The following article was published in the Lethbridge Herald on February 19, 2014.
School boards in Alberta have three main roles. The first is a fiduciary role that focuses on exercising its legal responsibilities. The second role revolves around strategic planning; making decisions on resources, programs and services. Last, and probably least exercised in the past, is its generative role. This function seeks to build public confidence through community engagement, transparency and communication.
In the upcoming Education Act, boards are to, “provide, where appropriate, for the engagement of parents, students, staff, and the community, including municipalities and the local business community, in board matters, including the board’s plan and achievement of goals and targets within those plans.” Furthermore, there will be a new requirement for school boards to develop opportunities to engage and build partnership with post-secondary institutions, business and industry. In the past, there has always been a premium for school boards to engage with their staff and parents, but this new direction allows for the education system to be better connected to the community as a whole. It is unrealistic to believe that education can prepare students for a life after graduation in a silo any longer. Clearly, considerable feedback from the larger community is required.
This coming year, Holy Spirit Catholic Schools will be making this a priority with a public consultation that invites post-secondary, business, industry and others within the division community to the table. Invitations have been sent out to a wide variety of stakeholders from both our urban and rural areas. Our division is extremely proud of the relationships we’ve built with our two local post secondary institutions and their insights will be invaluable. Local businesses and industries must also be part of this wider conversation since their future employees will be our graduates. Being part of organizations like Team Lethbridge, and our upcoming partnership with the Home Builders Association, illustrates our commitment as a division to plan in collaboration, rather than isolation.
Staff and parents will not be left out of the loop in the consultation process as an online survey will be provided. This survey will seek feedback on the current state of affairs in the division, as well as request suggestions for improvements. It is vital for our trustees and senior administration to hear from all of our stakeholders as we begin the planning process for the 2014-15 school year and beyond.
Just as classroom doors should no longer be closed, or school plans done in isolation, school boards must practice generative governance that engages the community. They must organize multiple opportunities to communicate, consult and collaborate. Most importantly, they must actively listen to all stakeholders in order to properly prepare students for their future.