Final Report of the Saskatchewan Task Force on Educational Governance
Prepared by Loraine Thompson Information Services, Ltd.

SSTA Research Centre Special Report (1993):43 pages, $11.

Report Summary

Definitions

A Vision for Educational Governance in Saskatchewan

How is Education Currently Governed in Saskatchewan?

What are the Forces for Change?

How is Educational Governance Changing?

Developing the Task Force Report

Characteristics of Saskatchewan's Education System

Guiding Principles and Values

Recommendations

Summary of Recommendations

Sources

The Task Force was established pursuant to a November, 1992 SSTA Convention resolution which instructed the Association to make recommendations on the appropriate number and size of school divisions in Saskatchewan.

Members of the Task Force were chosen by Branch Executives in each of the Association's nine branches. As well, representatives of several other agencies served on the Task Force as non-voting members.

This report, which consists of 7 CORE recommendations, 5 SUPPORTING recommendations and 3 IMPLEMENTATION recommendations provides a framework and directions for school governance in Saskatchewan. The report was presented and endorsed by the delegates attending the November, 1993 SSTA Convention. and response.

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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.


Summary

Presently, school divisions form the basic unit of educational governance in Saskatchewan. Each school division is managed by an elected board of education. Within each rural school division are smaller school districts, each with an elected district board of trustees. Urban school divisions do not have school districts. Instead, provision is made for local school advisory committees that may be either elected or appointed. In addition, the legislation provides for separate boards of education operated by the religious minority and for Francophone conseils scolaires.

Continuing changes in the rural economy, shifting demographics and technological change have profoundly affected education and will continue to do so in the future. It is within this context that the Task Force on Educational Governance was established. Delegates at the November 1992, Saskatchewan School Trustees Association Convention passed a resolution which asked the Association:

To seek the input and advice of its member boards of education and thereafter make recommendations to an Annual Convention of the Association with respect to the appropriate number and size, in terms of geography and population, of school divisions required for the effective and efficient delivery of elementary and secondary education in the province.

The primary principle identified by the Task Force on Educational Governance throughout its deliberations was that all of its decisions would be based on the best interests of students. The basic value identified was that students come first. The Task Force on Educational Governance made a total of 15 recommendations. Some of the recommendations in the report apply only to the public school system. Where this is the case, the term "public school division(s)" was used in the body of the recommendation. Recommendations that do not include the term "public" refer to all school divisions. The Task Force recommended that there be approximately 35 public school divisions in Saskatchewan, each with a minimum enrolment of between 2,500 and 5,000 students. Exceptions to these enrolment guidelines might occur in areas where the population is sparse or dense. School divisions of this size would allow economies of scale to be realized, administrative expenses to be rationalized and a full range of services to be offered to students. They would have budgets that are large enough to provide some flexibility and enough students so that the ongoing declining enrolment predicted for the future would not reduce them to an inefficient size. Each of these school divisions would be governed by an elected board of education responsible for educational outcomes and system operations.

There is a need for local governance bodies. Families want to have a say in the education their children receive. They are concerned about overall policies but also about the day-to-day details of their child's educational experience. Taxpayers, too, want to have input. Many taxpayers are concerned both about educational quality and the level of local taxation. In order to provide for local input and local decision-making, the Task Force recommended the establishment of local governance structures that are:

The distinction between urban and rural is gradually blurring. For example, many families who live in the "donut" around larger urban centres travel into the city for work, shopping and entertainment. Parents who drive to work in the cities sometimes bring their children with them to attend school. Therefore, the Task Force recommended that existing public school divisions in and near urban areas be restructured to reflect contemporary work, trading and school attendance patterns.

School divisions near urban areas often experience considerable fluctuation in their enrolment as students transfer back and forth between rural and city schools. In order to provide program stability and financial predictability for school divisions located near urban areas, the Task Force recommended that provincial grant recognition should go to the school division where a student lives, not to the school division where the student attends school. The restructuring of school governance proposed by the Task Force would allow all school divisions to become full-service divisions and thus would reduce the need for students to attend school outside of their home division.

The Task Force on Educational Governance made a number of recommendations that would support the core recommendations outlined above. It recommended that:

In order to implement this proposed system of educational governance, the Task Force on Educational Governance recommended that:

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Scope of this Report

Some of the recommendations in this report apply only to the public school system (see definitions below). Where this is the case, the term "public school division(s)" is used within the body of the recommendation. Although the recommendations identified in this way do not apply directly to separate school divisions or Francophone conseils scolaires, they have implications for these systems, nevertheless. Separate boards of education and conseils scolaires may wish to consider shared service arrangements or amalgamation with other separate or public school divisions as a way of promoting greater efficiency and flexibility and thus ultimately better service to students. In keeping with the principle of self-determination, decisions which affect separate and Francophone boards of education should be made by those boards.

Recommendations that do not include the term "public" refer to all school divisions.

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Definitions

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A Vision for Educational Governance in Saskatchewan

The vision statement below was developed by the Task Force on Educational Governance. It presents their hopes and wishes for the future of educational governance in Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan's system of educational governance is a balanced partnership dedicated to ensuring that all children, regardless of age, gender, ethnic or cultural background, and socioeconomic status are provided with appropriate educational opportunity and equality of educational benefit. The division of responsibilities between the Department of Education, Training and Employment, boards of education, and school-level governance bodies ensures high standards and effective and efficient delivery of services. Division trustees and members of school-level governance bodies are locally elected to represent the public and safeguard the accountability and responsiveness of the school system.

