Charlotte Views: Surveys show what elected leaders value

Surveys tell voters as much about what our elected officials value as the surveys tell them about us.

Two of our local governing bodies want your input now. The Village of Queen Charlotte is conducting an online survey on legal marijuana and the Haida Gwaii School District wants to know your views on its school calendar and next year’s budget.

With over $10 million in annual spending and over 500 students enrolled islands-wide, the district budget affects everyone in Haida Gwaii. It’s always good for elected officials to gather our feedback. But surveys also tell voters as much about what our elected officials value as the surveys tell them about us.

The village’s marijuana survey tells voters their government is preparing for legal pot in Queen Charlotte. Specific questions provide clues on how government views legal marijuana, such as by asking questions beyond access and distribution. Beyond those retail impacts, the village is also asking residents about the potential economic benefits of local production.

Cannabis production presents risks and opportunities for small communities like ours. The current “cottage industry” could be displaced by large-scale and industrial production. Federal and provincial governments may opt for a centralized means of marijuana production, cutting out small-scale farming of a cash crop. On the flip side, a well-regulated, small-scale industry could expand economic opportunity for Canada’s rural populations. Village government is at least aware of these risks and opportunities.

The Haida Gwaii school district wants to know what residents think about three calendar proposals (Flex Fridays, a two-week spring break and status quo). The process of soliciting a survey tells residents that the school district values input on its decisions. This provides an excellent example for how to run a publicly-run system. By seeking widespread feedback, ahead of any decision, the district is building trust, strengthening decision-making and opening up engagement.

Embedded in this survey are clues to the district’s own thinking on what matters. Several signals stand out. In the survey the district indicates that calendar changes might expand recreation opportunities for youth, help families attend off-island appointments with less disruption to their child’s education, and create cost savings without reducing core services. The survey also recognizes the impacts of long transportation time on children, families and communities.

The school district is also asking about your views on its upcoming budget. Schools are a big part of our local economy. Education itself has huge economic benefits for graduates. Learning skills, developing leadership, building community and providing credentials expand economic opportunity. But schools also provide direct investments in the community. School facilities are essential infrastructure. Schools employ custodians, teachers, secretaries, assistants, cultural workers, administrators and others. Public schools maximize public benefits through services, jobs, and facilities that benefit everyone and strengthen our economy.

The school district has also embedded a bit of news in the budget survey by revealing a possible new mission statement for our school system. Mission statements tell stakeholders about the vision and priorities of government programs and, done right, are more than slogans. According to the survey, the Haida Gwaii school district plans to focus on dignity, resiliency and the personal success of its students.

As a teacher, I’m excited by this vision because schools focused on human dignity are alive with culture, ceremony and community. The celebration of dignity requires that every detail of educational delivery be equal to the dignity of the children we serve. Schools that support resiliency are listening to the calls for reconciliation following the tragic wrongdoings of the residential school system and colonization generally. Resiliency recognizes students as powerful and capable, while also calling on schools to care for the well-being of the communities they serve. And finally, personal success recognizes that first and foremost, schools provide education to individual students with their own dreams, passions and possibilities.

 

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