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True partnership requires consultation and respect

The Chair of Council looks back on Council's last term and ponders leadership based on listening and partnership based on respect. More of the latter is needed.

by Marilyn A. Laframboise

When College Council embarked on its third term, I outlined three broad themes that I thought would guide our work: leadership, partnership and governance. Here's how I think we did.

Our leadership reflected your thinking. We consulted extensively and listened closely to your thoughts about revising the standards of practice, teacher qualifications and College governance. Annual surveys in Professionally Speaking enabled us to gauge your opinions about the state of the teaching profession. In the spirit of true leadership, your voices influenced our policy decisions.

We jumped on the governance issue with fervour but were pre-empted by the former education minister's plan to independently "revitalize" and "depoliticize" the College. Your opinions shaped our advice to the government. Some of our advice was heeded, some not. As a result, this fall you will elect an expanded Council with more classroom teachers. Sadly, however, the government also acted independently to create a Public Interest Committee to oversee our work as a self-regulating, independent body and it changed the way we discipline principals and vice-principals.

"Your voices influenced our policy decisions."

But what concerns me most is the reduced length of a Council member's possible service. From now on members can serve on Council for a maximum of only seven years. Few in the College's short history have served beyond that, but those who have provided an invaluable historical perspective on how and why decisions had been made. For example, Council decided after two years of consultation and study to buy a facility in 2011. After 2009, there will not be a single Council member who will be able to explain the rationale and planning that went into that decision.

I have to wonder: did the government intentionally change its policy on Council members' service to limit the College's independence?

In the area of partnership we have had mixed success. We have forged strong alliances with some groups, yet can do better with others. Although territorial scuffles may continue, I firmly believe that the College's role is much better understood now.

I also strongly believe that it is time the government let the College do what it is capable of doing. While we respect the government's right to set educational policy, we also expect it to respect our role to act in the public interest and to consult with us prior to making announcements that affect the College's mandate. Only when consultation occurs as a matter of course will there be strong and successful partnerships in education.

It has been an honour to serve you and the profession as the Council's chair over the past three-and-a-half years. I have been privileged to serve with a large number of elected and appointed council members - people knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated to the profession and the public interest. I am also thankful to the College's staff for its commitment to the College and its work on your behalf.

"I am deeply grateful for the commitment and passion our members bring to public education every day."

To my colleagues at École Ste-Ursule, thanks for your patience, your flexibility and your understanding. To my family, whose support allowed me to serve the profession as I have for the past nine-and-a-half years, my sincerest thanks.

I am as much in awe today of the responsibilities inherent in the College's mandate as I was on May 1, 1997, when I attended the first meeting of the College Council as a newly elected councillor. And I am deeply grateful - as a professional colleague and as a grandparent of children in Ontario schools - for the commitment and passion our members bring to public education every day. In your light I am humbled.