Sti­fling dis­sent

The Compass - - Editorial -

Why would you do it?

Surely, you have bet­ter things to do with your time than to pre­pare for, and to sit through, meet­ings ex­am­in­ing the ins and outs of school board minu­tiae. Surely, you don’t wait to spend week­end time around a board room ta­ble.

Why would you be an elected school board trustee?

When tough de­ci­sions like school clo­sures have to be made, you’re go­ing to be a light­ning rod for parental dis­con­tent. If a lo­cal school is clos­ing, it’s the trustee that gets the an­gry dress­ing-down in the gro­cery store and the late-night phone calls.

Why would you do it? There are re­ally only two con­ceiv­able an­swers.

One is that, prag­mat­i­cally, you see the role as a step­ping-stone for higher po­lit­i­cal of­fice. (That’s prob­a­bly a mi­nor­ity of can­di­dates.) The other rea­son? Be­cause you’re a parent or grand­par­ent with deep in­volve­ment in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, some­one who thinks they have some­thing to add to the process of get­ting stu­dents the best ed­u­ca­tion.

That doesn’t make the job any eas­ier; you can prac­ti­cally count on hav­ing your pro­fes­sion­al­ism called out by par­ents of the very chil­dren you are try­ing to help. You can count on hav­ing your care­ful de­ci­sions de­rided as though you’d sim­ply drawn the names of schools to be closed from a hat.

But if it’s not bad enough to bear the brunt of at­tacks from an­gry par­ents when tough de­ci­sions have to be made, it must be down­right dis­cour­ag­ing to be at­tacked by the province’s min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Dale Kirby, a man who should have plenty of other things to do, de­cided re­cently to write the English School Board trus­tees to com­plain about one trustee, Jen­nifer Aspell. Aspell has raised con­cerns about prob­lems and de­lays with the ex­ten­sion to the Mo­bile Cen­tral High School.

Min­is­ter King ap­par­ently didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the con­cerns, and re­minded the chair of the board of trus­tees about guide­lines re­strict­ing board trus­tees from ex­press­ing their opin­ions in pub­lic fo­rums. (Aspell had raised the con­cerns on VOCM’s “Open Line.”)

Frankly, we’d rather hear from trus­tees about con­cerns they have than from the min­is­ter. As we pointed out, the trus­tees have lit­tle rea­son to stand for of­fice beyond a gen­uine in­ter­est in pub­lic ser­vice. They don’t have gov­ern­ments or over­sized rep­u­ta­tions to pro­tect from bad press, after all. The equa­tion is a sim­ple one, re­ally.

Ei­ther the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment wants in­ter­ested, in­volved cit­i­zens to have a role in de­liv­er­ing ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices in the province, or they don’t.

And if they don’t - if what they re­ally want is a rub­ber stamp or a board of trus­tees that’s will­ing to take the heat for gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sions - then cut the cha­rade and just run it all out of the min­is­ter’s of­fice.

Lec­tur­ing trus­tees on their duty to keep their mouths shut - just so the min­is­ter won’t be of­fended - is bad pol­icy.

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