Thursday, September 30, 2010

Creating the necessary dialogue

A fellow out-going trustee, Gerry Gibeault, has started up a blog, called Secrets of a School Board. Every day leading up to the election, he is posting one tip or piece of advice for candidates seeking a spot on the board. I think it's a great idea to capture the wisdom of out-going trustees, especially those, like Gerry, who have served for a long time (15 years!) and have great insights to share. This was the reason I put forward a motion to create a succession plan for the next board.

I chatted with Gerry the other day and commented on his blog, saying: "There are some good ideas in there- why didn't you fight for them while you were a trustee?"  He said that, as a trustee, you need to take the temperature of the board and determine whether or not things will fly. He didn't see much point in putting motions on the table that would go down in flames.

I value Gerry's perspective and certainly he was able to stay in the game five times longer than really, what do I know?  But I have to disagree. From where I sit, it's important to stimulate conversation, even if it doesn't result in immediate change or tangible success. It's important to put forward ideas, to discuss them, to explore why people oppose them, to understand what is still missing for your idea in order for it to be successful. If you never bring those ideas to the table, for public discussion--- how can we generate new ideas and challenge ourselves to grow, progress and develop?

To the new trustees, or anyone sitting at a table that is setting direction--- I would say: Take a chance. Innovate. Present your ideas. And never confuse short term failure with the long term merit of an idea. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and explored ideas that most thought were "wrong," "impossible" or "idealistic."

It's amazing for me to see how many people are talking about alternatives to school closure in this election. Even councillor candidates and the Mayor seems to be on board with this idea. This was something that I included in my first motion on the board, within months of being elected. In a round of amendments, the wording "and most importantly, seek alternatives to closure" was removed by the board. Three years ago, this idea was considered a dud, now it feels almost inevitable. With Trustee Dave Colburn's motion to create tri-level discussions around school closure and space utilization, there is a clear and obvious lever to move this idea forward by involving the city, the province and the school board in finding real solutions.

So, it's important to share your ideas, todiscuss them in the public arena and see where they go. If you keep them to yourself, because you fear they will not "pass" rob yourself and future colleagues of an important tool for change.

So- to the new trustees who will be elected on Oct. 18, I say: Be courageous! Be kind! Be bold!


Gerry Gibeault said...

Great perspective!

Maybe we should hire ourselves out to the new Board as consultants.

Sue Huff said...

Yes, it's true- I DO need to find a job!! Yesterday, bringing greetings on behalf of the Board at Centre High, I joked that perhaps I should attend Centre High, as they did such a good job of finding exciting careers for students to pursue and I was in need of some career counselling as of October 18th!