Monday, April 13, 2015

SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE ELECTION BLUES


Last Thursday I received a call from a reporter to discuss the issue of that lack of elected representatives on the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board.

The reporter had heard Liberal Education Critic Dale Kirby question the government in the House of Assembly and was curious about the position of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils.

The Federation has been concerned about the lack of democracy guiding the new school board since the original announcement in the Spring of 2013 that the province would be charging ahead with plans to fold all four English language school boards into a single school board beginning in the Fall of that year.

The Official Opposition, the NLTA and retired school board officials expressed misgivings when the amalgamation was announced in the 2013 Provincial Budget Speech.

The government named 15 members to act as trustees, a School Board Transition team supposedly selected based on regional levels of student enrollment, and on ensuring broad geographic representation.

The plan was that these interim appointees would sit until an election occurred sometime in 2014.  The NLFSC has dealt with three ministers of Education since those appointments. We had been told that the new board was working on a constitution, which had to be approved by the Department. Delays and more delays.

Trustees are responsible for setting the school board’s overall policy direction and the board’s budget, and are supposed to represent the interests of the community, parents and students in the area from which they are elected to serve - which begs the question, who does a non-elected board serve? 

Without elected boards, the public have very little input in the important decisions from accountable regionally elected trustees. There is no process for accountability for the decisions currently being made.

There does not appear to be any priority in allowing the public a role in the operation of the province's only English School Board. How can this be considered in the best interest of public education?

Than there is the issue of the paltry amount of money provided to the NLFSC to operate while money continues to flow to the school boards association. The amount of money that has gone to that organization over the past decade is staggering in comparison.

Would you believe $1,764,404  since 2009!  That is taking into account the fact that government eliminated funding for the NSLSBA in the 2013 budget! Funding for participation in the Canadian School Boards Association is still provided - $50,000 was provided for that purpose this year.

Local school councils are mandated by legislation, are composed of parent and community volunteers and receive no funding allocations to carry out their significant role in our education system.

That and what the real savings of the amalgamation are will make for for another post! 

Suffice to say, two years later - no time frame  or details about the configuration of the the new board have been released. Considering the congested electoral schedule for the Fall of 2015 - a provincial and federal election - it seems unfathomable that another province wide contest will be thrown into the mix.

It baffles the mind that the Provincial Government could skip the cue and move-up the redistribution of the province's electoral boundary review process but they can not get the process, composition and mechanics of school board elections completed!


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