Too many people believe that there is little or no point in responding to consultation within most school boards, including our own.
I believe that our school board already does respect consultation – but I see that the perception from outside may not meet the reality as we see it.
And I think that we can fix this.
The definition of the word “consult” is –
1 to seek information or advice from.
2 seek permission or approval from.
We need to really think about this. We have to “actively seek information and advice”, and we should really look at all consultative documents as “seeking permission or approval from” the body being consulted.
The entire process is watered down when we “consult” on things we are not obliged to consult on, and when we consult with the incorrect body. Every consultative document should be sent exclusively to the body that is legally mandated to be consulted with, and with that document must go the caveat that we are truly looking for advice and in fact, permission and/or approval for the proposal.
To give credence to the process, we need to educate the body being consulted on how best it can respond, and we must include its recommendations as best as we can. We are “seeking permission”, and if we don’t get permission, we need to go back to the drawing board and try it again.
We need to respond to every consultative response that we get, and we need to follow-up on those that do not respond. We have to “seek” – and that means working hard to make sure that we get appropriate responses from every body being consulted.
Consultation must be public. Responses cannot just be filed away – if The Act requires consultation, then that consultation must be reported on and every attempt that the school board can make to respect that consultation must be made.
eg: If McCaig Elementary School responds to the consultation on its deeds of establishment, saying that the building does not meet its current needs, then that response needs to go back to MELS and we as a school board must advocate for that school and its stated needs, and we must document what we have done in our advocacy for them.
Governing Boards need to be educated on what their role is in the consultative process, both with the board and within their schools. There are many documents and proposals, including the school’s budget and time allocation (and more), that require consultation within a Governing Board. Principals need to look at this consultation as “seeking permission from” their Governing Board – not simply reporting on it to their Governing Boards.
I truly believe that if we make these small changes, that we can instill more confidence in our school board and our council from our schools, our Governing Boards, our Parents Committee as well as from the public at large.