P.E.I. parents say they are missing information on the school review due to private meetings

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Some parents on P.E.I. are speaking out about what they say is an unfair practice in the school review process — private meetings.

There have been two rounds of public meetings and online submissions have been open for months, where thousands of comments have been received.

But there have also been and continue to be private consultations, and the information shared there is remaining behind closed doors. 

'Process is backwards'

"If we're looking at this in a collaborative process and if the Public Schools Branch and our government are truly interested in what our parents have to say then parents need to have access to all the information," said Janet Payne, representative for Kinkora Regional High School, and member of the home and school at Somerset Elementary.

"I feel like this whole process is backwards."

Payne has gained access to some documents from a private meeting involving the Kinkora family and feels that they may have influenced recommendations in the final report, and that there are what she called errors.

She thinks the public has the right to know all the information that is going into decisions. 

"So this means that we're tasked with the responsibility of trying to save our small school and trying to show how valuable they are but we're asked to do this without full disclosure, we're asked to do this without all the information."

Meetings kept private

While anyone can have a private meeting with the Pulblic Schools Branch, Payne takes particular issue with the fact that principals, staff and their unions' presentations or meetings are not to be made public. 

"Once they become a lobby group with influence and information, I think it's the responsibility of the Public Schools Branch to provide a way to share that information with the public."

The Public Schools Branch said they are confident in the process, and that the policy they are meant to follow for this review has clear rules around what is made public, as director Parker Grimmer explains. 

"The schools change policy would outline that in having those kinds of meetings, that the summaries of all of our consultations that involve the public would be provided as a review which has been done so in the report that reviews or summaries from those private consultations would not be put in the report."

Negative reflection

Grimmer points to the fact that some people may want their comments kept private, and that on the other hand some principals and staff chose to speak at public meetings.

"Due to the nature of some individuals, maybe that they might be employees, or that they might be union reps, or that they might be from some perspective that they might be reflected on negatively if their comments were seen," he said.

"For some individuals they're not as comfortable in front of the microphone as maybe other individuals and they might want their information considered in that way. They might not be comfortable having their ideas expressed in the way in which you're speaking and the process that we're following gave them insurances that that would be the case."

Holding out hope

Payne is hoping the Public Schools Branch will change its mind and put the information out there, but Grimmer said that won't happen.

"There's no requirement in the school changes policy to turn this part of the process into an online information site. It's simply to provide information to the three people that are going to be charged with making the ultimate decisions on these recemendations."

The public is invited to submit comments on the review until March 11. There is no word on when a final decision will be brought down. 

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