School Boards? Why?

by David Biltek

Given that today is the first day of school, I thought it appropriate to spend some time on School Trustees.

Most people run for political office at whatever level because they want to make a contribution to the community, province or country. (yes I know there are some cynics among us who would feel that   politicians only want contributions from our pockets, but as I said they are cynics!).

I believe  people who run for school boards also want to make a contribution or make a difference. The question I have though is what do you do as a school trustee?, or what can you do that is significant? What can you do that will make a difference?

Lets look at a few areas that might be of interest to a school trustee:

Curriculum: No, curriculum is the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Education, a provincial area of responsibility. You might make suggestions but the final decisions are in the hands the education experts in the department.

School Buildings:  no again, new buildings, even major renovation require the PRE approval of the province…even the planning of one, hiring an architect or planner requires provincial government approval.

Okay so how about lowering class size , seems like a good idea?…well you would have to hire more teachers, But you do NOT control the revenue; the province determines how much money you have to spend. You could hire more teachers and have small class sizes and maybe do without caretakers, or principals or heaven forbid Board member remuneration, but that is about the extent of the options you have.

Of course….they can negotiate with the teachers union, as the Province advises them to do from time to time, but frankly since the Boards do not control the revenue or the budgets…how significant can the negotiations be?

Well maybe you decide to  improve the leadership and management of the entire system….good idea, but just so long as the Province approves the Superintendent you want to appoint.

So, can’t touch curriculum, can’t build schools, can’t hire more teachers, can’t appoint management…so other than attending conferences  what is there for school Boards to do? Of course when you ask Catholic Trustees this question, their immediate response is: defend the faith, defend our right to have a Catholic school system. even though that right is secured by our constitution. Essentially all the Catholic Trustees can do is to stymie any attempt to cooperate and share resources with the Public systems.

Don’t confuse what I am saying, I am not criticizing individual members of the Boards. I think they are sincere.

I just wonder….what can they do without provincial government approval? and why would anyone want to be a school trustee?

Maybe someone who has served on a Board will provide some answers? Maybe a provincial Cabinet Minister can make an observation.