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Parents call for independent review over how SD8 board makes decisions

Nelson Daily Editor
By Nelson Daily Editor
May 25th, 2011

Some Trafalgar School parents are calling for an independent review of how School District No. 8’s board of trustees involves parents in educational issues.

The parents concern arose when the board made a decision two weeks ago on how it limited the number of students who participate in educational opportunities.

At the time, more than 90 families wanted their children to enter the French Immersion program at Trafalgar School when the school district only offered space for 60 students — and the board stuck to their policy despite the parents’ petition.

That refusal has sparked the school’s Parent Advisory Committee concern about what it considered to be fundamental issues for a publicly funded education system.

“The PAC is focusing on how the board made its decisions, not whether their decision to not offer a third class was or wasn’t the right decision,” said PAC chair Robin Woodbridge. “The lack of credible, transparent and effective decision-making processes has created a crisis in confidence in the leadership of our school district and represents a real threat to the future of our public education system.”

The PAC also felt the board and district staff did not engage with parents, Woodbridge said.

Research has shown that a key factor in determining how well students do at school is the degree to which their parents are involved with their education, said Woodbridge.

“These recent discussions have left parents questioning whether it is worth trying to engage with their children’s school and the school district, and even if they should be looking at alternatives to our public education system.”

Which is why the PAC parents feel it is essential an independent person be brought in to lead the review.

“We need to learn from these mistakes,” said Woodbridge. “For the sake of all current and future students, we need to find more effective ways of working together – the students need us to rise to this challenge.”

See letter below and attached document detailing the parents’ concerns.

See also

Third French Immersion class denied

Second meeting planned with parents

Parents lobby for third French class

 

Letter to the Board of Education

School District #8, Kootenay Lake

May 23, 2011

Dear Trustees:

The Trafalgar Middle School Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) requests that the Board of Education for School District #8 (SD#8) initiate a formal external review of efforts to engage parents in key education issues, including but not limited to the recent discussions over French Immersion enrolment and how class configurations need to support all students, including those with Individual Education Plans.

Some of the greatest gains that could be made within the public education system would be realized by more effectively engaging parents and the broader community. Substantial research exists to support this claim and we recognize that Trustees have voiced support for the concept of parent involvement.

We believe there are important lessons to be learned from recent efforts by parents and staff to work together, which can be used to improve the effectiveness of our working relationships.

Recent interactions between Trafalgar parents, soon-to-be Trafalgar parents, Trustees, and staff have resulted in parents experiencing a high degree of frustration, a critical loss of confidence in the leadership within this District, questioning whether it is worth getting involved with their children’s schools and even whether they should pursue alternatives to our public education system.

We recognize that school and district staff, as well as Trustees of the Board of Education, likely also have experienced considerable frustration during these recent encounters.

It is time to take constructive action to identify and address the key barriers to effective parent engagement.

An external consultant with recognized expertise in the field of community consultation needs to be hired by SD#8. Highly transparent and inclusive processes need to be used to create the Terms of Reference for the project, the consultant selection criteria, the summary of lessons learned, and the drafting and review of recommendations for action.

The consultant needs to utilize a variety of approaches to seek input from all affected parties in order to document the lessons learned, assess the effectiveness of engagement strategies used to date, and make recommendations for any necessary changes in policies and/or practices for consideration by the Board of Education, District staff, School staff, DPAC and School PACs that can guide future engagement efforts.

The DPAC and each school PAC need to be invited to participate, including an opportunity to identify two or three past efforts to work with their school, district staff, and/or the Board of Education which they feel were either successful or unsuccessful in engaging parents and the broader community to address key education issues.

The Trustees and District staff should also be invited to identify key engagement efforts. This would create a framework for the consultant to seek input on and analyze the effectiveness of engagement strategies employed by the Board, District and School Staff, as well as parents.

The review of efforts to engage parents needs to be initiated immediately so that draft recommendations can be presented to all concerned in the fall of 2011, thus enabling improvements in the working relationships between parents, Trustees, and staff within the next school year.

As the Trafalgar PAC is meeting on June 2, we respectfully request a response to this letter by that date so the PAC can determine what, if any, further action it needs to take. We look forward to working with you to identify positive actions that can be taken to repair the damaged relationships between many Trafalgar parents and SD#8.

Sincerely,

Robin Woodbridge

Chair, Trafalgar Middle School PAC

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