Trustees to be getting out into the schools more

Balance sought between “visible” and “imposing”

At the most recent public meeting of the board of education, trustees considered how they could be “more visible” within the district’s educational facilities while not feeling like they are “imposing.”

Board chair Susan wilson says that trustees haven’t been too active within the schools since the last teacher strike and lockout, which ended in September of 2014, and she thinks it’s time for that to change.

“When job action was in effect it was decided that, as trustees, we would not be as visible in schools because it was a fairly touchy situation and we didn’t want to rock any boats or cause tension difficulties,” Wilson explained at last week’s board meeting, “so it was decided we would be accessible and available, but maybe not as visible as we could be,” but added she feels it’s time to “revisit” that strategy.

“We have had job stability for about a year and a half and we have also had some requests from the (teachers’ association) and from principals and vice principals association about coming to visit the schools,” Wilson said, asking for input from other trustees about how they feel it would be best to get back into the schools a little more frequently.

A few options were bandied about, including one that would see each trustee being “assigned” a couple of schools, “so that there is more of a connection or ‘go-to’ person for each school,” as Wilson said.

Trustee Joyce McMann told the board there was a time when they tried the idea of having trustees assigned to individual schools for periodic visits, but there became a misconception within the schools themselves that the trustees would become “advocates” or “representatives” of their specific school, which wasn’t the case – “and that was kind of awkward because it doesn’t fit well with the model we use.”

Trustee John Kerr told the board he often communicates with individual schools about dropping by and doing an informal tour of sorts, which he feels has merit.

“I’ve been given the freedom to just show up and wander around,” Kerr said.  “People haven’t shepherded me around. I’ve never been to a school where I’ve had a minder. And it’s really nice. The people know I’m coming and I drop into classes – trying to be as unobtrusive as possible – and it’s always a positive experience. As a trustee, it’s really important to see what’s actually happening in schools. You can hear about what’s going on from management and staff, and that’s great, but it’s great to get your feet on the ground, too, and walk around and step inside a classroom door.”

Nothing was decided at the meeting join terms of what the initiative will end up looking like, but trustees agreed that it was a good idea to start the discussion with the schools and see how to best proceed, with the trustees likely starting to get out into the schools in some official fashion beginning in September.