The "Role of Schools" Symposium (1992)
By Loraine Thompson
SSTA Research Centre Report b1992: 41
Back to: Social
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The "Role of Schools" Symposium was held on January 29th
and 30th, 1992 at the Saskatoon Travelodge. The Symposium
was organized and sponsored by the Saskatchewan School
Trustees Association. Its purpose was:
To provide a forum for examining the expanding role of
the school and to develop a forward looking and commonly
supported understanding for the future role of the
Approximately 100 individuals representing 20 different organizationsparticipated
in the Symposium. The names of the individuals participating appear
in Appendix B. The organizations represented appear in Appendix C.
Participants at the Symposium were welcomed by Ken Krawetz,
President of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.
They listened to several presentations relating to
various aspects of the role of the school and participated
in small group discussions. A reporting back session allowed smallgroups
and individuals to share their perceptions and ideas. Ken Krawetz closedthe
Symposium by encouraging participants to continue to work together torespond
to the important themes identified at the Symposium. The poem We
Pray for Children was read to close
the Symposium. This poem appears in Appendix D. The
detailed program for the "Role of Schools" Symposium is presented
in Appendix A.
A vision for the future role of schools emerged from this
Symposium. The vision centered on an integrated model
for delivering services to youth. Schools and all other
agencies that serve youth would find new ways to work together. Greaterintegration
makes good economic sense because it would allow agencies to do more with
less. It also has the potential for improving the quality of servicebecause
the system would be dealing with the whole child rather than withindividual
aspects of the child.
The vision also included making the school the centre
of community life a place where a whole range of
educational and community activities for people of all
ages occur. Five suggested directions for the future role of schools emergedfrom
Symposium participants talked about how to achieve these
goals. They agreed that everyone affected must be
involved in the planning. This means discussions at
the grassroots level as well as between government officials. They also
agreed that action must begin immediately that the
time for talking is over and the time for doing has
Table of Contents
Saskatchewans School Trustees Association
Ken Krawetz, President
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association
The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association was pleased
to sponsor the "Role of Schools" Symposium and thus
provide a forum to examine the changing role of schools.
The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association is organized
to promote a climate in Saskatchewan supportive of
excellence in education for all children, and to speak
on behalf of Boards of Education in their pursuit of common educational
objectives. In recent years, school boards have become increasinglyconcerned
with pressures to expand the role of schools in areas such as life skills,health
and welfare, and leisure and recreation.
Schools are over burdened by this growing list of expectations
and do not have the time, financial resources or professional
expertise to do all of the things society expects
of them. Saskatchewan Boards of Education are seeking a fundamental
change in the ways in which we respond to the educational and lifemanagement
needs of children in our society.
I believe that the "Role of Schools" Symposium was an
important step toward this change.
Table of Contents
The Changing Context for Public Education
Society is changing at an unprecedented pace. Technology,
recessionary economies, changes in the nature of the
family and unsettled political conditions both at
home and abroad are all having an impact. It is likely that these changeswill
continue and may even accelerate in the years ahead. It is likely, also,
that these changes will have implications for education.
Schools both respond to change in the larger environment
and are themselves agents of change. The wayin which schools educate children
influences the role that those children will play
in the world of tomorrow. Schools help shape the future because they areone
of the agencies that shape the children and adolescents who are the future.
Participants at the "Role of Schools" Symposium viewed
Saskatchewan 2000, a video presentation sponsored
by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, which
identifies 46 societal trends that may have implications for education
the future. These Saskatchewan trends are:
Canada's Economy May Be Improving
Saskatchewan's Economy May By Improving
Government Spending Changing
Jobs in Service Sector Increasing
Majority of Jobs in Private Sector
Majority of New Jobs Will Require More than 12 Years of Education
New skills Needed
More Women in the Labour Force
Fewer, Bigger Farms
Low Farm Income
Majority of Farm Income From Off Farm Sources
Value of Saskatchewan Farmland Declining
Treaty Land Entitlements Outstanding
Population Stays Stable
An Aging Population
Aboriginal Population Increasing
Number of School Aged Children Decreasing in General Population
Number of School Aged Children Increasing in Aboriginal
Immigration Increasing Slightly
Majority of Immigrants From Asia
Larger Centres Mostly Affected by Immigration
Where People Live is Changing
Better Educated Population
Too Much Tax
Canadians Pessimistic About Economy
Church Attendance Declining
Canadians Cynical About Politicians
More Direct Participation in Democracy
Divorce Rate Going Up
Marriage Rate Going Down
Age at First Marriage Increasing
More Single Parent Families
Lots of Teen Age Mothers
More Families Smaller Families
Number of One Person Households Increasing
More Emphasis on Preventative Health Care
Services Less Available
More Two Income Families
Rural Communities are Being Redefined
Social Problems a Continuing Concern
Increased Concern About the Environment
Increasing Use of Technology
Decreased Agriculture Capacity
A Warmer Climate
What Are The Major Responsibilities and Problems Facing
Schools in Saskatchewan?
Most of the small groups mentioned Saskatchewan's economy.
They indicated that the province's current financial difficulty means that
less money will be available for education. Some viewed this prospect with
alarm saying that public expectations for the school system continue to
increase as resources decrease. Others felt that there may be positive
outcomes from the current economic pressures. Organizations will be forced
to find better and more efficient ways of doing things and groups will
be forced to work together in order to achieve common objectives. Some
groups mentioned that declining budgets will inevitably mean cuts in school
staff and questioned how decisions about staff cuts should be made.
There was much discussion about public expectations for the
school. It was noted that expectations of the school have changed
dramatically over the past 30 years. Where once schools were solely concerned
with academics, their mandate today is much broader. Schools are becoming
increasingly involved in meeting the non academic needs of their students.
Child feeding programs and programs to deal with drugs and alcohol, and
to assist teen mothers are evidence of this. Even academic expectations
have changed for the school. One group used driver education as an example
of one new program and used the expression "add on, add on". Another group
questioned whether the schools will be expected to implement Saskatchewan
Health's wellness model of health. A couple of groups said that schools
are expected to be all things to all people, but a third group questioned
whether this is the current reality or just a presumption. They asked whether
all sectors aren't feeling the same pressure.
