Consultations – Submissions from Parents

As of February 22, we have received about 400 responses.

PVEP public meetings bring out a fascinating range of parent ideas

The first week of PVEP public meeting in Toronto, Mississauga, and London brought out parents from all four systems. They came together and worked in small groups to provide their thoughts on the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues. They also had a variety of ideas on how to strengthen parent involvement at the school level and how a provincial parent voice might operate. At each meeting, PVEP members gave an overview of the project starting with why parent involvement is so important and how important it is when parents share their ideas and experiences with other parents. Fascinating and valuable ideas are emerging from the meetings and attendees have been generally pleased that their input is being sought. PVEP members will be reviewing all the submissions and are scheduled to make their recommendations at the end of March.
Here are some pictures of the meetings. Keep checking this page for more news and photos!

Sample of Submissions:

School council chair
Elementary school – Halton Catholic District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Have a yearly conference and invite chairs from the different school councils to attend.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I am very involved with my children’s education. However, in the past 25 years as a working parent, I found that one must find avenues that enable me to participate in their education after school hours. These are the tools I need to make involvement happen: more open communication between the parent, teacher and school; more use by teachers of Internet tools, i.e. adding classroom calendars for any parent to access. Teachers do not use the Internet tools that have been provided for them nor are they encouraged to do so. If they don’t use technology, how do you expect our children to deal with it. Using the Internet, they should have information for parents to understand what is being taught in the classroom so that we can support and review what is being learned with our children.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
To listen, to participate in the classrooms hands on, see what is being taught, how it is being taught and is it appropriate to the children’s age and understanding…ARE THE CHILDREN GETTING IT….

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
This is a loaded question…. Our schools have never seriously reflected diversity and that is why there are so many children in conflict with one another and why so many teachers are not connected with the students or the parents.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
Does it need to be? I’m sure there are other options that would support everyone concerns and needs.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
Our school boards and our teachers associations should have to cover the costs as, in the end, they are the ones who excel and grow in this learning opportunity and experience.

Models

I/we prefer model: 1
I/we prefer a combination of models: 1, 3


School council member (past chair)
Elementary school – Avon Maitland District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Talk to them and listen to what they have to say. A lot of parents are very involved in volunteering in the schools, whether it be in school council or in some other way and know very well what the situation in the school is.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
As involved as time and my children allow. Easy access to contact with school staff is very important to keeping on top of what is going on.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
Advisory re: what is needed on a board by board basis

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Equal representation from both rural and urban locations. (i.e. equal # of people from each area). Do not make meeting inaccessible (perhaps online webinars, or teleconferences or video conferencing could work).

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
I don’t know that it really can be as the schools are bound by the boards and the boards are bound by the Ministry. I don’t think it really needs to be separate as long as the voice is heard and we really do have a say.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
Again, I don’t know here. The board financing is tight enough as it is.

Models

I/we prefer model: None
I/we prefer a combination of models: 1, 4

Parent — Home and School Association
Elementary school – Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Through a parent-led body of elected representatives from as many school board districts as possible, with a newly elected group every two years. Parents should be elected by members of their local home and school councils.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I think all parents are already involved through nightly homework help, communication with their teachers through student agendas and monthly updates from their teachers on units/assignments completed. Term report interviews and telephone/email accessibility are also being used at my children’s school.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
Advocacy and input on everything from curriculum direction, support materials, capital enhancements/repairs, labour relations and standardized testing.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
If there is a representative from every, or as many, boards as possible, these parents would hopefully be regular attendants at their local home and school council monthly meetings where issues of community concern would have their own platform. These provincial reps would then take the consensus opinions with them to the regular Ontario meetings.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
By operating in the same way home and school associations do. The spirit of co-operation is inherent between parents and staff. The same autonomy should be replicated at the Ontario level.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
It should be taxpayer supported from the Ministry of Education’s coffers as it is a representative body that works to improve the public system for all Ontarians.

Models

I/we prefer model: None
I/we prefer a combination of models: 1, 3

 

Parent
High school – Niagara Catholic District School Board

 1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
The best way would be from a neutral person, who has any number of issues brought to his/her attention over time. Imagine an Ombuds-type position. A person who maintains stats on different issues, all the suggestions, all the opinions…a person who can discern patterns in various areas of the province, or clusters of issues in areas, as well as broad-based issues. What this person hears comes directly from a parent, without any sort of filtering, or second or third hand information. This person could also hear the views and opinions of various groups around the province, so that they might remain as the groups that they are, confident that the minister is hearing them. Each group would have equal access to this Ombuds-type person, so that no one group feels they are not being heard equally. The role of this person would be to tell the Minister, “this is what parents are saying….”

