Bob Harris: Answers to DPAC Questions

DPAC questions emailed to trustee candidates October 28th, at 8:30pm. Answers received from Bob Harris October 29th.

  1.  What do you think is important to parents in the district?

I think that having access to a safe and caring school environment where there is a high standard in terms of behavioural expectations and where achievement in all its forms (academics, manual skills, citizenship, arts etc.) is promoted, recognized and rewarded are important features to parents in the district.

  1.  Why are you running for trustee?

I am running for trustee because as a retired teacher/counsellor with 35 years of experience at the Junior Secondary, Secondary and Post-Secondary levels and at both the local and provincial levels I have an abiding interest in the health and well-being of the public education system and a long-standing commitment to those it serves. As a retiree I retain the knowledge and the interest and now I have the time.

3.    What have you done to prepare yourself for the role of trustee?
Much of the work I have done as an educator has involved serving on bodies which formulate policy that has a direct impact on the opportunities from which students benefit. Creating environments that promote the likelihood that young people will develop into mature, caring and accomplished adults is worth the investment of time and energy and that is where I’ve chosen to spend my working life.

4.    How will you ensure that the schools in this district are safe and caring places for all students?
Drafting policies to ensure that schools are safe, caring places is important but it is only part of the solution. Another part involves molding the environment or the culture to make things like abuse or bullying a practice that is genuinely frowned upon and rejected by those within the culture. We have seen how this phenomenon has developed with regard to drinking and driving – I would suggest that young people are far more mature in dealing with the issue than was the case when I was growing up. In terms of schools, I have watched how effectively the leader groups (often unofficial) can influence the entire culture of the building by making it clear that they do not “take kindly” to those who make life miserable for others. I remember one particular moment when a couple of our respected senior students simply sat down with a younger student who was making life difficult for a new grade 8 boy. Without threat or bravado they simply explained, “We don’t do that at Kelly Road”. It proved far more effective and in many ways gentle than a more formalized approach might have been.

5.    How do you see your role as trustee in relation to the superintendent and staff?
As I understand it the Board has essentially one employee – the superintendent. As a result I see the Board as the body representing the interests of the public which elected them and the group which should give policy direction along with the Ministry to the superintendent and by extension the staff. I would certainly seek information from staff in their areas of expertise for the purpose of developing policy and providing direction.

6.    How will you demonstrate and communicate the accountability and transparency of the school board to parents and to the community?
I would hope to make Board meeting minutes widely available, limit in-camera sessions to an absolute minimum and invite parents and students to participate actively and frequently to ensure the system remains accountable.

7.    Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I can’t think of anything that I might add apart from an insightful quote I happened upon. Ghandi said “There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.” In my experience parents working positively with teachers can accomplish great things for students.

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