For­mer su­per­in­ten­dent weighs in on school board de­ci­sion

The Compass - - OPINION -

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.

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