Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ombudsman'ing it

So wish I had something to link to here -- this is the best I can do -- but the London Free Press had a full-page feature today by education reporter Jen O'Brien on the move by NDP MPP and education critic Rosario Marchese to get school boards included among the agencies the provincial ombudsman's office can investigate. Will link or post once the bill is tabled, as well as if the Freeps posts the article online. The Freeps posted the article online Monday.
Marchese intends to introduce the private-members' bill on Monday.
The Freeps' treatment was nice-- full colour page in its Saturday A section, with a photo of four London-area women involved in parents' groups. Their groups support Marchese's efforts, as it would add an additional outlet for issues parents feel are not resolved by school boards. The article has some pullouts with details about some of the incidents the Freeps has received information on over the years.
Marchese's move got some press earlier this week as well.
The current ombudsman, Andre Marin (who has a son named Hugo... great name!), has long been on the record in saying his office would welcome any additional agencies into its investigative portfolio. It's one element of oversight that's missing-- financial oversight through the ministry and the auditor general already exists. I haven't heard, and the article doesn't speak to this, whether school board and trustee associations would support the bill. One might hope they would as they shouldn't really be worried if they're responding to and dealing with complaints in an equitable manner.


Anonymous said...

Hugo, In Niagara we are very excited that the Ombudsman may have the power to investigate local school boards one day soon.Dsbn trustees will most likely not want to see this happen due to their expert ability to be so un-transparent with parents and tax payers.

Paolo Miele

Anonymous said...

This is very funny because when the NDP were the gov't and Marchese in that government parents back then made a request for an education ombudsman. No dice back then.
Next, the Ontario Parent Council under Harris/Eves also included a request to expand the scope of the ombudsman to include school boards. The OPC even wrote it into their annual report. Same story. No dice.

When in opposition then Tory MPP John O'Toole also put a private member's bill forward that was almost the same as Marchese's now.

Now Marchese as opposition is raising it.

It's getting rave support in my neck of the woods.

Will the school boards fight it?

I can't see the teacher unions fighting it because I think it's really good for classroom teachers because it would have a ability to shine the light on some of those policies and regulations that look great on paper to bureaucrats but which educators and parents eventually know don't translate well to the classroom.

This is a long LONG time coming.

I hope education writers like us can give it some long lasting legs Hugo.


Education Reporter said...

I must admit I'm not sure where to stand on this one. I just see so much anger directed towards school boards so frequently as though schools were the ail and ill of all of our children's problems. People who refuse to acknowledge or accept that a school's ability and influence is limited and that often problems run deeper than what happens at school and extend into home, family and other social settings.

I also see the many in the past several years, upset with decisions, who just want to keep kicking some very dead horses because they disagree.

I would want an ombuds to investigate issues that suggest there is systemic wrongdoing where boards perpetuate the wrong. Where policies are not being followed. Where there is neglect of items that should have been dealt with.

You may see little difference between the first two paragraphs and the last. I do. Hence why I'm not sure where to sit on this.

ps: LFP article now posted, linked.


John L said...

I think there'd have to be a very clear set of criteria developed as to what the Ombudsman's office will become involved in. If it becomes a place to go whenever a parent feels aggrieved on the treatment by a Board or an employee I suspect the caseload would quickly become overwhelming.

Possibly requiring evidence of a systemic failure to respond or deal with an issue, but dealing with individual concerns or grievances would quickly bog the whole thing down (or create the mother-of-all-bureaucracies).

Doretta said...

We're having the same discussion at School for Thought. While some higher oversight would be welcome,

"To me, this looks like a real long shot. Even if the bill passes (perhaps a one percent chance), and the ombudsman becomes very active in sticking up for parents whose concerns are being ignored by their school boards (say a fifty percent chance), I strongly doubt that the parents will get satisfaction. The school boards have become very expert at dodging and weaving their responsibilities, and I just can’t imagine that they would all of a sudden change their attitude. And it is highly unlikely that they can be forced into compliance. After all, what could the ombudsman do to them? Fine them? Put them in jail? Make them send their own children to failing schools?

We’ve seen this before. The Ontario College of Teachers was going to deal with bad teachers. School councils and the Ontario Parent Council were going to empower parents. The new curriculum, the reformatted report cards, and the provincial tests were going to make schools accountable. The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat was going to raise standards. Nothing has worked.

The real road to accountability is to make it possible for parents to withdraw their children from unresponsive schools and transfer them to better schools. Failing schools are unlikely to change unless they are at risk of losing so many students that teaching positions will be lost."

Education Reporter said...

Needless to say I'm not quite as pessimist as some of SQE's commenters.

The college has weeded out some bad teachers. School councils have empowered some parents. The LNS has raised the quality of some teaching.
To claim all hope is lost and abandon them all-- along with any ombudsman involvement-- is a bit much.


Doretta said...

I suppose Malkin did sound gloomy about it all---probably because we have been dealing with various education reforms for almost 20 years now and see their effects eroded by the powers that do not want them.
It does tend to make one cynical.

College of Teachers-yes they got rid of the worst offenders, those who abused kids, for instance, but for poor teaching? Not really.
Yes some school councils are working just great, but most are especially good at fundraising. What clout do they have to ensure student acheivement? Where are the consequences?

Of course some have worked very well--there are always exceptions. But let's be honest the glowing promised outcomes are just not there.

Education Reporter said...

I'm left wondering if glowing promised outcomes for any educational reform have ever given fruit as plump and plentiful as promised...


Anonymous said...

How come no comment or piece on the EQAO mess with TVDSB. Isn't that your old stomping ground? I would love to see you write a piece on this.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 20 Nov. 21:39
In a nutshell, I've been busy these past few weeks.

Plus, from what I've been able to gather, the internal board process and EQAO investigation (or whatever they're called) is underway. Concern, complaint and now an investigation. Given similar circumstances in the past have led to OCT 'blue pages' mentions, I'm sure if there's an issue that could be done here as well.