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SECOND REPORT OF THE

SELECT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION



PUBLIC EDUCATION GOVERNANCE

Second Session
54th Legislative Assembly
of the
Province of New Brunswick

May 2000


 

Members of Committee

Ms. Pat Crossman, Chair
M.L.A., Riverview
Mr. Laforest
M.L.A., Grand Falls Region
Mr. LeBlanc, Vice-Chair
M.L.A., Dieppe-Memramcook
Mr. Malley
M.L.A., Miramichi-Bay du Vin
Hon. D. Graham
M.L.A., Carleton
Mr. Ashfield
M.L.A., New Maryland
Mr. Carr
Oromocto
Mr. Allaby
M.L.A., Fundy Isles
Ms. Fowlie
M.L.A., Kennebecasis
Ms. Mersereau
M.L.A., Bathurst
Mr. MacKenzie
M.L.A., Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak
Mr. Haché
M.L.A., Nigadoo-Chaleur
Mr. J. Betts
M.L.A., Moncton Crescent
Ms. Weir
M.L.A., Saint John Harbour

May 18, 2000

To the Honourable
The Legislative Assembly of
The Province of New Brunswick

Mr. Speaker:

Your Select Committee on Education begs leave to submit this their Second Report of the Session.

Your Select Committee was appointed by Resolution of the House adopted July 6, 1999 and charged with examining, inquiring into, and reporting to the House with respect to the education system in New Brunswick and, to consider such other matters and materials referred to your Committee by the Minister of Education.

This Report is the result of your Committee's deliberations on the matter of Public Education Governance referred to your Committee by the Minister of Education.

On January 31, 2000, Premier Bernard Lord and Minister of Education, Hon. Elvy Robichaud announced the beginning of a consultation process respecting public education governance in the Province of New Brunswick. A Green Paper entitled "Let's Discuss Public Education Governance" was released and referred to your Committee for public input.

The Green Paper included an invitation to New Brunswickers to provide input and advice to your Committee respecting a new governance structure for public education in the Province of New Brunswick.

Public hearings were held March 21, 22, 23 and 24, 2000. A total of 206 submissions were received representing a broad cross-section of educational stakeholders, parents and communities of both linguistic sectors. The consultation process produced 102 submissions from the current School Parent Advisory Committees, 12 submissions from the current District Parent Advisory Councils, submissions from the two Provincial Boards of Education, and 90 submissions from other educational stakeholders, organizations and interested individuals. A list of participants in the public consultation process is attached to this Report as Appendix "A".

Your Committee expresses appreciation to the many presenters who appeared at the public hearings and to those parents, individuals, groups and organizations who submitted written briefs.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Your Select Committee recommends that a new governance structure be implemented for schools in the Province. The key element in this structure is the District Education Council. This publicly and locally elected body would be empowered as the main governing element. The role of the District Education Council would be to develop the District education plan and District policies, to hire the Superintendent, and to establish hiring policies for District employees.

To provide for communication between District Education Councils, your Committee recommends the establishment of a Resource Committee consisting of representatives of the District Education Councils and their respective superintendents. This body would be executive in nature and would not have decision-making authority.

School Committees would continue to play an important role at the school level. These committees would provide advice to the school principal on school-related issues, assist in developing school-based policies, and provide input on all aspects of school life. The School Committee would participate in the hiring and evaluation of the school principal.

The Minister of Education would retain responsibility for the development of the Provincial Education Plan, the Provincial Expenditure Plan, the Provincial curriculum, and educational programs and services.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Green Paper outlines six topics for discussion, namely: Taking the Best; Elements of a New Structure; Good Governance; Authority, Roles and Responsibilities; Electing the District Education Councils; and Accountability.

Your Committee submits its findings with respect to the foregoing topics, based on the written submissions received and the presentations made at the public hearings. The Committee's recommendations focus on a public education governance system that encompasses the principles of respect for parental involvement, accountability, receptiveness, responsiveness, inclusiveness, flexibility and stability, all reflected throughout the consultation process.

The recommendations put forth by your Committee are intended to be consistent with a commitment of the provincial government to establish publicly and locally elected District Education Councils. A summary of the Committee's recommendations is attached to this Report as Appendix "B".

The Committee recognizes the linguistic duality within New Brunswick's education system and affirms this reality. In implementing a new governance structure, the government must ensure that all legal and constitutional obligations are respected and that all aspects of the new system are in compliance with section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION:

Respondents indicated support for maintaining the parental element of the structure at the school level and for implementing publicly and locally elected councils at the district level. Respondents also expressed support for a provincial body of some form.

