5. Learning from Other Partners
Every year, Synergeia provides all its partners and stakeholders with a venue to learn from each other. It invites representatives from its partner-organizations to its Annual Retreat, which is essentially its answer to the traditional planning session. Here, partners assess their respective programs, share experiences, draw lessons, and produce best practices.
PMT members from San Roque beneficiary-sites were invited but due to scheduling difficulties, only San Nicolas was able to send a representative.
The theme for this year’s (2008) retreat held on February 11-13 was “The Complete Synergist”. It is a fitting description of the ever-growing family of Synergeia friends and partners – clearly a force that performs and assists in performance – through coaching and peer-teaching, empowering and self-modeling, collaboration and partnerships, and advocacy and collective action. Such is the same spirit that moves the Education Governance program in the San Roque sites.
About 130 participants were divided into smaller groups during the workshops. There lessons and best practices were discussed on: (1) engaging the community, (2) making data meaningful, and (3) telling our stories (advocacy).
The three issues in education that affected participants the most were poor academic performances of children, lack of community involvement/support for education, and inadequacy of school infrastructure. Each partner shared his/her experience in addressing these concerns.
Synergeia has been working since 2005 in producing a standard reading assessment tool which can be used to gauge performance levels of students in Synergeia municipalities. It has created a report card system that not just looks at proficiency level of students, but teacher performance, parent involvement and Local School Board performance as well. The Synergeia report card was presented during the Retreat and below are suggestions made by participants to enhance the content, the conduct and the quality of the tool:
- Conduct informal reading inventories to assess students’ progress and evaluate degrees by which students meet learning objectives (vis-à-vis yearly assessment only);
- Create a tool to facilitate collaboration and communication among faculty on matters of teaching and curriculum; and
- Use tables and graphs when presenting data on student performance to parents.
The evenings were spent for fellowship and games. Participants were divided according to regions and the Luzon group was the noisiest. They took the Charades game to heart and were overjoyed to win the crown for Mr. and Ms. Synergeia 2008. The fellowship also revealed that many Synergeia partners were excellent dancers as they were unstoppable on the dance floor!
Lorna Bue from DepEd San Nicolas found the retreat a most fulfilling experience. Lessons from other communities helped them appreciate the difficulties and the rewards of participatory governance of education, and inspired them to do better.
6. Reinventing the Local School Board
A unique feature of the Education Governance Program is its goal to transform an institution organic to local governments which has the means to make a difference in education. This is the Local School Board (LSB). The program believes that the LSB is the best vehicle for introducing and continuing improvements in the education system, applying the principles of multisectoral partnerships, greater participation of citizens, and presenting a progressive perspective.
Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City, whose LSB Reinvention Program is the Synergeia model, has taken to heart the mission of empowering other LGUs to use their LSB as a catalyst in providing children with greater opportunities to complete elementary education.
On February 29, 2008, Mayor Robredo conducted the 1st Reinventing Local School Boards workshop in Pangasinan. The Local School Boards of San Manuel, San Nicolas and Itogon were joined by those of Sta. Barbara and Natividad.
Mayor Robredo started his presentation with a confession in his initial term of office: he paid lip service to the role of the Local School Board. The budget was a done deal between him and the superintendent. His exposure to Synergeia gave him a shock. Filipino children and those from his city lagged behind in achievement scores. This realization spurred his city’s journey to improve their learning performance.
The LSB reinvention process requires attitudes that are beyond the box. “What the law does not prohibit, it allows”, goes the Robredo paradigm. Mayor Robredo encouraged local officials and the LSB to increase the number and diversity of the LSB membership to take advantage of as many experts present in the community. His second thrust is to expand the functions of the LSB beyond budgeting to include policy formulation, implementation of a performance incentive system for schools, and transparent recruitment system for locally funded
teachers. The third thrust is to improve the process of budgeting, procurement project planning and implementation towards a system that is collaborative and transparent. Mayor Robredo cited significant increases in the children’s test scores in Naga as a valid proof that LSB reinvention works.
The LSBs were also provided details on how to reengineer the process, developing the division of labor with respect to the expertise of the different sectors, and using the Naga City experience in transforming the LSB budgets into being more responsive to the need of improving learning performances by shifting priorities to teacher training and the development of instructional materials.
Local school board officials from the three towns agreed that there are many strengths of the LSB that need to be strengthened and reinvented. The LSB can:
- Implement programs to improve public education.
- Invest funds in improving public education.
- Be more transparent in LSB expenditures.
- Provide assistance to meet public school needs more effectively and efficiently.
- Mobilize parents more effectively.
- Serve as a vehicle for role definition and resource complementation.
- Have members who are passionate in improving public education.
Learning from the Naga experience, the LSBs of San Manuel, San Nicolas and Itogon committed to hold more regular meetings and increase representation of other sectors in the LSB. Their next steps in the reinvention process included:
- Conducting a planning and budgeting process that is needs-based, more participative and aligned with the LGU’s budgeting cycle.
- Conducting an educational campaign among stakeholders to improve real property tax collection.
- Establishing proper monitoring and reporting systems on the use of LSB funds
- Dialogues between DepEd and LGU on key issues such as teacher recruitment, hiring and placement.
- Developing programs for parents (i.e. parenting seminars) and teachers (i.e. teacher training, values formation, etc).
- Supporting amendments to the Local Government Code (100% retention of the Special Education Fund (SEF) collection by the municipality) in the long run.
Itogon Mayor Mario Godio represented the beneficiary towns of San Roque in expressing their commitment to reinvent their school boards and to sustain the education governance program.