Where Are Our Voices in All This?

Yes, the Ministry appointee in the  Cowichan School District  assures us in almost every communication,our input is welcome even vital. He has -on behalf of the district -invited our insights and no one could be blamed for believing this might have translated into some measure of serious echo in the big plan the senior staff rolled out on February 6th. Instead it is evident the four meetings held to hear our views in December and January were a pointless journey for the community and an exercise in high level time wasting.

It may interest the district staff to know that for the most part people are quite sanguine about this and expect nothing more after years of being messed around and treated like idiots. Sadly, this has not served to anger people but has instead produced a cynical and somewhat docile response. It is troubling but not surprising. It won’t however surprise anyone to learn that the district is counting on this very docility to steer them to their final destination of taking what is left of the resources in our schools and redistributing them to the wealthiest and most influential of the communities leaving the rest in the dust. Guess which kids will suffer the most from this approach?

The International Association for Public Participation(IAP2)  have created a mildly worded outline which can serve to guide public organisations like a school district in reaching decisions based on the diverse views of the people they are meant to be nurturing. It would be hard to find a more harmless document and yet it will now read like a Bolshie Manifesto in light of the district’s attitude to community.

“As an international leader in public participation, IAP2 has developed the ‘IAP2 Core Values for Public Participation’ for use in the development and implementation of public participation processes. These core values were developed over a two year period with broad international input to identify those aspects of public participation which cross national, cultural, and religious boundaries. The purpose of these core values is to help make better decisions which reflect the interests and concerns of potentially affected people and entities.”

Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation

  1. Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
  2. Public participation includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the decision.
  3. Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
  4. Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision.
  5. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate.
  6. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
  7. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.

Does any of this seem familiar? Probably not if you are an employee or family member at the mercy of the Cowichan School District.

I offer this document simply because the comments made at the meetings as reported by those with whom I have spoken seem to be unrecognizable in the wild and careening schemes of the district staff. I heard no baying for school closure and no hearty appetite for reconfiguration. I did hear how much families value bussing and small community schools. It also was mentioned many times that our families and employees believe we need more resources and not more cuts. Many voices asked why there was so little emphasis in these plans around cutting the high cost of our managers. As we were cordoned off from one and other at little tables we are left to speculate about the sources of this grand plan and of course the authors can always point to the obvious fact that all of us are in the dark abut the details of the conversations at other tables . Interestingly when asked to supply the raw notes from the table discussions we were told it was too irksome to do so. They don’t know the meaning of being irked.

If the district is to be run by fiat then the least the high and the mighty can do is stop pretending they need our valuable contributions to this undertaking. All we have done is bestowed undeserved credibility on decisions already authorised. Where are our voices in all this? We should consider how best to be heard above the roar of this artificially imposed scarcity.

Your Trustee in Exile


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