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Decentralization out of school board policy


Decentralization is officially out at the Howe Sound School District after seven years.

The Howe Sound School District carried a motion Wednesday (May 11) to change an operational philosophy that generated controversy during its implementation adopted during the 1998/99 school year.

Decentralization introduced a decision making process "in which significant actions aimed at achieving specified results are made in the schools," according to board definitions. That meant allowing individual schools and educators to see the entire school budget and make decisions accordingly.

But a few months into the process, local teachers voted not to support site-based management, saying that they wanted to spend their time teaching rather than acting as managers.

Although the term "decentralization" suggests complete site-based management, the model did also involved the other levels of governance, the Ministry of Education and the school district, and then superintendent of schools Mike Fitzpatrick said in 1997 that input would be considered in the fine-tuning of the model. The current superintendent of schools, Dr. Rick Erickson, said that this fine-tuning has occurred every year, and although decision-making powers remain the same, the decision to take the term "decentralization" out of the new policy was done to acknowledge all levels of governance.

"The modifications bring it back into a more inclusive type of system," said Erickson. "No system is truly decentralized if there are powers and responsibilities at other levels. The province does have a role, the school district does have a role in supporting education initiatives, it's not just schools that have the role and individual teachers, independently, that facilitate decision-making. So it goes to the concept that there's more than a school that makes a decision. We live in a family and we all have distinct responsibilities."

Erickson used the example of elementary school counsellors to highlight the need for shared responsibility. In the past the elementary counseling function was decentralized to schools, which meant that the position wouldn't necessarily be specialized and students couldn't receive counselling whenever it was needed.

"So the school district then took over or reestablished that elementary counselors worked best as full time specialists working in different schools from the school board office," said Erickson. "So that would be an example where site based management would say one thing but it's actually operationally we needed to do something different."

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