The first meeting of the new Building the Network subcommittee of the PEIHSF board met on Monday, September 9, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.
In attendance were Peter Rukavina (chair), Shirley Jay (executive director), Margie Donvan, Ricardo Angel and Nicky Hyndman. Shelly Keenan was scheduled to attend, and tried, but technical issues meant she couldn't get in touch with us.
Challenges of Meeting "Virtually"
The plan for our meeting was that three of us (Peter, Shirley and Nicky) would attend in person at the PEIHSF office in Royalty Centre and everyone else would attend "virtually" by Google Hangout. The ended up presenting several challenges:
- The office computer at Royalty Centre has no camera or microphone.
- There is theoretically open wifi from another organization, SSID "linksys", available in the office, but the wireless access point was malfunctioning and we couldn't connect the office laptop nor an iPad to the wifi.
- There is no speakerphone in the office; we were able to borrow a speakerphone, but once we had it we lacked instructions for making a "conference call" using the government telephone system.
As a result of the above, we decamped to Robertson Library, University of PEI, up the hill where we knew we could secure a meeting room and wifi. Once set up there we had the following additional challenges:
- The Google Hangout link distributed earlier via Google Calendar would not allow remote attendees to join. We tried starting up a new ad hoc Hangout, but were only able to get Ricardo connected to it.
- While Skype supports "Group Calling", and everyone remotely attending had Skype, it turns out that (a) group video calling requires that one of the participants has a "Skype Premium" account and (b) group audio calling cannot be initiated from an iOS device.
In the end we settled on a Skype video call from Robertson Library to Margie in Summerside and used Nicky's iPhone on "speakerphone" to call Ricardo. It worked surprisingly well, all things considered, but we should find a more permanent solution that would allow for group video calling.
We recommend that PEIHSF purchase a "Skype Premium" subscription ($9.99/month), that the PEIHSF laptop be connected to the wired Internet with a cable sufficient to allow it to be located in the board room at the PEIHSF office, and that a wide-angle USB camera be purchased (less than $100) to allow remote participants to see all participants meeting in the office. This setup could be used by all subcommittees to allow for remote meeting participation.
The balance of the meeting consisted of a general discussion of the mandate for the committee. There was general agreement that we will focus on:
- Taking steps to spread the word of what the PEI Home and School Federation does to our local association members.
- Taking steps to "cross-pollinate" our local association member activities so that knowledge, approaches, and projects can be shared "across the network."
- Taking steps to increase communication between the PEIHSF provincially and the local member associations.
There was considerable discussion of what it means to "participate in home and school" and whether participation is compromised by the impression some (many?) parents might have the home and school is primarily a fundraising body.
We discussed, in general terms, the challenges of parent engagement and participation for individuals that, for many reasons (language, gender, bad feelings about own school experiences, fear of volunteering, lack of information about what participation would require) face barriers and agreed that this should be an area of focus.
We discussed the possibility of PEIHSF board members attending local member association meetings and agreed that this would be a positive step, but that members will need to be equipped with resource materials and a shared understanding of our mandate. We'll need to work on preparing these materials.
It was agreed that we should try, subject to resources, to extract stories and projects from the annual Book of Reports by by theme in addition to by school so that, for example, we could have a summary of all projects related to nutrition or literacy.
It was agreed that we would endeavour to meet in the months between PEIHSF board meetings; tentatively this will see us meeting in October, December, February and April.
The meeting adjourned at 9:10 p.m.
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