Vancouver’s District Parents’ Advisory Council is expanding the democratic function of the council. Over the past several years the council has had a difficult time finding active parent volunteers to fill all 12 spaces on the council. The problem seems to be that despite active Parent Advisory Councils in most Vancouver schools, there is not a corresponding interest in participating at the District level. As a parent who has been involved at the District level for several years I can completely understand the sense of futility that can sometimes emerge.
[Read proposed bylaw change here.]
The district committees and structures are time intensive and extremely bureaucratic in nature. Whereas at the local school I have always felt a sense of connection to the process, at the district level there are often major barriers placed -often unintentional – in front of parental involvement. Nonetheless, parent volunteers are asked to sit on committees that often meet several times a month, last from a two to five hours at a time, and very often occur over the diner hour or other times that make if difficult to be a caring parent and an effective volunteer.
Then there is the feeling that one gets that unless a parent agrees with management or trustees they are not ‘on board,’ or that they have ‘an agenda.’ Despite the ideology of debate and discussion the reality of it is that the politicians and the professionals in charge want parents to side with them as though we don’t have a thought in of our own; unless we come up with the same opinion that they do. Then we are presented as being brilliant, caring parents.
Despite all of that there are still many parents who step up and offer their time, energy, and good work. In addition to the six parents currently on the District Parents Advisory Council executive there are another dozen or so volunteering as parent reps on special advisory committees from modern languages, first nations, race relations, special education, gifted education, educational facilities review steering committee, and many more.
As a parent volunteer each of us on the DPAC participates in one of the five standing committees of the board where it is our obligation and responsibility to try and effectively represent the voices of as many parents as possible. As parents we come from a variety of social and ethnic backgrounds. We are working people living in all areas of this city. We are parents of children with special education needs. We are parents or ‘normal’ children. We are parents who have made a commitment to participate in the democratic processes of our children’s education. We hope that the changes we are proposing for electing representative to the DPAC executive will add more people, more diversity, more perspectives to our council and, ultimately that this will make our capacity to represent parents at the Board of Education even stronger and more durable than it already is.