Posted by: darcymullin | April 8, 2011

A New Kind of Conversation? I hope so.


A recent post by Chris Wejr discussing school choice and how it will only end up sustaining existing hierarchies got me thinking.  Like Chris, I am a BC educator and he really got me going and making some connections to some of the discussions we have been having in our district. 

Over the past two months our district, lead by Tom Schimmer (@tomschimmer) has been looking at reams of data and trying to make meaning of it.  The goal was to reflectively look at the direction we have been moving and decide if it still makes sense.  All stakeholders were invited and there was a good cross-section of voices in the group.  The only groups not at the table were parents and support staff (both were invited) – too bad their voices would have been valued.

We looked at all sorts of data, too much to list, but it ran the spectrum K-12.  What we found out wasn’t too surprising: our aboriginal students and behaviour students were the two groups most at risk for not completing high school.  The conversations that emerged were surprising; to me anyway.  As we talked about ways to support these students, it became clear that as a district we needed to invest in Early Learning. 

This suprised me, because in my experience $$ has always been thrown at where the problem is, not at its source.  Even the Secondary people were in agreement, knowing full well that it might mean less for them in the short term.  The long term benefits, if implemented properly, might ultimately mean less need for intervention, but those benefits could be 5-10 years down the road.  But rather than looking at our own needs, this committed group of educators looked at a problem holistically, with no agenda and make decisions based on the good of the system and not themselves.

I wonder if our new government in BC might think the same way, but based at @MrWejr’s post cited above, I am not hopeful.

Where to go from here?  Well, there are still lots of work to do.  Right now it is just an idea and vision – the mechanism still need to unfold.  Before anything happens, we need to roll it out to all the partner groups for critique.  The plan is to build a district plan that all stakeholders have had their hands on and their hearts in.

It could be amazing.  I’ll keep you posted.



  1. Thanks for continuing the conversation, Darcy. I commend your district for placing emphasis on early learning. The more stuff I read and the more time I spend at the elementary level, the more I feel that if we put more resources into early learning, many of the concerns may not arise later in our students’ lives.

    We have recently significantly increased our reading intervention and have seen great results as students are reading with much more confidence and feeling more like able learners in school (not on that ‘losing streak’). What I struggle with is that I feel we need MORE resources in the primary end but with such a tight budget, that would rob the intermediates of the support they need. What we are currently doing is working but it would be nice to have even more resources for the struggling learners (as well as those that need to be challenged).

    What I do know is that having students choose and move to a different school is not going to solve the problems that are in our current system. Lots of things to think about but I love the conversation!

    • Hi Chris, thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree I think the whole system benefits when we invest in early learning. The problem is waiting for the payoff when we are (sometimes) pushed for immediate results. I guess that is the folly of our system where elected officials controlling the purse strings and accountable to the taxpayers for results. That said, in spite of some of the worrisome ideologies (as you outlined in your post), I am cautiously optimistic with George Abbot as Minister of Ed. If he has the freedom to act, I think he will take the time to develop relationships between the stakeholders in our province and allow us all to move forward together…wouldn’t that be great?

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