Posted by: kbater | January 13, 2011

Community Education Network – Identity and belonging

IHM - Community Forum

Last night was the 1st meeting of Canadian Rockies Public Schools new Community Education Network.  42 people attended (students, school council members, staff, admin, trustees, Town council members, and community members) and together we explored ideas around a community approach to public education.  We had a presentation from Dr. Keith Seel – Director of the Institute for Non-Profit Studies at Mount Royal University.  Keith looked at ideas around three areas of governance:

Fiduciary – the laws and policies, running the operation, being accountable
Strategic – determine where we want to go and how we will move forward, being responsible
Generative –  asking the questions, creating the meaning, doing the thinking, bringing life to the work

Keith also made it clear that we are in a transformational time with Minister Hancock’s work in Inspiring Education and Action and with the re-write of the School Act.

We have an unprecidented opportunity to move forward and change our approach to education.  One key change could be that we shift the work of governance from just the Board of Trustees of the School district to a community approach where students, staff, parents, and community members all inform direction-setting in the district.  I wrote a blog about this approach during the election this fall.

Another interesting idea that Keith talked about was how important it is to create a clear identity so that you know which are the right opportunities to pursue amongst the many that present themselves.  In this time of change CRPS will need to be clear about who we are and which opportunities to jump at and which to pass on.  This CEN process, like Inspiring Hearts and Minds is an opportunity to get clearer about who we are, what we believe in, and what we want to do.

The work of this Community Education Network will build off of the work we started in 2007 with our Inspiring Hearts and Minds process.  Last night we provided our 42 network members with an overview of that work and described what our intentions are with the CEN work.  Some key ideas are:

The Community Education Network could be involved in making sense of and influencing the direction for:
•School Calendars
•Community Connections (for Whole Community Approach)
•Broad Programming
•Wrap-around Services
•Schools as Hubs concept
•Student Engagement
•Communication within CRPS and between CRPS and parents/community
•CRPS as a learning organization
•Understanding and pursuing 21st century approaches to education
These items are not a part of the work of CEN at this point in time:
•Budget approval
•Appeals and hearings for students and staff
•Staffing positions or directing CRPS staff
Here is both the ASK and the PROMISE from the Board of Trustees to CEN:
•We ask you to bring all of yourself
•We promise to inform, consult, involve and collaborate
•We ask for ideas and feedback
•We promise to listen and respond
•We ask you to network
•We promise to co-create
Here is the thinking about the process of CEN and creating a community approach to education:
•We are exploring
•Exploring Possibilities, Sense-Making, Clarifying Direction to create informed action
•We don’t have all the answers
•We need to take time to struggle with big questions
•It’s complex so let’s not get seduced by simple answers
•It’s like we are learning to walk
•Risk-taking is important
•We want to be nudged (even pushed)
•Learning together is more powerful and productive
•We know that not everyone is here (yet)
The next meeting of CEN is March 17th.  Stay tuned more to come!

You can see the powerpoint of my CEN presentation Jan 12, 2011.



  1. I’m curious what kind of feedback/buy-in you received after the information was presented. Are people excited, timid, optimistic, interested??? Our board had an open community consultation this week. We only had 10 people come, but they were very engaged. One person commented to me that our board has only been using this approach for a couple years and it will take time to build a culture of engagement.

    • Hi Ruth – people were very engaged in the moment – the trick will be for the process to be meaningful over time to keep people engaged.

  2. […] (CEN). Kim Bater, board chair of CRPS,  has an excellent comprehensive account of that initiative on his blog. This has the potential to transform governance practice in our school district and embrace the […]

  3. Stay tuned for more CEN work and for how the district develops a process for looking at PD days. It will happen in public and parents, as well as teachers and students will be involved.


  4. […] We took a formal step towards generative governance in January of 2011 with the formation of the Community Education Network.  We decided that one way to learn about governance was to tackle a real life issue – school […]

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