Several of the groups mentioned change and indicated that
schools aren't keeping pace with change in the rest of society.
Two of the groups said that Saskatchewan Education's Directions report
has changed the focus of education from the acquisition of knowledge and
skills to teaching children to think and reason, hut the structure of schools
and the delivery of educational services has stayed the same for 30 or
40 years. It may be time to rethink the way that educational services are
delivered. They also said that schools do not recognize the reality of
today's family which often has two working parents or only one parent.
They still assume that the family is as it was 30 or 40 years ago with
two parents and a stay at home mom.
There were a variety of comments conceding the relationship
between school and community, many of which focused on the delivery
of educational programs. Several groups said that the days of separate
organizations, with distinct mandates and separate spheres of responsibility
are over. Today's system duplicates effort, is wasteful of resources and
doesn't reach all children. We must move toward a new integrated model
of service delivery in which schools, social services, the judicial system
and other community organizations all work together to meet the needs of
young people. The needs of the child must be met within the context of
the family and the community.
Some groups said that schools need to be more open to the
community. There should be more parental involvement in the school and
parents should have more input into school decision making. They also said
that encouraging community use of the school facility would be desirable
at both a philosophical and a practical level. At a philosophical level,
it would help make the school the centre of community life. At a practical
level it would be a way of consolidating resources in these days of declining
budgets. Community organizations that cannot afford their own facility
will increasingly be looking to the school for meeting and activity space.
Most groups identified the need to consider Saskatchewan's
Aboriginal population. They noted that the number of Aboriginal children
is increasing all the time and that Aboriginal people are not well represented
in the hierarchy of the educational system. There are few Aboriginal principals,
directors of education, trustees or officials in educational organizations.
Participants emphasized that Aboriginal people will want control over their
own schools and questioned whether partnerships can be developed or whether
separate groups will exist. They felt that a separate Aboriginal school
system may not be desirable but that Aboriginal control is. Aboriginal
people should be represented on Boards of Education, should have input
to curriculum, etc. There was general consensus that Indian self government
will have tremendous implications for education in Saskatchewan. One group
dealt with this topic at some length and said that withdrawal of the Aboriginal
community from the educational system and complete autonomy would be a
loss and a tragedy for the larger community. However, it may he an option
in some specific situations.
The situation in rural Saskatchewan was noted by several
groups. Rural depopulation means fewer children attending school and a
smaller tax base. The current economic crisis in agriculture means that
many families are cash poor or in danger of losing their land. The resulting
psychological stress affects both parents and children alike.
Equality of educational outcomes was mentioned frequently.
It is no longer enough for the schools to ensure equality of opportunity,
they must now ensure equality of outcomes. All students must achieve a
certain level of learning. This may mean adjusting school programs significantly
in order to meet the needs of groups such as Aboriginal children, teen
moms, and children with learning disabilities who often do not experience
equality of outcomes.
A few groups mentioned technology and emphasized that
technology opens up many possibilities for new ways of doing things. The
feeling was that technology is not used as much as it might he for either
administrative or instructional purposes.
There were a number of comments relating to post-secondary
education and to the world of work after high school A couple of groups
noted that the marks required to enter university are constantly rising.
One said that when students are unable to achieve the marks needed, they
are branded with failure. Another said that universities need to change
and be more responsive to the needs of the province. The current high rate
of unemployment was noted and one group asked if there is any benefit to
higher education if the student can't get a job after graduation. A need
for alternative approaches to post secondary education was mentioned.
There should be structures that would allow young people to take some of
their post secondary education in their local communities.
The changing family was noted by several groups. The
current economic situation is affecting families in a number of ways. About
25% of children live in poverty and child hunger is common in both rural
and urban areas. Family stress is often the result of poverty and worries
about the family's economic future. Single parent families and two income
families are today's reality. This situation is not likely to change in
Education of children with learning disabilities was
mentioned as a responsibility facing most schools. Mainstreaming has become
common and, while it has many benefits, it also has challenges. Topics
discussed included designing appropriate programs for children, coping
with the needs of those who are also physically disabled, the time and
attention that these children require in the classroom, and the support
services available to teachers.
Table of Contents
The Changing Role of Schools
Craig Melvin Executive Director
Saskatchewan School Trustees
Chairperson, "The Role of Schools" Symposium
Articulating the "Role of Schools" is a primary goal of
the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. We are
At the annual convention in 1991, trustees moved that "the
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association lobby the Ministries of Education,
Social Services, and Health to develop inter ministerial agreements so
that services can be provided to schools in a cost efficient manner."
Concern about the role of schools was identified in 1984 when Directions
recommendation #8 stated "That steps be taken to improve delivery of support
services to students and ensure that such services are coordinated at the
local level." For the past several years the Saskatchewan School Trustees
Association has been examining the changing role of schools. A good deal
of research and consultation has been done.
providing leadership in focusing public attention on the
expanding role of schools.
securing support and increased resources for school boards
attempting to meet the needs of children.
establishing mechanisms to ensure effective coordination
of programs, services, and resources for Saskatchewan youth.
Some examples of the pressure working to extend the traditional
concept of "school" are:
There is growing number of students, "who for a variety of
educational and social reasons, face a high probability of failing to complete
their schooling with an adequate level of skills or credentials that are
deemed to be requisite to and associated with successful transition from
high school to post secondary institutions or the work force. In other
words, these students are at risk of being under educated, unemployable
and economically dependent, with a high probability of exhibiting various
forms of anti social behaviour and personal disorganization in their
adult lives. As a result, the well being of our communities and society
is at risk. If this circumstance is not addressed appropriately, we will
face towering burdens of social cost, deterioration in the quality of the
work force and citizenry, and the threat of a two tier society."*
The school curriculum: life skills, health sex
AIDS education, heritage languages, English as a second language, driver
training, technical vocation training, extra curricular activities.
Meeting the needs and characteristics of school students:
nutrition programs, mainstreaming of special education students, supervision
and child care, health and welfare services for children with emotional
problems or abuse in the home, dispensing medication, responsibilities
under The Young Offender Act, counseling.
