Volunteering provides rich experiences for ECNO members

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As with any membership-based organization, ECNO has long been powered by its dedicated volunteers.

From providing governance on the Board to sharing strategic insight on the ECNO Advisory Committee (EAC), reviewing apps under the Vetting Applications for Safety and Privacy (VASP) program, or as an ECNO conference coordinator, many willing hands make for great work when it comes to supporting the IT needs of Ontario’s school boards.

ECNO’s Executive Director Wayne Toms says the small staff team appreciates the opportunity to work alongside dozens of professional volunteers to deliver the organization’s programs and services.

“Without a doubt our staff works hard, but ECNO wouldn’t be able to give Boards anywhere near the value that we do without the incredible volunteers that not only guide us, but roll up their sleeves to get the work done. It’s rewarding to learn from them every day,” he says.

Wayne himself started with ECNO as a volunteer. “I was hired by the Peterborough County Board of Education very early in my career. On my first day my manager encouraged me to take an active role in ECNO, and it took off from there,” he says. Over 30 years, Wayne served on various committees, the EAC, and the ECNO Board as president.

“The value to my school board was beyond the pale,” he says. “Serving on the EAC meant you helped set the direction so if something that was a priority for your Board, you had the chance to ensure those needs are in the discussion.”

Volunteering has long been defined as providing service to others, but members echo Wayne’s insight that it is of reciprocal value. John McCormick, Associate CIO with the Upper Grand DSB, notes that volunteering has sharpened his skills and job satisfaction.

“I’m working on solutions to problems that affect and support the whole system, not just my Board. It keeps the challenge alive, and it feels good helping 2.2 million kids, and not only the 35,000 in my Board. It’s extremely rewarding,” he says, reflecting on his executive volunteer roles with OASBO and ECNO in various capacities, including most recently helping to shape the VASP program as its first chair.

“For me learning has always been number one. When I volunteer for this type of work, I’m in full on learning mode and that’s what draws me to it,” says John.

Carolyn Glaser, General Manager of IT Services with the Thames Valley DSB, has volunteered with ECNO since 2017 when she started with her Board after a career in the municipal sector. She has served on the EAC and now sits on ECNO’s Board of Directors.

“ECNO helped me learn about the school board community. I wanted to better understand the value of ECNO for my Board. Getting involved was a great advantage as I quickly saw a lot of benefits and became a conduit for sharing information at my Board.”

She also appreciates the members’ willingness to share, troubleshoot and solve problems together. “With ECNO, I’ve got a great network of really smart colleagues. I can pick up the phone, ask a question and am open in sharing my experiences as well. It’s a two-way collaboration,” noting that many of the relationships she has developed quickly moved past are not just about work. “I’m making great friendships along the way.”

Volunteering is an opportunity to balance the scales a little, notes Doug Fiebig, Information, Communication Technology Manager at the Renfrew County DSB. Doug has been a member of the EAC since 2020 and is part of the conference committee.

“For many years, ECNO has provided our small rural school district with access to important products, resources, services, and solutions that we wouldn’t have the knowledge or financial means to implement on our own, and for that I am extremely thankful. When the opportunity to join the EAC presented itself in 2020, I knew that this was my chance to give back to an organization which has given so much to both me and my district,” he says, noting that the volunteering “has been extremely beneficial to my professional growth. It has also shown me that the technology-related problems and issues that we regularly face in my Board are the same that many districts across the province face.”

ECNO volunteers admit the commitment does carry an additional weight or workload, and while it isn’t usually onerous, to make sure it’s balanced. As Carolyn Glaser notes, “Yes, it’s more work and additional meetings, there can be some collisions with day-to-day workload and it’s important to get internal support, but at the end of the day it’s more than worth it. I would encourage anyone to volunteer.”

To learn more about volunteering opportunities with ECNO, contact Wayne Toms: ed@ecnoconnect.org