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
There are a lot of good things happening around the province. Parents can learn from each other, but not at a once-a-year-conference type thing, get to it “if you can”… Everyone wants to be involved in various ways, and we should feel free to be involved to whatever level we choose. If there were a comprehensive website devoted to all these various levels of involvement, a parent could choose where they would like to fit in. This website could bring together best practices from across the province, for things like homework help, curriculum support, fundraising ideas. Everyone would be encouraged to submit their best practices. That would include board input into what they are doing. Boards can learn from each other too. I often want what is happening in other boards, and you can see it from their websites. Put everything together in one website that might be offered at a conference for parents, and share it province-wide. Invite sponsors to offer their services, for a very minimal fee. Invite speakers who would come to a conference, to offer their ideas on the website. Link to resources that a parent could access that would inform them about whatever their issue might be, perhaps bullying for example. I would like a very comprehensive website that would inform, and invite me to become as involved as I would like. Where I could learn as much as I would like, about whatever issue there is. Instead of me having to search the internet, I would have some sort of “parentcentral” website for one stop information. It would tell me everything I need to know, from how to approach a parent teacher interview, to how to help with homework. The possibilities are endless, and the best-practices ideas out there are endless. Put them all in one place for us, and share. The one thing it would have to be is “professional”. Not like any discussion forums that are out there where parents share ideas by typing their own suggestions.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
To be the unfiltered voice of parent “experiences” and concerns. Minus any influences from any other organizations. A parent needs to be able to say, to “somebody”…..”this is what is happening to me”….”this is what is happening where I am”…..

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Any parent would be free to have a voice, if they choose. It also needs to invite suggestions from those folks in the province who no longer have a child in the system. Perhaps they are concerned for their grandchildren. They need to be able to contribute. We would all be equal. Anyone with an issue or a suggestion would know where they could make themselves heard. You would not need to belong to any group, or organization.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
We need to have an identity of our own. It needs to exist outside of all board influence. It needs to represent parents and advocate for parents. In spite of any regulations/policy/procedure put in place by Ministries or boards, things happen to families that need to be examined. Parents need to know there is someone that is “looking out for them”, a group they can turn to for support.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
There are 72 boards. Each board would contribute equally, those with more students (and therefore parents) would contribute in a way similar to the way per-pupil funding works. Parents would know they have equal access to this central organization, and equal voice, because all boards are equally helping support it.

Models

I/we have another model for consideration:
It is a combination of all of the above. I imagine a Parent Leadership Centre, which has its own website. It is run by a board, with representation from all 72 boards, much like CODE has 72 Directors who belong to it. The 72 parents would be led by and Executive Director, with an Ombuds-type role to play. They would choose a smaller executive board, again similar to what CODE has in place. This board would identify issues, and bring together interested parents from across the province, to deal with their “issue” of choice, whether it be funding, governance, or whatever. The website would keep parents equally informed of what is happening at the Centre, and parents would be equally invited to participate to the level of involvement they would like. I imagine there being one parent identity, to which anyone can belong, by virtue of having that “interest”… no more separate groups around the province. Imagine People for Education and the Home and School Association and the minority groups all in the same location, working on one thing…and that is being the voice of the Parent Leadership Centre. We would all belong. We would all have one person from our board that we know represents us at an executive level. That person is our voice to the neutral Ombudsperson… and the Minister. As for who would represent each board, any parent who would be interested would be invited to meet with others in their board. Among themselves they would choose who might best represent them at the Centre. Parents choosing parents. No board involvement. It wouldn’t matter who ends up being that person, because you could still choose to be as involved with the Centre as you would like. Each board would then establish a “parentcentre” location, perhaps within a central school with space… where parents could meet without any principal, or teacher, or board members. We would have an identity within the system. We don’t have that now.

 

School council -chair
Elementary school – Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Web-based survey or questionnaires such as this (along with paper based ones for those who do not have access to the Internet that would be available/distributed by the school).

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
Being asked is the first step. The school should take an active approach and ask parents (allowing reasonable response time) what they think. Also, they need to educate the parents on the topics to ensure that we as parents make the best possible choices. There needs to be better communication between parents and teachers. Some (not all) teachers do not communicate their academic goals to the parents and provide ideas or direction in following those same teaching principles at home. Possibly, the teachers require additional help in the classroom (not just a parent volunteer) to allow them more time.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
Ensure that parents are educated and asked what their thoughts are on various issues.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Provide a voice to the current school councils and mandate that they provide input (based on the school needs) on all ranges of topics. The current problem is that those who we need to hear from the most, the parents, do not have a voice. The traditional school council as we know it is the best means to do so, however, most school councils are too busy talking about and organizing council fundraising events.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
It is unfortunate that the question of funding is being linked to the independence of the Ontario Parent Council. The Ministry of Education should continue to pay.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
Again, the Ministry. Parents are bombarded enough with fundraising and do not need more. Given the already lack of funding at the school level, what money is raised at the school should stay at the school.