Use of the school facility: day care for mothers of
school age, day care for others, adult education, recreation use, community
access to library resources.
The school staff: professional development, preparation
time, counseling services and support, use of support staff.
* Report of the students at risk
task force. (1989). Edmonton: Alberta School Trustees' Association.
Saskatchewan Boards of Education are seeking a fundamental
change in the ways in which we respond to the educational and life management
needs of children in our society. Schools alone cannot meet the complex
needs of their students. Changes in our society and the resulting expectations
of schools have created an onerous burden upon schools and require a clarification
of the mission of schools. Schools do not have the time, financial resources,
or professional expertise to do all of the things society expects
The challenge is not to persuade or motivate school boards
to do more for children. It is rather to define the challenges more sharply
and concretely, mobilize resources, and forge alliances to meet them. Changes
to legislation and policy are necessary along with interagency collaboration
to enable students to achieve. How can we integrate the role of the school
and other community services to serve children and their families holistically,
meet their diverse needs, and create a climate in which all students can
This Symposium is a stimulus to the process, a point of
departure rather than a place of landing. It is designed to open and focus
a dialogue to which others will bring experience, insight, and expertise
before a course of action is decided upon.
Table of Contents
The School Program
Presentation Joanne McCabe
Assistant Director of Education, Rosetown School Division
Education is the key agency to deal with the needs of
children and youth. Our clients are presently required
to be in our organizations for a large part of each day
and year. Therefore, we have a responsibility to meet their needs.
I deal with a lot of student referrals. A typical student
who is referred to me might be having difficulties
with academic work, speech and behaviour. Poor nutrition
may also be a problem. This student's teacher is asking questions suchas,
"Are there family problems that may be causing the erratic behaviour? Why
is this student doing so poorly with school work?
Ability tests show that this student could do much
better. Why the difficulties with communication and theproblems getting
along with peers and teachers?"
From the description, you can see that I need to access
a whole range of different services to develop a program
for this individual, that the teacher can deliver in the
classroom. Unfortunately, I often have to wait a long time for services
from other agencies and sometimes those services aren't
available at all.
In order to meet the needs of our young people and respond
to the constant change that is typical of our society,
I suggest a blending of policies, structures, programs
and practices among educational agencies and all the other agenciesthat
work with children. Presently, we are single issue organizations. One dealswith
the cognitive, one with the family, another with the social/emotional,
etc. But that's not the way people are we're dealing
with whole people whose needsand service requirements cannot be fragmented.
Compartmentalized, bureaucratic structures are an affront
and an injustice to our learners. Our challenge is
not simply to divide up the responsibilities but to reconceptualize
the role of the learning organization in today's society. A newarrangement
must be designed to shift the concern of each agency away from itself
to the needs of our learners.
I'm suggesting that we consider the concept of a learning
organization. I see learning organizations being established
in zones around the province with satellite learning
organizations in areas where there are reasonable numbers of students.
The learning organizations would offer services needed at the grassroots
level. The expectation would be that everyone in the learning
organization, including the adults, are continuous learners.
There would be holistic, integrated delivery of services.
The criteria for holistic, integrated services are:
The service providers who are working with clients would
function as a team. The team might be made up of educators,
counselors, social workers, early childhood workers,
nutritionists and others.
The program for clients would focus on core areas:
The core learnings must be relevant, meaningful, rooted in
technology and inspirational to further learning. The emphases in all learning
areas should be thinking skills, problem solving, creativity and decision
communication listening, speaking, reading, writing and
viewing with a focus on development of interpersonal skills
mathematical and scientific learning real life math and
science concepts that will be useful in everyday situations
physical learning fitness and wellness
aesthetic learning another way of learning
life skills learning including parenting, financial planning
and family life education
you and the world helping learners see themselves in relation
to the world population
supports for learning including resource room, day care
for teenage moms and food for hungry children.
In a learning organization, ongoing training and retraining
of service providers would be expected and provided. Appropriate training
would better equip service providers to meet the needs of their clients
and renew them as individuals and as professionals.
The key learnings of the learning organization are illustrated
in the diagram below:
All of us here today work with children and adolescents
either directly or indirectly. I suggest that the
best way we can serve these young people is to work more closely together
and to break down the barriers that sometimes prevent us from working togetheras
effectively as we might. We need to organize our resources to deal with
people as they are rather than as we wish they were.
The required changes need to be viewed as challenges
and opportunities rather than as obstacles.
Issue: What should the school program include?
Children's academic development cannot be addressed until
their more basic needs are met. A growing number of at risk children
within our schools require support services
In small groups, participants at the Symposium identified
two directions relating to the school program.
Schools are required to offer more than the required areas
of study. For example, driver training is not a required area of study
but The Education Act requires
schools to offer the program
Other agencies develop resource units for schools with the
expectation that schools be required to use the materials (i.e., drug and
alcohol abuse, uranium/coal energy)
As new issues develop, there is a general expectation that
schools add courses and serve in a prevention role (i.e., AIDS education,
The increasing multicultural diversity in our society places
great pressure on schools to provide specialized programs like English
as a second language and race relations
There is increasing pressure to move beyond the approved
program of studies. Global education, agriculture, entrepreneurship, and
life skills are being integrated into existing curricula
with pressure groups calling for their recognition
as required areas of study
Some schools sports programs benefit just a few students
and may be in competition with other community financed activities
Indian and Metis perspectives and content should be integrated
into the school program to foster multiple perspectives and reduce dropout
While there are increasing demands on schools to address
the needs of our society, schools must be a community for learning. No
other institution has the responsibility for advancing
the academic development of children. Schools may
share other responsibilities but decisions should be based on the
extent to which the academic focus is supported.
The School Program Should Focus on an Integrated Approach to Core Learnings
Participants emphasized an integrated and thematic approach
to learning as opposed to a focus on individual subjects.
It was mentioned several times that because society
is changing so rapidly, nobody really knows what the future willhold. Knowledge
that is useful today may be irrelevant tomorrow. The best solution
is to emphasize the process of learning and skills that have applicabilityin
a wide range of areas rather than mastery of content. It was noted that
withCORE Curriculum and the Common Essential Learnings, Saskatchewan'scurriculum
is moving closer to this type of model. There was agreement thatCORE Curriculum
and the Common Essential Learnings must remain at the centre
of Saskatchewan's educational program. Some concern was expressed
about the expanding demands that are being placed on the
curriculum. Oneparticipant asked, "If schools are expected to teach about
drug addiction, AIDS,business, etc., are they being asked to do too much?"
