Friday, November 27, 2009

Musings on the future of Trustees

It's been in the wind for a while- ever since the health boards were removed and replaced with a regional health authority- that the future for school boards was uncertain. Despite the fact that the Minister of Education has stated repeatedly that it is not his intent to do away with trustees, still the uneasiness persists, like a lingering odour.

What is the genesis of this dis-ease?

Well, there is the rewrite of the School Act next spring...and it has been said that "everything" is on the table for consideration, including governance. The province-wide consultation called Inspiring Education, a Dialogue with Albertans concluded with a section entitled, "Towards a New Governance Model" which asked how stakeholders like parents, teachers and students could be given more power. There was a leaked paper which outlined a possible charter school model, where governance rested in the hands of individual school councils, chaired by Principals. Under this model, trustees were eliminated entirely. The word was that this was only one model being considered, but to date, no other models have been forthcoming. We hear whispers that some members of government wish they'd consolidated school boards first, rather than starting with the health boards, because there "would have been less fuss". Some trustees point to the many examples of how boards have been stepped over or marginalized recently, with the provincial government taking over issues that used to fall under board direction, while boards were informed after the fact or involved in some secondary nature.

I've also heard that in the future, our primary job will be "connecting with the community." I'm all for connecting with community, in fact, I think it's critical, but I thought our primary job was governing. Good governance to me includes strong community connection. However, community connection does not necessarily include governance. Wwe could conceivably be devoted to connecting with community without one iota of governance. The Community Spirit facilitators do this- they connect, but they don't govern. Is this the future for trustees? Information gatherers? To be funneled to some other body for decision-making? Is this the change we are about to see, because everyone seems to agree that change is definitely coming.

A number of people (interestingly from all three parties) have asked me to consider running provincially in the next election. I am committed to running again for a second term as a trustee, because I feel there is more work to do. However, half-joking, I said, "But if there aren't any boards after the spring, I may have to reconsider that decision." And the response was ominous: "Or if the role is so drastically altered that it no longer holds any relevance for you."

Sometimes rumours are just rumours, some fears are unfounded, but sometimes people know what's coming and are trying to give you hints. Like the girlfriend who tries to let you know that your boyfriend is planning to break up with you on the weekend, without actually coming out and saying it. I'm not sure if that's the case here, but I can smell the unease that hangs around trustees' shoulders and my guess is the smell won't leave until someone opens up all the windows and lets the light shine in.

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