The school is the centre of a learning community. A variety of educational, recreational, and support services are available to all community members. The school is involved with community programs that ensure all children and their families receive necessary social, health and justice services.

Each school-level governance body serves as an effective liaison between the community and the larger school division and achieves the expectations outlined in legislation. Each year, school staff, parents, students, and other members of the community are actively engaged in designing and helping to achieve the educational goals of the school through program evaluations, planning and decision-making.

Boards of education are autonomous full service educational organizations. While kindergarten to grade 12 program delivery is the focus, early childhood and adult education programming is accommodated. Boards of education provide direction for educational goals, standards, and division-wide operations. Division boundaries vary according to population density, local trading patterns and geography but are of sufficient size to secure a suitable financial base and minimal administrative costs, in order that the best possible education can be provided to students. Instruction is provided to students in numerous community-based elementary and middle schools and fewer centralized secondary schools. An adequate number of appropriately trained, professional staff members deliver the educational program.

Saskatchewan's boards of education and school-level governance bodies continue to evolve with built-in mechanisms for continuous evaluation and improvement. Decisions regarding appropriate resource inputs, student outcomes and system operation are based on a commitment to ensuring a high quality education for all children. Distance education and other types of technologies are used to enrich, enhance and supplement face-to-face instruction.

Through collaborative action and sustained improvement, Saskatchewan's education system strives for the highest ideals while acknowledging the great economic, social and geographic diversity and distinct circumstances for education within this province.

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Background

The Situation Now

Saskatchewan's present system of educational governance has its roots in our past - in a pre-industrial, agrarian lifestyle. In the late 19th and early 20th century, school districts were established in the province. Each school district was not to exceed five miles in width or length. This provision was made because most children walked to school and five miles (one way) was considered the maximum distance that a child should walk. Usually there was just one school in a school district. By the late 1930's, hundreds of small school districts had become established, each with its own district board.

In 1944, The Larger School Units Act superimposed another structure on the existing districts. Large units of school administration with about 2,000 students and 2,000 square miles each were established. They were governed by a unit board. The small school districts within a unit were not disestablished, but district boards lost much of their power. They became primarily advisory bodies while major administrative and financial matters were turned over to the unit boards.

Over the years, there were some adjustments in boundaries, some consolidations and, occasionally, establishment of new school units. With The Education Act of 1978, the language changed. After 1978, school units were called school divisions, but the basic structure was not changed. Today, in addition to urban, separate and some remaining small school divisions, there are 62 larger, rural school divisions in Saskatchewan, each managed by an elected board of education. A list of all the boards of education in Saskatchewan with their 1992 enrolment appears in the Appendix. The board of education is a policy-setting, administrative body. It sets the budget, establishes policies concerning school program and other school matters, selects and hires senior administrators, and undertakes other matters related to the governance of education at the division level. It also has the power to levy property taxes in order to raise revenue. Within most rural school divisions there are school districts, one established in each school attendance area. Each school district has an elected district board of trustees. These boards are primarily advisory but usually have input to staffing, budgets, and other division-based decisions. Over the years, there have been population shifts, but the boundaries of the school divisions have changed very little.

Urban school divisions do not have smaller school districts or district boards of trustees. In the cities, local school advisory committees made up of parents and community members and established by urban boards rather than by statute, act in an advisory capacity. Usually, each school has a separate advisory committee. These committees may be appointed or elected by a group such as the Home and School Association or elected at an annual meeting. The process varies from one committee to another, and the procedure for appointing/electing members is not covered in the legislation.

Saskatchewan's education system provides for the existence of separate and Francophone boards of education. Under the Canadian Constitution and Section 17 of The Saskatchewan Act, separate school boards operated by the religious minority can be established. Legislation enacted in 1993 provided for the establishment of Francophone boards of education.

Boards of education receive funds from the provincial government; they also raise funds themselves through property taxes. Some boards receive a small portion of their revenue from tuition fees. On average, boards of education receive slightly less than one-half of their operating revenues from the provincial government. The general revenues of the province are used for this purpose, but it can be argued that some of the transfer payments from Ottawa (in addition to federal funds specifically designated for programs such as French language instruction) find their way into the grant payments to boards of education.

Boards of education levy their own property taxes to raise the additional money they consider necessary to finance their programs. Some school boards may offer modest programs in order to keep the local tax levy low. Others may opt for higher-cost programs and raise the tax levy accordingly. This is an essential feature of our system of school finance, because it confirms the responsibility of a board of education to make final decisions about program and costs and underlines the direct accountability of a board of education to the electors of the school division.

It is within the context of the governance and finance structure described above that the Task Force on Educational Governance began its work.

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Why Change?

Saskatchewan isn't the only jurisdiction that is reviewing and reforming educational governance. A number of other provinces and American states have undertaken similar programs. There are several reasons why changes in educational governance are occurring. These include:

It will also affect enrolment in provincially-funded K-12 schools. There is a growing trend in the Aboriginal community to educate children on reserves in band-controlled schools. This trend means declining enrolments for many provincial schools. Instead of offering a full K-12 program, some Indian bands purchase services from local provincial schools. This means that enrolments in provincial schools can fluctuate dramatically from year to year and that provincial schools must adapt program offerings in order to retain Aboriginal students.