Models

I/we prefer model: None
I/we prefer a combination of models: 1, 4

 

School council member and former chair
Elementary school – Toronto District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Directly. By coming to as many school councils as possible. By advertising/reaching out through flyers, internet, newspapers, etc. and seeking parental input as was done here. Many parents still do not realize this initiative. Language and cultural barriers must also be overcome. In some cultures parents believe they have no say in education.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
More openness and transparency. Overall support in the form of a societal acceptance that this initiative is supported and encouraged. Have more funding; perhaps that will encourage parents to come together to know each other — chool councils are not heavily attended. Perhaps there are other ways to attract them. Heavy emphasis on security often causes people not to meet and exchange information. I would like to be more directly involved with the decisions such as curriculum selections. Also the factors involved in decisions made at the classroom, I would like access to such information. An acceptance by staff would be supportive.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
Break the province into representational regions. Reach out to parents to get involved in their children’s education; provide ways (literature, meetings) for parents to get involved. Get input and share with Ministry of Education. Oversee funding of parent body; admin, distribution.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Demographics; surveys, reaching out in various languages. Having representatives from all cultural groups (proportional) in the parent body.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
It could get funding from a different governing body. It could establish bylaws empowering it with its own mandate; to make its own findings

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
Provincial government, municipally as well.

Models

I/we prefer model: 4
I/we prefer a combination of models: 2, 4

School council chair
Elementary school – York Catholic District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
There are at least a couple of ways. First, effective use of the internet and e-mail. I recently sent an e-mail to the Minister’s office on a parent council issue and received an e-mail response back from one of his staff within a couple of weeks. We need to encourage this type of direct communication with the Minister’s office. The internet is a tremendous equalizer in terms of sharing knowledge and power. Second, local parent councils should have the ability to elect representatives to a province-wide forum where ideas and concerns can be shared directly with the Minister.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I want to continue to be involved at the parent council level at my children’s school. In order to be effective, the school and the parent council need to be empowered financially to make decisions about how education is delivered in their school. While this should be done within the parameters set by the Ministry on curriculum, it is parents and educators at the grassroots level that understand how the dollars need to be best allocated to achieve success.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
A forum for exchanging ideas and problems with education delivery.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Election by local parent councils.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
Democratically elected by parents.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
It should be a voluntary organization and the only funding that should be required is for expenses related to meetings. Funding should hopefully be relatively small and could come from the general budget of the Ministry of Education.

Models

I/we prefer model: 3

 

School council chair
Elementary school – York Region District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
The best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective is through the established school councils.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
Our school already has a strong and involved parent community. Direction and support from the staff and principal would make involvement even stronger.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
There should be only use of already established school councils,

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Each school council reflects the diversity of its area.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
School councils should be able to voice concerns and ideas without being influenced. Parents have the best interest of their children at heart.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
Channelling any funds away from children to make more committees is a mistake.

Models

I/we prefer model: None
3. I/we have another model for consideration: Use already established school councils.

 

School council chair
High school – Toronto District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Organize local “town hall” meetings. Respond to the public’s correspondence/e-mails/faxes/telephone calls.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
a) Through my child’s school (school council) and school administration and staff. b) Support is needed from the teachers, principal of our school, our school trustee and local school board.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
Sharing knowledge and strategies, including program and budget information.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Posting events well ahead at the “grass-roots” level (schools, local community paper), inviting students, parents, guardians and the public.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
The Ministry and boards would benefit from working together on issues to avoid duplication, repetition and in the best interests of everyone.
d) How do you think this body should be funded?
From the provincial education budget and from each school board budget across Ontario, equal percentages.

Models

I/we prefer model: 4

 

Parent
Elementary school – Peel District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
I think a web based link is a good medium and this should be supplemented with the Minister’s personal appearance in each individual school at least once every year.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I want to make sure that our children are not discriminated on the basis of colour religion or origin. I need a forum at the school level which should collect and communicate parent ideas and comments.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:
a) What do you think its role should be?
Parent are the most interested party in quality improvement of their kids education. Their voice should be heard and their concerns should be properly addressed. This body can be instrumental in looking after the interest of children.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Peel region is the most diversified region in Canada and if you give a platform to parent to get together for the welfare of their kids, all kinds of parents will join because this way they can better look after their most values investment, which is their child’s future.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
Independent body should have similar powers to that of a board of governors of a profit oriented company.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
This body should be funded by the government education funds approved for the schools.

