Wednesday, 30 April 2014

On Wednesday, April 30, 2014 by PWSParents
Link Community Complaint Overview
Link - Community Complaints 1
Community Complaints, Cont'd 2

A history of unreliable information and lack of community input

Complaints about previous school and boundary reviews, including lack of transparency, unreliable information and lack of opportunity for community input, are well-known. No doubt such complaints prompted the current Nova Scotia School Review Process Consultation, and perhaps, HRSB’s current review of its own boundary review process (Policy B.003 Creating School Populations Policy).
The School Review Process Discussion Paper (November 2013) at p. 22 reports that information is not always trusted and some reviews are distracted from the most important factor – the education of students:
Based on comments from parents and community members, school communities do not always trust the information in these reports. Some community members felt that, when they had questions or objections to the information, they did not have the resources or the access to sources to confirm the information.
It is essential to have accurate and dependable information in order to make the best decision possible about the future of a school. However, it appears that in some cases the review begins to focus solely on a discussion of specific data points, distracting participants from the broader conversation about the future of the school and, most importantly, the education of students. [Emphasis added]
The paper also notes that reliability of information can be a flashpoint and the suggestion that the source of information should not be generated by school boards:
A variety of stakeholders said that the data used for identification reports and impact assessment reports can become a flashpoint for disagreement between school communities and school boards. This is a serious concern because the data is used throughout the school review process and decision makers rely on the information. (p. 22)

There is a need for data and methodologies to be clear and reliable in order for the review process to focus on the best options for educating students. These were some suggested solutions:
• Set provincial standards for the information.
• Have a body other than school boards responsible for generating the information.
• Use information that is readily available through trusted sources.
• Use information that is already being collected and compiled provincially… (p. 23)
At p. 11, the authors set out the principles of administrative fairness; which include a right of persons affected to influence the decision:
A decision to close a school must adhere to the principles of administrative fairness. In common law, this means
• An individual who is affected by a decision has a right to influence the decision.
• The information used to make the decision is readily available.
• The decision is unbiased.
The authors note the call for early and more community involvement at p. 18:
Communities have said they would like to be involved earlier in the planning process so they can better understand, and influence, the long-range plan for a school region. A regional review would examine how school boards can best deliver education across the entire region or within a family of schools. Earlier involvement at this level of planning allows a community to be aware of issues that may lead to the identification of a school for review. It also allows communities to be more involved in identifying possible solutions.

Current review follows the same problematic process

Board members and staff initiated the current review and are conducting it with full knowledge of the well-known complaints described above.[1] Following the same process, there should be no surprise to hear the same community complaints and upset.


[1] Although there are differences between school closure and boundary reviews, similarities of stakeholders, interests, processes, impact and community complaints make reference to school reviews relevant and instructive for boundary reviews.