The situation in northern Saskatchewan is dramatically different, with up to one-half of the residents of most northern communities 20 years of age or younger.

Saskatchewan's fastest growing communities are in the north and northwestern regions of the province. Statistics Canada data suggest that Saskatoon will experience the most significant growth. Other areas of growth will be the Lloydminster and Meadow Lake regions. If current trends continue, communities in the south will experience population loss.

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Trends in the Reform of Educational Governance

Across Canada and the U.S., a number of trends can be seen in educational governance. These trends are evident at both the provincial/state level and also at the school division level. These include:

Paradoxes Facing the Education System

The pressures of rising expectations, declining resources, shifting demographics and greater demands for local control have created three major paradoxes for education systems throughout North America. Saskatchewan, because of its ongoing rural depopulation, is experiencing more pressure from these paradoxes than many other jurisdictions.

  1. Systems need to be big and small at the same time. Economies of scale still apply -systems of sufficient size are still necessary to finance leadership initiatives, special services, and to avoid dependence on outside expertise.

    At the same time, systems and schools need to be small. Communities are demanding more autonomy. People want to identify with something that is close to them and to have a voice in the decisions that affect them. Small is more comfortable, more flexible and more likely to be innovative.

  2. Systems need to be centralized and decentralized at the same time. Centralization provides consistency and some efficiencies. However, decentralization is the best means of ensuring community support and creating a structure that is responsive to local needs.
  3. There is a desire to control all parts of the system and at the same time a recognition that central control is inappropriate. For example, a school division central office may have a preferred issue or program that is a low priority in a particular community. The local school community needs the autonomy to address local issues first so long as educational outcomes are achieved.

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The Process Used by the Task Force on Educational Governance

It is within the context of a rapidly changing world, characterized by demographic shifts, shrinking economies, changing communities and technological innovation that the Task Force on Educational Governance was established. Its establishment was reflective of a trend all over North America to examine and restructure educational governance to ensure continued compatibility with a changing social and economic environment.

The establishment of the Task Force was also reflective of a trend to restructure education from the "bottom up" rather than the "top down".

In the spring of 1992, the provincial government, acting on the advice of Saskatchewan communities and boards of education, set aside a report by Drs. Herve Langlois and Murray Scharf which called for major changes to the number and size of school divisions in Saskatchewan. In opposing the School Finance and Governance Review conducted by Drs. Langlois and Scharf, trustees argued that as populations and provincial resources for education have declined, boards of education have and will continue to adjust. For the most part, boards of education have handled these challenges well, and have done so from the "bottom up". Boards maintained that a governance structure imposed on boards from the "top down" would fail to recognize and learn from historical experience, and, to some degree, would show disregard for Saskatchewan citizens' confidence in and support for locally-elected and accountable boards of education.

Boards of education did agree, however, that the Review had served to spark new ideas about how public education might be more effectively delivered in Saskatchewan. With this in mind, delegates at the November, 1992, Saskatchewan School Trustees Association Convention passed a resolution which asked the Association:

1992 SSTA Convention Resolution

To seek the input and advice of its member boards of education and thereafter make recommendations to an annual Convention of the Association with respect to the appropriate number and size, in terms of geography and population, of school divisions required for the effective and efficient delivery of elementary and secondary education in the province.

In December, 1992, the SSTA Executive approved the establishment of a Task Force on Educational Governance to study the number and size of school divisions and make recommendations to the 1993 Convention of the Association.

Members of the Task Force were named by the Association's branches and by other participating agencies. Tom Mathieson (Humboldt Rural S.D.) was named Chairperson of the Task Force.

The Task Force held four two-day meetings. At each meeting, members were provided with background material relating to various aspects of school governance. A list of the meetings and the major activities undertaken at each appears below.

March 7-8, 1993

April 25-26, 1993

June 20-21, 1993

August 15-16, 1993

Throughout all of its discussions at all of its meetings, the Task Force emphasized that the time has come for a review of educational governance in Saskatchewan. The purpose of such a review should not be to maintain existing structures, but rather to restructure the education system so that it has the capacity to provide quality education for all children, both now and in the future. During its discussions, the Task Force also emphasized the need for a provincial vision for education. A provincial vision would ensure some level of consistency across the province and would facilitate the delivery of instruction and instructional materials via province-wide electronic networks.

In addition to meeting regularly, the Task Force undertook a number of activities intended to inform trustees about its progress and to obtain input from boards of education. These information gathering and sharing activities included:

At all of its meetings and in all of its communications with boards of education, the Task Force emphasized that these are times of change. The challenge is not to resist change, but rather to control it and shape it so that the children of this province are provided with the best education possible.

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The Foundations for Restructuring of Educational Governance

The Task Force on Educational Governance didn't start its work with a blank page. The historical evolution of the education system, past activities in relation to school governance and the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association's stated positions on a number of school governance issues all influenced the Task Force's deliberations.

Characteristics of the Education System

Some of the characteristics of the education system that have developed over the years are listed below. They provided a foundation for the deliberations of the Task Force.

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Principles

The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association has previously identified a number of principles that provided a framework for the Task Force's deliberations. These principles are fundamental to Saskatchewan's education system. The Task Force supported:

Values

At their first meeting, the members of the Task Force on Educational Governance identified some of the values upon which educational reform must be based. These values are identified below. These values guided the Task Force throughout its work and provided a test against which recommendations were evaluated. Task Force members asked themselves and each other whether particular recommendations or decisions were consistent with these fundamental values.

