PROJECT “EMPOWERING of SCHOOL BOARDS”
The growing active citizenship and community movement are signalling that organisations under the responsibility and leadership of one person have lived up to their time. All the more so because studies carried out in Europe (ESHA 2017, UCL 2018) show that school leaders feel left alone and are under great strain due to excessive responsibility. The source of this tension, as a rule, is a very high level of responsibility and conflicting expectations. Each interest group (municipality, teachers, parents, etc.) has its own requirements and everyone lacks the time and skills to find comprehensive solutions to problems. A major source of tension is also competitive public opinion, forcing schools to compete with each other and forming an opposing perception that competition is more important than cooperation.
“School leaders feel left alone and are under great strain due to excessive responsibility”
How to change this situation? What are the causes of the problem? Who and how can help the school principal and the community as a whole? What kind of help would be enough? In search of answers to these questions, the ELVL team decided to create an Erasmus+ project and invited its foreign partners (Jyväskylän Yliopisto, Trigon Entwicklungsberatung and the European Parents’ Association) to help. It was decided to jointly create training programs to improve the cooperation capacity of the community and an activity study methodology to assess the development of an educational institution. Saaremaa was chosen as the location for the three-year pilot project (2019-2022) and the reason was the readiness of the local government and school communities to make a serious effort towards big goals. Five schools were selected from among those who expressed their wish – Kuressaare Gymnasium, Saaremaa Co-educational Gymnasium, Kaali PK, Kärla PK and Pihtla Kindergarten-Primary School.
“It was decided to jointly create training programs to improve the cooperation capacity of the community and an activity study methodology to assess the development of an educational institution.”
During the first year, the plan was to create a training programme as a joint work of top trainers and researchers and to prepare 10 consultants from Estonia and 5 from elsewhere (Austria, Slovenia, France, Denmark and Finland). The project started so fast that 28 Estonian consultants finally completed the programme. Local school leaders, board of trustees and leading education officials of the municipality were involved in the creation of the program. The group’s learning and work processes were led by 3 experienced trainers from Germany and 3 researchers from Finland. Each week of activity (4 in total) was decided to end the internship with a day (Friday) in specific schools. Each practice group had to be led by the head of the school, and each group was initially attended by the head of the board of trustees, one education officer, two trainers from Estonia and one from abroad.
“The plan was to create a training programme as a joint work of top trainers and researchers and to prepare 10 trainers from Estonia and 5 trainers from elsewhere (Austria, Slovenia, France, Denmark and Finland)”
Starting from the second academic year (2020/2021), the aim of the project group is through training (1. Daily pre-training for candidates for the Board of Trustees and 2. 3-day basic training for a member of the board of trustees) and monthly mentoring to help the school leader, under his leadership, develop a positive practice of collegial or shared leadership (engl. shared or collaborative or collegical leadership) in the school community. In the third year, the trainers complete four-week refresher courses in mentoring, mediating and supervision and apply the learned skills to help saaremaa school communities.
“To help the school leader, under his leadership, develop a positive practice of collegial or shared management in the school community”
Through seminars and practices, the long-term goal is to reach the point where the board of trustees of a particular school (which brings together all stakeholders related to the school) is able to participate in making important decisions and taking responsibility for the school. From then on, the head of the school will actually be able to start delegating decision-making. Delegation, in turn, makes it possible to reduce tensions between stakeholders and the head of the school. Since with the legislation in force today, the head of the school still remains legally responsible, he must trust the board of trustees and other cooperation partners 100% to delegate the decision. This trust can be built through a joint learning process and practical cooperation.
“Delegation makes it possible to reduce tensions between stakeholders and the head of the school.”
A change in the culture of relationships at the community level and a real opportunity to participate in the decision-making process involve new active parents in the work of the board of trustees. For the sake of the developmental environment of their children, as a rule, parents are ready to put in more effort than usual. If a community is built together in this way for many years, the experience of success will be inexorable. And it is not excluded that a number of conscious parents, through this process, will develop into a new generation of great politicians who know the value of relationships and attitudes, who have built up and held together a community with their own hands. If a larger number of such people are elected to the national parliament after 10-15 years, then there will probably be no more worries about rural sustainability and the demise of culture. Thus, the long-term goal of the project is the peaceful transformation of the political culture of society.
