The word 'transparent' and its variant 'transparency' have been used of late by the Bluewater School Board, the school administration and even in parents and teachers letters.

We all know what it means.  It means easily seen through.  It's a placeholder for a much more direct  word for the issues at hand ...  'Truth'.

Nobody likes to say "Tell us the truth" or "In the future we are going to tell you the truth"  That would be indiscreet, so we say:  "We are going to be transparent"

It's a little more complicated than that, though.  Few believe that parents, teachers and students are being lied to by the Board and Administration.  They do believe, however, they have been ignored.

Time after time letters and emails have been written by parents and others and not responded to by the Minister of Education, the Board and the Administration.  We know that some have been answered, because we've posted the responses in our Education Section.  Many important ones have been ignored. 

It's fine to say that you are now going to be transparent, but how do you do that?   It implies that you have a history of not being so.  You have to revamp the entire system.

Maybe the Board and Administration can follow the example of some of our effective elected officials at the MP and MPP level.  They have a process for responding that seems to work most of the time.  No, not everyone gets a direct answer, but for the most part people can have their say and get some sort of a response either directly or via a staff member.  According to some of the people in government, it's a big job to respond.  They take it seriously though as each person has a vote in the next election.  The 'rule of thumb' is that a disgruntled voter has a times three factor.  An angered parent probably has the same effect.

The Board of Education needs to take a deep breath and decide that words have meaning and people want answers. In communication the best words are sometimes the simple ones

The School Board and Administration have had the light turned on them and maybe that's why they are using the word Transparent.  A transparent object allows light to pass through it.  But we have to remember that a transparent object is passive.  We see through it, but maybe there is just a void on the other side.   Then again maybe the window we are looking in is the wrong one.

The public wants two things:

  1.  Answers on individual issues in the form of administration to parent.  This is by far the most common form of complaint.  Jane or John is not being treated fairly is a common theme.  The parents escalate things up to the administration  To put a general net over these complaints seems difficult.  The administration probably get lots of complaints of this type.  They cannot resolve all of them, but they should respond.
  2. Answers to larger questions in the form of open forum discussion before, during and after decisions are made.  This is the one issue that has been causing the Board and Administration trouble.

We all know what happens in the first case.  A student has a problem.  Some action is taken.  A disagreement arises.  The parent complains.  The teacher or administration responds.  Sometimes there is a deadlock.  Unless this is an epidemic, problems are worked out or people take their kids out of the system or school.  This happens far too often.  So the first category is one in which process has a meaning.  It could be that it needs oil.

The second case can be illustrated by two examples and is far more indicative of education quality or lack thereof.

Rotary Education

The highly contentious change to Rotary Education is a good example.  No rational person believes that curtailing specialized teaching for 7th and 8th grade students in math and science makes any educational sense.  Nobody believes that a general teacher is better than a specialist in that person's area of interest and education, whether it is math, science, music or French.  If you want to be an electrician, do your apprenticeship with a master electrician.

If the motive is to impart knowledge, then a specialist should be better than a non-specialist.  There is a thing called "educational speak" in which you can get around this idea by substituting what they call the "big ideas of Ontario Education".  This means relating one subject to another, which is a good idea, if the student is well grounded in both.

It may make financial sense, not to use specialists, but there is no valid argument that one size fits all in 7th and 8th grades.  If it's such a good thing, then how about grade 9 to 12?  Big ideas are fine, but Jane and John need to be able to read, write and do their sums.

One recent letter we received from a teacher said that she had to depend upon her husband to teach a science class.

If you look at the test scores for 9th grade students in the Bluewater, you'll see that the scores are not good.  If only 34% of the students can meet minimum standards in grade 9, something is amiss in the lower grades. This happened a couple of years ago and it was spun as a plus because only 29% of students in other board regions met minimum.

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26/04/2009 10:35 PM

Yes, time and again the obvious has been ignored.  The reasons given are lame at best.  Worrying about the movement of students is just not good thinking. 

Move the teachers, if that's a problem.  7th & 8th graders don't have big laboratories (there is not money for them)  and if they did they'd need specialized teachers and safety precautions anyway. Move the experimental equipment, if any exists on carts along with the teacher. Math can be taught from a slate.  The kids don't need calculators or computers.

The parents have been ignored on this issue.  It's a key to the future.  If the Board and Administration cannot handle this issue, they cannot be what they call transparent.  Could the real issue be money?  Could the real issue be the huge Schoolboard dept?  Are we looking in the wrong window?

The Legion

Recently a delegation of four decorated veterans came to the School Board Meeting and their spokesman made  the case for the Legion continuing their more than 40 year public speaking contest.(See Education/Heritage Veterans long time volunteer help no longer valued?   ) They were turned down by the principal in a single paragraph  letter.  Letters to the Board and the Minister of Education by Legion representatives were not responded to by the officials.  You can read about the local, regional and national contest here

So what's this all about?  It's not a huge issue.  It involves a single school at present and the principal and others at the school decided that they would go another way.  In place of a public speaking contest they substitute what the Principal calls literature circles, where the kids sit around and discuss things

So we are comparing the merits of literature circles with public speaking in front of a panel of adults.

A few students in Wiarton will not have the opportunity of interacting with WWII veterans.  We think that all would agree that their is a difference between 'literature circles' and public speaking before a group you do not  know.  Nothing wrong with literature circles, but they are not the same in anyones mind.

It appears that continuing the Legion program is really not a lot of work.  Here is what the school would have to do:

  • Put up a few posters prepared by the Legion
  • Put a single teacher in charge of recruiting contestants ... announce it in class or at an assembly
  • Send home a notification and permission slips.
  • Let the Legion run the contest on off school hours.

Final Comments:

The Rotary Education issue will not go away.  To be transparent, the Board and Administration will have to come clean on it.  The reasons cited have been very poor.  People can understand, if it is a money issue, but they will want to examine the long term debt obligation of $105,000,000 and what money is being spent on what.  So  Rotary is a big window of glass.

The Legion issue is smaller and involves a single school, but it is symptomatic of communication breakdown and bad reasoning.

In a way it is the more hurtful of the two issues written about here.  Here are men who saved the world and have knowledge to impart.  No teacher could impart to the children what they can.  Are we so advanced in our educational process to have this diminishing resource ignored?

The Saugeen and Kincardine Times have had an extensive coverage of these issues.  Please refer to our Search Site and/or the Education Section.  For test score comparisons use the search engine and put in the key word EQAO which will get you test results.

Here are some recent articles and a video  of interest:

Video June 13, 2008  of the Protest March in Port Elgin  by parents and students.

Education Principle has to answer for lack of communication before Bluewater School Board

Letters/Education Retired teacher lays out a strong case for restoring Rotary Education in grades 7 & 8. 

Education Retired Teachers concerned about loss of Rotary Education

Education The following is a media release issued by the Blue Water District School Board's new Chair, Jennifer Yenssen, on April 23, 2009

Education Bluewater Citizens for Education calls for public input before beleaguered School Board

Education Walkerton Secondary School Chair Speaks Out on issues with the Bluewater School Board

Education Contentious issues continue to surface at the Bluewater School Board Meeting........ 

Education School again rejects Canadian Legion Public School speaking contest

Education Bluewater District School Board is Not Acting in the Best Interests of Elementary Education says Clegg 

... and more in Education

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