Monday, October 26, 2009

Sector Review Process

We will be discussing this report tomorrow. I want to share some of my thoughts with you. As always, please feel free to tell me if you disagree, but keep your comments at the "non-personal" level... that is, don't single out or criticize individuals, rather focus on the issues.

We all know that school closure is emotional. Our process, in the past, has been criticized. One of the chief complaints has centered around meaningful public engagement and transparency of of decision-making. I honestly believe that this document shows how seriously we have taken those comments and how committed we are to improving our process. Please take a look:

In particular, I am pleased to see the multiple strategies to reach people- which shows that we understand some of the barriers to communication (language, time, place, etc.) and have brought forward strategies to address those issues. I like the clear pathway, which follows the IAP2's Public Participation Spectrum (Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate, Empower). I think this is a solid process. I like the constant evaluation built in to the process and the emphasis on "engage stakeholders to gather input and feedback on the transparency, openness and accountability of the process" (Page 6)

I have said all along that HOW we arrive at the decision is critical to HOW people feel about it. Closing a school will never be a popular choice, but if the process is fair, transparent and considers all input, people will at least understand the choice.

"EPSB recognizes that a robust public engagement process accompanying the sector review will contribute significantly to the sustainability of the resulting decisions. A meaningful public engagement process provides an opportunity to build trust, create ownership, improve relations and yield better understanding of the complexity of the issues related to the review and ultimately the decisions to be made." (Page 2)

I have been working so hard on this issue for many years; it's become clear to me that I can't stop all school closures but I have confidence now that the process to those painful decisions will be just, fair and transparent. I hope you feel the same... but if not, please, let me know.

1 comment:

Christopher Spencer said...

Plan A, according to the city's proposed Municipal Development Plan, is to bring more families into neighbourhoods with low enrolment levels.

As a member of the stakeholder advisory committee, my current concern is that we don't have a mechanism for cooperative municipal and district planning in this area. Obviously, we need to have a strong sense of what Edmonton will look like in five to twenty years.

Without that information, and without a solid, realistic plan to increase the number of children living in mature communities, the sector reviews may not yield "right" results.

Generally, I hope trustees support the concept of an Edmonton that is less sprawling, greener and not as vulnerable to severe demographic change within neighbourhoods. Decisions that oppose the city's commitment to density and revitalization would not serve the next generation of Edmontonians well at all.