“It is not out of the question that a number of conscious parents will develop through this process into a new generation of great politicians who know the value of relationships and attitudes, who have built up and held together a community with their own hands.”
In the course of the strategic cooperation project, in cooperation with Trigon Academy and the University of Jyväskylä, three training programs based on the needs of the educational institution’s community and especially the board of trustees will be created, during the preparation of which at least 10 Estonian and 5 foreign consultants will be trained. Their task is to help kindergarten and school communities, as well as the local government, to implement the principles of shared management. With the help of the University of Jyväskylä, a methodology for assessing the development of an educational institution is being developed, and with the help of the European Parents’ Union, the aim is to disseminate the results of the training programme to other European countries.
1 September 2019 – 31 December 2023
PROJECT CODE JA GRANT AMOUNT
2019-1-EE01-KA204-051720 ja 287 168 €
The seed of this particular project was sown in 2006, when elvl’s then board of directors decided to create a training program for the boards of trustees of educational institutions to help parents and school communities. In order to reach the board of trustees of as many kindergartens and schools as possible with the program, it was decided to train a dozen educators. Kristiine Vahtramäe, Urve Mukk, Ly Niinelaid, Valdek Rohtma, etc. passed and started training the boards of trustees in the training program. The main developer of the program and the trainer of the trainers was Aivar Haller, member of the management board of ELVL.
From 2006 to 2017, the board of trustees of more than 500 schools and 300 kindergartens was trained, several of them repeatedly, because most often the staff changed every few years.
On 28 December 2017, the first meeting was held with Saaremaa Rural Municipality Government, where the possibility of creating a so-called special status for up to five educational institutions in the municipality was discussed, which would allow the specific board of trustees more freedom of decision than usual. It was decided that if ELVL finds five school communities that are eager to learn, then the management of the municipality is ready to take appropriate steps. ELVL decided to write an Erasmus+ three-year international project called “Empowering od School Boards”. Two members of elvl’s management board started writing the project – Hillar Lõhmussaar and Aivar Haller.
On 31 January 2018, the authors of the project met with Anton Teras and Maris Rebel, the heads of the boards of trustees of Saaremaa Co-educational Gymnasium and Kuressaare Gymnasium in Saaremaa. As a preliminary work on the project, it was decided to conduct a survey among the members of the board of trustees of Saaremaa. Aivar Haller invited Jüri Ginter from the University of Tartu to help create the survey. Anton Teras was responsible for distributing the survey. During March, more than 40 participants responded, the summary can be read HERE.
On November 24, 2018, elvl led a workshop at the Estonian Education Congress in Viljandi entitled “Parenting as the shaper of the Estonian spirituality of the future”, where the participants reached five important agreements:
1. The parent is the key person in creating the developmental environment of their child
2. In order for the new generation of parents to be able to play the role of a parent better than before, it is necessary to create social conditions for this.
3. In order for the parent to be able to participate in changing school development environment, he must take responsibility by participating in decision-making processes.
4. In order for a parent to be able to participate in decision-making, he or she must be educated.
5. To educate parents, we need a national training program. The keywords are: communication skills (development education and conflict management) and collegial leadership.
December 17-18, 2018 – International educational seminar “Development environment of the board of trustees as an active citizen”. Experts from Finland and Denmark were invited to speak and lead the workshops.
Mikael Risku, a professor at the University of Jyvaskylä, whose educational management models and practice are of great interest not only in Europe but also, for example, in Japan and South Korea. Mette With Hagensen, long-time (2012 – 2018) president of the Danish Parents’ Association ( Skole og Forældres), who for the past 12 years had been actively involved in the training of Danish board of trustees.
The seminar was an introduction to a longer process of educational innovation, and the main task of ELVL was to think through the basic principles and logic of future-oriented processes in cooperation with its experienced colleagues abroad, which would best fit into our cultural context.
The seminar was attended by 24 representatives of parents, school leaders and education officials. The working language of the seminar was English. The organisation of the seminar was supported by the Ministry of Education and therefore participation in the seminar was free of charge. The seminar participants developed into a core team for the future Erasmus+ project.
In 2017, the project “School – the heart of the community” took place in Põlva County with the participation of the Estonian Parents’ Union. The aim was to raise awareness among local communities when making educational choices. The project lasted nine months and involved four one-day seminars with arbitrations. The result was the educational vision and development plan of Põlva County. Instead of “roof money”, school communities started talking about their role in the educational vision of Põlva County.
