The Rainbow District School Board is missing its opportunity to engage thousands of stakeholders, says Trustee Candidate Richard Eberhardt. The lack of an engagement strategy is putting the system at risk as pressure mounts on school boards.
“Engagement is a two-way street,” Eberhardt said. “Its about making the people who matter to the school system feel connected, and respected. Constructive relationships with students, families, staff and the broader community can make a big difference when facing new challenges.”
Eberhardt argues that while most stakeholders are linked with their local community school, they feel virtually no connection to the Board. With no clear engagement goals set by the Board of Trustees, communications from the Board office are formal, one-way, and show minimal interest in feedback.
“The result is distance, distrust, and disputes – and we’ve seen plenty of this over the previous term,” Eberhardt said. “Waiting, for example, for mandatory school closure processes to meet families, to visit schools, to engage the community - it wears at the Board’s credibility, making it even harder to access feedback when its needed.”
Referencing strong engagement plans elsewhere, particularly the Ottawa-Carlton District School Board, Eberhardt believes Rainbow Schools can set clear goals, make better use of existing capacity and use inexpensive tools to gather meaningful feedback.
“Simple inexpensive changes, from seeking input with online tools, being more present in schools, and offering electronic versions of the valuable workshops offered to parents at the monthly Parent Involvement Committee meetings, could go a long way to improving those connections,” said Eberhardt, who chaired the 2017-2018 PIC meetings.
Engagement encourages feedback, allows the Board’s stakeholders to feel invested and connected to the system, and makes it easier to build support when changes are needed. Respecting critics, working with community partners, seeking feedback from parents and students, all these are important aspects of an engagement strategy, Eberhardt says.
In particular, Eberhardt believes the Board must openly share more information and gather more feedback from its employees. “Any Engagement Plan must include the professionals and staff who are the organization’s most important asset and strongest allies.”
Building a new Engagement Plan is a key goal Eberhardt hopes to pursue if elected Trustee for Area 2, part of his pledge to bring New Leadership to Rainbow Schools.
For more information: 705 562-1239 // firstname.lastname@example.org // www.richardeberhardt.ca