Monthly Archives: January 2008

The QESBA conference. Quebec English School Board’s Association.

First off, congratulations to our own Carolyn Curiale for winning the seat of Vice-President of the association. In a candidates debate, Carolyn spoke well and offered the most to the association – and she won. Well deserved.

This was interesting for me – my first school board conference. This also serves as the QESBA’s annual general assembly.

I am surprised. I gleaned the greatest value from the periphery of the conference. Talking with the chairman and our own commissioners in a new venue. Having dinner with commissioners from the Eastern Townships, and hearing about the way their schools and school board works. Time again, networking, after the candidates debate.

Breakfast the next morning with our group of representatives, and spending time with our Director General and our Assistant Director General. And finally, a very short but extremely useful 5 minute exercise where individual tables were to pick out 3 challenges and 3 solutions our board currently faces.

Smart, fast, collaborative consensus poked at and concluded in 5 minutes with several commissioners and our two top administrators at the table. Wow! That was perhaps the most satisfying part of the conference for me.

The conference concluded for me with a presentation for new commissioners. Very well put together, this presentation is something that could have been good for new commissioners on day two of our mandate. 🙂

Steve

-nb- I got my first pay cheque! For those of you who question how much a commissioner gets paid; it is public information. What may not be though is the hourly rate it can work out to – so far, I am working at a little over $1.15 an hour. It’s a good thing I love the job. 🙂

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Council, procedures and impressions

The Council Meeting. The public forum. The public face of the council of commissioners.

This is all I ever saw before. And it is mostly a procedural meeting. There tends to be some small debate, but nothing of any fantastic substance. Being the public face, this is unfortunate – because there really *is* a lot of substance that goes into each of those resolutions being “rubber stamped”.

Before something gets to council it has to go through many steps – many stages. So, by the time it arrives there, it’s most often just a resolution. A resolution that has seen many people’s input, some real debate and sometimes some heated debate too. Some commissioners who may not be on whatever standing committee may ask a question or two, but there is no public face to any real debate.

It’s unfortunate, because it gives the wrong impression. I don’t see how this meeting can be done any better though – there are legal necessities and this is the forum for those to be accomplished.

Once again, I think it is going to boil down to communications – showing people what really goes on behind the scenes so that there is a deeper understanding.

A highlite of the meeting was the introduction of 3 secondary students from within the board who had each achieved 100% in a multiple of subjects – each one getting 100% in more than 1 or 2 courses! Three very different styles of kid too – smart and hard-working being their common ground. It’s great to see.

Truly,

Steve

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Info Tech – my first one.

The Information Technology standing committee meeting – one I had been looking forward to!

So many things to go over… there is a lot of work that goes on in all of these standing committee meetings; this one is no exception.

The department has been very busy, installing 1100+ new machines since the start of school – that is a colossal amount of work!

I remain concerned about the questions of email filtering and the overall state of our computers and laptops in our schools. although the committee will get an up-to-date report on these at our next meeting.

Truly,

Steve

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CPRC, promotional material, the website and more

CPRC meeting! It’s one of the most interesting committees for me.

The strategic plan has to be promoted or it’s not going to be successful. The design, look and feel of the promotional material is fantastic. The distribution means seems good. I wish I had been more involved in the development of the strategic plan itself. Next time. 🙂 And until then, the new plan has the capacity to effective; we have to make sure we have real evaluation and measures all the way through.

The development of our new website continues to be a thorn for me, though I don’t know how much of a positive effect I can have at this late stage of development. I am concerned.

A very interesting snippet from this meeting – the Director brought to the table a couple of legal judgments that were “school relevant”, though having nothing to do with our schools or school board themselves. It is very interesting to hear these judgments from our courts; they could easily impact future decision making processes.

Truly,

Steve

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School organization – advertising, and who does a commissioner represent?

Once again it seems that the Director is the right person in the right job – he really knows his stuff. The newly elected chairperson of the committee had her hands full with more than a full house of commissioners; and some in a seemingly combative mood too.

Well this was it! The first meeting that had me wondering if this could really be happening, or if I may have been in some sort of nightmare.