On 28 December 2017, the first meeting was held with Saaremaa rural municipality government. The head of the municipality, Madis Kallas, suggested that if 5 schools are found, whose leaders and community are ready to increase their ability to cooperate through regular studies, then the municipal leaders will be ready to negotiate about allowing these schools appropriate autonomy.
On 31 January 2018, the first meeting took place with all the parties involved in the project in Saaremaa. It was agreed that all schools wishing to participate in the education of the board of trustees and the entire school community would be personally contacted. Five schools, Kuressaare Gymnasium, Saaremaa Co-educational Gymnasium, Kaali PK, Kärla PK and Pihtla Kindergarten-Primary School contacted and expressed their wish to test their community.
March 2018 – questionnaire in cooperation with the University of Tartu. With the help of Jüri Ginter and Liina Stamm, a questionnaire was prepared for the members of the board of trustees and the school administration, which gave a fairly good overview of the current situation. Statistics and comments on the questionnaire.
December 17-18, 2018 – International educational seminar “Development environment of the board of trustees as an active citizen”, which was attended by 23 active parents, school leaders, researchers, educational enthusiasts and officials. The lecturer was invited from Finland and Denmark. There was a common recognition that the cooperation between the board of trustees and school leaders and the resulting shared management is an ambitious but quite feasible goal in Estonia today.
June 27-28, 2019 – first meeting with the Trigon Institute and the University of Jyväskylä in Tallinn to determine the research side of the project. Create a project steering group.
9 July 2019 – positive response to project funding from Erasmus+
June 27-28, 2019 – first meeting with the Trigon Institute and the University of Jyväskylä in Tallinn to determine the research side of the project. After two days of in-depth discussion, an agreement was reached that it was necessary to ensure an even level of consultants who would advise school communities before starting a scientific study. The project’s steering committee was elected, consisting of Harald Jäckel from Trigon, Mika Risku from Jyväskylä University, Aivar Haller from the European Parents’ Union, Hillar Lõhmussaar and Tiit Urva from the Estonian Parents’ Union
26 July 2019 – Skype meeting of the Steering Committee, where the topics and timeline of the September and November pre-modules were discussed and agreed upon.
September 5-6, 2019 – First international meeting in Kuressaare
September 5-6, 2019 – the first pre-module of the project in Kuressaare. There was a meeting with the leaders of the municipality, school visits and an acquaintance with the training site. Award of contracts in the field of research
September 23, 2019 – Skype call with Trigon Institute and University of Jyväskylä, discussed on financial topics
October 17, 2019 – Skype meeting with Trigon Institute and Jyväskylä University, the organization of the pre-module of 5-6 November was discussed
5-6 November 2019 – Second international meeting in Kuressaare. They met with 50 activists who participated in the development of saaremaa’s new education strategy. Through the group work, answers to the following questions were sought:What should definitely be preserved and protected in today’s educational life of the island? Why? What is superfluous and what should be abandoned? Why? What should definitely be changed and why? What is missing and why is it needed?
December 5-7, 2019 – Training Week 1 Preparation Module
9-13 December 2019 – 1st training week in Kuressaare
3-7 February 2020 – 2nd training week in Kuressaare
14-18 September 2020 – 3rd training week as a hybrid in Kuressaare
A total of 9 online steering committee discussions took place between March 2020 and June 2021 . We were looking hard for solutions to the crisis situation that had developed. We realized that it is definitely no longer possible to carry out the project in the planned form. The schools involved in the project were all under a great deal of pressure and were looking for solutions to reshape the learning process. Based on the crisis situation, we negotiated with the schools and suspended all planned activities. This was for two reasons: firstly, the local government, school administration, teachers and parents were all busy solving vitally important tasks, and secondly, all our programmes were built on so-called experiential learning, the implementation of which virtually is very difficult and requires long preparation.
On April 05, 2021, according to the original plan for continuing the mission of the project, the Institute of Leadership Culture (Institute of Leadership Culture) was created by 16 founding members, the statutory goal of which is to create prerequisites for the formation of self-awareness of a person and society in the field of culture, economics and law.
On April 16, 2021, we presented the project in cooperation with NGO Mondo and the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Internal Affairs at an online conference aimed at parents in Eastern Ukraine.
