on several occasions this template not segregate the fortunes of aboriginal and non aboriginal students. This creates a stigma and in a classic ‘insult to injury’ motif – it emphasises the fact that though we continue to document the challenges and the slide of aboriginal learning opportunities there is never any response which includes improved resources and greater funding to alleviate the problems we observe – we are just here apparently to bear witness and move on.

This is the sum of the exercise for all our kids– the question is asked pretty much every time they trot these calamitous documents out – what is the point of gathering this data if it does not lead to an increase in teaching time, smaller classes, more supports or finer services for the kids and schools we are examining. And answer came there none. We have to do this because the ‘We Say So’ Ministry demands it. And so we do.

It was not all grinding misery tonight – the subcommittee formed early this year (after about a million go rounds with the last board finally this board gave it the thumbs up instead of the finger) to develop strategies to seek more public funding has been beavering away in the wee hours. Last board meeting we brought a recommendation to the board to hold a community forum on the issue of public school funding to provide updated material on our dilemma, colour the material with impact details from our district and most important to enlist the involvement of our community in pressuring the government to properly resource our public schools.

 This meeting we brought two more recommendations which will begin to form some of the discussion backdrop for this upcoming forum – they passed unanimously and I include them below.

 “That the Board of Education speaks out in favour of redirecting all funding for private schools to the public education system, specifically lobbying the BCSTA and the Ministry of Education and encouraging the community to seek this change through political action.”

“That the Board of Education encourages our partner groups, their professional associations, trustees and their organizations and parent groups to publicly pressure the Provincial Government to increase funding for public education to reflect the true costs of providing quality education.”

It is to be hoped this process can offset some of the ‘shock and awe’ tactics the ministry and their cadre indulge in. However dreadful the news about education budgets, it is imperative we do not succumb to despair and give up in disgust. This forum should put fire in our bellies not lead in our shoes. If I have my way (what would that look like I wonder?) this forum will hear what our administration has to offer about the coming apocalypse, become fiercely unhappy as they listen to the day to day impact this neglect has created and then set about finding a brave way to over turn the roll of events so we can make our own priorities the only ones which matter.

Let’s talk about private education funding and the theft from our children. Let’s discuss the need for all educators from teachers to principals to superintendents to stand up for our public schools. Let’s listen to someone tell us why public education is crucial and worthy of our deepest loyalties and our firmest expectations.

Something like this…

We expect:

      Government to be responsible for fully funding all aspects of a quality education.

      The public education system to guarantee each First Nations learner the right to an education respectful of their history, language and culture.

      Learners, parents, early childhood educators, teachers, support staff, administrators, school boards, post-secondary educators, the Government of British Columbia and communities to work in partnership to meet the needs of all learners.

      Strong local democratic governance within the provincial education system.

      Equitable access for communities to programs, resources, experiences and opportunities for learners, regardless of geographic location or socio-economic status.

That is a direct quote from the Charter for Public Education- built in BC and based on submissions and interviews with over 2000 people – which describes public education as a sacred trust.

If you wish to involve yourself in designing and promoting this forum just let me know-as a general philosophy I never turn down food, money or assistance with public events.

Finally we are about to have round two (or is it three?) of the bewildering debate regarding shrinking trustee numbers to diminish community voice in order to save approximately $25,000 a year within a $70 million district budget. As bizarre as it seems this is coming from a trustee though I imagine administrators are happy to have some of the heat taken off them – in case anyone starts wondering why we would restrict our numbers at $10,000 a year when we should be cutting back on the really expensive personnel. After all – we could jettison the whole board and use the room for lawn bowling and still only come up with enough money to fund one principal. But it is viewed as a populist undertaking – unless you deconstruct its real impact as a nail in the coffin of local democratic representation.

If trustees wish to be popular they should embrace the will of our parents and staff and fight for the funding that will produce ideal working and learning conditions. Downgrading our influence to shuffle a few more coppers around is a poor choice and expensive in the long run.

 Well this is the last report before Xmas and I dearly want to extend all my warmest thoughts to you. I will close with a quote appropriate for the season – well at least I think so.

“Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus”

THE REBEL JESUS Artist (Band): Jackson Browne


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This entry was posted in Achievement Contract, Budget Campaign, Charter for Public Education, Classroom Conditions, Democracy, Diary of a Mad Trustee, District Funding Sub Committee, FSA Testing, Funding, Native Community, Provincial Government, Public events, SD #79 Administration. Bookmark the permalink.

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