Thursday, November 26, 2009

Succession Plan Motion- speech

Here is a copy of comments I made this past Tuesday at our public board meeting, regarding my motion to create a succession plan. The motion was passed, 8-1.

On CBC, they are charting the Olympic flame’s careful progress across Canada, each runner proud to carry it for a leg of the journey and dedicated to ensuring it makes it into the next person’s hands, burning brightly. Just like our board. We are in a line that stretches back 128 years and forward into the future. In Oct. 2010, the passing of our torch to the next board should be smooth, thoughtful and seamless, because that board will be faced with some significant challenges. They will not have the luxury of time: they will need to be high-performing and ready to make key decisions almost immediately, decisions that will have a profound impact on the District.

Hence this motion, which asks us to prepare a thoughtful plan to prepare the next board and leave the District in capable, confident hands. My three areas of thought, which- as I indicated in my motion are only for consideration at this point- are:

1- raising awareness and interest in the position of trustee
2- capturing the wisdom of out-going trustees
3- mentoring new trustees in their first year.

Raising awareness: I believe the Board has a critical role to play in creating a vibrant election, with strong candidates, healthy debate and increased awareness and public engagement. Being acclaimed might be easier for us, but is not in the best interests of the Board or public education. I believe increasing the diversity of candidates would be a great way to improve democratic representation of all people, demonstrate our commitment to social justice and the principle of equality. We cannot ensure increased diversity on the board, because of course, the people decide who gets elected, but extending a welcoming invitation, encouragement and support to people of diverse backgrounds is an important step.

Capturing the Wisdom. Three of our more experienced trustees have indicated that they may not be seeking re-election and with their departure, a significant body of knowledge and wisdom walks out the door. I think we should recognize this impending “brain drain” and find ways to capture their knowledge for the betterment of the next board. Perhaps they might be willing to serve as transitional mentors to the incoming trustees- passing on information about their schools in their wards, for instance?

Which brings me to perhaps the most critical part of the plan: Mentoring new trustees. As a new trustee, I found the first year incredibly challenging. The orientation provided by the administration was helpful, but only provided, as might be expected, an ADMINISTRATOR’s view of the trustee’s job. What is required, I believe, is a trustee’s view and here, the board can take on an active role. First year Principal’s are supported with one-on-one’s. First year teachers have the New Teacher Induction program, but new trustees are expected to figure it out on their own. They are thrown in the deep end and asked to swim… in my case, I felt like I had 20 lb. weights on each arm and I was not entirely sure which way was up. Every time a trustee is to face an experience for the first time: First public board meeting, first Parent Council meeting, first Results or Budget Review, first parental complaint, first time giving a speech, first time meeting with the Minister, etc… the possibility for mentorship should exist. Each new trustee will be experienced in some areas, and not in others… so the mentoring needs to be flexible and individual.

But again, these are only my ideas and the exact nature of the succession plan would be determined by the Board. Today, I’m asking for the board to support the motion:

“To develop a succession plan to ensure a smooth transition for the next Board”
I hope everyone will agree to this broad concept.

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