10-14 May 2021 – 4th training week as a hybrid in Kuressaare
On June 25, 2021, we presented the project in a joint webinar between the Portuguese (Fapoestejo) and Spanish (CONFAP) parents’ associations and the European Parents’ Union
July 27-29, 2021 – workshop in Haapse to develop a basic community course
7-11 March 2022 – Study 5 related study week in Kuressaare
2-6 May 2022 – Study 6 related study week in Kuressaare
19-23 September 2022 – Study 7 study week in Kuressaare
11 November 2022 – Third international meeting in Luxembourg
12 November 2022 – International project synthesis conference in Luxembourg
21-25 November 2022 – Study week 8 in Kuressaare
10 December 2022 – international project summary conference in Tallinn
Looking back on project performance, it is appropriate to divide the results into three categories:
1. Development of consultants
2. Cooperation with schools
3. Changes in management
The three-and-a-half-year process brought together more than 30 experts in their field under an ambitious mission, all of whom were ready to personally push themselves out of their comfort zone by creating the prerequisites for leadership change in the field of education. Moving away from their main job for a week was a decent challenge for many, but obviously the training and learning process fulfilled its developmental purpose, because otherwise we would not have returned to the next week’s module.
Cooperation with schools was a major whirlwind of change that began a few months after the start of the project with the outbreak of the pandemic. From there, two of the five schools were forced to leave the project in order to focus on the challenges that would have a greater impact on the school’s survival and development at the time. Thanks to this, the teams of the remaining three schools increased, and this, in turn, made it possible to have teamwork in a completely new quality.
The topic of management was a cross-cutting focus of the project, and although due to the pandemic, we did not achieve a situation where some project schools could have been granted a so-called special status by the local government, there was a paradigmatic change in the project team’s understanding of the issues of educational management. We realized that in order to bring about change in leadership, it is necessary to focus on the prerequisites of leadership instead of leadership. We discovered that the most important prerequisite for the quality of management of the boards of trustees is the preparation of parents (as the majority) before being elected to the School Board, and this led us to a new idea of creating and training so-called parent assemblies.
10 hypotheses regarding the project of the School Board of Saaremaa:
1. The local government is interested in the progress of local life and sees the school as a centre of community development.
2. Getting to school depends on the collaborative skills of the whole community.
3. Authoritarian leadership is less and less in line with the current expectations of Estonian society.
4. Based on studies, school leaders perceive themselves as being left alone in difficult situations.
5. The loneliness of school leaders can be alleviated by improving community collaboration skills.
6. In order to improve the development environment of their child, many parents are ready to contribute more to school life.
7. If parents are better involved in making meaningful decisions that affect school life, the cooperation and effectiveness of the school community will be improved.
8. The design and implementation of a comprehensive science-based training programme creates the prerequisites for the involvement of trained community members in important decision-making.
9. The team of the project “Empowering of School Boards” of the Estonian Parents’ Empowering of School Boards has sufficient international support and capabilities to create and implement the necessary training program.
10. The implementation of a specific project helps five school leaders to achieve the desired cooperation in their community.
Opening up a new opportunity for active parents and students to educate themselves in order to be involved in making important decisions in school life.
Shifting the focus from power games in school communities to collaboration.
The school boards of trustees become reliable partners of the local government under the leadership of the head of the school.
1. Learning and practicing democracy starts at school
2. Only the decision-maker can be held accountable
3. A leader brings the right people together
4. The only real benefit is mutual
5. Shared management allows for the involvement of a larger number of competent people
6. School is a lifelong learning environment for all generations
7. Volunteering in the school community shapes a new generation of politicians
Well-prepared consultants who are willing and able to work as a team supporting the development of an educational institution. Instead of the planned 12, there are 24 + 4 consultants from Estonia and 5 from abroad with such readiness.
Intellectual outputs, of which there are four in total.
IO1 – Scientific methodology for assessing school development management
IO2 – Training programme for consultants supporting school development
IO3 – One-day seminar for the school community
IO4 – Three-day seminar for members of the already elected School Board
Sending school development is predominantly a team effort.
Maintaining personal trusting relationships and supporting each other is also possible via the Internet, but building such relationships is not!
We had underestimated the importance of the director’s trust.
The organization necessary to continue the mission of the project must be created immediately!
Further financing of the mission must be addressed immediately!
