The 2012-13 school year in Ontario was a difficult one.  All stakeholders in education were likely affected in some way with the labour negotiations.  The school year ended somewhat more settled and on some positive notes.  In June, some people started to hear about a new provincial initiative and direction.  Consultations were to begin to help bring Ontario education from “Great to Excellent”.

The plans ahead seemed somewhat hush-hush at first, but confirmation came to some groups by the end of summer that regional consultations would begin soon in the fall of 2013.  More information and details were posted to the Education Ministry’s website, including a way for individuals to give input online.  “Consultation kits” were also posted for stakeholder, community and parent groups to access and use for their own local consultation sessions.  The Ministry also hosted regional in-person consultations with school boards and partners.

I am not certain what the expected process was in each region to engage stakeholders, but I did start to hear about a few ways that individuals, volunteers and groups went about giving and gathering input.

Andrew Campbell, a teacher and parent, planned and led a series of Twitter chats through his online education network.  Held on a few Saturday mornings for an hour, the 7 questions provided in the consultation package were covered and discussed.  Andrew summarized and curated the conversation and documented what he could to his blog.  Whether this input of over 200 participants is accepted or not, the conversation, sharing and learning would certainly serve to help anyone planning to give their individual input online.  There is still time to participate in one more scheduled chat on Oct. 19th.  See his blog for further details or to add comments.

Through my networking with a few parent group leaders around the province regarding this consultation, I was also impressed by the plans that Arlene Morell shared.  She recognized that the online option benefitted many, but the parent group she is involved with wanted to provide further options for their families.

At out next Council meeting, we will make paper copies available – at our cost, not parent involvement funds… we continue to promote and encourage parents to engage in the consultation, provide their voice and insights, we will extend our services if necessary in collecting and forwarding what has been provided… And hope that parents feel that we have engaged them…

Sometimes it is not about what the views or opinions are (although this is important as well), but how we as leaders have supported a venue and eased opportunities for parents and community.

I also believe that these opportunities to come together and share as groups, and as a cross-section of people, serve to help the awareness and learning, and thus inform the input that an individual or group provides.  I can recognize the difficulty for a large organization to conduct a province-wide consultation, so approaching certain groups and key partners makes sense.  It can be necessary for consultations to be selective in any sector.  But every day I am aware of many individuals involved passionately in education and I do hope that there are appropriate avenues available for their input, if they feel it is worthwhile to do so.  Education is for all of us.

Please feel free to share what ways your group, district or region is leading and participating in this consultation and facilitating broader outreach and input. The deadline is Nov. 15th.