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Core Recommendations

Guiding Principles and Values

The first principle identified by the Task Force on Educational Governance was that all of its decisions would be based on the best interests of students. The first value identified was that students come first. This fundamental principle and basic value underlie the discussion and recommendations that follow concerning restructuring of educational governance. Saskatchewan's system of educational governance should ensure that all children, regardless of age, gender, ethnic or cultural background and socioeconomic status, are provided with appropriate educational opportunity and equality of educational benefits. School divisions should have sufficient fiscal, human and instructional resources to meet the changing and varied needs of the students for whose education they are responsible.

The Task Force on Educational Governance has identified a core of basic recommendations concerning educational governance that will facilitate effective delivery of services to students. Recommendations 1 to 7 that follow make up this core.

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School Division Size and Function

Saskatchewan's public education system has never been static. Several large-scale changes have occurred during the past 100 years and small-scale change occurs almost continuously. These large and small changes have been the result of changing needs of children, families and communities, of new knowledge about the nature of quality education, and of social and technological change.

The past decade has been one of great change. Declining enrolments, population shifts, a shrinking economy and technological developments have been the major components of that change. The time has come to restructure the education system to reflect the realities of the 1990s and of the new millennium that will soon be upon us. That restructured system must be built upon the best of what we have already - autonomous boards of education committed to children. However, declining enrolments, the shrinking economy and growing expectations mean that in the end it will be necessary to spend less money on administration and more on the educational program and direct services to students. Larger school divisions would be one means through which this objective might be accomplished.

Larger school divisions would prepare Saskatchewan's education system for the needs of the future as well as responding to the imperatives of the present. Saskatchewan's school-age population will continue to decline, particularly in rural areas and in the southern part of the province. A school division that has 5,000 students in 1993 may have only 4,000 in the year 2003. By recognizing this reality and preparing for it, school divisions will be taking an important step toward ensuring quality education for the next generation of Saskatchewan students.

Larger school divisions would create the capacity to ensure that the majority of students can achieve outcomes of the highest standards in the 1990s. Larger school divisions would have larger overall budgets and thus greater financial and programming flexibility. Local decision-making would, of course, determine the types of benefits that students might receive as a result of this greater flexibility. Some potential outcomes might include:

If several existing school divisions were amalgamated into one larger school division, some financial savings could be realized. Although these savings would not be great, they nevertheless could have considerable impact on the lives of children and youth if reallocated into the educational program. For example, if three existing boards of education were combined into one, the number of board members would be reduced from 15 to 30, to five to nine. This would result in reduced costs for meetings, travel and honoraria for trustees. If the entire province were considered, and if it were assumed that there might be several hundred fewer members, total savings might exceed one million dollars. While the remaining trustees might have to assume extra responsibilities and do additional travel, the savings would still be noticeable.

Similarly there would be a reduction in the number of division-level senior administrators, program consultants and secretarial staff. The potential savings are very difficult to determine, but if for each of the proposed new 35 school divisions there were two fewer senior administrative positions and two fewer secretarial or clerk positions, the reduction in administrative salaries alone would be about five million dollars. There may also be some additional savings in the restructuring of program support and maintenance staff positions.

Services such as student transportation might also be provided more efficiently. The student transportation systems operated by several present school divisions could be combined into a single, larger system. Benefits would result from improved utilization of the present capital investment in facilities and vehicles and, perhaps, from lower operating costs. Some amalgamation of routes may be possible and there is potential for improved service for children who are bused within the division. If a two percent saving resulted from restructuring, the overall provincial benefit would be about 1.2 million dollars.

Some further financial benefits would result through the closure and sale of school division offices. The facilities maintenance and operating expenditures saved by amalgamation may offset a substantial portion of the anticipated increase in staff travel costs that will be incurred by larger school divisions.

Clearly, there is some direct financial benefit from school division restructuring. The seven to eight million dollars saved on administrative expenses could be used to strengthen the educational program. This money might be used to hire teachers with specialized training, to pay for resource materials, to purchase the hardware needed for distance education or to transport students with special needs to a school where an appropriate program is being offered.

Technology has become increasingly important in the delivery of educational services. Computer-aided and distance education have great potential to enrich, enhance and supplement classroom instruction. Larger school divisions would be better able to afford the sophisticated technology associated with distance education and might promote networking among schools by removing administrative barriers.

The Task Force on Educational Governance approached the question of school division size from several perspectives. When the relationship between school division administrative expenses and size was reviewed, it was apparent that the greatest potential administrative efficiencies are achieved at a minimum size of 2,500 students. Figure 2 illustrates administrative expenditures in relation to numbers of students. It should be cautioned that the figure is based on board of education reports to the Department of Education, Training and Employment and there are variations in the expenditures reported by individual boards.

As well, the Task Force considered school enrolments and reviewed distances necessary to achieve minimum division enrolments of 2,500 to 5,000. It quickly became apparent that in some parts of the province and especially those areas around the smaller urban centres, this size of school division would be easily achieved. In other parts of the province, particularly in the Southwest and North, the minimum of 2,500 might be too great. Consequently, the Task Force adopted the view that flexibility must be allowed in determining the size of school divisions. For the most part, school divisions of about 3,500 students can be established without requiring unreasonable travel on the part of division staff and within a reasonable geographic area so that a sense of community is retained within the division. As well, this size of school division will provide a cushion for the anticipated continued decline in enrolments in the years ahead.