Initially, the project had an application to find 10 consultants in Estonia who are ready to complete a three-year program and thus become consultants who study and support the development of educational institutions. The talk about the programme and the German and Finnish scholars supervising it spread quickly, and thanks to this, instead of the ten future consultant-trainers of the Estonian School Board, we found as many as 28 people with corresponding readiness, four of whom were young people who had recently graduated from upper secondary school, who the weekly training modules of the consultants led by Trigon and the later study modules led by the researchers of Jyväskylä became the spiritual backbone of the whole project
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS:
- Aivar Haller Tallinn, ELVL Board Member, Project Coordinator
- Anita Reinbacher Trigon Academy Management Consultant
- Anja Köstler Trigon Academy Management Consultant
- Anneli Meisterson Kuressaare, ELVL Consultant
- Annely Särglep Tallinn, ELVL Board Member, Consultant
- Anton Teras Saaremaa, Head of the School Board of Co-educational Gymnasium
- Arja Krauchenberg Austria, representative of the European Parents’ Assiciation
- Artur Haller Tallinn, ELVL Junior Consultant
- Arvydas Augustaitis Lithuania, Representative of the European Parents’ Association
- Boštjan Bobič Zabreščak Slovenia, Representative of the European Parents’ Association
- Emilia Sviili Jyväskylä University, Researcher
- Eveli Nõgu Pihtla Head of the School Board of
Kindergarten-Primary School I
- Harald Jäckel Trigon Academy Management Consultant
- Hardy Suurpere Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Harli Uljas Kuressaare, ELVL Consultant
- Helen Rohumaa Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Helle Kahm Saaremaa Deputy Mayor, Head of Education
- Hillar Lõhmussaar Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Ieva Jokste Latvia, Representative of the European Parents’ Association
- Ingrid Leemet Kärla School School Board
- Irma Väre Viljandi, ELVL Consultant
- Johannes Mengel Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Jürgen Mets Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Jüri Ginter Tartu, ELVL Senior Consultant
- Kersti Kirs Head of Studies at Kuressaare Gymnasium
- Kiur Lootus Tallinn, ELVL Board Member, ELVL Consultant
- Kristi Saar Pihtla Head of School Board of
Kindergarten-Primary School II
- Kristi Sillart Head of the School Board of The Youth School
- Kristiina Esop Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Kristine Järsk Kaali School Principal
- Külliki Koppel Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Madis Altroff Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Madis Kallas Saaremaa Municipality Manager
- Mai Peetsalu Tallinn, ELVL consultant
- Maiu Raun Saaremaa Municipality Government Education Officer
- Maral Nuridin Kazakhstan, Representative of the European Parents’ Association
- Maris Rebel Head of the School Board of Kuressaare Gymnasium
- Marit Tarkin Youth School Principal
- Marja Pietiläinen Jyväskylä University, Researcher
- Martin Tiidelepp Tartu, ELVL Consultant
- Meelis Kaubi Saaremaa Municipality Government Education Officer
- Meeri Krass Tallinn, ELVL Junior Consultant
- Mette Hagensen Denmark, Representative of the European Parents’ Association
- Mika Risku Jyväskylä University, Head of Research
- Mikk Tuisk Saaremaa Municipality Manager
- Moona Mengel Pärnu, ELVL Consultant
- Märt Aro Tallinn, ELVL Consultant
- Paul Priks Rakvere, ELVL Consultant
- Riho Kokk Rakvere, ELVL Consultant
- Riina Saar Pihtla Kindergarten-Primary School Director
- Sigrid Sepp Viljandi, ELVL Junior Consultant
- Sirje Ellermaa Kärla School Principal
- Taavet Borovkov Tallinn, ELVL Junior Consultant
- Taavi Tuisk Head of the School Board of Kaali School
- Tiit Urva Tartu, ELVL Consultant
- Tiiu Kuurme Tallinn, ELVL Senior Consultant
- Toomas Takkis Director of Kuressaare Gymnasium
- Tuija Ukskoski Jyväskylä Ülikool, Researcher
- Tõnis Tamme Tartu, ELVL Junior Consultant
- Urmas Heino Heinaste Tartu, ELVL Consultant
- Urmas Treiel Saaremaa Municipality Government Head of Education
- Vaiko Hansson Pärnu, ELVL Consultant
- Valerie Gardette France, Representative of the European Parents’ Association
- Viljar Aro Director of Saaremaa Co-educational Gymnasium
- Õilme Salumäe Saaremaa Municipali
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