The importance of providing students with a well rounded
education was stressed. Students' programs should
prepare them for whatever the future may hold. The
expectations of the school by business, universities and technicalschools
were mentioned frequently within this context. One individual asked,"What
if we told business, universities and technical schools that we will no
longer teach to their requirements? What if we said to
them, we will provide you with people who are skilled
in the Common Essential Learnings, comfortable with
technology, etc. you must teach them the specific skills of your area?"Generally,
questions were asked about the extent to which the expectations ofother
organizations should influence the school program.
Direction #2: Schools Should
Serve as Community Learning Organizations
Learning is a lifelong process. Today, individuals can
expect to change careers three or four times during
their lifetimes. They may need retraining with each career
change. The pace of technological and sociological change is so rapid thatconstant
learning has become a routine part of life. In addition, learning isincreasingly
seen as a community process rather than as something which occursonly in
the school. Many organizations and individuals in the community cancontribute
to students' learning.
Participants emphasized that schools can facilitate both
lifelong learning and community involvement in education
by functioning as community learning organizations.
Their progrom might include both preschool and adult education as
well as the kindergarten to grade 12 program. There might be a holisticapproach
to services for children and adolescents in which the school, the healthcare
system, social service agencies, etc. work together to equip youth for
health, happiness and learning, now and in the future.
Because every community is different, the program in every
community learning organization would also be different.
Although there would be some constants CORE Curriculum,
the Common Essential Learnings and interagency cooperation
many aspects of the program would be determined locally and would
reflect community needs and priorities.
Table of Contents
Meeting the Needs of Youth
Presentation Terry Fortin
Director of Education, Prince Albert Catholic School
School might be considered an "open" system. Children
enter this open system (input), are educated (throughput)
and leave (output). The environment provides input
resources and external feedback to the school. Internal feedback is alsoreceived
from the school staff. Staff members feel that students with needs goright
though the school system without benefit. Such students look to the streetand
other agencies to have some of their primary needs met (e.g., clothing,
food).I believe that natural entropic forces and dramatically increased
environmental demands have brought this open system
close to a danger point. The oil light isflickering in the educational
system. One of the reasons for this is the overloadof expectations and
lack of appropriate resources that our schools are experiencing.
Teachers are overwhelmed by a multiplicity of expectations and the
increasingly unfulfilled social and emotional needs of children.
The present demands on the system are illustrated in the
Ten ways that we can begin to restore equilibrium to the
Issue: What is the role of schools in meeting the needs
Become child advocates. My commitment to child advocacy
comes from the Christian beliefs that underlie the Catholic school system.
In our view the child is sacred. Developing a sense
of community, empowering families and developing covenants
between family, school and community are important
components of child advocacy. Initiatives such as Head Start programs,
day care for teen moms and computerized tracking of students who
move frequently are other aspects. Ensuring that all children receiveequal
benefit from their education as well as providing them with equal
access and equal opportunity is yet another dimension
of child advocacy. I think that we will soon be seeing
enforcement of this dimension in the courts.
Love the whole child. Children are very complex. They
can't be divided into pieces and all those pieces won't make a whole.
Pay greater attention to the needs of Aboriginal people.
If we don't respond to Aboriginal people in terms of equity and equality
of outcomes of education, they are going to start
going their own way.
Ensure that employment equity permeates all government
services. Aboriginal people, disabled people and women want to work.
Children from these disadvantaged groups need to have
some vision of where they fit into
society. If a child is disabled or of Aboriginal ancestry
and she doesn't see anybody like her working in her
area of interest, what does that tell her about where
Promote greater integration between agencies. In order
to survive, agencies are going to have to break down barriers, to focus
on the client and put clients' needs first.
Limit certification to a specific time period. The
model for certification of nurses is one that we might profitably examine.
Use paraprofessionals effectively. This is one way
to use public resources effectively and to highlight and support the essential
role of the professional teacher.
Redefine the relationship between the school and the community.
We shouldn't be just schools; we should be community centres. Because everycommunity
and every school is different, each pair will need to define its
own relationship in support of children and their families.
Value our children more. We've undervalued our children.
We can learn a lot from the way that Aboriginal people have historically
treated their children. Children are not seen as incomplete
adults, but rather as capable individuals who are
able to do a great deal. Most children have many more talents thanwe acknowledge.
Promote the concept of lifelong learning. This concept
would change the focus of the school to include people of all ages as well
as children. We'd draw a circle that keeps everyone
in, instead of a circle that keeps many people out.
God gave each community the talents it needs. We don't have to go lookingfor
them they're there. What we've got to do is find ways of identifyingthose
talents, affirming them and helping them develop, so that they can servethe
community with love.
Direction #3: Youth Services
Should be Delivered Through An Integrated Agency and Community Based
Directions (1984) recommended "That steps be taken
to improve delivery of support services to students
and ensure that such services are coordinated at the
local level." Improvements in local coordination, program effectiveness,and
interagency working relations have been limited. Initiatives in this areahave
been based on individual personalities, not policy,
"Improve the delivery of support services
to students and ensure that such services
are coordinated at the local level."
School boards are required to provide an appropriate learning
environment for students with mild to severe disabilities.
To a large extent, support for special programs and
mainstreaming of special needs students now falls under
the school board budget,
Given their centrality to community life, schools are frequently
looked upon to address children's problems but schools
currently lack the human and financial resources to
tackle the challanges posed by children whose academic
development is impaired by the economic, emotional, and educational
deprivation of their out of school lives,
Boards of Education designate staff to ensure noon hour
supervision. There is increasing interest in the provision
of before school and after school child care,
Attempts to establish programs for teenage mothers trying
to raise a baby while completing high school are frustrated
by government restrictions,
There are indications that child hunger is increasing. While
admirable efforts are being made by some school boards,
teachers, and other agencies to assist hungry children,
schools currently lack the human and financial resources
to meet this growing need,
All students require access to general guidance services
that school staff may be able to provide. School resources
are burdened in attempting to provide specialized
counseling services with professional counselors for students
and their families,
Parents with disabilities require special services and support
to function in society. Should school boards provide
equipment and services so that special needs parents
can interact with schools?