Your Committee recommends a governance structure for public education that provides for parent advisory bodies at the school level, a publicly and locally elected body at the district level, and a provincial forum that will enable representatives from the District Education Councils, and their respective Superintendents, to meet collectively.

GOOD GOVERNANCE - ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

It is clear that there is an increasing demand for decentralization of the school system within the context of provincial standards. Comments by respondents varied with respect to "good governance", but they generally reflected an understanding that daily administrative functions should be left to staff and that District Education Councils should focus on broad educational issues.

Respondents indicated an acceptance of the advisory role for school parent committees. Many respondents suggested that having input in the evaluation of the school principal and in the establishment of a school-based budget could enhance the parental role. A lack of communication, a lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities, and a lack of ongoing training were reported as the most common weaknesses shared by many of the educational stakeholders. Generally, respondents expressed the view that the roles of the school parent body and the home and school association are distinctive, and that both groups perform valuable functions.

Respondents supported an enhanced role for the District Education Councils and noted that such bodies must have clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

There was support for a provincial body to provide a forum for provincial consultation and communication among District Education Council representatives.

Respondents supported the notion that curriculum development and assessment should remain a function of the provincial government. The need for provincial policies was also recognized. However, many respondents noted that a greater degree of flexibility was needed, so that provincial policies and curriculum could be implemented by the districts in a way that would reflect local needs.

A number of respondents expressed a desire for greater budget control at the district level. Concern was expressed that while the Minister should be involved in the decision-making process regarding major repairs and capital construction, there should also be district input with respect to such decisions.

School Committee:

Your Committee recommends that the role of the school committee be advisory in nature.

Responsibilities would include:

· Providing advice to the school principal regarding school-related issues;

· Bringing forward issues or concerns to the District Education Council;

· Providing input on all aspects of the school life that impact student learning and development;

· Assisting the school principal in developing school-based policies in accordance with district and provincial standards;

· Assisting the school principal in developing a School Improvement Plan;

· Developing, in consultation with the school principal, a prioritized capital improvement list for submission to the District Education Council;

Your Committee recommends that the school committees participate in the hiring of their school principal. This would include having representation on the selection committee. Your Committee further recommends that school committees be actively involved in their principal's annual evaluation.

District Council:

Your Committee recommends that publicly and locally elected bodies at the district level be empowered as the main governing element of the new structure.

Responsibilities would include:

· Developing and monitoring a district education plan that encompasses the vision, goals, objectives and standards for the district;

· Developing a district expenditure plan;

· Developing district policies and procedures that support the district education and expenditure plans;

· Hiring and evaluating the Superintendent;

· Establishing hiring policies for district employees that are in line with provincial standards and collective agreements;

· Prioritizing capital construction projects for submission to the Department of Education;

· Encouraging participation of parents, teachers, students, and other individuals or groups at District Education Council meetings;

· Creating and nurturing links between District Education Council representatives and schools in their jurisdiction.

Provincial Body:

Your Committee recommends that representatives of the District Education Councils, and their respective Superintendents, meet regularly in a structured provincial forum that would be known as a Resource Committee.

It is intended that the Resource Committee would be executive in nature in that it would not have decision-making authority. The committee members had differeing opinions on the roles and powers of the provincial body. The provincial body would exist for the purposes of information sharing, communication, research, coordinating training opportunities, and providing representation and input on educational issues at the national level. Activities would include:

· Coordinating the training and in-service for school parent committees and District Education Council representatives;

· Encouraging and facilitating communication between the various District Education Councils on issues of common concern;

· Conducting research on educational issues;

· Representing the District Education Councils at the national level.

Your Committee further recommends that the Department of Education fund one position for the Resource Committee and provide the necessary office space and equipment, with the understanding that the individual would be an employee of the Resource Committee.

Minister of Education:

Your Committee recommends that the Minister of Education maintain responsibility for the development and evaluation of provincial educational and administrative programs and services.

Ministerial responsibilities would include:

· Developing a Provincial education plan;

· Developing a Provincial expenditure plan;

· Developing and evaluating educational curriculum and programs, and administrative programs and services;

· Developing educational goals and standards;

· Developing and conducting provincial assessments for students;

· Communicating with District Education Councils and the provincial Resource Committee;

· Responsibility for the general administration, management and control of school property.

ELECTIONS:

The Green Paper focuses on elections at the district level. However, a number of respondents provided opinions regarding elections at the school level as well.

School Level:

Generally, comments with regard to school level elections related to whether or not employees of the school system should be eligible to be candidates. Opinion was divided in this regard and the potential for conflict of interest was recognized.

It was noted by some respondents that non-custodial parents have not been kept informed by the school system regarding school-related issues affecting their child generally, nor regarding school elections specifically.

