School councils need more specifics, EIC told

Only a small group of people turned out for a public session here Monday night to discuss the role of school councils with the Education Improvement Commission but one message did get through loud and clear.
Better communications and clearer criteria are needed.
EIC co-chair Dave Cooke and commissioner Betty Moseley-Williams admitted that’s a common complaint they’ve heard since the EIC started its consultation tour across Ontario last week on the discussion paper, “The Future Role of School Councils.”
“I think [school councils] are having a problem working out what their role is,” Moseley-Williams said prior to the public session at La Place Rendez-Vous.
“They’re trying to look at how specific a mandate they should have,” she stressed.
“All have said [the government] should come up with very clear criteria and purposes,” echoed Cooke. “How do we make it clear and make it work in the Rainy River District as well as downtown Toronto?”
That was one of the first concerns brought up once the public session started at 7 p.m.
“We’re not sure where to go with any of this,” one man said. “The government has no clear mandate.”
“We were in a similar situation,” agreed a woman from a different school council, noting there seemed to be a “lack of communication throughout the ranks.”
One such communication failure brought up several times here was the fact Monday’s meeting with the EIC was not well publicized and many school council members were caught unaware.
“It’s a general complaint,” Moseley-Williams agreed. “This is a very real issue.”
A latecomer to the meeting noted a major problem with school councils–and the method which the EIC held its consultations–was that both are considered unapproachable by parents.
“Parents need a non-format,” he said. “What parents need is access and they need it without 60 jillion pieces of paper. When you go through this stuff, the reason you don’t have parents here is because it’s formalized.”
Cooke and Moseley-Williams met earlier Monday with school council, board, and teacher reps in separate sessions. The turnout at these was lower than expected, too.
The EIC will take its findings from the consultation meetings and put them together in a report for the minister of education and training by the end of October.
Moseley-Williams said the report should be made public in mid-November.
But Cooke stressed the report would contain just recommendations, noting it would be up to the minister to decide what will be accepted and mandated.