A further consideration, resulting in determination of the proposed number of school divisions, focused on the number of students presently enroled in Saskatchewan schools. Table 1 shows the number of students by school division at the present time and under the proposed restructuring. The minimum numbers of 2,500 to 5,000 bracket the 3,500 student average resulting from the establishment of 35 new public school divisions encompassing the existing 73 rural, 10 small urban, two large urban, four comprehensive and three northern public school divisions.

Geography may also be a factor in determining the size of school divisions. The location of a few existing school divisions may be such that joining forces with other school divisions is impractical. As well, natural and constructed geographical features such as rivers, lakes, community pastures and roads may play a role in determining boundaries.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #1:

There be approximately 35 public school divisions in Saskatchewan, each with a minimum enrolment of between 2,500 and 5,000 students, in most cases.


School divisions should continue to be governed by boards of education. The existence of elected boards of education with taxation power is one of the cornerstones of Saskatchewan's system of educational governance. This governance structure was reaffirmed as a basic principle early during the deliberations of the Task Force on Educational Governance.

Boards of education between five and nine members are probably the most effective. They would be large enough so that some diversity of opinion is possible, but small enough for efficiency. An odd number of members would ensure that deadlocks do not occur when the board votes on issues.

Indian bands often buy services from school divisions and the legislation specifies that an Indian reserve can be designated as a subdivision of a board of education. When a reserve is designated as a subdivision, the legislation specifies that it can elect a member to the board. The question arises, then, as to whether the five to nine member guideline for boards of education should be inclusive or exclusive of Indian band representation. This is a significant issue for boards of education with two or more Indian reserve subdivisions and an issue that will have to be addressed as the legislation relating to educational governance is drafted.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #2:

Each public school division be governed by an elected board of education consisting of between five and nine members.


Larger school divisions would mean that all school divisions could be full-service divisions offering K-12 education and a range of special programs.

Presently, this isn't the case. There are great variations in the type and level of services that boards of education provide. Some offer K-12 education and a variety of special programs. Others offer only K-12 programming, or K-8 programming and purchase high school or special education programs from another school division. Some school divisions do a great deal of original curriculum development, while others do little. The level of special services such as counselling and speech therapy also varies greatly from one division to another.

There are a few school divisions in the province that do not operate any schools. All of these children are bused to another school division. These school divisions buy all of the services that they need. When a school division buys all of its educational services or all high school services, parents lose the opportunity for local control. Because they don't live in the jurisdiction providing the services, they cannot participate in the meetings of local school advisory committees or vote in elections for district boards of trustees. They can pressure their board of education to influence the board providing the services, but this is a very indirect type of parental involvement.


Recommendation #3:

All public school divisions in Saskatchewan be full-service divisions with the capacity to offer K-12 programming and the special services required by the student population.


The duties of the board of education involve both educational outcomes and system operations. The board is responsible for ensuring that all children receive the education they need to function effectively in the world of tomorrow and to contribute positively to society. The board is also responsible for establishing and maintaining administrative structures that will facilitate the delivery of educational programming.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #4:

Boards of education be responsible for educational outcomes such as:

and for system operations such as:


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School-Level Governance

Families want to have a say in the education their children receive. They are concerned about overall policies, but also about the day-to-day details of their child's educational experience. Taxpayers, too, want to have input. Many taxpayers are concerned both about educational quality and about the level of local taxation. Presently, at the division level, citizens have input to educational governance through boards of education. At the local level, they have input through district boards in rural areas and local school advisory committees in urban areas.

The process used to elect members of district boards differs from the process used to determine members of local school advisory committees. Members of district boards are elected by the public. There is no systematic process for determining members of local school advisory committees. In some places they are selected by the principal, in others elected by a body such as the Home and School Association or elected at an annual meeting.

In theory, division boards of education are fiscal, policy-setting bodies; district boards provide advice about day-to-day operations of schools. In practice, there is little consistency across the province. For example, in one school division the board of education may determine bus routes, in another the district board. In other school divisions, staff such as the director of education or the school principal deal with bus routes and policy-makers do not address this issue at all.

In some divisions, the division board deals with day-to-day aspects of school administration, while in others, this is completely the responsibility of the district board. The Task Force on Educational Governance recognizes the need for flexibility to respond to local needs but also recognizes that there is a need for a consistent basic division of responsibilities between division-level and local-level governance structures.

The issue of local control is made more complicated by the existence of local school advisory committees in urban areas. Local school advisory committees do not exactly parallel district boards. The members of school advisory committees are appointed/elected through a different process. In urban areas, there is provision for one local school advisory committee for each school. In rural areas, there may be more than one school within the boundaries of a district board. Moreover, the responsibilities of the local school advisory committee vary from one school to another. It depends very much on board of education policy, the views of the school principal, and the interests and assertiveness of the members of the local school advisory committee.

The establishment of new larger school divisions would almost certainly affect the division of responsibilities. A board that administers 20 schools will find it much harder to deal with the day-to-day aspects of school operation than a board that administers five or six schools.

There is no particular reason why the structure used for local representation should differ between urban and rural areas. The differences which presently exist developed as a result of evolution, not as the result of planned, deliberate decisions. Any changes which occur should bring about greater consistency across the province, not perpetuate the present differences.

