Monthly Archive for April, 2007

School Boards “Babes-in-the-Woods”

North Shore News, April 16, 2003

Parents deliberately left out in educational malpractice

Dear Editor:

I applaud the move by the education minister to restore some power to principals, particularly in supervision of best practice. After all, they are supposed to be the "principal" teacher and be a model and guide. Also the principal should have a close relationship with the parents so that the prime constituency – parents and students – are satisfied.

The need for this move demonstrates how far our system has drifted from its intent. I would suggest the whole School Act should be examined and reformed. Look at the drift and the costs. Why is it that school boards run community education and recreation programs (with principals) which should be run by community colleges or recreation departments? Why are school boards dabbling in international education? Why are school boards selling locally-developed courses? And on and on.

I hope others can add to this list of marginal and unnecessary, costly and diverting, behaviours. Why can’t school boards focus on education of the young as intended?

In the 30 years that I have been involved in education as a parent and grandparent I have always felt that parents were being deliberately excluded. I contend that this exclusion amounts to educational malpractice. Because parents are left out, everything has gotten off course, and serving the wrong "stakeholders" (employees and petty politicians). If parents ran the schools as they do in private schools we would have much better results.

Why not abolish the "babes in the woods" centralized school boards and have school-based management with parents as governors?

Tunya Audain West Vancouver

Abolish School Boards Getting More Press

ADQ leader in Quebec, Mario Dumont, says he would abolish school boards to improve education. See ADQ wants to scrap school boards.

I have long written about how school boards ignore parents and are the main obstacle preventing excellence in education. Below is my letter to the Editor of the North Shore News, June 05, 2000. GET RID OF ELECTED TRUSTEES

Dear Editor:

The many issues in our public schools that continue to trouble us: poor communication, unresponsiveness, discouragement of parent volunteers, trustees’ expensive retreats, etc. are not new. When I was an active parent volunteer there was an occasion when we were even called “scabs” (North Shore News, front page story, Jan 5, 1983). Another time when parents stated they liked sports days for their kids, a principal told us that staff did not like them as it was an opportunity to compare notes.

So, resentment of parent volunteers is not just about jobs!

We can go back to 1976 when an international report of Canadian public education systems found school boards dealing with “fringe” matters rather than the substance of education and learning. “Parents complain that the school boards are remote and take no notice of them.” (OECD Report of Educational Policy in Canada, 1976).

Parents and the public have a long history of suffering under our present archaic system of educational governance. It is an industrial model and completely out of date with modern times. It produces layers and layers of obstacles and busy work for the industry, while parents and teachers are artificially kept from having meaningful relationships. It is the structure that needs to be changed.

We need to abolish politically elected school trustees who so-called “govern” over a whole district and have parents as unpaid governors of their own individual schools, similar to the structure in private schools. Elected trustees are “babes-in-the-woods” when it comes to dealing with employee groups and unions. They are easily overwhelmed and taken advantage of. How can they keep ahead of the professional advice, persistence, and knowledge build-up of the union groups?

The benefits of such a change would be immense: accountability, responsiveness, cost saving, efficiency, etc.

Tunya Audain

Are Parents Still Negatively Stereotyped in Trustee Training?

I just received this post from Deb of Education Consumers Clearinghouse. I am still tracing the larger item from which the following quotes originate: But, is it still true?

Rare is the school board that takes parent concerns seriously. Have you ever observed how they treat parents that dare go to a school board meeting and complain about curriculum? In many cases, the parents have to remove their child from the district.

To quote National School Boards Association Executive Director Ann Bryant 3-05-02 "School Board Members are instructed to not think of themselves as a representative for their constituency." Rare is the school board that takes parent concerns seriously. Curriculum is a private matter for the school to decide. Have you ever observed how they treat parents that dare go to a school board meeting and complain about curriculum? In many cases, the parents have to remove their child from the district. In the US, courts have ruled twice in the last year that the school decides curriculum, parents have no say. In Oregon, there is a law that states parents must be included in the curriculum decision making. The district didn’t comply, the parents got a lawyer and lost. We have TERC for math and the chicken squawking and mirrors included in algebra I wrote about previously. It has seemed to me that school boards get their "Wacko Mom red flag" training early. My reply to Deb included the following:

These references mirror my experience, and why I have called for the last 30 years for abolishing school board systems. They are an illusion of democracy, as well as a protection racket for the empire builders who feed off their self-perpetuating industry, and a cruel hoax on parents. I did come across literature from our School Board Association 20 years ago which trained new trustees by role playing. One took the role of an irate mother, with feathery hat and rolled up Enquirer in her hand, flouncing around….! There is our example of your “Wacko Mom Red Flag” stereotype. Have attended two different school board meetings lately to reaquaint myself after 20 year absence from the school reform cause. Still the same bobble heads rubber-stamping establishment directives.