 

School council member
Elementary school – York Catholic District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Through a provincial association of school councils, comprising one or two members of each school. Standard guidelines for terms of reference, OR actual terms of reference should be developed for each school council. The association should be given terms of reference similar to that of the school councils for consistency.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I would wish to be involved in my child’s education through the school council. Based on its T.O.R., each council should implement an approved plan of action / programs, which should be supported by an annual subvention of $10,000.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:
a) What do you think its role should be?
1) Help to shape and inform policy; 2) Develop results-based action plans and programs ; 3) Design practical strategies for implementation of the action plans and programs ; 4) Implement program of activities arising from a plan of action/programs, in collaboration/ complementary with parents, schools councils, principals, and teachers.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
The terms of reference of the school councils and the province-wide parents body should contain provisions for elections of executives and officers to be conducted in a manner so as to reflect the diversity of Ontario.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
By ensuring the participation of parents and school councils in drafting and approving the terms of reference of the province-wide body, with a specific mandate that the T.O.R shall ensure that the body shall operate independently and separately from Ministry and board influences.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
The budget of the school councils, and the province-wide body, should be based on results-based approved plans/programs of action. Government should provide budgetary support of $10,000 for each school council, and $50,000 for the province-wide body. Parents should contribute the balance of the budget as they do currently.

Models

I/we prefer model: 1

School council member
Elementary school, Simcoe County District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
A province -wide parent group would be in my opinion the best way for the Minister to hear the parents’ perspective, but the group has to have enough members in it so as to be truly representative of the 72 school boards. A group comprised of members of the six regions may not adequately address the issues faced in particular school boards

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I think it is imperative for parents to step up and ask questions about the decisions being made in education. There needs to be a forum outside of your local boards and trustees where parents can take their questions and be able to obtain answers – school boards need to be accountable to parents and need to see them as partners, not as annoyances – we need support at the provincial level. MPPs must be able to assist parents, but there must be a provincial body in place to address common issues.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
Identification and discussion of issues that affect students throughout the province. A mechanism for the sharing of ideas that have worked in one area that could and should be used province-wide. A group with diverse skills and knowledge who can assist educators in delivering quality education to children in facilities that are maintained and are a source of community pride.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
As I said above, we must ensure representation from all boards – to reflect our diverse population. There is a great deal of diversity within the regions and we have to ensure that the final group composition reflects a group that can understand the issues from each board. The representatives should be chosen locally – and should be parents who have demonstrated an understanding of local issues and a commitment to those issues. To have regional elections may cause some communities without a rep from their school board to feel that they will not be adequately represented. Locally, we know who has stepped up to the plate to advocate for our children, and who has addressed local concerns – to elect regionally could cause local heroes to be disengaged from the issues.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
In our area, parents at present are finding themselves as the intermediaries – the school board has been “blaming” the Ministry and the Ministry in turn says that the problems are locally based. Parents need a forum where boards and the Ministry can present their sides on an issue, and parents can weigh their influences. What seems to have been forgotten in Ontario is that we are all on the same team – we are all interested in getting what is best for Ontario’s children – a parent-based council cannot be too independent or separate so as to be seen as an anti-educators group. The key would be in ensuring open communication between the group and the boards and Ministry. Town-hall style meetings are necessary to allow parents to be involved locally and to provide a forum for getting the Ministry and the boards together in public to answer questions.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
School boards have lost the ability to raise education dollars locally – funding would have to come from the Ministry and this should be welcomed by the boards – If you ask boards to fund this group, there would have to be a direct representative from each board so that the boards would feel that they were getting something for their money.

Models

I/we prefer a combination of models: 1, 4

 

Parent
Elementary school, Toronto District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
The best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective is to hold more parent council meetings, more often in more languages and to keep a forum like this open all the time.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I have three children in the elementary education panel currently and I am on the parent council of one of their schools. I would like to receive a clear short-term and long-term plan at the start of the school year indicating what the objectives are and then I would like to sit down with each teacher to ensure my child is able to achieve these objectives in a learning style best suited to him/her. I believe my role is to complement, not supplement the teacher’s role in learning. Currently we are supplementing what is not being taught in the classroom and we spend at least 2 hours each evening introducing basic concepts like addition and subtraction. I don’t feel teachers are accountable for the objectives of their students. I would like to see an action plan for each term for which my child and I are responsible. Clear direction of classroom expectations including code of behaviour, class timetable, weekly timetable, etc.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
I think it should solicit opinions from ALL parents and offer a forum for all ideas to be brought to the table. There should be an electronic ‘suggestion’ box to which parents can contribute and a website, which publishes both the suggestions and the responses. We don’t need more committees, just people who can take action quickly on good suggestions for improving education in this province.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
The only way to ensure representation could reflect diversity is if there was a representative on this province-wide parent body from all ethnic groups. Parents from other countries provide a unique perspective from their home countries, which should be considered when looking for solutions.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
It would have to be run by parents with links to the Ministry and the board.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
I believe parents would pay to fund an independent body only if they saw results. If suggestions were not acted on or if processes were too lengthy, funding would soon be discontinued and the system would break down.


