The first meeting of the new English Language School Board has come and gone, but if the modest turnout at the meeting last week was any indication, it doesn't appear there's much more public interest in the new board than there was in the previous ones.
Hopefully that will change.
The board, appointed by the Ghiz government to replace the two previous eastern and western school boards, met last week in Stratford where the new chair, Fred Osborne, announced the establishment of a committee to look at rezoning for Morell Consolidated School and Donagh Regional School. According to news reports, the meeting itself lasted about 20 minutes before a crowd of about 20 people, many of them board staff. Obviously Islanders aren't beating a path to school board meetings, even under the new regime.
The board also announced that it would create a regular meeting schedule, something Osborne reportedly hopes will attract greater interest and attendance.
We share that hope. The recent restructuring of school governance provides a new opportunity for the public to re-engage in education matters facing this province. Everyone is on a steep learning curve here - government, board members, board staff, educators and the public. If Islanders are concerned about what's happening in their schools, or if they have an interest in contributing to the administration of those schools, now is the time to say so. Because Islanders are entering a new phase in school administration, both policy and priorities are relatively fluid. Public participation and feedback are essential in helping the new board forge a direction that accurately reflects the current concerns and interests of Islanders. By attending school board meetings and becoming familiar with the issues faced by the board, and by offering feedback when the opportunity arises, Islanders can provide meaningful assistance to trustees in their decision-making.
Board members also have a responsibility to encourage participation. If there has been one abiding criticism of a single-board structure, it's that it would further distance Islanders from their school system. That doesn't have to be the case, if trustees make an effort to come up with innovative ways to engage the public.
Both the board and the public have a role to play if the new structure is to be successful. And the importance of a successful education system can't be overstated. As Premier Robert Ghiz said recently in his state of the province address, education is key to the province's prosperity.
Our trustees should keep this in mind as they take on the new challenge of provincewide school administration, and Islanders should show their interest by attending the meetings and expressing their ideas and concerns.
A good time all around
This year's Music P.E.I. Awards rightly celebrated many Island artists for their talent and their accomplishments, and it also served as an exciting showcase for an industry that's steadily growing. That's success on two fronts.
The big winners this year included Dennis Ellsworth, Catherine MacLellan, English Words, Bad Habits and many other artists, but the week itself has expanded to include more events and workshops that afford musicians the opportunity to improve their craft. In other words, Island artists have the dual benefit of performing and raising their profiles and also spending time with and learning from each other.
As a result, Music P.E.I. ends up being a good time all around - for music lovers and the musicians themselves.