Each election year, people speculate “will I be a good trustee”, “what is the role of a school board trustee” and “how much of my free time will I have to give up?”
The last question is difficult to answer, as it depends on each individual’s commitments. To say there is no work or time commitment would be a false statement. Being a trustee will not consume your life. Notwithstanding, a person has to be able to put some time into being an effective trustee. As with any student in school, trustees need to be willing to spend time to become informed and review the homework required to contribute during school board meetings. In MVSD, each trustee will have between 3-5 meetings a month, mainly in Dauphin; however, there are some meetings in our other communities as well.
Who should consider becoming a trustee? Everyone – individuals with young children just starting school, to grandparents. Effective trustees come from all walks of life, not just from the educational sector. However, all trustees share a couple common core values. Trustees are people who have a passion to serve youth and their communities, as well as a strong belief in the value of public schools. Additionally, other characteristics of a school trustee includes the ability to work as a member of a team, to maintain an open mind, to listen to varied opinions without prejudging their value, and to engage in give-and-take to arrive at a decision. Each trustee knows that authority rests with the board as a corporate body, not with individual trustees, and that they must work with their colleagues in order to achieve their goals. Sometimes those goals can take some time to come to fruition.
A truth which needs to be stated - trustees do not just represent the children in their ward. In actuality, school board trustees represent the children in the whole division and have to consider what is best for all children within the division. Sometimes this can be hard and difficult, especially when an appeal to the board may be a simple local request, but a vote one way or the other can have division-wide implications. It is not always easy to make those decisions.
Across Manitoba, each school board’s main focus is improving student achievement for all students, as they are our future. The students in our educational system today are the people who will determine if our communities remain viable. In addition, in constituencies with improved educational standards, the communities are thriving and the crime rate is reduced – a goal everyone shares.
In many rural communities, the school board may be one of the largest employers in the community, and each board works diligently to manage the funds received with communities’ desires. It can be a tricky balancing act at times as the wishes usually outweigh the available funds, but each trustee is a taxpayer in the community they serve, so any tax increase directly affects trustees also. Thus, each trustee is conscientious of the money spent.
Manitoba school boards have "duties", provincial directives that each board must ensure are followed, and "powers", concepts that school boards use to help impact students’ outcomes. It is the "powers" that trustees have the most control and influence over, where there can be a direct effect for local students. These powers can include bringing in different programs or courses for students, making sure learning expectations are high for all, making sure policies and resources are in place to achieve the expectations, and holding our educational system accountable for reaching student achievement goals.
Ultimately, the role of a school board trustee is to bring the needs of the local community to the local school board table where influence on local student outcomes can have the greatest impact.
Anyone considering running in the upcoming election can find more information under News and Announcements on MVSD’s website, https://www.mvsd.ca/apps/news/article/803568, or the Manitoba School Boards Association has a helpful information page at http://www.mbschoolboards.ca/elections2018.php. Nomination papers are available at the MVSD office in Dauphin or any municipal office. Submission of completed forms will take place from September 12-18 at the Division Office.