Former superintendent weighs in on school board decision
One of the primary areas of service that all provincial governments are charged to ensure for its people is the education of its youth. It sits shoulder-to-shoulder with health care services, as a key area of public policy.
The legal framework, those laws that are established to protect and establish systems of governance and operation regarding the delivery of these services, is of paramount public importance and interest. Governments have recognized that, in the event of any redirection as to how these two areas are governed and managed, an appropriate review and public engagement are essential precursors to any resulting change.
We have seen this in the recent past with both the establishment of the regional health care authorities and the regional school boards, during the 1990s.
Specific to the school system, in 1969, 33 denominational school boards were established through a School Act formulated from a report of a three-year Royal Commission. After operating under a system of denominational school boards for a period of 25 years, the government of the day in the early 1990s decided to explore a new organization framework for a variety of reasons that were very much in the presence of the public at that time.
Again, a Royal Commission was established, two referenda were conducted and a new School’s Acts was enacted. The result was the establishment in 1996 of a system of regional school districts governed by elected school boards.
Today, we appear to be at another crossroads in the evolution of our school system. However, it is not occurring in the shadow of any public outcry for change, and at a time when our schools are performing at their highest levels. But unlike the two previous government initiatives at redesigning the school system, there is absolutely no proper and meaningful review, or any effort to seek public engagement.
There has been little or no consultation by the government with
school board trustees, the school councils, the NLTA, MUN and parents concerning the consolidation of school boards. Should such a blatant disregard for these volunteer school board trustees, the teachers and administrators of our schools, the volunteer representatives of the school councils, the educational researchers at MUN, the parents and the children of this province be allowed to go unchallenged?
If this decision of government is allowed to go unchallenged I believe that the education of our children and grandchildren will be relegated to officials of the Department of Education and politicians. This, in my opinion, is unacceptable and completely contrary to the intent of the current legal framework of education, the Schools Act.
– Bill Lee is a former school board superintendent. He writes
from Conception Bay South.