Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bluewater update #7

The latest update out of Owen Sound on the review of the Bluewater District School Board whose first of two public input meetings is scheduled for tonight (May 19) Wednesday, May 20 in Owen Sound.
“There hasn’t been adequate public notice and that’s our big concern — there isn’t enough time for people to work it into their schedules to attend or prepare any type of submission,” said (Bluewater Citizens for Education spokeswoman Karen) Cameron, who helped spearhead the citizens' advocacy group after the BWDSB came under fire publicly two months ago for a variety of alleged improprieties, including a lack of transparency, accountability and openness.
“In light of all the issues, you have to question why they haven’t promoted it. (Board chairwoman) Jennifer Yenssen indicated to us that there would be at least two weeks notice given, that would be reasonable, but that wasn’t done.”
The article provides some comment from Yenssen refuting Cameron's critique. It leads to the question of how much public notice is enough public notice? Were the members of BCE expecting every parent to receive a personalized phone call from their trustee? Yes, letters and notices stuffed in school bags are frequently neglected, and it's hard to find a critical mass of people who subscribe and read their daily / weekly paper just for the public-notice section.
However I find it very hard to believe those interested in speaking at these meetings weren't aware of the dates and locations the moment they were announced. Either through the board's own distribution or through the vast local media coverage of this saga. Which, if you look at the time line, by the way, the dates were announced May 6, two weeks less a day from the first meeting on May 19 May 20. I would hope the most eager presenters had started drafting their comments on April 21, when the decision to hold meetings was announced but dates hadn't yet been finalized.
The skeptic in me sees this as the citizens' group's escape clause for this process. If they do not like or agree with the end result, they can then point back to this weekend and say the process was a sham because of the "lack" of public input. If 12 people -- the same ones who've already spoken up previously -- show up at the two meetings, the group can claim it's because of ineffective public notice.
Or maybe it'll just show how much people really don't care. I am a frequent attendee as media at many public meetings where there was plenty of adequate public notice-- often where I am also the only person in the room who isn't on the payroll.
I really hope to be proven wrong, but the BS detector went off reading this one.


Anonymous said...

Where did the "Bluewater Coalition for Education" come from?

Could this all be political?

Something else to consider, is that if the parents complaining about lack of lead time re: public sessions/meetings had effective school councils, it is the school council's responsibility to get the word out to the school community.
Given that the paper's been writing about the issue and giving it lots of print time like anything else those who really have something to say will be there..and those who are waiting for others to do their dirty work will NOT be there or clam up entirely.

Could also be that the community gets fed up with all of this too.

Don't forget that just a few posts ago we had another board's parents and community complaining about not being consulted on their issue.

I've also experienced that boards and school administration do the minimum required re: advertizing things like this.

Are you writing the parents and community off as not telling the truth re: promotion of this?

You may not be on the board's payroll but you're being paid by your paper, and let's face it, given what happens at board meetings these days, most lay-people wouldn't understand most of what goes on and how.

How many times have to covered a board meeting and dug deep for something interesting to write about?

Anonymous said...

Please correct the date of the public meeting - it is May 20 in Owen Sound at West Hill Secondary School.

I plan to be there and I hope there will be a decent turnout. Even the most cynical of you should attend because it is an opportunity to have your say - pro or con.

We shouldn't take the education of our children for granted or assume that all is okay. It is our responsibility to be aware for as sappy as it sounds we are educating the leaders of our future.

Anonymous said...

Who's taking the education of our children for granted anon. 21:40?

What's happening in Bluewater is quite pathetic.

That adults couldn't straighten things out and have to rely on Ministry interference is pretty bad.

Maybe the students we care so much about would be better off with a Ministry take-over?

Education Reporter said...

Anon#1 -- not writing parents off so much as questioning how much more public notice they were expecting.
The process worked well here, if you ask me. Those who were following the issue from the start of the review had the radar on and saw the release of the meeting dates for themselves and took note. The ones following in the media learned as soon as the dates were announced as well, thanks to the release and those journalists who covered it.
The board is saying the information was sent out to its employee groups, school councils, etc.
If there's a parent out there who gives a crap about what's going on the BDSB and they didn't know about the meetings, I have to ask what hole in the sand they've buried their head in.
That's what leads to my skepticism.

As to board meetings-- yes, the uninitiated do need patience and determination to understand much of what happens. That's no different than covering municipal council (which I do) along with any other political body. It happens to journalists too, which just leads to poor reporting and that is reflected in what the broader public knows as well.

Anonymous said...

If the school councils in Bluewater, after, what, 11 years haven't set up communication links and opportunities to get messages out to parents and community then the councils need to take some of the responsibility for not getting the message out.

The more I read about the dysfunction at Bluewater the more I get this feeling that there's way more to the story, and that it's been brewing for quite some time.

I also predict that no solution will appease everyone.

Anonymous said...

Having just visited the Mended. site and read through some of the new posts, I read that the MOE rep. Mr. Williams has not met with school councils but has met with the union, trustees, and staff.
One poster shares info. re: councils not being given time with Mr. Fix-it, which I find very hard to understand seeing as though the parents are already feeling excluded to decisions, I don't understand why the Minister of Education wouldn't direct Williams to meet with parents. Seems to be missing a huge part of the picture.

Education Reporter said...

Does anyone know if there's a district school council in Bluewater? Not all boards have a single representative council or home&school association group at a district level.