Project #2 – Ottawa Carleton Association of School Councils

The Ottawa Carleton Assembly of School Councils (OCASC) is an umbrella organization for school councils, within the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB). OCASC represent district-wide issues and encourages all councils to join. Our mission and focus is to share information, facilitate communication, and represent our membership. The benefits of OCASC include opportunities to share great ideas with other school councils, gain insights into how education and administration works at the OCDSB, and learn how to maximize the value of your council to your kids’ school.

The Challenge:

School Councils play a critical role in their schools. A set of parent volunteers essentially becomes an advisory body that organizes to support the varied needs of their school. Parents work within each school to put time, energy and ideas to making their schools vibrant communities. From recreation to fundraising, supporting core activities and supplementing resources to make schools vibrant communities, School Councils become the nexus for parental engagement, for communication, identification of gaps in infrastructure, for programming and resources.

Some schools have small councils of a few people and others have broader membership, some have long history of ideas and deep resources and others are new members coming together to develop community.

Across the OCDSB there are over 70,000 students across the 118 elementary schools and 25 secondary schools. Not all schools have Councils and about a third of schools are active members of OCASC at this time. On a monthly basis OCASC brings School Council representatives together to share ideas, update on key Board activities, discuss current events and build community. In the past few years the sharing of ideas has broadened to include a facebook community.

From Paper to Portal: How to transform information sharing for Parent Councils

OCDSB, OCASC, Parent Councils and Principals all work to ensure communication of timely information for parents. However much of the work of communicating with parents remains based in periodic emails and verbal meetings. So many emails, so many channels of social media info (used sporadically depending on the school), and even relying on word of mouth and back pack flyers creates a range of information that takes a lot of time and effort to track and this means people miss important info.

The challenge that is before the parent council community is the need to migrate to a broader platform for information sharing and reference.

How can an easy-to-use and scaleable wiki/portal be built to serve the Parent Council community?

Emails, facebook, twitter, hard copies of reports mean that parent councils find it hard build history or work together.

Some Councils are using google drives, some parents have used Slack on issues, but it is clear that a coordinated and centralized space is needed which then can be used by councils for their own needs. This work would then hopefully help all parents and the Board share information and expertise.

OCASC needs ideas and help to design the structure and technology to setting up an information platform/portal that meets needs across all schools.

Key considerations, needs, and outcomes in the design – OCASC hope the shift from paper to portal/wiki does the following:

  • Manages the weekly/monthly load of new info that comes from the Board that relies on parent input
  • Helps deliver key info/summaries when the amount of info can be overwhelming
  • Ensures that info sharing is easy and simple so that distilling info and updating doesn’t become a burden falling to a few parents but rather an ongoing ever evolving resource people find easy to use
  • Is responsive to needs and areas of interest when informing so that parents can advocate and influence effectively for their children, their school, and their community
  • Brings together all the existing links and resources in a centralized zone that parents can self serve