Somehow, the School Organization Committee spent the bulk of the first half of its meeting debating the merits of having “ground rules” for its meeting written on the agenda, or whether they should be removed, or if they should be standardized across the board.

These are “ground rules” as to how these meetings are run. Things like, “One person speaks at a time” and, “one meeting at a time” and such.

“Standardize, distribute and apply these basic rules to all meetings.” That took 8 seconds to write.

Shouldn’t that be the end of the discussion? And there were more than a few commissioners saying exactly that. Unfortunately, 30+ minutes (I believe; I wasn’t timing it) were lost on this. It was unreal.

The Director of School Org showed great patience during this painful phase.

After that fiasco, some interesting information on daycare professional development, bus safety training and overall registration was presented.

I asked why we were advertising for students to enroll in our elementary schools. My limited experience in this board has been that our local schools (McCaig, PET) are overcrowded, with enormous class sizes, lack of adequate gym time and cafeterias being taken apart while kids are eating so that a pseudo gym class (in the cafeteria!) will be ready on time.

But! I was never aware of the other side of the coin. Where this type of advertising was helping to actually save some of our more remote schools. Two recent examples being of schools that had 4 & 6 students (or so) signed up for kindergarten – and then with this advertising, registrations grew to 12 or 15 or so – much more palatable numbers.

So – I have no issue with targeted advertising for this type of need. In fact, I thoroughly support it!

And it seems that it is so – but I reiterated that advertising in the areas that I am elected in makes no sense, and in fact can be counter-productive to offering the highest quality education to these kids.

Somehow, this turned into a rebuke, with a commissioner telling me that I represent the school board as a whole and not any individual school.

I don’t know why this comment was made, as clearly what I was saying applied to using different and appropriate strategies targeted to local needs of schools. That *is* representing the board as a whole!

And anyway – if I feel I have to speak to protect PET or McCaig, or if I feel I have to speak to protect JFK or Hillcrest, or if I feel I have to speak to protect Arundel or Joliette, that’s just what I am going to do. Period.

The “school board” exists for its individual schools. The collective is important. The individual is important. As commissioners, we should speak for both.

It’s unfortunate that some of the rhetoric from years gone-by had to resurface.

Truly,

Steve

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Educational services and core values

Once again, a very interesting meeting!

The Director of Educational services is extremely impressive. There is a huge scope to this department and it’s one that I didn’t know very much about.

I hadn’t realized that the school board had indeed been working on getting individual schools to submit their behavior plans… I found it on the strategic plan 2004-2007 – then found last night that they were still having trouble getting schools to submit them. In fact, as at last night’s meeting, 6 elementary schools (23%) and 6 high schools (60%) had not submitted anything.

My take on this is that we’re using the wrong approach. We need a central “core value” statement from the board itself, then we can ask individual schools what has worked best for them. Within just a couple of weeks, we can get a picture of what is working in our schools. This can be done through a variety of online forums, etc.

I believe we should use the experience of others when we can. Let’s look at what the Ontario Government has done – click here – and instead of reinventing the wheel, let’s maybe massage something like this into our own, Quebecois version.

(Yes, I say: Quebecois – it’s our province and we love it too, and I am proud to be an English Quebecois. 🙂

If we do this, we can make a value statement virtually immediately and provide a template that individual schools can then apply to their own unique situations.

If we share our successes and openly discuss our failures, we can build something that will really work.

Thing is – we need to work hard, smart and fast – we owe it to our students, staff and parents to get this done now.

Truly,

Steve

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Happy New Year! And let’s talk behavioral expectations…

Happy New Year! I think this is going to be a great year.

It has been a busy holiday season for us all, I am sure. It has also been a busy time for me as regards our school board. An exciting time!

One of the most promising things I have seen was a document sent to the Council from the Minister of Education looking for input on “School Boards Democracy and Management” – a fundamental that I believe is inspired by the ADQ’s pushing of massive reform in education.

My response has been sent and can be found by clicking here.

I have spent the last number of days working on my call for a statement as to the expectations we, as a school board, need to express in terms of behaviour in and around our schools. I have asked for input from the Council before I present the actual motion at our next council meeting – you can see this proposal by clicking here.

Truly,

Steve

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