December 2012: Newsletter

Over the years I’ve been as noisy a critic of the school board as any, the things that rankled seeming to outnumber the ones that didn’t. The important things certainly. Like my kids’ school and the board’s repeated attempts to close it. I haven’t been a fan. And many parents have similar versions of this that leave them cold. The reason I ran for election was, of course, because I could do better.

Six weeks in, I’m no longer so sure. It’s not that I’ve lost heart or my ideas no longer have merit. I’m simply getting to know the system of which I’ve been critical and the “us” and “them” model to which I’ve subscribed and featuring a big “versus” in the middle is losing its oomph. I haven’t dropped my guard or capitulated, I’m as choosy and demanding a customer as ever. Nor have I hesitated to differ, I continue to challenge things as I see fit. But things have taken a turn. Being mostly encouraged by what I’ve seen of staff’s efforts so far means that at least some of my criticisms seem a little simpleminded and trite. Not to say simpleminded isn’t good and valuable but at the end of the day it too needs to pass muster. Since I too am now meant to act in the best interests of 50,000 kids the complexity of the work being done by board staff is harder to dismiss, their successes harder to ignore. Potshots are in shorter supply. I continue to want what’s best for kids but I now see that staff wants that as well. And that’s something I hadn’t anticipated. I thought the governing board would encounter opposition and self-interest and intransigence in board staff but what I’m seeing instead is support and collaboration.

One thing I know I want us, the governing board and board staff, to focus on and improve going forward is the amount and type of communication we have with community. I want us to communicate in a way and on a scale and with a frequency that gives everyone in HRM a chance to hear what I’ve been hearing and from there to talk about what comes next. “Us” and “them” is harder to maintain when we’re all the former and information and communication will help with that.

Want to see what’s been accomplished in the last year? Click around the Superintendent’s Annual Report on the website. The mere fact that it’s online is progress. And there’s tons of info. The business plan identifies three main focus areas: student achievement, equity, and safety. What do you think of the focus?

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