Monthly Archives: May 2009

GB meeting, and thoughts on some Parent’s Committee reports

I like going to Governing Board meetings.  I find that this is where you get the real feeling for what’s going on in our schools.  Sometimes that means listening to stuff that we’ve heard literally 4-5-6-7 times before.  Sometimes you get a little insight into something that you didn’t fully understand.  And sometimes you get thrust in the middle of something.

Last night I was tossed into the fire.  But, I am so glad that I was there for it.

In the report from the Parent’s Committee rep, the abolishment of jobs and the reduction in time for some of our in-school support staff was brought up.  The fact that I voted FOR this was also pointed out, along with an entire host of other information, and unfortunately, MISinformation.

I make no apologies for voting FOR this.  As I stated in an earlier post, I feel that I made the right decision.  We are spending more money than we are receiving.  As such, we are in a deficit.  In consultation with all parties, part of the recovery plan called for a review of support staffing in our schools.  Management committees and more were in fact consulted.  They came back with their proposal and though it was not an easy choice to make, this was in fact the right choice to make.

Would it be better if we had the funding to do what we need to do in our schools?  Absolutely.  And yes, we should be doing every possible thing that we can do to get the funding that we need.  But in the interim, we are charged with doing the best that we can within the confines of the budget that we have.

So I was glad to get the opportunity to say what I wish I had said at the last council meeting.  And thank goodness that I was there to counter so many of the misinformations that were tossed on the table.

1)  NO – we did not take away janitorial services from our schools.  We stopped allowing for replacements for short term leaves – a situation that was being taken advantage of and thwt was resulting in abusive budget overuns.

2)  NO – we are not encouraging H1N1 by removing janitorial.  The instant H1N1 came up, ALL replaement time was brought back during the crisis to make sure that we did not have any issues.

3)  NO – we are not closing libraries.  Some technicians have been cut in some of our smaller schools.  Libraries remain open.  Books are still available.  And yes, we have to all pitch in to help out – that’s what people do when faced with a deficit like this.  What choice?

4)  NO – we don’t see this as a prelude to other cuts in our schools.  If you read the recovery plan, you will see that this is it – all things considered, this plan should bring us back into line.

And so on.  I wish I had taken notes – the PC rep made 50 points in a 20 minute dissertation.  I would have liked to have been able to respond to each individual point as it was made, so that we could have some real clarification and so as not to leave things unanswered, and thus “true” in the memories of some.

The whole thing boils down to communications.  Again.

I wonder at the process, on a fundamental level.  We ask the parent’s committee to attend these monthly meetings.  They listen, they interpret, and they bring back to governing boards their reports.  And judging from some of the parent’s committe reports I have seen and read over the years, an awful lot gets lost in the translation.

In this case, the message has been turned into something that it is not.  I keep hearing about the PC feeling it was “lied to”, and that it was “misled”.  That there is “no transparency” and that there was “no consultation”.  That there was a planned avoidance in that there was no school board representation at the last meeting.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and disseminating this type of misinformation is wrong.

We need to work on our communications.  From each level of our school board to each level of its stakeholders, we need everyone to truly understand what’s going on and why it’s going on.  And then we will be able to work together to get a better result.  Until then, we are going to have miscommunications that divert energy and create ill will where there should be none.

Truly,

Steve

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A final quickie on last night’s vote

Something I am having a little difficulty with.

Back in November, when we were voting on the recovery plan for the school board, one of the clear and well explained points was:

“Review and reduce support staffing in schools”

For the commissioners who voted YES to review and reduce, and then NO when the cuts are agreed to by the principals in consultation with unions and more and then brought to council – how do you reconcile that?

What did you think was meant by “Review and reduce”???

Unreal.

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Secretarial/Support staffing in schools

Last night I had to vote on the abolishing of several positions in our school board.  I voted YES.

And within seconds I already had my first text message suggesting that I had been “weak” in making this decision.

Let me start by saying that it would have been easy, and politically correct to have voted NO for this.  But I don’t think I was elected to make the politically correct choice.  I think that I was elected to make choices based on the facts that I have and choices that are in the best interests of serving our population.

The fact is that we are in a deficit position.

The fact is that we spend WAY more than the provincial average on these support services, and DOUBLE what Laval boards spend, on average.  Some other English school boards in Quebec spend ZERO on librarians.

The fact is that even after these cuts, we will continue to spend more on “librarians” than any other school board.

So – we’re in a deficit position, and we know we need to make cuts.  So – we ask our management teams.  We talk to our unions.  We ask them to prioritize what they feel that they need.  They’re on the front lines, so let’s do the right thing and get their take on things.  Lists are made…  and at the very bottom of the list; the *LAST* thing that local school management says it needs:  librarians, or “Office Clerk Class II”, the official title.

In fact, when asked where they felt they should cut, the consensus was, from THEM, that librarians should be cut.

So – we’re in a deficit.  We spend more than anyone else on librarians.  Our school’s management thinks that we should cut them.

What’s the right decision to make?

At this point, I suppose I should say, “Well, I know better than them” and take the easy way out?

No, I know that we asked Management to make cuts based on the priorities that they understand from the “front lines”.  I know that we’re in a deficit position, and that we need to get it back in line.  I know that we’re spending way more than others on this specific line item.   Summed up:  I believe that I made the right decision.

Almost ten years ago, one of my first big arguements with the school board was to gain more librarian time in our schools.  Last night’s vote was NOT an easy decision for me to make.

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