School board changes policy without input When school board trustees for the Howe Sound School district went on a retreat to Brew Creek Lodge before Christmas they sat down and re-evaluated the district's mission statement and objectives. The basis for policy direction and philosophical guidance throughout the school district, the mission statement outlines six supporting beliefs, values and guiding principles and 10 district objectives. The directions outlined in the supporting beliefs include two items which say the school district believes in: "consulting the parents and the community," and "fostering the development of partnerships in education with parents, business, industry and the community." The policy changes were examined and passed at a Dec. 14 meeting of the school board and that has a local member of the District Parent Advisory Council a bit worried about the lack of public input into the changes. Fran Cuthbert of the District Parent Advisory Council, says if public input was lacking in changing policy that sets guidelines for public input, something is wrong. "If this is a mission statement on the beliefs and goals for the school district then we all should have had some input into them," says Cuthbert. "Who is the school district? Is it the superintendent and nine trustees or is it students, parents, staff and the board as a whole?" According to Cuthbert, any new or re-written policy has to go through a "policy impact process" which has the trustees give the policy changes two readings at the board table before going through a public input process. "If these are changes to district policy, why was the policy impact process circumvented?" Cuthbert asks. "There's no accountability here as they seem to break their own rules in not following public policy impact process." Don Wilson, chair of the Howe Sound School District board of trustees, says the changes were made after an all-day board meeting and trustees were unanimous on the decision. Wilson says the mission statement is designed to let people know how the board intends to operate and if they "inadvertently violated" any policy process that was not the intent. "Our intent is to clarify the previous mission statement to make it clear that there is to be public input in any process we have," Wilson says. "There was no intent to try and pull the wool over anyone's eyes." Wilson says if parents in the district feel they have been circumvented by the changes to the mission statement, they will be allowed to have a say. "It may be that we have to go through a public process and if that is the way it is, so be it, we'll do it," Wilson says.