I attended the Ward 10 Council meeting the other day and I had several thoughts. The first was simply how utterly inefficient the TDSB’s system for parental involvement is. I’ll get to the others in a later blog post.
Parents spend two hours at a parent council meeting, which selects a parent to go the Ward council meeting, which kills another evening, which selects a parent to go to yet another higher-level committee meeting, which kills another evening. All parental input is filtered through this incredibly time-consuming and painful committee process, ensuring that most of the energy input from parental volunteers is used up in organizational friction. Making the information round-trip – from parents to Board and back again – can take months.
This sort of committee pyramid might have been acceptable once upon a time when most people didn’t own, say, telephones or computers. If that’s the only way to get input up to the Board and output back down to the parents, then it’s better than nothing.
But it’s not the only way. Flat organizational structures are in common usage at large corporations, and easily possible with modern communication technologies. The technical geeks use software such as electronic mailing lists and bug-trackers to organize people spread around the world toward a common end. These technologies work, and they make involvement easy.
For parental involvement, the TDSB needs more mailing lists and fewer committee meetings. If a sink at your kid’s school is broken, why can’t you go to the school bug tracker and file a bug? If you have concerns about French immersion or special education, why can’t you just subscribe to the appropriate mailing list and ask your questions? Why does the trustee need a system with five layers of committees to send information up and down? Why can’t the trustee just read the mailing lists and see what the parental concerns are, and answer them as they come up, in a forum where everyone interested can read the answer?
Technology can save you many of your evenings that you otherwise might spend in a kid-sized chair at your local elementary school.
If elected, I’ll set up a system of mailing lists and other electronic means to keep everyone directly and intimately informed. My intent is to minimize the number of in-person meetings required for busy parents and maximize parental involvement.