This blog post is part of our series on leadership and governance
A friend of mine served for many years as a school trustee. It seemed a thankless job: she fielded phone calls from angry and sometimes desperate parents, sat through endless graduation ceremonies, attended board meetings that dragged on way past midnight, and wrestled year after year with budgets that were stretched too thin. This is, to a large extent, the work that puts the “public” in public school – but not everyone is convinced it’s an important or even functional way to ensure public oversight. New Brunswick overhauled school board governance 15 years ago; Quebec is on the verge of dramatically altering school boards and school board elections (discussed in depth in our French articles); and after the recent implosion of the Toronto District “megaboard,” a National Post feature asked whether our school boards have been amalgamated until they are “too big to succeed.”
For this issue of Education Canada, themed Governance and Leadership, we look at what makes for truly effective governance and also explore emerging trends in educational leadership.
As Kenneth Leithwood and Catherine McCullough point out in their article, school district organizations are largely invisible to the public, except when conflicts like school closures or strikes arise. Yet districts, and their boards, have a significant impact on student well-being and achievement. The authors report on a multi-year study to identify the effective leadership practices that lead to strong districts with positive impacts. Our web-exclusive article, “District Leadership for Democratic Governance” by Jim Brandon, also focuses on the importance of effective districts, and argues that elected trustees who advocate for local needs are a valuable component of educational governance in a “rapidly changing, pluralist, and globalized context.”
Camille Rutherford brings the leadership lens to the school level, exploring how technology and social media have contributed to a democratization of school leadership and encouraged teacher leaders and collaborative leadership to emerge. Cale Birk offers a different perspective on collaborative leadership, encouraging leaders at all levels to borrow from the design sector and make “user experience” a touchstone.
There are many more facets to governance that, space permitting, we would have loved to tackle. We’ve only kicked off the conversation – please continue it with each other, on social media, and with us (by email, Facebook or Twitter).
 Joseph Brean, “After years of amalgamation, are Canada’s school boards too big to succeed?” National Post, Dec. 31, 2015