Make our schools stronger — have your say

School board voting today

Published on November 22, 2016

Letter to the editor

In many ways, we are entering a new era for Newfoundland and Labrador’s school system.

Regional school boards have been consolidated, student enrolment is continuing to shrink, and new technologies offer a wealth of  opportunities for student learning. Most importantly, perhaps, for the first time in over six years, we will choose who will make decisions about the province’s schools today, Nov. 22.

We know that a strong school system is fundamental to our students’ success and, ultimately, the prosperity of our province. We know that strong schools create opportunity for all of our students, while advancing our province’s knowledge, health, compassion, culture, innovation, and citizenship.

Education is the rising tide that lifts all boats. That is, it can be — only when our schools are strong. In our classrooms, right now, educators are managing unwieldy class sizes while trying to supply their own materials. The needs of each student grow increasingly diverse while schools remain under-supported and unable to serve them. Many educators work with classrooms beyond what the rules and regulations we have put in place allow — and yet they have no other choice.

In 1997, 73 per cent of voters elected to shift control of schools from the church to the public. The promise was a more efficient and effective school system through better engagement with our communities with school councils and regional boards.

Today, the consolidation of the regional school boards means that it is harder — not easier — for the province, Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, and the Board of Trustees to understand and make decisions in regional contexts. That means your trustees will need to work harder and smarter than ever before to represent you.

We need to effectively and efficiently bring our school councils into board decision-making. Councils need to know the agenda of the Board of Trustees well in advance, and the trustees need to support the school councils so that they can properly inform and be informed by their communities on upcoming decisions.

Meanwhile, we need to be accountable to parents — and to the public. From underserviced buses, to a lack of consultation on administrative changes, to vacant buildings around the city, we can find a better way to proactively communicate issues, share our decisions, and listen to what the public has to say.

Technology can help us do all of these things, but we need to be smart about how we integrate technology into our classrooms, schools and budgets. Moreover, as the devices on desks and in pockets become more capable, we will need to catch up to how they can be used — from coding to safe browsing.

I am a candidate for Zone 15 of this election, which includes St. John’s North, Central and West, Kilbride, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s and Bell Island. I am 27, I’m not a parent and I’m not a teacher. Why should you vote for me?

The truth is that I know too many educators who are exhausted by the current system and too many parents frustrated by a lack of accountability and communication on the decisions being made about their children’s schools.

That’s why I recently completed a master’s degree in Toronto, studying how to improve education systems. It’s why I studied psychology and computer science at Memorial University, in order to understand how to successfully integrate people and technology. And it’s why I have volunteered my time with Radhoc Youth Leadership and other education non-profits, to learn hands-on how to create change.

am committed to creating strong schools for a strong province by ensuring our board adequately supports educators and students. That begins with making sure our schools don’t have to do more with less; by building strong systems of meaningful engagement with parents, educators and the general public; and by being smart about how we use technology.

Make sure you vote for strong schools in Newfoundland and Labrador today. Learn more about the election, including who your candidates are and where to vote, at schoolboardelectionsnl.ca.

Ryan Murphy

St. John’s