Your Committee recommends that membership on school committees include elected parents or guardians of students in attendance at the school. Parents should form the majority of the school committee membership. Employees of the school district would be eligible for election to the school committee of their child's school as long as they are not employed at that school. In addition, it is recommended that ex officio members of the school committee include the school principal, teacher representation elected by staff, student representation, and District Education Council representation. Student representation should not be restricted necessarily to the high school level.

Your Committee recommends that elections take place annually and all parents or guardians, including staff, whose children attend the school, should be eligible to vote. It was noted that staff must take reasonable steps to ensure that non-custodial parents are informed about the election process.

District Level:

Respondents expressed support for a publicly and locally elected District Education Council. However, most of the feedback reflected a need for an accessible election process, one that prospective candidates would not find intimidating or restrictive.

Several respondents expressed the view that the District Education Council should be comprised of a combination of elected and designated members to ensure a greater stakeholder voice on the council. In addition, a number of respondents believed that term limits would ensure the vibrancy of the council.

It was suggested that voting for the District Education Councils should be open to anyone who qualifies under the legislation governing municipal elections. Opinion was divided concerning the eligibility of candidates for election.

Respondents were very clear in their assertion that rural areas must receive appropriate representation on the District Education Councils.

Your Committee recommends that all seats on the District Education Council be publicly and locally elected by universal suffrage to coincide with municipal elections.

Some respondents put forward the concept of councils comprised of a combination of elected and designated members. Members of your Committee had differing opinions on this suggestion.

Your Committee recognizes the importance of allowing all interested stakeholders the opportunity to participate in the new governance structure. Under the new system of governance, parents, school committees, educational stakeholders and individuals within the community will be encouraged to bring their concerns to the District Educational Councils. In this way, all interested parties will be granted the opportunity to have meaningful input into the decisions made.

Your Committee recommends that isolated areas of a school district be ensured fair representation in the electoral process.

Your Committee recommends that the electoral process include representation on the basis of zones to reflect school catchment areas.

Your Committee recommends that employees of the system should not be eligible to run for a District Education Council, if they work at a school within the jurisdiction of that council. This would not prohibit employees from running for election to an education council in another school district.

Your Committee recommends that there be no restriction on the number of terms a district council member may serve consecutively.

ACCOUNTABILITY:

Respondents clearly expressed the need for accountability and offered many suggestions that would address this issue. For example, there was much support for public annual meetings at which the District Education Council would report on the financial and educational goals and achievements of the school district. Public monthly meetings, distribution of minutes, media coverage, and participation in the Public Accounts process of government were suggested as mechanisms to ensure accountability. Many respondents noted that the election process in and of itself represented an accountability mechanism.

Your Committee recommends that accountability be built into the system through appropriate evaluation mechanisms.

Your Committee recommends the following mechanisms to foster accountability:

· School principals would be held accountable through an annual evaluation process conducted with the participation of representatives of the school committee and the Superintendent;

· The Superintendent would be held accountable through an evaluation process conducted by the District Education Council;

· The District Education Council would be held accountable through the election process and through an annual report that would include the established vision, goals, objectives and standards respecting educational and financial matters of the district with the outcomes achieved;

· The activities of the District Education Council would also be subject to review by a legislative committee of government upon request;

SCHOOL DISTRICT COMPOSITION AND STRUCTURE:

Concern was expressed with respect to the current structure of superintendencies, whereby one superintendent may be responsible for more than one school district. It was felt that the geography alone was prohibitive in such a structure. In addition, there appeared to be confusion or a lack of understanding with regard the terms "Superintendent" and "Director of Education".

Respondents did not support further district amalgamation. Respondents did express a desire for stability in the school system.

Your Committee recommends single school districts, each having a single superintendent as the chief executive officer.

Your Committee recommends that the single school districts should be no larger in size than those that currently exist.


CONCLUSION:

Your Committee gave serious consideration to the information provided in the oral and written presentations respecting public education governance. Your Committee believes that the suggested model will provide a genuine partnership between the provincial government and the local community. It will ensure parental involvement at the school level, and publicly and locally elected councils at the district level.

Your Committee believes that the new structure outlined in this report will provide the balance necessary to ensure local decision-making with respect to public education.



APPENDIX "A"

INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT APPEARED BEFORE THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION:

Association des enseignantes et des enseignants francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick

Beyea, Donald

Blaquiere, Richard

Brogan, Frances C.

Coleman, Daniel F.

