News

TVDSB trustees network, gather public input

By Chris Abbott, Postmedia Network

Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News
TVDSB trustees Arlene Morell, Ruth Tisdale, Matt Reid and Graham Hart attended the March 2nd Trustee Forum at Glendale HS in Tillsonburg. Earlier forums were held in London, as well as Middlesex and Elgin Counties.

Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News TVDSB trustees Arlene Morell, Ruth Tisdale, Matt Reid and Graham Hart attended the March 2nd Trustee Forum at Glendale HS in Tillsonburg. Earlier forums were held in London, as well as Middlesex and Elgin Counties.

Thames Valley District School Board recently hosted four Trustee Forums, including one for Oxford County parents at Glendale High School in Tillsonburg.

Trustee Forums provide an opportunity for parents, School Councils, Home and School Associations, school principals and the broader community to engage with their local trustees, learning about events and initiatives taking place throughout TVDSB, and providing feedback on local public education issues.

A Thursday, March 2nd forum in Tillsonburg was an opportunity for the community to network with four TVDSB trustees - Arlene Morell from Middlesex, London's Ruth Tisdale and Matt Reid, and Oxford's Graham Hart. Earlier forums had been held in London and Middlesex in February, and Elgin County on March 1st.

Attendance at the Oxford forum was less than the three earlier forums, which had about a dozen participants each.

"Personally, whether there is one person that comes out or 100 people that come out, to build that relationship, to get that input, every voice matters," said Tisdale, who said gathering public input on policies - including the policy on student assessment from primary to high school that was examined in Tillsonburg - is very important.

"I think it's critical," said Tisdale. "Parents are giving us their children to educate during the day, and it's a shared responsibility. We need that input, it's a partnership. Parents are critical partners in the students' education.

"Just on this one policy we brought forward tonight... we've been getting a lot of really critical feedback. What's missing, what's most important to the parents..."

Tisdale colour-coded some of the key comments on her copy of the policy to help identify the geographical representation.

"We've heard - and it was emphasized again tonight - a lot of feedback on this one. Really critical feedback to help meet the parents' needs. Communication is so key when we're looking at student assessment, looking at student reporting."

Tisdale stressed the importance of parents understanding what's going on.

"They want to understand what's going on, they want to understand how the student is going to get marked so they can help their students. Again, it's that whole key partnership - that sharing the responsibility for the child's education.

"Whether it's this policy or another policy, it helps us ensure that we're meeting their needs and we're meeting the students' needs, that we're all really working cooperatively, all for the best."

The Trustee Forums also served another purpose - they helped raised awareness.

"I think some parents don't understand the role of the trustees," said Tisdale. "People don't really know. But when we do something like this, it raises that awareness. 'This is our role.' We want that public input, we want to build those partnerships."

"The general public often doesn't understand the role of trustees," agreed Morell.

"We are like a board of directors, essentially... The general public often doesn't fully understand that concept. There's often a perception that we can do much more than what it is we actually do, which is set the policy direction for the board, set the education direction through a four-year multi-year strategic plan, and then set a yearly budget for the board. Those are our three primary functions as a board of trustees.

"The other piece that often isn't understood is that we carry no individual power. And that there is a difference between the Board of Trustees, and the school board. That often gets confused... what we can and can't do."

Trustees also help parents navigate through the system, said Morell.

"When parents know what the steps are to advocate, it makes it easier - not that advocating is easy - to understand how you get to where you need to be, when the steps are clearly defined. So we help parents, help them direct them to a policy, or take the jargon out of a policy and put it into everyday language. So we provide support as a trustee to help them be better advocates."

Parent Involvement Committee

The Thames Valley Parent Involvement Committee (TVPIC) is currently accepting membership and Community Representative applications from parents/guardians and community members.

The group represents a strong parent voice in TVDSB that is committed to improving student achievement and well-being through enhancing parent involvement in education. The parent-led committee, mandated by the Ministry of Education, provides a direct link between parents, school councils, the Director of Education and the Board of Trustees.

TVPIC members and Community Representatives have the opportunity to increase parent engagement in their school community, represent their region of the Thames Valley district, and organize and participate in district-wide TVPIC events, such as the annual Parent Engagement Symposium.

Applicants are required to complete an online form before April 1, 2017, for the opportunity to become a TVPIC member or a Community Representative: www.tvdsb.ca/TVPICapplication.

Seeking Public Input

Thames Valley District School Board is currently seeking public input on three documents - student trustees on the board policy (May 1 deadline); student trustees on the board procedure (May 1 deadline); and Safe Schools (May 2 deadline).

For details and contact information visit www.tvdsb.ca/board.cfm?subpage=204613