Friday, December 11, 2009

Parent Council Luncheon- feedback

Last week, I hosted a luncheon for the Parent Council Chairs in my ward. It was a great chance to meet, listen and connect. Being a Parent Council Chair can be a lonely experience and one of the aims of the luncheon was to connect them with each other and create a web of support for these committed parents. Truly, the work they do on behalf of all the students at their school is remarkable. I call them unsung heroes!

I was able to deliver a bit of information about what is happening at the District level, the provincial level and the global level and how all of that relates to what is happening (or may happen) at the school level. I also went around the room and gathered input, questions, thoughts from each of the Chairs.

I sat down today with some members of our administration to bring these ideas/questions forward and want to update those who attended about the steps I've taken.

Michaela's Question: Do you track post-secondary completion as a way to measure our success in K-12 education? This is more meaningful than simply looking at high school completion rates.
Answer: We see high school completion as an important step to creating a wide variety of options for students, but we certainly don't see it as the "end". We do track the 6 year transition rate to post-secondary and that number is going up. The idea of tracking successful COMPLETION of post-secondary is not something we do, however, it is an interesting idea. Currently, completion rates at post-secondary would be tracked by Advanced Education and we're not sure if they can disaggregate the data to see where the students attended high school. If Education (both K-12 and Advanced Ed) fell under one Ministry, a continuous approach to tracking student success might be one outcome. It would entirely depend on the manner in which these two streams were integrated and as far as we know, there is no talk of joining the Ministries again under one umbrella as they were in the past

Christine's Question: Will EPSB take an advocacy stance regarding the written portion of exams being removed?
Answer: At this point, we have not taken an official position.

Lije's Question (echoed by others): How can we engage more parents to become involved in parent council work?
Answer: I've passed this topic on to our Parents As Partners team in the Communications Department. This is a common issue and we will think about developing some tools to assist Chairs.

Penny's Question: What is available to support Principals in working well with parents and parent councils?
Answer: EPSB is the first District to institute Principal Quality Standard Practice which outlines seven dimensions of the Principal's work. Assistant Superintendents use these seven practices to help Principals identify strengths and weaknesses and set goals. One element is "working with stakeholders", which would certainly include parents and parent councils. It is certainly our District's expectation that all Principals will work with parents in a cooperative and collaborative manner. (That's why we have a program called "Parents as Partners"!) These Principal Quality Standard Practices are available, if anyone would care to look at them.

Penny's Challenge: Rather than focusing on trying to get parents to meet the needs of the Parent Council (ie. fundraising, casinos, events, etc.)... parent councils should be actively exploring what their parents NEED and focus on trying to meet those needs. 
Action: I passed this on to the Parents as Partners team as a possible thought for future elaboration or discussion. Certainly, as our population becomes more impacted by poverty, this level of social awareness in Parent Councils will be very important.

Scott's Concern: Lack of clarity around the Sector Review process and the steps parent councils can take to ensure the viability of their school. 
Action: I passed this on to our Superintendent, who will discuss this with the Planning Department. We appreciate the honest feedback. It is certainly not our aim to disempower parents in these processes. In fact, with more collaboration and consultation points than ever before, it is our hope that the Sector Review process will empower more participation and engagement, not less.

Jennifer and others expressed: Appreciation for the opportunity to connect with other council chairs and share ideas.
Action: I've created an email list for all interested, so they can connect without waiting for the next trustee luncheon. Any other Ward C Council Chairs who would like to join, please send me an email:  As well, I've passed on to Parents as Partners that there is a strong desire to connect with other Chairs and perhaps Ward breakout sessions would be one idea.

Christine's Concern: Town Hall survey data did not take into account that high school Chairs who represent thousands of students had the same single vote as elementary chairs who were speaking on behalf of much smaller populations. In essence, a handful of high school votes, were lost in the middle of an overwhelming number of elementary votes and the priorities might be very different.
Action: This was relayed to the Superintendent who took note of this issue. He pointed out that the data will be disaggregated by age of children attending school, so we will be able to see how "high school parents" viewed issues, separate from elementary parents. He agreed that we should be cautious in our interpretation of the data, as it was not statistically representative. This was our first attempt and we will learn from comments like Christine's. I would be happy to share the disaggregated data, when it is available.

Doug's Idea: It is vital for schools to develop strong connections with their community (community league, businesses in the area, neighbours, etc.)
Action: I passed this on to Parents as Partners as a possible idea.  I would encourage anyone interested in this idea, to connect with Doug at Westglen to learn more about creating strong connections. As well, the District has many, many partners. The Report to the Community 2009,which was just released this week, outlines some of the many successes we've experienced through effective partnerships. If you would like a copy, please contact  Cathy MacDonald in the Communications Department at 780-429-8435.


Thanks for the great conversation and the great questions!
Stay warm.

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