In order to provide for local input and local decision-making, local governance structures should be established that are:

The Task Force on Educational Governance considered the exact nature of these school-level governance bodies and the division of duties between them and boards of education at some length. However, it was decided that provision should be made for additional input and discussion. The Task Force determined that school-level governance bodies should have the characteristics outlined above but left matters such as specific duties, composition and election of members for further consideration.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #5:

In both rural and urban school divisions, elected school-level governance bodies be established for each school to provide for local control and local decision-making.


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Boards of Education Near Urban Areas

The distinction between urban and rural is gradually blurring. For example, many families who live in the "donut" around larger urban centres travel into the city for work, shopping and entertainment. Parents who drive to work in the cities sometimes bring their children with them to attend school. The existing school division boundaries often do not reflect these realities of life today. In some cases, school divisions which include some urban and some rural areas might more accurately reflect the organization of local communities than does the present structure which often features a central urban school division surrounded by rural divisions.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #6:

Existing public school divisions in and near urban areas be restructured to reflect contemporary work, trading and school attendance patterns.


In order to provide stability and financial predictability for the present and future needs of their students, boards of education need to know what their budget will be from year to year. Knowing the approximate amount of money they will have to spend allows a board of education to commit itself to special programs, to the construction or renovation of facilities, to cooperative programs with other agencies and to the purchase of equipment for delivery of distance education. All of these are medium- to long-term commitments.

In order to provide financial stability for school divisions located near urban areas, provincial grant recognition should go to the school division where a student lives, not to the school division where the student attends school. For example, if a student who lives in a rural school division near a city decides to go to school in the city, the rural school division would get the grant recognition, not the city school division. It would be necessary for the school division in which the student lives and the division in which s/he attends school to work out a tuition agreement. If this cannot be arranged, the parents would have to pay tuition directly to the school division in which their child attends school. This issue may be less of a concern in the future than it is presently.

The restructuring of school governance proposed by the Task Force would allow all school divisions to become full-service divisions and thus would reduce the need for students to attend school outside of their home division.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #7:

When a student attends school in a school division other than the one in which s/he lives, provincial grant recognition should go to the school division in which the student lives.


Supporting Recommendations

In addition to the seven core recommendations presented in the previous section of this report, the Task Force on Educational Governance identified five supporting recommendations. These supporting recommendations refine, clarify and enhance the restructured system of educational governance proposed by the Task Force. These recommendations appear below.

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A Ward System

With the introduction of larger boards, responsiveness becomes a concern. Boards must be structured so that members are accessible to electors, parents and community members and so that members are aware of the concerns of those they represent. Moreover, running for membership on the board of education should be a realistic option for all individuals who are interested. It should not be necessary to have the funds to finance a large or elaborate campaign. A ward system would provide for responsiveness and also ensure that large, expensive election campaigns do not become necessary.

A ward system for election purposes is particularly important in light of Recommendation #6 that has the potential to combine rural and urban school divisions. Without wards, it would be difficult for an individual from the rural, less densely populated areas of a division to be elected to the board of education.

The ward system should be established in all school divisions in the province including separate school divisions and Francophone conseils scolaires. The only exception would be those school divisions that have only one school.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #8:

Wards be established for election purposes in all of the school divisions in Saskatchewan operating more than one school.


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Interagency Cooperation

Boards of education are single-purpose institutions. They exist for the purpose of educating children. They should retain this essential characteristic in a restructured system of educational governance. They shouldn't be merged with, for example, health boards, social service boards or recreation boards. However, this is not to say that there shouldn't be a high degree of cooperation between the agencies that serve children and families in a particular community.

Increasingly, as budget dollars shrink and the need grows, agencies are recognizing the value of cooperating to offer services in an integrated manner. Cooperation between the K-12 and adult education systems might result in the school becoming a centre of learning for adults as well as children - the location of a whole range of professional, academic and special interest programs for adults. Cooperation between the K-12 system and daycare providers, Saskatchewan Social Services and other agencies that serve young children might result in the school being a centre for early childhood programming. Interagency cooperation might result in joint projects between the school and health, social service or community agencies to meet the needs of children who are hungry, experiencing health or emotional problems, or involved with the juvenile justice system.

"Children First", Saskatchewan's Action Plan for Children, released in July 1993, strongly emphasized that effective, coordinated approaches among individuals, governments, organizations and communities are essential if we are to improve and promote the well-being of all Saskatchewan children.1

Presently, some of the barriers that prevent government organizations from cooperating fully result from their legislative mandates. A review of the present legislation is needed in order to identify those sections which should be rewritten to make them enabling rather than restrictive.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #9:

Boards of education, while retaining their single-purpose nature, provide leadership to facilitate cooperation with community organizations in order to make the school the centre of a learning community and to ensure that children and families receive necessary social, health and justice services.


and that:


Recommendation #10:

The existing legislation relating to organizational mandates be reviewed and rewritten as necessary to make it enabling rather than restrictive and thus supportive of interagency cooperation.


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School Size

When the issue of changes in school division boundaries or amalgamation of school divisions arises, many people immediately begin talking about school closure or amalgamation of schools. There is a tendency to equate the two. This isn't necessarily the case. It is the view of the Task Force that they are two separate issues.