Greater cooperation among all organizations involved in service
delivery to Saskatchewan children is essential as
schools are forced to deal with an increasing variety
of student needs.
There was a strong feeling among those attending the "Role
of the Schools" Symposium that youth services should
be delivered through an integrated agency and community
All of the groups discussed the potential for and/or the
need for restructuring the way that services are provided
to youth. There was general consensus that presently
each organization works within its own framework and that services arefragmented
as a result.
One group asked the question, "What drives programs
children's needs or organizational structures?" Several
other groups addressed this same topic but said most
definitely that the place to start was with the needs of children not withthe
structures of organizations. We have to look at the needs of the child
and gear the system around those needs. We can't define
the role of the school on the basis of what will be
funded and what won't be. The most important thing is toidentify the nerds
of children and then design programs to meet those needs. An integrated
model of service delivery was perceived to have many advantages. Oneof
the most significant was that it might give teachers more time to teach
becausethere would be other professionals available to deal with children's
non academic needs.
It was emphasized that no single model of service delivery
would be appropriate for all school divisions. A school
division's location, the nature of the student body
and the type of resources available locally would all influence the deliveryof
services. For example, in small communities everyone knows everyone else,
so the system create will be different than in an
urban area where people in the same neighborhood often
don't know each other. The needs of children and familiesdiffer too. Some
parents want to be very involved in their children's education,while others
Therefore, the integrated model used for delivery of services
to youth might take different forms in different communities.
Aspects of integration that some communities might
choose to include in their plans include:
The important thing is not the exact structure used to deliver
services, but rather community involvement in shaping
that structure. There was much discussion about the
need for more community based decision making and the need to
use of school facilities by a variety of community agencies
and service providers,
a team approach to particular situations. The team would
be composed of representatives of various service
pooling of funds (to a greater or lesser extent) available
to the school and other service providing agencies,
an umbrella management board made up of representatives from
all service providing agencies,
greater communication among all service providing agencies.
Formal structures might be set up to facilitate communication.
empower local communities so that they play a greater
role in decision making. However, it was also noted
that structures often work against community involvement.
There may be a need to redefine the responsibilities of variouseducational
officials and institutions if this is to happen. There is also a need todefine
which decisions will be made at a system or provincial level and whichwill
be made at a local level. One group asked who should be responsible fortaking
the leadership to create closer links between the school and the
community. Is this the job of the school, the community,
Saskatchewan Education or some other organization
Should an outside person be brought into facilitate cooperation?
Differences between rural and urban schools and communities
were noted by some individuals at the symposium. In
any type of restructuring, rural schools and schools
divisions would have a much smaller pool of resources to draw uponthan
large urban school divisions. Whether this would make restructuring easieror
more difficult was not determined.
The observations of one group about restructuring summarized
comments made throughout this session very well. They
said that any restructuring that occurs must be based
on the premise that everyone is equal. The principles of multiculturalism,
gender equity and justice must be part of any effort at reorganization.
Key directions during restructuring are:
Most of those participating in the discussion about the need
for an integrated model of service delivery and about
restructuring of existing systems, referred to Aboriginal
students and their needs. The feeling was that we must address Aboriginal
needs head on and that we must create a sense of urgency aroundthis issue.
The needs of Aboriginal students must he central to any new structures
teamwork with training for team members,
multi issue approach not single issue approach,
holistic approach to needs of youth,
coordination of services in order to look for efficiencies,
everybody a teacher, everybody a learner,
empower the family, the caregiver and the child,
ensure that budget cuts aren't always in this area,
locally developed models and pilot projects useful.
Implementation of an integrated model of service delivery
to youth was discussed briefly. It was noted that
the Family Foundation, because it is already a multidisciplinary
integrated agency, might play a role in implementation. This organization
already deals with the whole family.
It was also noted that implementing integrated delivery
of programs and services might require action at the
political and legislative level as well as the good will of
the organizations involved. The mandates of most service organizations
are currently described in legislation; changing the
mandates significantly might mean that changes in
legislation are needed.
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The School as a Community Facility
Presentation Rene Poisson
Coordinator, Community Services,
Saskatoon Catholic School Board
The school as a community facility the topic is a tough
one. Usually we think of bricks, boards, blueprints,
concrete, stone, pipes, urinals and other cold substances.
Despite the structural beauty of a facility, its warmth, importance andusefulness
is only derived from the human endeavors that occur within and around
What about these structures? Have we learned to use them
to the greatest benefit of the humans they
are meant to serve? Will we have to rethink our approaches to these
buildings in which we deliver education? Some experts tell us that we havea
new civilization that is going to challenge all our old assumptions about
what we do with school facilities, within the context
of the community. To meet the forthcoming changes,
some in educational circles have asked for action. Andwhen they get it
they just don't recognize the future significance of the action,and that
it is but a sign of things to come. Some ways that schools have becomemore
involved in the life of the community include:
What about this third wave that's sneaking up on us? We have
many clues that the future is going to be different.
Before and after school sports for youth have flourished,
Drama presentations have given the Christmas concerts a little
Social events such as dances and carnivals have sprouted
Facility use by the community has developed some patterns.
The gym is used the most. Then the resource centre
not to read books but for meetings. Art and science
rooms are used too not to study science but to do
crafts. In many schools the multipurpose room is used 75% of the timefrom
September to June. So let's not say that schools are
under utilized. Parts of it are utilized very well.
In the future, communities will demand that school facilities
be oases of safety and survival for their children.
The 1986 report of the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as
a Profession study states that: "If our standard
of living is to be maintained, if the growth of a permanent
underclass is to be averted, if democracy is to function effectively intothe
next century, our schools must graduate the vast majority of their students
with achievement levels long thought possible for
only the privileged few."
Hungry children will be fed. This has begun in urban schools.
All provinces have feeding programs in urban schools.
