Educate the school boards
Ineffective and underperforming school boards may force the National Council on Education (NCE) to require mandatory training for all chairpersons. This in an effort to avoid questionable decisions and to improve the operations of public educational institutions.
A baseline study conducted by the NCE has shown a worrying gap in the governance in some schools as boards underperform.
Merris Murray, executive director of the NCE, said its training programme is supported by an $8-million allocation, earmarked under the Education System Transformation Programme and money received from United Nations Children's Fund.
But at present the training is voluntary.
"We just did a baseline survey on the status of effective governance and it has identified a governance gap. There is a gap in governance, particularly at the board level, and we need to do more work with the school boards in getting them to understand their roles," stated Murray.
boards must lead
According Murray, although difficult, school boards must take the lead roles in ensuring positive student outcomes in the institutions they lead.
"They (boards) need to understand what their roles are, and they should ensure that the learning environment must be student centred and that their actions ultimately impact, in a positive way, student outcomes," she declared.
Responding to questions from The Sunday Gleaner on the governance gap, Murray said based on the study, school boards were mostly underplaying their roles rather than overstepping.
That situation played out mostly "with strong principals and weak board chairpersons, as well as weak principals and strong chair persons".
Several glaring gaffes in recent months have turned the spotlight on school boards which have acted contrary to the Code of Regulations governing the running of public institutions.
In one instance, a school did not exercise its responsibilities under the Education Regulations to take action against a teacher who was convicted for a sex offence.
Following the conviction, the board then moved to dismiss the teacher, but there are questions that this was in breach of the disciplinary provisions of the Education Regulations.
Former Jamaica Teachers' Association president, Juno Gayle, acknowledged that some teachers were allowed to remain in the system because of inappropriate board actions, but Murray said the NCE was more concerned about the underperforming boards.
She told The Sunday Gleaner the time may have come for mandatory training.
"It is currently voluntary, but I think we might have to go that way and we have to develop tools so that we can evaluate effectiveness. Where modes are not effective, we may not want to recommend persons to serve on a continuous basis," she suggested.
While acknowledging constraints facing the NCE, Murray said it is now in a better position to offer training.
"We are now in a better position to train boards, not just board chairmen but all members, because of an allocation to support board training. At our training programme in March this year, all members of school boards in Trelawny and St Ann underwent training," said Murray as she noted that the NCE is also moving to decentralise to maximise the training.
"We have done training of trainers ... We have developed a handbook, we are also developing a training programme which is modular, and we have put together a videotape so that we can make available more material and information to school boards," Murray explained.
Training is scheduled for three of the education ministry's regions during September and October.