School boards are primarily policy-setting, fiscal bodies, not direct providers of instruction. There is no direct relationship between size of school governance region and size of school. Restructuring of governance regions wouldn't necessarily lead to school closures and/or amalgamation, except in border areas where two schools offering very similar services are located very close together. School size and distance between schools should continue to be dictated by factors relating to quality and breadth of school program and student well-being (such as busing distances) in addition to financial considerations.

Restructuring of school division boundaries would give school divisions more options, particularly in regard to secondary education. It could allow amalgamation of high schools (assuming that busing distances were reasonable) so that schools could offer a more varied program. It would also create the potential for greater flexibility. For example, students might take most of their classes at the school nearest their home, but travel one day a week to another school for special programming.

The members of the Task Force on Educational Governance strongly agreed that their mandate did not include setting guidelines concerning number and size of schools, or number of students, teachers and programs in individual schools. This type of decision-making is clearly the responsibility of individual boards of education. When making decisions about school size, boards of education should consider educational program, type of school (elementary or high school), geography and population distribution (which influence both number of students and busing distances), and local trading patterns.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #11:

Decisions concerning number and size of schools, and numbers of students, teachers and programs in specific schools be clearly identified as the responsibility of individual boards of education.


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The Role of Technology in Education

Distance education is becoming an important means of program delivery as enrolments decline and rural populations become less dense. Distance education delivered via printed pages, interactive video, computer, telephone or other present or future technology has great potential to support rural education. Used alone, it can provide course options or enrichment that would not be otherwise possible. Used in conjunction with on-site tutoring or instruction from a qualified teacher, it can provide students with a program that has both depth and variety.

Stronger provincial coordination is needed to ensure that distance education is provided in the most cost-effective manner and that the programs available are both educationally relevant and interesting to students. Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment should be providing leadership and coordination and establishing systems and structures that will facilitate participation by all boards of education in a coordinated provincial system. One aspect of that leadership relates to consciously designing a system that will meet the needs of boards of education, teachers and students. Another aspect is making decisions about hardware, so that boards of education can purchase equipment compatible with that used throughout the province.

Compatibility of hardware and software is important because it:

The educational value of any distance education program is determined by the program itself - the information presented, the method of presentation, the artwork, narrative and photography - not by the means used to deliver the program. The educational community, under the leadership of Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, should be responsible for designing and/or selecting the programming to be delivered via distance education. The role of delivery agencies such as Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN) and SaskTel should be limited to the technical and administrative aspects of program delivery.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #12:

Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment play a strong leadership and coordination role in regard to distance education in order that the full educational potential of this medium might be realized, that rural educational opportunities might be enhanced and that maximum financial efficiencies might be achieved.


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Implementing a Restructuring of Educational Governance

Determining the Boundaries

Many factors will enter into decisions about the location of school division boundaries. These include trading patterns, natural geography, location of highways, location of existing school division offices, location of existing schools and the wishes of local citizens. The boundaries of other agencies, such as health districts and Saskatchewan Social Services, that provide services to children and families are also a consideration. In keeping with the principles of local input and grassroots control, decisions about school division boundaries should be made only after full consultation with those affected. The Task Force on Educational Governance did not have the time, resources or mandate to enter into such extensive consultations, but a special task force on school division boundaries would. Such a boundaries task force should meet with all of the public boards of education in Saskatchewan and with a representative sampling of local school advisory committees and district boards of trustees. It should provide opportunities for all citizens to have input, perhaps by holding public meetings and by asking for submissions. It might also consult with some of the partners in education in this province including the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, the universities, and with other interested bodies such as municipal governments.

The Task Force on School Division Boundaries should be funded by the provincial government but administered by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. Its chairperson should be someone who is knowledgeable about education and is known for fairness and impartiality. Members should be drawn primarily from the boards of education represented by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. Members should be representative of urban and rural, large and small boards of education and of the other educational partners.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #13:

A Task Force on School Division Boundaries be established by Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, under the direction of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, and that this Task Force's terms of reference include providing for input from concerned educational organizations and members of the public.


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Implementation of the Recommendations

Determining the location of school division boundaries is just the first step in implementing a change in governance. Even after the new boundaries have been identified, many other issues must be addressed. These include:

An implementation committee could assist boards of education to deal with these issues. Such a committee could provide advice and direction to boards of education by preparing case studies of school divisions that have amalgamated in Saskatchewan and elsewhere, by researching the literature to identify appropriate options, by consulting with those affected, and by conducting an active communications program with boards of education.

The implementation committee should be funded by the provincial government but administered by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. Its membership should be drawn from the boards of education represented by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association. The funds allocated to the project should be adequate to support the hiring or seconding of one or two people to serve as researchers/writers.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #14:

An Implementation Committee be established by Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, under the direction of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, to provide advice and direction to boards of education in order to assist them to smoothly implement the proposed system of governance.


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Establishment of School-Level Governance Bodies

In Recommendation #5, the Task Force on Educational Governance recommended that elected school-level governance bodies be established throughout the province. The exact nature of these bodies, their basic duties and the method by which they are elected must still be determined.

A School-Level Governance Committee might be established to gather input from large and small, urban and rural boards of education on these matters and to make further recommendations. It is important that the structure created provide for consistency across the province but also allow some measure of local flexibility. The School-Level Governance Committee should be made up of representatives of urban and rural boards of education, existing local school advisory committees, existing district boards of trustees, Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation and the League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents.

Therefore, the Task Force on Educational Governance has determined that:


Recommendation #15:

A School-Level Governance Committee be established by Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, under the direction of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, to gather additional data and make recommendations about the structure, duties and method of election of school-level governance bodies.