Parent and educator
Kingston

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
I do not believe that the answer to this question is a simple one. I propose three levels of parent involvement: provincial (OPC); regional (regional councils); and school-based (existing parent councils). The Minister needs to hear parents’ concerns from parents and from students at different levels of the educational enterprise. The Ontario Parent Council is one way to achieve this but the Minister should create regional parent councils created within each school board. These regional parent councils would take information from feeder parent councils at the school level and plug into the school boards. Regional parent councils could provide advice and assistance to the OPC through annual Parent Conferences.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I have children in the public education system and I have been involved in public education in various capacities for most of my life. I have volunteered as a parent councillor, I have chaired parent councils. If the Minister is committed to acting upon the parent voice, two things – in my opinion – must happen first: (1) parents need access to unbiased and complete information about education; (2) school councils need clear responsibilities and clear duties (although school principals need to be involved, they should not control councils). The Minister may have to pay councillors a stipend to achieve this goal.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
The OPC should: (1) be an active agent in mobilizing educational knowledge to stakeholders. (2) be an active interpreter/arbiter of Ministry policy for parents, school councils, in their relationship with schools and boards. (3) be an agent of educational change (there is significant opposition to any parent or student role in the educational equation by the status quo – this needs to change). (4) be a strong student, parent, and council advocate toward a collaborational vision of education. (5) attend Ontario school board meetings as a parental representative.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Each sitting council should draft a constitution that sets forth minimum compositional local requirements. This constitution should be flexible enough to adapt to changing ethnic representation. The issue of who is eligible to be a councillor should be drafted by the local council but subject to approval by the OPC.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
Provide parent councils, regional councils with a budget that is topped up at the beginning of each year. Included in the budget are sufficient funds to pay active councillors (based upon attendance) a stipend. Control of the budget should not be within the school’s ability to influence. All parent/student fundraised dollars should be put into the council-controlled account and only transferred to the school by a majority vote.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
Through local taxes (and Ministry top-up where the tax base is too sparse). School boards should set aside a pre-determined portion of their annual budget and turn it over to parent councils.

Models

I/we have another model for consideration:
It is critical to keep parents engaged in many different levels of education. I suggest that parent councils be grouped into regional pods, which feed into a regional council (in the same way that elementary schools feed regional secondary schools). Regional councils would be comprised of members elected from feeder parent councils and they would be concerned with regional and board issues. The regional councils, in turn, would feed into the OPC. At the present time, the OPC is a distant – mostly unattainable – entity for most working parents. Its potential impact is not appreciated and any edicts it currently sends down are only reluctantly distributed by local educators. A local/regional/provincial model of parent council governance would also open opportunities to re-envisage education. The Minister could hold an annual conference where parents’ voices are provincially heard, where educational hot topics are discussed, and where new ideas can be brought forward.

Parent and school council member
Elementary school, Durham District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
I think parents should visit their regional education offices to get information and make their voices heard. I also like the idea of e-mail updates if given an address to respond to or a web site made and maintained specifically for parent discussions, mail, newsgroups about education issues in Ontario.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I am a member of my school community council. I find the group to be very informative. I found out about this project at an SCC meeting. SCC groups need to be supported with information, asked for their opinions and respected for the well educated, caring, involved people they are and they always try to be.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
In my opinion a province -wide body would end up being to far removed from the individual schools and parents.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
I believe this would be the most difficult task. We have too many cultures to be properly represented by one group.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
This would be difficult also. Educators (and former) are parents. Ministry officials (and former) are parents. Board members are also parents. How could they be excluded from a committee like this?

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
no idea.

Models

1. I/we prefer model: 4

 

School council chair
Elementary school – English Language #38 Catholic District School Board ( London) 

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Hold public meetings through the province, not just in the major centres, so that rural/urban, and small/large school issues can be addressed

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
Community information nights. There needs to be communication between the principal/teacher and the parents – through curriculum nights, parents actually get to see what is going to be covered for the year and what the requirements are for each particular subject – the report card contains too many generic statements and the marking scheme is too confusing. More information regarding funding. EQAO results. Literacy test in High School – why are the students being tested then? It would be more beneficial, I would think, to test a student in grade 6 or 7 – you would have 1 or 2 years to work with the child instead of waiting til they are making decisions about their future. More information from the board level as well, councils receive minutes, however the majority of parents don’t see them and don’t know what’s going on at that level unless it makes the paper – perhaps a quarterly report card from the board (ie. funding, projects, appointments, meetings, who is attending the meetings, (is your trustee attending?), capital expenditures, etc)

