||Volume 16, Number 4, March 2004 |
Should teachers continue on school planning councils?
School planning councils were legislated in the spring of 2002. Each school council was to comprise three parents, one administrator, and one teacher. Amended legislation provided for inclusion of a student in schools enrolling Grade 10, 11, or 12 students. Delegates to the fall 2002 Representative Assembly set out conditions for teacher participation on school planning councils: being elected at a school-based union meeting, reporting back to the staff, promoting a wide range of data, and advocating for "conditions necessary to create a strong and stable public education system and success for every student." RA delegates also asked for a reassessment and report back on school planning councils the following year.
This fall, through a focus group and questionnaire, we asked teacher representatives on school planning councils to describe their experiences and to give their opinions as to whether or not teachers should continue to participate. Eighteen hundred surveys went to teacher representatives on school planning councils; 35%, or 635, were returned.
Approximately half the teacher representatives had been elected, about half volunteered, and 6.9% were recruited by administrative officers. Most councils meet after school four to six times a year.
Of the teacher reps, 82.3% received input and direction from teaching staff on issues being addressed by the SPC, and 91.2% reported back to the staff. Nearly 80% (79.7%) of the SPC representatives reported back to the whole staff; 14.1% reported back to a school union meeting.
More than 87% of teachers who responded felt they could influence parent representatives on the SPC; 83.1% found parents on the SPC receptive to discussing aspects of school funding.
Despite their reservations about the relevance of school planning councils and the political agenda that initiated school planning councils, the overwhelming majority (96.4%) of teacher representatives on school planning councils believe that so long as school planning councils are legislated, teachers should continue to participate.
Comments from the forms:
• While there are many things that cause me concern about SPCs, I believe a strong union person should be there to filter information, help interpret data, and protect teachers from another "improvement to education." I also have made good alliances with parents, which may eventually help my staff.
• I think the parents were a bit disappointed that they really were only there "for looks" and yet they did say to me, "What do we know anyway? You guys are the experts."
• Although the parents were very involved in the school, they had no idea how children were assessed, what the teachers did to plan and implement lessons, and how much of our time and money we put into teaching.
• Parents now are able to see the limited value of standardized tests and they jump right on board with teacher concerns. They finally realize we are on the same side.
– Kathleen MacKinnon