It has now been almost a year since I assumed the role of President of your APEEE. Some days, it feels like I’ve already been working for years(!) Some days, it feels like I only started yesterday…
It has been a challenging year in many respects, both beyond the school’s borders and within them. In the wider world, the war in the Ukraine continues to wreak havoc in the lives of so many people there, and our school and APEEE are doing their best to support the Ukrainian pupils that are now enrolled at EEB4 as a result. Should anyone wish to bring their time and linguistic or pedagogical skills to APEEE’s effort to help these pupils, please do contact: email@example.com. Your contribution would be warmly welcomed!
Meanwhile, illness is a continuing theme this year, with Covid and every other sort of conceivable malady very much with us and still quite able to bring everyday life to a sudden halt at workplaces, in schools, and it seems increasingly in hospitals. Finally, well-being issues remain a predominant theme in most discussions I have with friends and colleagues as well as students and staff at EEB4. Many people, younger and older, feel that they have been through a lot these past few years, and this experience has changed how they interact with different environments like work and school. There seems to be a general sense of more stress, more pressure, and even more aggression around us. The world feels a little harder and a little less predictable. Things are changing, in short, and it is hard to know where these changes are leading us.
Unfortunately for many pupils and their families at EEB4, the start of the 2022-2023 school year proved especially challenging due to ongoing disruptions in the APEEE bus services. Upon the return to school, our Transport Office was suddenly hit by large numbers of missing drivers and buses on several lines that took months to regain and stabilize. Although our Transport staff has been scrambling successfully for several years to find buses and drivers enough to cover the extensive size of our network, it is clear after the enormity of the disruptions this Fall that the bus service must now be adapted to remain sustainable. In the meantime, we deeply apologize for the great inconvenience and stress that disruptions in our service have caused many pupils and their families this Fall. We realize that it has been very hard on many families, and we care, even if our communication around these disruptions has not always been optimal. Indeed, it has been an incredibly stressful and disruptive time for the APEEE Transport Office as well.
Another challenge for the EEB4 school community, one that has been a source of rather significant frustration among pupils and parents, has been our school’s introduction of new policies (e.g. the Toilet Policy) and the strong reintroduction of old policies (e.g. the Badge and Indoor Policies) this Fall. While these policies have been received quite negatively by many pupils and parents, it is important to remember that our school’s Direction has instituted (or reinstituted) these measures in an attempt to better ensure the safety and security of all pupils at school. The school’s Direction says it has seen a clear and worrisome increase in the number and severity of “disruptive incidents” at school (e.g. repeated vandalism of the toilets, more aggressive and more frequent exchanges and fights between students who are often without identification, more students trespassing in areas of the school they are not allowed to be in, also without identification, etc.). Given the overcrowding at school (7% over capacity and counting), its large physical size, and staffing limitations, it is our Direction’s belief that the best response to these trends is to introduce/reintroduce said policies.
If, however, a majority of EEB4 families see things differently, the APEEE could request something like a Town Hall meeting with the Direction to discuss the efficacy of these and other school policies (such as parental access to the school at pick-up time in N/P). In the meantime, I would like to challenge us as parents to think more closely about what our role and the role of the home could be in helping to resolve the problems our children’s school is facing. Surely it is not only the school’s responsibility to educate our children about the need to respect and care for others and to respect and care for common spaces such as bathrooms, classrooms, and the like? Put another way, what more can families do at home or together with the school to better address these problems?
On Tuesday, 31st January 2023, the General Assembly will take place virtually in the evening. There will be several vacant posts up for election that evening. If you would like to work more actively on any of the issues and challenges mentioned here, or you have in mind other areas that you would like to help tackle, please consider submitting your candidature for the Board. The school is all of us! If you would like to help contribute to revamping the bus service or the other APEEE services, please consider submitting your candidature for the Board. If you have a legal background, an education/training background, a financial background, a background in policy/policymaking, a background in administration, an HR background, a mental health background, a communications background, an IT background, a community-building background, or expertise in statistics and surveys, please consider submitting your candidature for the Board. Or perhaps it is simply that you wish to make things better at our school, and you feel that you have the drive and patience to manage the sometimes-chaotic experience of working together with other parent volunteers who have joined the Board for the very same reason. Like you, they will also be juggling work life and family life with whatever volunteer duties they commit to as APEEE Board Members, which means that sometimes things will be accomplished very efficiently and quickly, while at other times, things may take much longer. Such is the complex rhythm of APEEE volunteer work.
By way of closing, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your families a happy and restful holiday and all the best in 2023.
Stephanie Buus, President of the APEEE of Brussels IV