School trustees head to class

Nanaimo's new school board started its first day of trustee school Thursday with an eight-hour training session.

Nanaimo’s new school board started its first day of trustee school Thursday with an eight-hour training session.

In September, the previous board approved a $25,000 program of board development led by Craig Melvin, former CEO of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the sessions, which are slated to take place between December and March, will help the board work better together and be more effective.

The sessions focus on relationship building, identifying differences and challenges, acknowledging common ground, goal setting, and determining how relationships between trustees and staff and between trustees themselves should be established.

“If the result is we form a board that is respectful, purposeful and gets things done for students, it will be worth it,” said Brennan.

The program is a recommendation from new superintendent Dave Hutchinson.

During the superintendent recruiting process last spring, the previous board identified three priority areas it wanted the new superintendent to focus on: board performance, labour relations and student achievement.

A consultant’s report made public earlier this fall found that trustees and staff are spending too much time attending committee meetings, discussions are sometimes repeated at different meetings, some trustees were suspicious of other trustees’ motives and senior staff sometimes felt that their advice was not believed or valued.

Recommendations from the report, which was referred to the board development process, included that trustees meet informally with senior staff to help develop a mutually supportive professional working relationship, and for the board to ensure it focuses more on creating policy and less on operational management.