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
It should interact with the Minister/Deputy in a way that is similar to the parent council to the school/principal – an advisory board

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Representation should not be based on population of a centre, to ensure that rural areas have representation equal to that of urban centres – this is a problem we currently see with trustee representation – rural needs just as much representation as urban due to the unique issues and needs at these schools and in the communities they are in.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
As long as it is funded by the Ministry, won’t it always be somehow dependant on the Ministry ? (you could incorporate it). However regarding board influences, in the umbrella of things, make it independent of the boards – a board of its own – with perhaps the boards being influenced by this committee.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
The only option in my opinion is through either the Ministry or privately funded donations, grants – schools boards should not have to shoulder this burden when there are much bigger things that are required in the schools.

Models

I/we prefer a combination of models: 2, 3
3. I/we have another model for consideration:
I think most importantly the members need to be appointed by the Minister with a memo of understanding for a max of 2 years, some for 1 so you have still have half your board after the first year. It needs to be a separate entity of its own with no interference from the school boards and with accountability to the parents and the Minister/Deputy only. They should take feedback from the school, district councils and parents. They should hold public info sessions regularly. Membership should be 25 for each board for – parent/community leadership, funding, curriculum and governance, similar to model 3 but with 16 elected parents per council, 2 reps from teachers etc, 2 reps from MOE, the other 5 by application.

 

School council member/Steering Committee Ward 19 Forum
Elementary school, Toronto District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Through public consultation, which could be arranged via the various school boards or a committee such as PVE. It could be as a survey of school councils and individual parents or through verbal and written consultation. I personally would not want to have to depend on my MPP to communicate my perspective to the Minister of Education, the MPP does not have the time or availability to perform this function.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
There are so many ways to be involved in your child’s education. One way to reach out to a large number of parents is via a web page for each school with links to each class as well as links to the Ministry and the school board. The information provided on the web page could be a view of the topics currently being studied, homework, dates assignments are due, tests, Ministry of Education announcements, Trustee and TDSB information. I realize not all families have access to e-mail; for those who do not, perhaps they could view the page at the school or public library. Whatever our model, we need parents to be very aware of what is going on. Involve parents regarding changes to curriculum, and provide parents with in-service and tools to understand these changes. Engage them, their child will benefit because of it.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
Communicate with parents, ensure all materials and tools reach parents. Seek input from parents via strongly supported school councils and advise Minister of Education. Provide feedback to parents.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
A combination of elected and appointed members.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
A policy that allows the parent body to spend funding on a number of items as agreed upon by the Ministry of Education and Parent Committee. Allow the Parent Committee to raise money in other ways to fund special projects.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
The Ministry of Education.

Models

1. I/we prefer model: 1

 

Parent
Elementary school, Limestone District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
The best way would be through school councils. They are a legislated body and these groups know the day to day workings of a school. At present we have school councils but they are more than often ignored by the school boards. School councils could come together is regional groups on a quarterly or bi-annual basis to discuss common things that affect their children’s education. School councils would report into the provincial wide parent body via a representative.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
The starting point would be that parents actually have a voice and that in turn school administration and school boards were truly accountable to parents. At present parents are met with huge roadblocks and barriers and bureaucratic mumbo jumbo that does very little to encourage parents to become involved and stay engaged in their school. Parents get stuck in a “process” that is not visible to them. The school system has to begin to view students and parents as partners, not just say the words. The teachers have a large union who represents their needs but the every day needs of children have no such representation in place. Parents are permitted to advise through their school councils but any advice can be ignored and many times it allows administration to tick off a box that they have asked for input but the result is not always taken into account. An advisory role gives no reason for system accountability and lacks vision. The way the system works now is that there is an “us and them ” position. In most cases the parents are on the outside looking in rather than being part of the inner workings of the system Parents need strong legislation that enables them to be heard . Without clear roles, responsibilities and without strong legislation, parents (school councils) will never succeed to truly be involved. School councils also need to have education on how to best serve their school and their school population.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
There would be a province-wide body with regional school councils falling under a parent representative. These representatives would be assigned to a geographical area and would encompass all school boards, not the few who have been included in the present Ontario Parent Voice.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
In this way the community diversity would be better represented. This would take into account cultural and regional differences.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
If the representatives were elected from regional groups and if they were made up by school councils, then they would be separate from the Ministry and the board. Representatives could have specific portfolios that they represent or they could represent regions. Parents (school council) need someone to go to for advice and direction so they can benefit the school they represent.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
This should be provincially funded and separate form the school boards.