Comités de parents du Nouveau-Brunswick

Commission provinciale de l'éducation

District Parent Advisory Councils

- District 4

- District 8

- District 10

- District 14

- District 15

- District 16

- District 18

Doucet, Me Michel

Ferguson, Camille

Fredericton Montessori School

Giberson, Ross

Hughes, Bruce

Landry, Rodrigue

Losier, Robert F.

Miller, Dr. Barry W.

New Brunswick Association for Community Living

New Brunswick Citizens for Effective Education

New Brunswick Federation of Home and School Associations, Inc.

New Brunswick Provincial Board of Education

The New Brunswick School Trustees Association

New Brunswick Shared Parenting Association

The New Brunswick Teachers' Association

Oromocto High School, Political Science 120 Class

Pacey, Peter

Parents for Parents, A Committee of Concerned Parents from Central Cluster schools in School District 8

Ramsay, Elaine

Réseau d'appui à l'intégration des enfants des ayants droit au système éducatif francophone

School Parent Advisory Committees

- Albert Street Middle School

- Belleisle Elementary School

- Bernice MacNaughton High School

- Bessborough School

- Birchmount School

- District 2

- Gagetown School

- Grand Manan Community School

- John Caldwell School

- Kennebecasis Park Elementary School

- LeTournesol School

- Moncton High School

- Saint John High School

- Woodstock Centennial Elementary School

Sears, Allan

Small, Marion

Société des enseignantes et des enseignants retraités francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick

Teed, Eric L. , O.C., C.D., Q.C.

Wilson, Jocelyn

INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUBMITTED WRITTEN BRIEFS TO THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION:

Bath Home and School

Beaulieu, Béatrice

Blyth, Debbie

Breau, James and Judy

Bristol Elementary School

Burnett, Frederick C.

Buyting, Patricia

Canadian Parents for French - New Brunswick

Canadian School Boards Association

Champlain Heights School

Chipman Elementary School

Coburn, Stephanie

Commissioner of Official Languages

Concerned Citizens

Conseil communautaire Beausoleil Inc.

Dalzell, Gordon

District 6 DPAC

District 12 DPAC Members



APPENDIX "B"


SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS


GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION



The Committee recommends a governance structure for public education that provides for parent advisory bodies at the school level, a publicly and locally elected body at the district level, and a provincial forum that will enable representatives from the District Education Councils and their respective Superintendents to meet collectively.

School Committee:

The Committee recommends that the role of the school committee be advisory in nature.

The Committee recommends that the school committees participate in the hiring of their school principal. This would include having representation on the selection committee. The Committee further recommends that school committees be actively involved in their principal's annual evaluation.

District Council:

The Committee recommends that publicly and locally elected bodies at the district level be empowered as the main governing element of the new structure.

Provincial Body:

The Committee recommends that representatives of the District Education Councils, and their respective Superintendents, meet regularly in a structured provincial forum that would be known as a Resource Committee.

The Committee further recommends that the Department of Education fund one position for the Resource Committee and provide the necessary office space and equipment, with the understanding that the individual would be an employee of the Resource Committee.

Minister of Education:

The Committee recommends that the Minister of Education maintain responsibility for the development and evaluation of provincial educational and administrative programs and services.


ELECTIONS:


School Committees:

The Committee recommends that membership on school committees include elected parents or guardians of students in attendance at the school. Parents should form the majority of the school committee membership. Employees of the school district would be eligible for election to the school committee of their child's school as long as they are not employed at that school. In addition, it is recommended that ex officio members of the school committee include the school principal, teacher representation elected by staff, student representation, and District Education Council representation. Student representation should not be restricted necessarily to the high school level.

The Committee recommends that elections should take place annually and all parents or guardians, including staff, whose children attend the school, should be eligible to vote. It was noted that staff must take reasonable steps to ensure that non-custodial parents are informed about the election process.

District Council:

The Committee recommends that all seats on the District Education Council be publicly and locally elected by universal suffrage to coincide with municipal elections.

The Committee recommends that isolated areas of a school district be ensured fair representation in the electoral process.

The Committee recommends that the electoral process include representation on the basis of zones that reflect school catchment areas.

The Committee recommends that employees of the system should not be eligible to run for a District Education Council, if they work at a school within the jurisdiction of that council. This would not prohibit employees from running for election to an education council in another school district.

The Committee recommends that there should be no restriction on the number of terms a district council member may serve consecutively.


ACCOUNTABILITY:

The Committee recommends that accountability be built into the system through appropriate evaluation mechanisms.


SCHOOL DISTRICT COMPOSITION/STRUCTURE:



The Committee recommends single school districts, each having a superintendent as the chief executive officer.

The Committee recommends that single school districts should be no larger in size than those that currently exist.


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