[Discuss-sudbury-model] Fw: Letter to the Premier - for publication in a major daily newspaper

From: The Booroobin Sudbury School / Derek Sheppard <derek.sheppard_at_booroobinschool.com.au>
Date: Tue Jul 29 18:22:27 2003



Regards, Derek
The Booroobin Sudbury School - a centre of learning
Ph +61 07 5499 9944 Fax +61 07 3251 0470
Homestay boarding accommodation
Ph +61 07 5499 9943
----- Original Message -----
From: The Booroobin Sudbury School / Derek Sheppard
To: cmletters_at_qnp.newsltd.com.au
Sent: Wednesday, July 30, 2003 8:05 AM
Subject: Letter to the Premier

Dear Sir,

We would appreciate the following letter being published in the Courier Mail.

It's length is necessary, and the content essential. It may even suit a Perspectives article.

Full details (including letters and responses, the School's Submission, parent/s' submissions, registered teachers' submissions and a psychologist's report, communiqués of people and institutions who know the School, and links to the relevant legislation) are shown on the School's web site, with the exception of the most recent letters and those in past years.

This letter summarises what has been already said by all members and friends of the School community.

A separate release will detail a Resolution made by the International Democratic Education Conference, that concluded last Thursday in Troy, New York in support of the School, that has just been communicated with us.

Regards, Derek Sheppard (a Founder and elected Staff)
The Booroobin Sudbury School - a centre of learning
Ph +61 07 5499 9944 Fax +61 07 3251 0470
Homestay boarding accommodation
Ph +61 07 5499 9943

Open letter to the Queensland Premier

We have asked you on a number of occasions to review and consider what your government has done to our School, The Booroobin Sudbury School. For many of us, Booroobin is not simply a School but an important way and reflection of life in a civil, open, democratic society, that is not available elsewhere.

The School was started in 1996 with our own human resources and facilities. We have continuously improved our campus, resources, facilities and staffing, through dedicated, committed, hard work. Ours is a holistic, learning community on an organic campus that aims for sustainability. In 2002, our School campus was sold as a direct result of unnecessarily delayed decision making by the Queensland government. Associated costs were huge, and we remain uncompensated, as in the past.

Most recently, we wrote to you in April and then again in June about the latest assault on the School and its philosophy. Your staff responded. Your final reply did not answer concerns expressed in our letter.

Our School is independent and democratic. Continuous change happens in our democracy. The School is not elite. It charges low fees. Most Staff work without pay, because of past unpredictability of our status, and because they believe in our philosophy, and their life experiences tell them what we do is right for our Students and children. We believe young people should grow and learn in and from democracy, where there is a continuous struggle to ensure the fundamental tenets and values of trust, respect, freedom, equity, responsibility, fairness and justice exist and underpin and provide foundations for developing life skills. Parents of enrolled Students agree, and believe they know more about what's best for their children than government. Democracy may not appeal to everyone, but that's the reality and we appreciate it. This is the reason that we support our Students to become independent and to prepare themselves for life, as responsible, effective adults. We are interested in Students learning and developing their own initiative, self motivation, self discipline, becoming enterprising and retaining and developing their creativity, using their innate intelligence and curiosity. We believe learning is supported by play and having fun. We realise that at present the School is not for everyone, and we may attract criticism for our approach.

Even more recently, our local independent member of parliament wrote to you and asked that you meet with us. We have been told that a few of the many people, educators and Schools in Australia and overseas who know us and our circumstances have also written to you.

On the ABC's Local Radio Morning Programme last Friday you denied knowing about the issues facing the School. We can't understand why you said this. At the very least it would have been expected that your staff briefed you about our interview on the same program only 2 days earlier, followed by numerous phone calls.

We're taking this extraordinary measure of writing publicly because we're frustrated with the continuous, ongoing threats to our future and security, that make it impossible to: project ahead or budget; implement long term plans; go ahead with plans because circumstances cause them to stop, start and stop again; utilise approved capital grants for campus improvements with the opportunity stripped from us; maintain community confidence in our future; and ensure the stability required for our Students to prepare themselves for life in our supportive, natural learning environment. Our long term Students are doing exceptional things with their lives while at School and after they Graduate. But once again, as so many times in the past, the goal posts have been moved. We've become used to standing on the edge of a precipice. And usually this is caused by unnecessary government interference. We still await our fate, with the threat of withdrawal of our accreditation, under legislation that gives a Board many rights and few responsibilities and no specific timelines. Yet, we were required to respond in specific tight timeframes, including a shopping list of anything and everything available in the School, and even though we believed the action unfair we decided to comply, in the nominated timeframes. Vague terms have been used. The legislation apparently allows retrospectivity and affords non-systemic, small Schools such as ours few rights, many responsibilities and the burden of costs to defend ourselves. Over a month has elapsed since we hand delivered our on-time submission of over 300 pages from the School, parents of Students collectively and individually, registered teacher Staff, and a psychologist. Not even an acknowledgement of receipt of the submission has been received.

We applaud the government's attempts to improve State education. But the School was established to be independent of State run education. During the life of the School, but especially recently, we have realised we are working more to satisfy government directives and edicts than for the benefit of our students, chiefly, it seems, because the actions of a few in other Schools and places which ought to trust, listen to and care for children and treat them with respect, have been used as an excuse to regulate and impose on the majority. For some of us, 7 days a week work for our School and students, without holidays is more than enough. We didn't apply to work for the government. Instead we have sacrificed much personally and applied our time, our energy, our money to a School for our children. The Queensland government contributes only a little recurrent funding each year - less than what parents pay in Fees including the equivalent value of Work Levy and far less than the value of Staff time. Unless we have moved into a totalitarian era, without agreeing to it, the School, its Students, elected Staff, including registered teachers, and parents have rights. They are all intelligent, some tertiary qualified, representing a broad cross section of the community and ought to be respected and allowed to make choices and informed decisions without interference. We take our role seriously. Staff don't have tenure - they are elected by secret ballot and must stand for election every year, and their work performance is critiqued by students and staff. We work with our students before and after hours to satisfy their expressed, committed needs, investing much of what most people would consider personal time. We are responsible and accountable to our Students, other Staff and parents of Students. We also know we exceed the provisions of international treaties and conventions (although these don't seem to be reflected in legislation, giving us no effective unbiased, rights of appeal, without further expensive legal costs which we cannot afford), but also expect responsibility; along with various Australian competencies, employment, holistic and life skills, including the great majority of the Adelaide Declaration of National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty First Century. We wonder how many other Schools are cognisant of this joint declaration prepared by of Australian Education Ministers.

We want to implement our philosophy, without harassment. We would like to recover ownership of our campus. We believe we are more than entitled to ongoing accreditation, and reliable, predictable funding. We would like to implement and establish the capital improvements nominated in our long term plans. We would appreciate honesty in government. We would appreciate the government being smart in this smart state and realise it is not possible to be everything to everybody. Australians, education, business and government benefit from diversity and choice. Democracy is learned not merely by theorising but by practicing its principles which is why The Booroobin Sudbury School operates the way it does. It is through our School's democratic processes and its acceptance of Natural Learning that our School promotes its values and our Students gain the qualities of fundamental life skills such as resilience, determination, persistence, co-operation and high levels in the skills of communication and thinking.

Received on Tue Jul 29 2003 - 18:21:23 EDT

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