In Saskatoon, from August to December 1991, 5,382
breakfasts, 11,942 lunches and 30,000 snacks were served
in 16 schools.
Children of teen moms will receive infant care.
Daycare will be offered to other community children.
Those inadequately dressed for the weather will be clothed.
Health needs will be met, especially preventative care in
the areas of nutrition, drugs and alcohol, AIDS, family
The needs of Aboriginal children will be addressed.
Social/psychological needs will be addressed as well as those
with profoundly challenging needs.
Do we have to change some of our thinking? The answer
is yes. The dilemma is how will school boards and
communities deal with these changes during tough economic times?
We all know that there won't be any more money. So there's no point in
asking for more money. Think about the options that exist
right now. Some of these include:
We have two choices. We can view our opportunities as John
Naisbett does in Megatrends, as exciting opportunities,
or we can view this venture as so many of our colleagues
in education have over the last 150 years first with enthusiasm,then
with disillusionment. The choice is yours.
Third wave schools will become adult learning and re education
Schools will become success centres rather than screening
centres. Although the retention rate has gone up dramatically
since 1961, it's still not high enough. Students who
dropped out in the 60's had a place to go. They could get jobs
and be trained by industry. Today industry isn't prepared to do thatanymore,
so education is needed for a good job.
Schools will provide learning experiences as varied as university
classes, parenting and computer training and will
do so 12 months a year, 20 hours a day.
Our own year of discernment study indicates that parents
want to learn from the teachers. This creates an issue
because many see the role of the school facility as
distinct from the role of the teachers in it.
Schools will become meeting places where all are greeted
with TAWOW a Cree word used to describe an intense
human feeling that can only be described in English
as "There is room in here."
Many in the community will view the school facility as the
church of the 3rd Wave World. This will be true particularly
for the disenfranchised. The rapid urbanization that
has taken place has resulted in the development of malls.
They are replacing churches as meeting places but their values aremainly
consumerism and materialism. I'm sure schools with TAWOW can often
more and can be better supporters of home values.
The communities will use schools as facilities in which they
can talk and be listened to they will become centers
of grassroots democracy. Will school board trustees
and teachers have to deal with the 3rd Wave alone? No. Just as
schools will become community facilities, so must the community become
the schoolyard. Approaches like Partnerships in Education are attempts
to move schools along the path to success centers by pooling existing
school and community resources, because schools can't do it all.
Issue: What is the desired role of the school facility?
Direction #4: Schools Should
be Utilized as Community Facilities
The legislation restricts the use of the school and its resources
as a community facility but empowers boards of education
to deal with requests on a case by case basis (i.e.,
heritage languages). Increases in adult education
and recreation programs have increased demands for the facility,
Ontario is using school space for day care and Head Start
In urban areas school boards are required to purchase land
in developing communities in anticipation of receiving
government authorization to construct a school. This
process of ensuring land for schools is extremely costly
in terms of investment and lost interest,
Provincial recognition for school construction grants may
fall short of expenditures in building facilities
suitable for offering required programs and utilization
by the community,
The increasing sophistication and specialization of the school
facility has coincided with reduced use as a community
multipurpose facility. Other facilities duplicate
libraries, classrooms, and gymnasiums to serve community
needs after 3:30.
The opinion of those attending the "Role of Schools" Symposium
was that schools should be utilized as community facilities.
Of equal importance, they should be places with TAWOW
places where everyone feels a sense of belonging
and a sense of participation. A variety of programs
including day care, preschool, adult education, and community recreation
programs might be held in the school.
There was general consensus that this is desirable from
both an economic and a philosophical perspective.
In these days of declining resources, sharing facilities makes
good economic sense. From a philosophical perspective, viewing theschool
as a community facility is a way of integrating the school into the life
of the community. However, it was noted that making
the school the hub of community will be easier in
some communities than in others. In urban areasthere are more potential
hubs than in rural areas.
If the school is to be a community facility, educators
and community members need to find ways to make everyone
feel that it is "our school". It may also be necessary
to find ways to overcome barriers to collaborative usage. For example,the
territorialism felt by various agencies and individuals needs to be reduced.Several
groups mentioned Saskatchewan's community schools and said that thecommunity
school model is a step in the right direction.
There were some cautions around this concept of the school
as a community facility as well It was noted that
when two or more organizations are using the same
space, there is a strong need to respect materials and the way in whichothers
have left the space. Sharing space requires clear expectations and clearunderstanding
by all parties concerned. Management of the facility is also important.
There must be strong management that fairly represents the interestsof
all groups using the facility. This may mean a new role for boards of educationand
principals. A concern was expressed by one group that sharing of facilities
could detract from the spirit of the school because the
school might not be available to students for after
Some groups suggested the way that school facilities are
designed might need to be examined if they are to
truly become community facilities. Different architectural
models might be more appropriate for such a facility and might bemore inviting
to the public than the designs which are presently typical of schools.
Several groups commented on the extent to which school
facilities are presently used, but there was little
consensus. Some groups said that they are not used enough
and one said they should be open 12 hours a day for a whole range ofschool
and community programs. Others said that schools are presently used tonear
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The Role of the School Staff
Presentation Rita Bouvier
Executive Assistant, Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation
The changes that are occurring all around us impact on
the school and they're challenging to each of us whether
we're in the educational field or otherwise. I think
that the people who represent other organizations probably feel those same
challenges. Many people have made an attempt to predict
what all of those societal trends mean for schools
and classrooms. Here's a description of the classroom
of the future by Heather Jane Robertson of the Canadian Teachers'Federation.
A classroom with refugee and immigrant children whose
first language is not the language of instruction.
One out of five
A similar composite was created here by the Saskatchewan
Teachers' Federation. The only change we made was
in the ethnic make up of the student population.
students are living in poverty. There are children with
various social, emotional aad physical needs contributed
to by the
issues facing families. There are also children in wheelchairsand
stretchers requizing medication and toileting. Still more
difficult, there will be aggressive and behaviourly impairedstudents.
Lockhart in the book School Teaching in Canada
tries to describe what is currently happening with
teacher's work. He says:
The core of teachers' work is teaching. Teachers are
generally responsible for teaching all subjects in primary schools withspecializations
in middle and senior years. The specializationand work assignment, however,
is often incongruent with thekind of training and experience they bring.
