Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Wheel Turns But The Hamster Died Long Ago


You have to love it when politicians and overpaid bureaucrats waste your hard-earned money (and time) just in order to state the obvious.  Witness the case of the beleaguered Northland School Division.  In January 2010, then Education Minister Dave Hancock fired the entire board of trustees and placed them with on government-appointed trustee appointed by the government.  At the time, I felt this was long overdue.  It was obvious to anyone capable of drawing oxygen that the school board was a complete mess....too many bureaucrats, too much wasted money, deplorable staff housing conditions and most egregious off all of course, its utter failure (as witnessed by its abysmal provincial test scores) to do what it is supposed to do...namely, educate students.

After several rounds of consultation with its stake holders, a report was issues detailing a number of recommendations.  If memory serves me correctly it was something in the neighborhood of 24.  Twenty-four ways to help deal with the mess.   Rather than adopting all or even a few of them, Minister Hancock adopted a grand total of....one - the recommendation to hold further meetings and consultations.  Because if there's one thing politicians love it's talk....and by extension, all that resultant paperwork. At the time, Hancock justified this by saying that well, it's not my place to come in an act like a dictator and tell people what to do.  How is this consistent with arbitrarily firing the entire board of trustees?  Well, he didn't say.

Fast forward to 2013.  Nothing substantive had been accomplished in terms of improving student performance, something I touched base on early last year.  Hancock was history and Jeff Johnson was running the show.  Johnson loves his legislation apparently.  When I contacted him regarding why he had chosen to vote against allowing GSA's in Alberta schools, his response was that the proposal that would have allowed this was unnecessary because there is legislation (read more paperwork) in place to help deal with that.  For someone who seems to abhor critical thought, I found his love for reading and paperwork a bit odd, but I digress.

Fast forward to the end of last year.  Johnson is mercifully gone, having been shuffled into the seniors portfolio which seems appropriate given his geriatric thinking.  Now, we have Gordon Dirks.  To be fair,  I'm not too familiar with Dirks but I know he's been hot water in some quarters given a certain cosiness with right-wing religious groups.  Perhaps his solution will be to pray the problem away.

A couple years ago, the government quietly released a report stating that Northland needs to be rebuilt. So the government has now essentially wasted 5 years and who knows how much tax money to wind up with yet another report that changes need to be made.  And Albertans are cheering of course because we never could have figured out the obvious on our own without the sage council of politicians.  I know I've become rather cynical of politicians in recent years so forgive me if this looks more like an extended exercise in giving the APPEARANCE of taking action without actually DOING anything.  In the months to come I expect yet more wrangling over how to rebuild the boards, what recommendations of the report to put in to place, what ones not to put in place, how to set everything up, how to monitor it and so forth.  In other words, another ponderous make work project.  While I knew back then this would take time, I never would have guessed then that this all would have lasted through 3 different education ministers.  In the meantime, students at Northland School Division continue to fall behind.

It's all enough to make me want to open up the hamster cage and retrieve the furry creature.  It's obvious to all but politicians that it ossified long ago.



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