Plenty of ways for parents to get informed

Perhaps at no time in recent memory has discussion of public education been more in the air on Prince Edward Island than in the last several months.

This is a time of dramatic change in P.E.I. schools: staff are being cut, money is tight, enrolment is shifting, there is talk of rezoning and school closures.  At the same time, there are substantial changes afoot in everything from how assessment and report cards work to how we prepare our students for life after public education.

Parents, through local home and school associations, have an important role to play in making sure that, during this time of change, the focus remains on what’s best for students and learning. Fortunately, parents are better-positioned than ever with access to information and people to help in this advocacy.

At a provincial level, the School Act and related regulations, on the Legislative Counsel Office website, lay out everything from what free school privileges mean to how teachers are certified.

These are supplemented by the Minister of Education’s directives, on the Department of Education website, that cover practical issues like the school calendar, special education policy and the staffing allocation model.

At the board level, the English Language School Board website contains policies on practical operational issues like school nutrition, busing, parent-teacher conferences and school trips.

The superintendent of the board has committed to meeting with any local home and school association that requests it. Members of her staff have made similar offers. So a home and school that wants to understand staffing issues, or program issues or curriculum issues need only make the request of the board office.

On a school level, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development website has enrolment by school and grade reports from 1999 to 2013 showing a grade-by-grade breakdown at each school in P.E.I. These are an invaluable tool for parents when so much of the current discussion is prompted by enrolment numbers.

On a classroom level, there are curriculum guides by grade level on the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development website that are detailed subject-by-subject breakdowns of what’s covered at each grade. And on the same website parents will find reports and guides on literacy intervention, autism, and information technology.

To be effective advocates for public education, parents must climb the (sometimes steep) learning curve to understanding how the education system works, who’s responsible for what, and what the most effective way of making the case for change is. Home and school, locally and provincially, can help make that learning curve a little gentler.

As the school year draws to a close, the P.E.I. Home and School Federation is happy to recognize two outstanding individuals as School Bus Drivers of the Year. Johnny Deagle at Souris Consolidated and a second bus driver to be announced in the Western school region were nominated by their local schools for going “above and beyond” and awards were presented this month at their local schools.

Home and school associations are reminded that things always work best when there’s an executive in place this year ready for action in the fall; it’s also a good idea to make sure that access to home and school bank accounts, blogs and Facebook pages is switched over so that everyone is ready to hit the ground running come September.

In the weeks to come the P.E.I. Home and School Federation board will be busy planning fall activities too: watch out for notice of training workshops and the fall semi-annual Meeting.