On Tuesday, June 17 I attended a Mission School Board Community Forum meeting that was advertised on the school board’s website as follows: “The Board of Education invites parents, staff, students and interested community members to a public forum to discuss and consider the options to create a new model to offer secondary and middle school instruction programs.”
I had attended the earlier community forum in November 2013 at Heritage Park Secondary School where this subject was first brought forward to the community. At that meeting board members indicated that it was one of many community consultations, focus groups and advisory committee meetings that were to take place prior to a final decision being made. I was hopeful, although skeptical, that this was indeed the board’s intention.
The recent June meeting confirmed my skepticism when the forum took place after a motion to move forward with plans for school reconfiguration was approved by the school board. The motion did not take into consideration input from the public at the November forum, revealing instead the board’s predetermined decision to shift to a one-high school model by September 2015 and to hire a consultant to determine steps on how that will take place.
Not “if” but “how.”
That does not align with the invitation to the public stating that the intention of the forum was to “discuss and consider the options.”
Over the past few weeks, both the District Parent Advisory Council president and the vice-chair of the board have provided letters to this paper regarding the June meeting’s subject matter. In his letter, school board vice-chair Jim Taylor suggests that consultation did indeed take place when clearly it did not. Consultation is not the act of receiving phone calls from a few community members but rather seeking out all community members through open and public methods of engagement. That was not done. Had it been done I would have participated in each and every opportunity to learn more about this important potential restructuring of our schools.
Not even the DPAC was invited to this supposed continued consultation even though the president of DPAC serves on the high school configuration advisory committee and noted at the June meeting that not one committee meeting had yet taken place. It is very clear that the current school board is unaware of what true community engagement means. This is further evidenced by Mr. Taylor’s public rebuttal to the DPAC president’s letter where he dismisses the views of the latter, showing disregard for many concerns the president raised on behalf of parents in this community.
I am not voicing an opinion on whether a one-high school model is the right one for our community. There has not been sufficient evidence presented one way or another to make that determination, nor has there been community feedback from all groups impacted. It may or may not be the best model.
What I am voicing is my deep distrust in the ability of this current board, and in particular the board chair and vice-chair, to fulfill its mandate and key strategic direction to “Exercise leadership that demonstrates a commitment to diversity, ethically-based decision making, inclusion, integrity, respect and transparency in all relationships with staff, our education partners, and the greater community.”
It is imperative that all members of the community understand how our school board operates, as their decisions – and this one in particular – impact not only parents with students currently in the schools but also those for years to come, as well as community members at large. This is merely an example of their inability to exercise leadership that demonstrates the qualities noted above. With the upcoming election in November, we as a community have an opportunity to voice our opposition to these tactics with our vote.