A large amount of time is devoted to behavioral conditioning
and attitude socialization. They handle all conflicts
that arise between students and teachers, parents
and teachers, and at the
That's how people have described the emotional all these
changes on the classroom. Some people have gone so
far as to describe teaching as front line social
work, dealing with students uprooted by divorce, disoriented by drugs,dependent
on food banks and downright rebellious.
periphery they do extra cumcular, quasi administrativetasks,
and public relations and social agency duties. Successfulteachers arc required
to be both privately successful andpublicly adroit.
And how has the educational system responded? Sometimes,
and including the discussions at this Symposium thus
far, there's a sense that the educational system has
its head in the sand. I think that's incorrect. I think that theeducational
system has been working very hard to consider the realities that arefacing
us socially, economically and politically. The educational system and theindividuals
within it have taken the best from the research about teaching andlearning
and effective schools and have tried to integrate it into a vision for
schools. We most definitely haven't had our head buried.
I think the current challenge facing us is the many constraints
that influence change. We still operate in those independent
silos that we heard described in several of the presentations
today and so ignore the time that's necessary to make changes.
We know how difficult it is to change personally and so when you'retrying
to change a system, it's even more difficult. I also think that structuralchanges
will have to take place in terms of how authority is shared. So we have
a lot to do.
I would also like to talk about the concepts of public
education. Educational historians remind us that the
nature of public education invites, from time to time,
a debate about the role of schools and of teachers. We also know that intough
economic times, the basis of authority of schools and of teachers becomesvulnerable
to attack from all sides. So the perennial question arises, "What is theprimary
role of the school?"
I want to share with you part of an address given by Malcolm
Ross, then Vice president of the University of Toronto
in 1979. He addressed the role of schools in a changing
society and suggested that the purpose of schools has not and should
not change. He argued that schools have three functions:
I think these three goals are as relevant today as they were
in 1979. How have teachers responded to all of the
changes in society? I think teachers and the educational
system have responded affirmatively. I think that they also know
there's always room for improvement, as with any system. At the same time,I
sense that teachers are resentful because they feel unappreciated for theleadership
that they provide in the community. If we continue to talk negativelyand
to pass blame back and forth, this feeling of resentment will grow. We're
tired of being blamed for all the ills of society.
to help us understand and appreciate ourselves and our development
as human beings,
to nourish individuals' capacity to be creative and critical
to encourage and develop traits that are compatible with
work and existence.
Have we taken on too much? Perhaps yes and perhaps no.
Change in some aspects of the teacher's work is inevitable.
I think that despite the conversations I've heard
today about providing a supportive structure for the education system,teachers
will continue to have to deal with children with many needs. Children'sneeds
aren't going to diminish. As well, we have to be sensitive to the radicalchanges
that are taking place all around us to the changing family and toexpressed
calls for equality. We need to be sensitive to the way that technology
has transformed our world, to competing ideological interests
and to the culturaldiversity of our nation and our planet. At the same
time, however, we can relieveteachers of some non educational tasks like
attending to the physical needs ofchildren (diapering and dispensing medication)
and secretarial tasks.
As educators it is important that we continue to value
education for its own sake, but also for the benefit
of the students who come to us and for the purpose of creating
a better society. We must equip the younger generation with the powerto
act and change themselves.
I think also that we need to ask whether principals and
teachers must assume responsibility for each function
of the school, if schools are, in fact, community centers.
Are others better suited to some of these responsibilities? Take the extra
curricular program as an example. Are schools and teachers largely responsiblefor
it or is it a community responsibility?
In closing, I want to refer again to Lockhart's School
Teaching in Canada. Lockhart argues for the trust
and judgment and competence and integrity of those
responsible for service delivery. He warns that if this doesn't come aboutthe
whole public educational enterprise will be diminished. Those who providethe
service will leave, or the results of tough economic times will be reactionaryones.
If we are to accomplish the changes we desire within the public educationsystem,
human nature suggests that a collective sense of pride is necessary.
Teachers continue to ask for support (real and moral) to
fulfill what they and
society see as their primary task teaching.
The challenge facing education is to ensure long term
commitment from those who provide education. We must
make the teacher's role an honourable one and one
that is respected within our communities and our society.
Issue: What is the desired role of school staff?
School boards employ significant numbers of non teaching
staff. These support staff are involved in a variety
of childcare, counseling, and community work areas,
If school boards must employ a wider variety of professional
and support staff, the role and responsibilities of
all school staff require clarification,
The pupil teacher ratio has declined, at major expense
to school boards, as the role of schools has expanded
into non traditional areas,
School Systems are in competition with other government departments
in hiring professional consultants (i.e., speech
Teaching requires specialization and professional expertise,
yet teachers are being asked to assume a growing list
of "other" responsibilities. Teachers are employed
to engage students in relevant learning,
As other agencies reduce direct services, teachers are expected
to assume new responsibilities (i.e., screening for
disease prevention, tragic events counseling, educating
the public). These expectations add to already tight schedules
and the increasing need for professional development. Teachers are
frequently unaware of what other agencies are doing,
School staff are uncomfortable with expectations despite
immunity from liability during school hours when involved
in an activity approved by the board (i.e., dispensing
Information regarding individual pupils is frequently not
well communicated with school staff (i.e., who has
custody of children, conditions of young offenders'
The role of school administrators is moving beyond instructional
leadership as they assume responsibility for many
adults and programs within their buildings.
Direction #5: Communities
Should Employ a Variety of Professional and
Support Staff to Work in Schools
Participants at the "Role of Schools" Symposium agreed
that communities should employ a variety of professional
and support staff to work in schools.
They said that teachers are increasingly called upon to
do more and more including many non teaching activities
but that the teacher's central role must remain her
relationship to the child in her classroom. Indeed, one group said thatthe
definition of public education is "meeting the needs of kids".
There was agreement that teachers can't handle everything
or be all things to all people. In the words of one
group "It's not fair to expect teachers to do everything".
There is a need to involve others individuals as well as agencies.