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Summary of Recommendations

Core Recommendations

Recommendation #1:

There be approximately 35 public school divisions in Saskatchewan, each with a minimum enrolment of between 2,500 and 5,000 students, in most cases.

Recommendation #2:

Each public school division be governed by an elected board of education consisting of between five and nine members.

Recommendation #3:

All public school divisions in Saskatchewan be full-service divisions with the capacity to offer K-12 programming and the special services required by the student population.

Recommendation #4:

Boards of education be responsible for educational outcomes such as:

Recommendation #5:

In both rural and urban school divisions, elected school-level governance bodies be established for each school to provide for local control and local decision-making.

Recommendation #6:

Existing public school divisions in and near urban areas be restructured to reflect contemporary work, trading and school attendance patterns.

Recommendation #7:

When a student attends school in a school division other than the one in which s/he lives, provincial grant recognition should go to the school division in which the student lives.

Supporting Recommendations

Recommendation #8:

Wards be established for election purposes in all of the school divisions in Saskatchewan operating more than one school.

Recommendation #9:

Boards of education, while retaining their single-purpose nature, provide leadership to facilitate cooperation with community organizations in order to make the school the centre of a learning community and to ensure that children and families receive necessary social, health and justice services.

Recommendation #10:

The existing legislation relating to organizational mandates be reviewed and rewritten as necessary to make it enabling rather than restrictive and thus supportive of interagency cooperation.

Recommendation #11:

Decisions concerning number and size of schools, and numbers of students, teachers and programs in specific schools be clearly identified as the responsibility of individual boards of education.

Recommendation #12:

Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment play a strong leadership and coordination role in regard to distance education in order that the full educational potential of this medium might be realized, that rural educational opportunities might be enhanced and that maximum financial efficiencies might be achieved.

Implementation Recommendations

Recommendation #13:

A Task Force on School Division Boundaries be established by Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, under the direction of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, and that this Task Force's terms of reference include providing for input from concerned educational organizations and members of the public.

Recommendation #14:

An Implementation Committee be established by Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, under the direction of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, to provide advice and direction to boards of education in order to assist them to smoothly implement the proposed system of governance.

Recommendation #15:

A School-Level Governance Committee be established by Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, under the direction of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, to gather additional data and make recommendations about the structure, duties and method of election of school-level governance bodies.

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Sources

1.	Statistics re operating grant from Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.

2.	Data concerning demographic trends from:

	Economic review.  (1990).  Regina, SK:  Saskatchewan Bureau of Statistics.

	Population projections for Canada, provinces and territories, 1989-2011.  Statistics Canada 91-520, Projection #3.

	Loh, S.  (1990).  Population projections for Registered Indians 1986-2011.  Ottawa, ON:  Statistics Canada for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.  

	Native population projections, 1986-2011.  Ottawa, ON:  QASR, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

	Choices:  Preserving the Saskatchewan way of life.  (1991).  Regina, SK:  Saskatchewan Finance.

	Horsman, K.  (1991).  Teacher supply and demand study.  Regina, SK:  Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.

	Saskatchewan Bureau of Statistics.

	SHSP Covered Population.

3.	Data concerning communities from:

	Saskatchewan demographic, economic and labour market overview.  (1989).  Regina, SK:  Employment and Immigration Canada and Saskatchewan Education.

	Leading the way:  A blueprint for Saskatchewan:  Final report of Consensus Saskatchewan.  (1990).  Regina, SK:  Consensus Saskatchewan.

4.	Stabler, J. C.  (1991).  A current perspective on agricultural, rural and small-town economies in Saskatchewan.  Saskatoon, SK:  University of Saskatchewan.

5.	Schweir, R., Brown, B., Misanchuk, E., Proctor, L.  (1992).  Interactive media and distance education for Saskatchewan Schools.  Regina, SK:  Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.  (SSTA Research Centre Report #92-06.)

	No distance is too great:  Report of the Minister's Advisory Committee on K-12 Distance Education.  (1992).  Regina, SK:  Minister of Education's Advisory Committee on K-12 Distance Education.

6.	Information on trends in educational governance from:

	Danzberger, J. J. P.; Kirst, M. M. W.; Usdan, M., M. D.  (1992).  Governing public schools:  New times, new requirements.  Washington, DC:  The Institute for Educational Leadership.

	Facing the challenge:  The report of the Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on School Governance.  (1992).  New York, NY:  The Twentieth Century Fund Press.

	Query:  Should mammoth school districts be split?  (1992).  The American School Board Journal, 180(3), 56.

	Chubb, J. E., and Moe, T. M.  (1990).  Politics, markets and America's schools.  Washington, DC:  The Brookings Institution.

	Integrated school-based services:  Building a community for learning.  (1992).  Regina, SK:  Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.

7.	Handy, C.  (1992).  Balancing corporate power:  The new federalist.  Harvard Business Review, November-December, 59-72.

8.	Langlois, H. O., and Scharf, M. P.  (1991).  School finance and governance review:  Final report.  Regina, SK:  Saskatchewan Education.

9.	Graph developed by Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.

10.	Present enrolment figures - Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment.  Future enrolment figures - Saskatchewan School Trustees Association.

11.	Children first:  An invitation to work together:  Creating Saskatchewan's action plan for children.  (1993).  Regina, SK:  Government of Saskatchewan.

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