Models

I/we prefer a combination of models: 1, 3

 

School council
Elementary school, Hastings & Prince Edward District School Board

 1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Parents need to be informed first of the issues through information packages which give general outlines of education issues. Information needs to be sent to school councils and parents so that they may respond through websites, e-mails, faxes and mail.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
We would like input on curriculum. Communication on curriculum, to be able to understand what is expected of a child at the different levels of education. We need open communication with the Ministry, school administration and teachers i.e. newsletters with information.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
Advisory to Ministry – it is our children who are in the school system. At this point in time, individual school boards are not listening to our school councils. Most school boards are not utilizing school councils, we are still considered to be fundraising entities.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Each region would have local school councils discuss issues with a district school council who would report the findings to the Ministry, by-passing school boards.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
By having our own mandate to ensure that the decisions made jointly by the local school councils and district school councils would stand.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
Every board should be provided with enough funds to run local and district councils. Costs could be kept to a minimum by having meetings at schools, elected positions be voluntary as they are now. E-mail, website, faxes, mail submissions to keep transportation costs at a minimum.

Models

I/we have another model for consideration:
We would prefer models 2 and 4 with the following changes: Model 2: To be able to speak publicly. After application process, elections to appoint individuals. Must have children in school system. Model 4: To ensure the funding would not be taken from another part of the school budget as in text books. As there are never enough funds provided for the text books that are required now, we are always fundraising for this area. Music is another area that should not be decreased as well.

School Council
Elementary school, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
Our Council has recognized the barriers to effective communication from the parents level to the Minister’s Office. It was felt that the communication from the local level must have a direct route to the Minister in order to be effective. Without the benefit of a formal committee to take the parents voice to the Minister’s ear, the best course of communication left to parents at present is in written correspondence with the Minister’s Office. Better communication would be enhanced by the attendance of the Minister or his designate to meet with parents in Sault Ste. Marie in a town hall format or other suitable venue. It is also felt that the present Catholic school councils are one of the best formats for parents’ voice to be heard in the educational system.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
Our council felt that as parents, we wish to have direct access to our child’s education and to the environment within which they learn. Volunteering within the school and participating in the committees within the school are the best means to accomplish this at a local level. We feel that we have very little direct influence or input beyond the school level and are frustrated by this. This is not an issue solely at the provincial level but endemic to the education system as a whole. Parents in general want more input and control of their child’s education but there is no mechanism in place beyond the school level. Presently the only voice heard at the provincial level is that of the boards. Their view may at times be in conflict with the parents at large.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
The primary focus of this operating body should be to attempt to bring uniformity to the delivery of education across the province. Further, this body’s main function should be to promote the effective and meaningful communication between parents and the authorities and policy-makers within the Ministry of Education. This body’s role should in essence be that of an adviser and conduit of communication between the Ministry of Education and parents.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
The committees must be representative of the communities from which they come. One suggestion was to have one representative from each electoral district. The present Catholic school council format is a good example of the voice of parents within the schools. The deficiency of this model is the lack of influence beyond the school level. Another suggestion was to have the CSC model advise a representative that reports at a municipal level, and the chair at the municipal level reports to the provincial body to be established. Also the established panel may take direct input from parents in a town hall format as suggested in Model #4.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
The representatives in this initiative must come from parents with holding the majority of the seats on the panel as well as the chairs position. It is recognized that provincial input is required, however this panel should remain independent of control of the Province and local boards. The panel should be physically situated within the school system in order to maximize input from parents at the school level.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
This initiative should be funded at a provincial level. This would help negate the local board influence in operation of the panel

Models

1. I/we prefer model: 3
I/we prefer a combination of models: 3, 4

 

