On November 1, a meeting took place between SAC representatives (both parents and a lot of school principals and other admin) and the consultants hired by HRSB to run the Imagine Our Schools project. This project was launched in response to parent and citizen concerns with the HRSB capital plan, which called for the replacement of every Elementary school on the peninsula. Representatives were from Dartmouth/Cole Harbour and Citadel schools.
In June, Carol Olsen promised parents a SAC driven advisory process, similarly structured to the old school closure review committees from 2002. This process presented by the consultant is not what we, and the Minister of Education, were promised.
The consultants will use the SACs as a community focus group, and the consultants will submit their Facilities report to the Board directly.
The pros of this approach are there are far fewer HRSB staff involved in the generation of the report. This was the consultant’s main point when confronted regarding the cons.
The cons of this approach are that the consultants have no parents on their drafting committee, and the timeline is very rushed, meaning SAC reps have insufficient time to canvas their constituencies.
The consultants do not seem to understand the roles of the SACs and their powers and responsibilities under the Education Act. Historically, the SACs representing a family of schools have presented options for school use to the Board. There authority to advise the Board under Section 22 of the Education Act.
Citadelschools.ca has considerable reservations about the changes to the process from what was presented in June. The changes mean that the current process does not provide the support and structure to allow the SACs to do what the wanted to do and requested to do, which was meet as a group and advise the Board.
The changes mean that this process will produce a report that, good or bad, does not have the weight or legitimacy of a consensus document produced by SAC’s. It will be just another consultants report.
With all this in mind, the process can continue, and parents should participate, but everyone needs to be mindful that:
1 the SACs expected to, and should be, advising the board directly, and we we would prefer a model where the SACs drive the process and advise the board directly is both the historic process and responsibility of the SACs under the Education Act,
2 we feel that the time line does not allow for adequate consultation with the school populations and communities that the SACs represent,
3 that the SACs can and should participate in this process but this is not an endorsement of the process, or of the final report,
4 that the SACs individually and collectively continue to have the option to submit their own recommendations directly to the Howard Windsor/the Board
5 that the SACs should submit their own assessment of the accuracy, fairness and utility of the final consultants report to Howard Windsor,
Finally, Mr Windsor should allow a super SAC meeting for all SACs in Citadel should take place as soon as possible to discuss this and other issues, and request that another super SAC take place to review and comment on the final report as soon as the report is available.
IMAGINE OUR SCHOOLS documents are located here:http://www.hrsb.ns.ca/content