Parents have an important role to play in the educational
program. The groups expressed varying opinions about
teachers' and principals' willingness to show authority
and responsibility with others. A couple said that most teacherswelcome
the involvement of the community because it helps create a deeper,richer
education program and because it allows more of children's needs to bemet.
However, another group said that teachers and principals differ in theirwillingness
to involve parents and the community. Some are very willing and
very open but some see the school as a closed shop and reject
participation. One group that discussed this issue in
some depth said that the school and teachers must
take a leadership role in initiating involvement of parents
and community members. Community members will be hesitant to approach
the school if they fear that their efforts to become involved will berejected.
Another group said that even under the best of circumstances some
people will be intimidated by the system. There should
be a mechanism that allows these people to have input.
One group said that when seeking new collaborative school
structures it is important to focus on school staffs,
not on individuals. Focusing on staffs builds a team
committed to new ways of interacting with the community. This approachalso
ensures that individuals aren't blamed. Another group said that teachers
learn little about working with other agencies and
with communities during their preservice education.
They suggested that this might be a productive addition tothe teacher preservice
or inservice education program.
Several groups used the phrase "free up teachers to teach".
One group said 'liberate teachers to do what they
do best". They indicated that anything that can be
done toward this end would be very useful.
Paraprofessionals and volunteers were mentioned several
times. Some groups saw them as a way of freeing up
teachers to teach, but one group worried that there was
a danger of their replacing professional teachers. However, it is noted
partnerships are forged between professional teachers
and paraprofessionals, fears will be allayed. Participants
indicated that the use of volunteers and paraprofessionals
requires preparation both in terms of contract negotiations andin terms
of individuals' attitudes.
Table of Contents
A vision for the future "role of schools" began to emerge
from the symposium discussions. In this vision, the
goal of the school is to develop the potential of each
student to the fullest extent. The school and its program work to enhancethe
ability of each individual to cope effectively in a changing physical,economic
and social environment.*
* From Directions. (1984).
Regina: Minister's Advisory Committee, Curriculum and Instruction Review,
In order to achieve this goal, schools would have to become
the focus of community life places where all feel
a sense of belonging and of participation. In the
school there would be holistic delivery of services by a team of educators,counselors,
social workers, early childhood workers and nutritionists.
Symposium participants identified five directions for
future action that would aid in achieving this vision.
They suggested that:
The school program should focus on an integrated approach
to core learnings. Core learnings might include:
communication listening, speaking, reading, writing and
viewing with a focus on development of interpersonal
mathematical and scientific learning real life math and
science concepts that will be useful in everyday situations,
physical learning fitness and wellness,
aesthetic learning another way of learning,
life skills learning including parenting, financial planning
and family life education,
you and the world helping learners see themselves in relation
to the world population,
supports for learning including resource room, day care
for teenage moms and food for hungry children.
Schools should function as community learning organizations:
which offer a range of educational and community programs
including preschool and adult education,
which offer services to youth in a holistic manner by cooperating
with other community agencies,
which use the resources of the community and are responsive
to the needs of the community.
Youth services should be delivered though an integrated agency
and community based approach. There was strong consensus
that the services to young people provided by government
departments and agencies could be improved by effective
coordination and by reallocation of financial and human
Schools should be utilized as community facilities. The school
building might be used for a whole range from educational
and community programs in addition to the kindergarten
to grade 12 program.
Communities should employ a variety of professional and support
staff to work in schools.
Table of Contents
Participants at the "Role of Schools" Symposium spent a considerable
amount of time talking about strategies to achieve
their vision of a more integrated model for delivering
services to youth. They felt that the next steps in this process are:
Those steps are discussed in the sections that follow.
Support for Directions,
There was agreement that the "Role of Schools" Symposium
was a good starting point for articulating the future
role of schools but that more planning is necessary. It
is important to continue dialogue. The individuals and groups involved
in an ongoing conversation about change should be
expanded beyond those attending the Symposium. Parents,
students, churches and especially Aboriginal organizations should
be involved. It was suggested that in any formal planning sessions,representation
of Aboriginal people should be proportional to their numbers in thegeneral
population. There was a concern that mechanisms be established to involvethe
poor and others whose voices are sometimes not heard. Local involvement
was also felt to be important. Everyone affected should
be involved in some way in discussions about changes
to service delivery. This means discussions and meetingsat the grassroots
level. It was emphasized repeatedly that a sense of ownership by allthe
stakeholder groups and individuals is essential if the plan is to succeed.
The process should have the additional benefit of
empowering parents and communities.
A question asked frequently at the Symposium was, "Who
will be responsible for developing a plan for new
models of service deliveries" The majority of participants felt
that an interagency committee should be established, but it was also suggestedthat
the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association should develop a plan to take
to the larger community for discussion.
Support for Directions
It was emphasized that the plan developed should affirm
support for Saskatchewan's Goals of Education and
for Directions. The change process began with Directions.
With CORE Curriculum and the Common Essential Learnings,
the educational system has taken major steps toward becoming morechild
centered and toward preparing children for a world in which the onlycertainty
is change. This process should continue.
The need to take action at a political level was mentioned.
Because the mandates of most government departments
are defined by legislation as well as by custom, there
will almost certainly need to he changes in legislation if an integratedmodel
of service delivery is to be achieved. Some restructuring of governmentdepartments
would naturally follow. Participants were not specific about the typeof
restructuring needed, although a couple did mention that the Family
Foundation might play a coordinating role. Specific strategies
that might be usedto influence government were mentioned by several groups.
Those included lobbying and presentation of submissions
and briefs from a committee representing the groups
in attendance at the Symposium. It was noted that gettingkey Cabinet Ministers
on side would be the quickest way to effect change.
There was considerable discussion about the components
of a plan that might be used to implement the vision
identified at the "Role of Schools" Symposium. Although
there were some minor differences, most participants felt that the planshould
contain the following components. The order of the components issomewhat
variable. They might occur in a different order than listed below orseveral
might be taking place at one time.
Symposium discussion paper,
Development of model(s),
Advocacy and consultation,
A sense of urgency permeated the discussion at the Symposium.
Many individuals mentioned that time is short and
that planning should begin immediately. Several said
that political action should also begin immediately and continue throughoutthe
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