THE PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE - Brian Leonard
November 25, 2022 Message to Members
I write my column this week as we busily prepare for the first Chapter Council meeting of the school year. And – just like in schools – we have been challenged by some illnesses and staff shortages in the BCPVPA office. While we have needed to juggle some assignments, know that member support is always our first priority and that we are here when you need us.
Last week, I was very fortunate to attend the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) Summit in Richmond as a guest of their President Chris Schultz-Lorentzen. I first met Chris last summer at our Foundations for New School Leaders program, when he participated in our education sector panel. Chris is always an eager participant in events, and embodies the theme for this meeting – Engagement and Connections – as he himself is a very engaging individual and thrives on connecting with people. Chris lives in Maple Ridge, is a parent of five school-aged children, and is also a Star Wars superfan (as you can see from his photo with me at the Summit)!
It was wonderful to listen to many senior people in the Ministry – including Minister of Education and Child Care, Jennifer Whiteside, who opened the gathering, and Minister of State for Child Care, Katrina Chen, who closed the day on Friday – as each presenter spoke to this active and involved audience of parents.
The attending parents were very engaged and well-informed as they asked questions, shared concerns, and offered commentary to the presenters and Ministers. The focus for many of the parents was in two areas. They were interested in ways that they could become more deeply involved in some of the planning processes, including those related to district strategic plans and the Framework for Enhancing Student Learning (FESL). They were also interested in ways that more support could be found for struggling learners, a subject that is always on the minds of Principals and Vice-Principals. Although the pandemic has certainly exacerbated challenges in this area, in my conversations with members I continue to hear about the challenges of escalating needs in schools, coupled with ongoing staff shortages. The pressures are evident as we work to find solutions; while BC is still considered one of the highest performing educational jurisdictions in the world, we are not immune to the effects wrought in part by the pandemic and a particularly troubling flu season. In our meetings in Singapore in October, we found we had much in common with other school leaders and educators in the global community, and we hope that through continued contact with these colleagues, some solutions may emerge that can be applied to the BC context.
I was able to speak with many parents at the Summit, and I was deeply impressed by their interest in the work of schools, and their thirst for knowledge about curriculum matters, assessment and reporting, environmental education, Indigenous education, Anti-Racism initiatives, and SOGI. The parents in attendance were very supportive of the work of Principals and Vice-Principals, and were keenly interested in the many issues that we deal with every day in our classrooms and schools.
First as a teacher, and then as a school leader, I have always considered parents to be partners. When I had the opportunity to connect with parents at PAC meetings, Parent-Teacher nights, Open Houses, assemblies – even in the parking lot! – I would endeavour to shine a light on different aspects of the work of the school, and what those processes meant for their children. Parents always seemed to be thankful for the insight, and these interactions all contributed positively to our relationships. Although our work as school leaders is very public, that does not mean that our objectives and what guides us in the role is always clear; it is important to take the opportunity with parents – and with our staff – to reveal parts of the work that may be less distinct, and to reinforce our mutual goal of success for students. When we include parents in our work, we can find many points of alignment and sometimes unanticipated avenues of support. While I am not actively connecting with families in my current role, I felt grateful for the opportunity to spend time with a roomful of active and passionate parents last week!
Have a great weekend,