The "Role of Schools" Symposium (1992)
By Loraine Thompson
SSTA Research Centre Report b1992: 41 pages, $11


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 school.

Saskatchewan School Trustees Association President's Message
The Changing Context for Public Education
The Changing Role of Schools
The School Program
Meeting the Needs Of Youth
The School as a Community Facility
The Role Of School Staff
The Vision
Next Steps
Back to: Social Trends

The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.

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:

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 the Symposium.

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 begun.

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Saskatchewans School Trustees Association President's Message

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.

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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 in
the future. These Saskatchewan trends are:

  1. Canada's Economy May Be Improving
  2. Saskatchewan's Economy May By Improving
  3. Government Spending Changing
  4. Jobs in Service Sector Increasing
  5. Majority of Jobs in Private Sector
  6. Majority of New Jobs Will Require More than 12 Years of Education
  7. New skills Needed
  8. More Women in the Labour Force
  9. Fewer, Bigger Farms
  10. Low Farm Income
  11. Majority of Farm Income From Off – Farm Sources
  12. Value of Saskatchewan Farmland Declining
  13. Treaty Land Entitlements Outstanding
  14. Population Stays Stable
  15. An Aging Population
  16. Aboriginal Population Increasing
  17. Number of School – Aged Children Decreasing in General Population
  18. Number of School – Aged Children Increasing in Aboriginal Population
  19. Immigration Increasing Slightly
  20. Majority of Immigrants From Asia
  21. Larger Centres Mostly Affected by Immigration
  22. Where People Live is Changing
  23. Better Educated Population
  24. Too Much Tax
  25. Canadians Pessimistic About Economy
  26. Church Attendance Declining
  27. Canadians Cynical About Politicians
  28. More Direct Participation in Democracy
  29. Divorce Rate Going Up
  30. Marriage Rate Going Down
  31. Age at First Marriage Increasing
  32. Remarriages increasing
  33. More Single – Parent Families
  34. Lots of Teen – Age Mothers
  35. More Families – Smaller Families
  36. Number of One – Person Households Increasing
  37. More Emphasis on Preventative Health Care
  38. Services Less Available
  39. More Two – Income Families
  40. Rural Communities are Being Redefined
  41. Social Problems a Continuing Concern
  42. Increasing Globalization
  43. Increased Concern About the Environment
  44. Increasing Use of Technology
  45. Decreased Agriculture Capacity
  46. A Warmer Climate

What Are The Major Responsibilities and Problems Facing Schools in Saskatchewan?

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The Changing Role of Schools

Craig Melvin – Executive Director
Saskatchewan School Trustees Association
Chairperson, "The Role of Schools" Symposium

Articulating the "Role of Schools" is a primary goal of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. We are committed to:

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.

Some examples of the pressure working to extend the traditional concept of "school" are:

  1. The school curriculum: life – skills, health – sex – AIDS education, heritage languages, English as a second language, driver training, technical – vocation training, extra – curricular activities.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The school staff: professional development, preparation time, counseling services and support, use of support staff.
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."*

*    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 of them.

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 learn?

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.

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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 – making.

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:

Learning Organization

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.

Direction #1: 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.

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Meeting the Needs of Youth

Presentation – Terry Fortin
Director of Education, Prince Albert Catholic School Division

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 diagram below.


Ten ways that we can begin to restore equilibrium to the system are:

  1. 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

  2. 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.
  3. Love the whole child. Children are very complex. They can't be divided into pieces and all those pieces won't make a whole.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

  6. 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 she fits?
  7. 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.
  8. Limit certification to a specific time period. The model for certification of nurses is one that we might profitably examine.
  9. Use paraprofessionals effectively. This is one way to use public resources effectively and to highlight and support the essential role of the professional teacher.
  10. 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

  11. own relationship in support of children and their families.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
Issue: What is the role of schools in meeting the needs of youth? Direction #3: Youth Services Should be Delivered Through An Integrated Agency and Community – Based Approach

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 – based approach.

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 do not.

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
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 created.

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 it.

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.

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."

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.

Issue: What is the desired role of the school facility?

Direction #4: Schools Should be Utilized as Community Facilities

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 school activities.

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 maximum capacity.

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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 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.

Lockhart in the book School Teaching in Canada tries to describe what is currently happening with teacher's work. He says:

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.

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.

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?

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 any community
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 that as
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.

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The Vision

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, Saskatchewan Education.

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:

Direction #1

Direction #2 Direction #3 Direction #4 Direction #5

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Next Steps

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.


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.


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 planning process.

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