The Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) is urging us to tell the government our wishes as it comes to school board governance.
Before Christmas, the Perrins report on our education system was released, and detailed a few options for the future of school boards. One of those options is to amalgamate the 28 public boards into a single, provincial entity.
“We have heard clearly from our communities that local voice and locally elected representation is important in education,” said Dr. Shawn Davidson, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association. “We have heard that school divisions are big enough, especially for a province like ours that has such a large geographic area and unique local needs to consider.”
"What's particularly concerning to us as an organization is that with appointed boards, local voice is diminished and government voice is increased. We would like to see the public's voice the one that's heard, especially when it comes to the education of our kids."
Davidson pointed to fallout from the recent round of amalgamation which concluded in 2006, leaving Saskatchewan with 28 public school boards.
"The last time we amalgamated it took three or four years for these divisions to get all of that administrative detail dealt with and we don't think there's enough to be gained to cause the students to get left behind for three or four years. We can't afford that."
Davidson is also chair of the Prairie South School Board, and says he was motivated to get involved at the board level when previous amalgamation hit his home region of Kincaid. The Golden Plains School Division (also encompassing the communities Gravelbourg, Lafleche and Mankota) was dissolved to become part of Prairie South.
"Moving to a large, central board, the public's access to decision-makers would be reduced," Davidson said. "When I make a decision that impacts Mankota, I get to go the hockey rink that weekend and sit with those parents..and have to have a good justification for the decision that I've made.
The SSBA says Saskatchewan already has the fewest boards and fewest board members in western Canada (number of boards per province: BC 60, AB 63, MB 37 and SK 28).
“The (Perrins) report describes a shared view in the sector that the focus needs to stay on student outcomes and the work of the Education Strategic Sector Plan,” Davidson said in the news release, referring to the sector-wide plan introduced in 2014 with the support of all boards and the government, and which he says is beginning to see successes.
“Our member boards couldn’t agree more and are willing to work together towards collective results. Mr. Perrins identified many of the challenges education faces and we feel strongly that the focus should be on ideas to strengthen and improve governance and not on significant restructuring that doesn’t save money and is very disruptive for students and school communities,” Davidson added.
“We will continue this conversation and bring the voice of the communities represented by our province’s 28 diverse boards of education to both the online submission process and the panel appointed by Deputy Premier and Minister of Education Don Morgan to conduct this consultation,” Davidson said. “Education belongs to community, school boards matter and governance matters.”
Davidson encourages all parents to provide feedback to the government. Their public consultation is available here.