This year has been hard for the education system and everyone in it. I’d love to tell you that there is great news ahead, but there isn’t. There is also an education tsunami out there on the horizon. I can see it just starting to show itself, but it is still far enough away that it hasn’t caught the attention of too many parents. Some parents though are starting to notice it while standing on the beach.
For other reasons than budget and capital projects, I have been attending monthly Board meetings since Nov 2019 and committee meetings since they started up during COVID. Without purposefully seeking to understand the education system more, I have been exposed to some educational realities that I would not have normally been exposed to, which has led me to see the oncoming tsunami.
At these meeting, I have become a witness to some of the workings that school districts and Boards of Education allow the public to witness. Meetings always feel to me like a show. I wouldn’t even describe them as the tip of the iceberg because even what is discussed or presented on, I don’t feel is a true reflection of what public education is. When you attend meetings over time, patterns start to emerge. Themes will cycle. Personalities of the Trustees will unfold. (At least in my district, it is comforting to see that care for the children from our Trustees, is not the issue.) When attending meetings, you need to look at not only what is being discussed, but also what is not being discussed. What I also find very interesting is comparing Board of Education pages on the different school districts websites. It would be fascinating to have a provincial connected team of parents, that shared information about Board meetings across the districts. Got a monthly snapshot of what was happening on a provincial level.
I was doing some research months back and I came across an archive picture of a school Board meeting in my district in the 1970’s. It was incredible because it was standing room only. It was packed with people! I can tell you that when Board meetings were in person pre-COVID, I could count on one hand how many parents showed up that were not part of a delegation, for the whole year.
The financial situation that my school district is in, concerns me. It concerns me a lot. Don’t let the most recent financial drop intended to be spread out provincially from the Ministry for “pandemic related” recovery fool you. It’s the temporary pacifier meant to sooth you. The next few years are going to be very interesting. The kind of fascination of watching a building topple over when they take a wrecking ball to it, but with the added layer of fear.
I expect staffing qualified people is going to get much harder and based on the budget and capital realities, public education in every way shape and form is going to slowly deteriorate. We are frogs in hot water with the dial creeping up. The correlating factors affecting education are all linked to the changes that have been occurring in our society, on top of a foundation of chronic under funding. Because the government has a reactive approach to education, they are always years behind, playing catch up.
I’d like to throw out a consideration for people to think about. I am asking for people over the summer to consider either themselves to start attending their school districts Board meetings, or get a group of parents together to take turns and take notes. We need to have our eyes on the tsunami. School district’s need to know that the public is following, and the Ministry of Education needs to know that the public is aware. When governments think people aren’t watching them…that’s when they start to turn up the dial. They’ll find their sweet spot of what they can get away with, and what will create public outcry. They are testing us. What are parents begrudgingly willing to accept?
*** This blog, most of it, was posted as a letter in the Burnaby Now local news.