Sunday, August 31, 2014

Let's talk about the work of school boards and school trustees

There are 38 school boards in Manitoba tasked with the planning and delivery of educational services to students in public schools. The student population among these divisions ranges from a few hundred to over 30,000.  On a regular basis, always at budget time, and usually during an election, the necessity and value of school boards and trustees is questioned. And I think this is a good thing because it gets people talking, and it is a chance to inform our community about what we do.  After all, your tax dollars support our work and we don't take lightly the fact that this is the case.

As a board, our job is to set the budget that will allow our Superintendent and his team to accomplish the priorities we have established, and we develop the policies that allow the division to flourish and grow. These priorities and policies are unique to each school board as they reflect the values and vision specific to the community it serves.  As trustees, we represent the ward in which we were elected, and it is incumbent upon us to bring the needs of our community to board discussions and deliberations. This is what allows us to make informed decisions around policy, programming, staffing and support for the entire school division. More on the work of school boards and trusteeship is here.

What if the Manitoba Department of Education amalgamated all 6 school divisions in Winnipeg into one, as many feel should be done in the name of efficiency, and prudent financial management. Depending on the resulting number of trustees, you could have less people to represent the specific needs of your community and its students.  The Calgary Board of Education, for example, has 7 trustees (all women as an aside), governing a school division of 227 schools and 110,763 students. LRSD has 9 trustees overseeing 40 schools, with a total student population of 14,340. Something I truly appreciate is that, having visited each school in LRSD, I've learned what makes each one unique and special, what their specific challenges and successes have been, and I know every school administrator in the division. I've also attended parent council meetings and met the parent leaders in many schools throughout LRSD. Could I do this as a trustee on a board with over 200 schools? What would have to change to allow me to represent Ward 3 as I do now if it quadrupled in size?

I'm not suggesting that we should avoid the conversation.  A sure way to formally define the pros and cons of a change to the school division structure would be to undertake what I think would be an interesting and informative exercise. What I will say is that I would have concerns about our schools and communities enjoying the representation they do now if a change meant fewer trustees at the new board table.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Getting ready to run.....

My first term as a trustee has been both rewarding and challenging.  It’s an exciting time to be a 'change maker' in the area of public education in general, and in the Louis Riel School Division in particular. Our greater community has had some important conversations over the last year, resulting in whole new school communities being created as our division continues to develop and grow. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and we've watched students and teachers embrace the resulting new opportunities, knowing it's just the tip of the digital iceberg. Practical arts, visual and performing arts, language learning opportunities, and technical and vocational skills acquisition are in increasing demand. Parents are becoming more engaged, and students want to participate and be heard in the decision making process. Our schools are teeming with activity and opportunity, the spirit of caring and sharing is constantly evident, and athletic, academic, and artistic genius is everywhere.

And yet......we have kids who arrive at school hungry, who work hard to learn English as their second language so that their learning can continue, who have escaped violence and oppression, alone or with their families, in the search for a better life, who struggle every day with a variety of challenges and setbacks, and who are judged because of who they are, or what they believe.  As we get ready to elect new school boards in Manitoba,  I want to talk about the current and emerging issues in both public education and in the Louis Riel School Division.

Let's talk about the work of school boards and school trustees,  about provincial mandates that seriously impact our financial bottom line, about digital literacy, salaries, professional development, how Manitoba schools are funded, alternative education models, community engagement, and our budget process. Let's talk about whether we are meeting the needs of our Aboriginal students, those that are members of the LGTBQ community, new immigrant students, those whose families live in poverty, and our students struggling with mental health concerns. Let's look at the value of practical arts, music, band, visual, and performing arts programs. How do we keep education taxes down and still offer the programs, services and opportunities we deem necessary and important?   What are the issues, as you or I see them, and what is my position on them? What do you, and should you, expect from your trustees?  What can you expect from me if I am re-elected?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014, is election day.  Supported by this blog, my Facebook page (VoteSandyNemethWard3),  Twitter (@sandynemeth), and the conversations that will occur as a result of campaigning in the community, I'd like to share my vision for student learning and success in LRSD, and I look forward to meeting and speaking with parents, students and community members.  

94 days

It's been 94 days since my last blog post; that's 2,256 hours or 135,360 minutes, or 8,121,600 seconds. No matter how you look at ...