Recently, I have been thinking a great deal about leadership in education at all levels. Particularly today is of interesting relevance. My municipality has two positions open for school trustee this fall election (#exln2018). Both positions, however, have been acclaimed. I’m both saddened and somewhat relieved as I pack up the family and head to my local (only) polling station.
Experience in Spades
One of the acclaimed, Bill Maslechko, is a former superintendent who has already severed three consecutive stints as a school trustee for Kootenay Lake School District 8. Bill’s dedication to affording the students (and our future) of the community the best public education has always been his joie de vivre. He has served our community in a number of volunteer capacities since arriving in Nelson in 1977. I am also grateful to have had the pleasure of working with Bill a few years back and always found warm, welcoming, convivial, and a really good listener.
Heart and Soul
The other acclaimed school trustee for our municipality is Sheri Walsh, a former school trustee, and recent District Parent Advisory Committee (DPAC) chair. Sheri’s ‘tenacious enthusiasm’ towards getting the best for our students has been nothing short of admirable. Even in the face of parent apathy and involvement, Sheri always attended school board, PAC, and DPAC meetings. She asked the difficult questions of senior leadership and our trustees when, quite frankly, most of our parents were/are unwilling or unable to do. I cannot think of a greater local defendant of public education. Sadly, our appreciations for Sheri’s volunteer efforts (nearly 15 years!) on behalf of all of our kids have been far less than what she deserves.
As both as a parent and educator, I suppose I should be more than satisfied with the two individuals that have stepped forward to do the thankless (and often dirty work) that blends education and politics in our municipality. In my brief time as a school leader, I came to appreciate the seemingly endless number of meetings, public events, and voluminous reading required of our school trustees. And for this job, you only want people who believe so fervently in the value of public education that the work is (somewhat) surmountable and deemed an essential evil.
I feel that a general apathy for public engagement in public education is on the rise. As the population gets older the focus on politics turns inward. Baby boomers fearful of tax increased. Seniors concerned about bylaws that might affect them. I get it. Politics bring out the ‘what’s in it for me?’ syndrome. Are our younger parents too busy or distracted to engage in the discussion in a meaningful way? I do not mean to point fingers. What it is, is what it is.
But two candidates?
Surely in a city of 10 000 residents, we can do better?
Perhaps part of the problem lies at the feet of our school district and senior leadership to attract potential candidates to the board positions. Perhaps part of the problems lies with our massively underfunded provincial public education with a government that puts securing the profits of big industry ahead of everything else.
Perhaps as a parent and employee, I too, need to become more involved in the system that pays my salary and educates my children.
So, I’m off to vote for my mayor and city councilors. And I know that on my ballot the two positions for local school trustees will be labeled ‘ACCLAIMED’ and my voting privilege negated. I’ll try not to look at that part of the ballot.