Changing Ottawa school councils to include all parents

A series of workshops in Ottawa on Saturday are reviewing the role of school councils, which are mandatory for all schools in Ontario.
Parents' input in their child's classroom is often the focus of debate, as it is on Saturday at Ottawa's Gloucester High School. (CBC)

A parent’s role in their child’s school is changing and it is more than just fundraising, according to education experts.

School councils are mandatory for each Ontario school, but their role can be somewhat inconsistent.

That is part of the discussion among about 100 parents who gathered at Gloucester High School in Ottawa Saturday for a school council training day.

The day features workshops on how to improve school councils with more debate on larger education issues, as well as a wider exchange of opinions.

The goal is to convince more parents to get involved in their child’s school so there is more input on constantly changing school.

“People will come out if it's something really interesting, something that's going to help them with their child,” said Susan Klimchuk, a veteran parent volunteer.

“[We can’t] just be talking about the bottom line.”

More than fundraising

Klimchuk, who chairs the umbrella group the Ottawa-Carleton Association of School Councils, said she thinks councils need to do more than just fundraise.

A more important role, she added, is to be advisors for principals.

Saturday’s conference on school councils features just one session on fundraising and the topics range from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s special education programs to helping children deal with stress.

Annie Kidder, who heads the advocacy group People for Education, said rules need to change.

She said they need to be clear that councils are liaisons for every parent, whether they are in the council or not.

“[Make] sure you have all the parents' emails, that there's a great website to go to, that parents feel part of the school,” she said.

The training day Saturday runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the high school, located at 2060 Ogilvie Rd.

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