Teachers say no to local powers But board, PACs will go ahead without them By Chris Woodall "We are in the business of teaching," Howe Sound Teachers Association president Alex Miller says, explaining why site based management (the school board calls it "decentralization") is an unwanted thing. Site based management gives local schools — including the parents advisory committees — more say on how some portions of a school's budget will be spent. The teachers association, in a press release, says putting site based management in place was "a top-down directive. The decision has been made without meaningful consultation." The teachers association voted 90 per cent against supporting the initiative at its general meeting, Feb. 26. The Howe Sound School Board announced plans to pursue decentralization earlier in February. "It's just a way to off-load unpopular decisions," Miller says. On top of that, teachers say decentralization will end up piling on more hours of work, or replace teaching time with time to manage the program. "We feel strongly that we are already providing an excellent service to the students and are not prepared to engage in change which, due to the considerable increase in our work load site based management will require, may well lead to a reduction of that service," Miller says. "Site-based management is just that: a management function," Miller says. "It does not focus on learning and indeed, no research has been produced to indicate any improvement to student learning." The association would rather the school board pressure the province to fund all schools adequately, instead of allowing "school blocks" of funding to be manipulated one way or another with added money coming from fund-raising by local PACs. The problem is that some schools may have wealthier neighbourhoods to draw money from, Miller says. "The entrepreneur way leads to inequalities among schools," he says. Mike Fitzpatrick doesn't agree. The Howe Sound School Board superintendent is a big supporter of the entrepreneurial spirit and believes decentralization encourages innovation and empowerment at the local level. "The idea is to give more freedom to the parents advisory groups," Fitzpatrick says. "Most PACs are quite excited to do it. "It's a problem with this district," he says. "Too often (dissenting groups) try to bring everyone down to a certain level. We're trying to bring everyone up to a level. "If someone is doing something unique and is really gung-ho, we want to celebrate those successes," Fitzpatrick says. Schools that have more students from disadvantaged families, or schools with special needs, will see the over-all school board budget adjusted to reflect those needs, Fitzpatrick says arguing against the "inequality" position. "It is disappointing that the teachers have decided to opt out," the school superintendent says. "We could use their expertise, but our principals are well trained and can carry it through."