Parent organization
ADHD Network

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
I currently sit on a parent council for my son’s school – this is the first year that I have, and I hold a seat on our board’s SEAC (Special Education Advisory Committee). Whatever way is chosen for the Minister to hear from parents must be very easy and unintimidating. Our schools suffer from lack of parental involvement because parents don’t have much spare time. And some parents feel intimidated by school officials. I think that parent councils should go through an orientation session that informs them of their roles and responsibilities. (Our parent council thinks their only role is to fundraise.) I think that the Ministry should lessen the need for fundraising in schools so that parent councils can focus on more important issues. Please provide schools with the money that they need for textbooks, gym equipment, technology and repairs! I think that school boards and schools must do a much better job of encouraging parents to join parent councils to increase involvement. Through school newsletters, information could be sent out to parents on current issues and challenges at their child’s school. For parents who can’t afford the time to attend the meetings, email messages could be sent out to keep parents updated. Schools need to make better use of email to save time and money on hard copy newsletters and to be able to quickly reach parents and to provide parents with an easy way to communicate with the school staff. I think schools can do a much better job of informing parents that they can contact parent council members with their concerns so that they can be addressed at the parent council meetings. With increased representation on parent councils and a better understanding or their role, each chairperson of each parent council would become part of a larger parent council for each board. They would elect a member to represent them at a provincial committee who would meet regularly with the Minister and his staff. In addition to these members, the Minister could appoint staff to act as resource and support people to this council. A representative from the Aboriginal community should be elected by their official group. I think that a stronger link should be made to improve communication between MACSE (Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education) and the SEAC’s. Increased two-way communication should be implemented. MACSE should be receiving a copy of all SEAC minutes and visa versa. I think that the Ministry/school boards/schools should do a much better job of providing information for parents who need assistance when advocating for their children. Too many parents run into roadblocks at the school level and don’t know who they can turn to for help outside of the school. Then they phone the school board office and get told that the school board officials can only advise the parent what their options are and provide them with information. Then the parent goes back to the school to be told that they are wrong. There should be a contact(s) at each school board office and within the Ministry who parents can report complaints to or seek assistance from when they have concerns about their child’s education. These contacts should have the power and resources to immediately investigate each complaint and to act on them. I think school boards/schools should be providing information in their newsletters about how to access the Ministry’s website and how they can receive automatic updates on education issues. Then the Ministry could send out requests for feedback to those who have expressed an interest.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
I already sit on parent council, however I feel that the school staff tolerate parent council only because they have to and because parent council brings them money. The principal does not share her challenges with parent council and she doesn’t ask the council for advice or feedback. She sits there quietly while the parents discuss how they’re going to raise money to pay for new computers and basketballs. Schools could offer workshops for parents on how to help with homework, organization and study skills, how to support a child with learning disabilities. I need a better way to communicate with staff – every staff member should have an email address and it should be given to their pupils’ parents at the beginning of the year. I need the school staff to open their minds to new ideas and a cooperative mindset instead of an automatic ‘no’. We need every staff member trained on disabilities and how they can best meet the needs of these students. I sit on SEAC and I need more communication with MACSE and other SEAC’s so that we’re not all working in isolation and duplicating efforts. There are issues that we’re all working on that could be addressed much more effectively if there was better communication between SEAC’s and MACSE.

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
To act as an advisory group to the Minister. To bring the concerns of parents to the Minister. To request information and input from parents on new initiatives or concerns and report those to the Minister. To provide information to parents through local parent council groups. To assist parent councils to fulfill their roles and responsibilities by ensuring that all members understand their purpose. To share information with all parent councils so that they are not working in isolation.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
French language schools would have their own Board Parent Council made up of the chairs from each of their parent councils. Same for all the other school boards. Then each Board Parent Council would be sending a representative to the provincial committee and they will have been involved in diversity discussions at their board levels. If parents know that they can contact Parent Council members with their issues, those issues will be coming to the table. A representative from MACSE should also be included as a member of the provincial group to bring special education representation to the table.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
If this group is an advisory group only, then it doesn’t need to be separate or independent, just as SEAC and MACSE are advisory groups.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
The Ministry should provide support staff. The Ministry should cover travel costs for those on the board and provincial committees.

Models

I/we prefer a combination of models: 1, 4

 

School council member
Elementary school, Durham District School Board

1) What is the best way for the Minister to hear the parent perspective on education issues?
By attending various forums (sit in on a Parent Voice meeting, a school community council meeting, public forums etc.) This gives the Minister a chance to hear and speak to parents first hand regarding educational issues and/or concerns parents may have.

2) How do you wish to be involved with your child’s education and what support do you need to make that happen?
n/a

3) If there is a province-wide parent body:

a) What do you think its role should be?
To work together co-operatively and positively in order to achieve the same goal which is to further the education of all children and youth. It should take an active role in representing the needs and concerns of fellow parents throughout the province and to ensure these parents are kept informed and up-to-date.

b) How would it ensure representation that reflects the diversity of Ontario?
Diversity representation is extremely important! I believe this initiative needs to not only include parents from different religious and ethnic backgrounds but include parents who have children with special needs. Their concerns and issues regarding education are just as important. Perhaps a questionnaire can be given to parents who are interested in becoming a part of “Parent Voice” – detailing what they will contribute to the project and how.

c) How could it be independent and separate from Ministry and board influences?
Unfortunately, I don’t believe this project can be completely independent or separate from the board or Ministry. It would be quite a feat to bridge the gap between the parents, the board and the Ministry but I truly believe this project can do just that. A project where we can all work together with the same common goal – the future of our children. Perhaps an agreement could be drawn up where it restricts the amount of influence and input the Ministry or board can have.

d) How do you think this body should be funded?
I believe this project should be funded by the Ministry. Unfortunately, I don’t think this project can or should depend on funding from outside agencies (ex. United Way) especially since the funding formula changes from year to year.

Models

I/we prefer a combination of models: 1, 2