School Board Chair Resigns

Editorial

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Given the apparent tempest of late within, and outside, the Bluewater School Board, it would seem that dramatic change is not outside the realm of possibility, particularly, given the sudden resignation of the School Board Chair, Rick Galbraith.

Glabraith reportedly stated that, “There’s poor communication between the senior administration and parents and community members, and there needs to be a change in the way they respond to issues that come from the public, otherwise these things are not going to go away.”

This is about more, however, than dissatisfaction within the School Board. This is about the apparent  lack of communication between a board and the administration and the students it serves and, thereby, the parents that it ultimately assists in educating their children.

There have been parent and student protests over the dissemination of rotary classes.   The Saugeen Times has written many articles about this and other issues. (See Education)

There have been petitions signed over the lack of due process when it comes to decisions made concerning local education.

There has been a  community outcry over the process of implementation of a Section 23 program, again without due process and communication with parents and teachers.

These are not separate issues. Instead, they all fall under the umbrella of the responsibility by public servants paid to do a job ...  to provide the best possible education for children and communicating with those who know them best - parents/caregivers/teachers.

According to a recent article in the regional Sun Times media, retired principal and chair of the Bluewater School Board, Rick Galbraith, said that, “If the public is not seeing what we’re doing as clear and transparent, then there’s something that’s not working. That’s now become very clear to me, that people just aren’t sure what’s going on — they’re getting no responses, or responses that don’t help them understand what’s happening.”

That is the whole point and, it would appear, that after Galbraith's short tenure of only some eight months, he has suddenly seen the that things are not as they should be.

School Board Trustee, Ross King, says that he is very sorry to see Galbraith resign from the board. "Ever since he arrived last April, I've had a lot of respect for him and he added a very positive note. Everyone was very surprised when he submitted his letter of resignation. I know that it's important for a board to be open and transparent and we have been working on it but probably not as quickly as people would hope."

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21/03/2009 11:27 PM


Parents have not been getting responses, or ones that help clarify what is happening, despite the Director of Education, Mary Anne Alton's, “Our senior administration certainly communicates extensively with the public and staff. The issues that come to the attention of trustees are often the ones where those involved have not been satisfied with the outcome. These situations represent a very small fraction of the ongoing effective communication that takes place with our staff and public.”

It would seem that Ms. Alton and parents and concerned community-minded citizens are sitting on very different sides of a fence. To Alton it may seem that "...these situations represent a very small fraction of the ongoing effective communication." However, when there are more than one hundred students and parents marching in the streets in a relatively small community such as Saugeen Shores, protesting against a major administrative decision that will change the education of their children, it is not a small fraction. ((See Video June 13, 2008  of the Protest March in Port Elgin  by parents and students. ))

While morale on the board, according to some, may be low, it is very doubtful that the reason is the recent alleged plagiarism allegations arising against two of its members. The underlying causes may go deeper.

Morale, is also low among many teachers - teachers who are under instructions not discuss matters. Often the teachers, are among the last to know what is happening in their own schools. Programs are cut, curricula are changed, cut-backs, such as that to the 'gifted' student T.R.A.I.L. program, are implemented and they (teachers), like the parents, are the last to know.

According to MP Larry Miller recently in his published letter (Sun Times), "... plagiarism allegations at the Bluewater School Board may be just the tip of the iceberg."

In a letter written to the Provincial Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne, it was pointed out that, "... Mary Anne Alton, the Director of Education has stated quite publicly that on matters of curriculum delivery, parents need not be consulted."

However, in 2005, in a report, Wynne said that, " The ongoing confidence of parents not only in local schools, but also in publicly funded education, is an important objective. Over the last decade unmet parent concerns about the publicly funded education system contributed to a 50 per cent increase in those who moved their children to private schools. To reinforce parent involvement, the province will make parent engagement one of the provincial outcomes expected of boards."

It would appear that this has not happened within the Bluewater District School Board.

Parents are mystified, taxpayers are angry ... and everyone wants to know what is going on. This is about the future of children. They aren't, or should not be, pawns in a political game where everyone is trying to get to the Queen for answers.

Sandy Lindsay Editor


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