By: Hensel T. Guillermo, LSB Diffun Secretariat
“A single step to Synergeia is a giant leap for Diffun” captures how the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Diffun earned its spot in the elite circle of 4-time winners in the Seal of Good Education Governance (SGEG).
A simple book donation and reading materials from a private company in 2003 started it all — igniting our thirst to improve our learners reading proficiency en route to our introduction to Synergeia Foundation.
As chairperson of the Local School Board (LSB), it was routine for the then Mayor May Calaunan, to visit schools purposely to validate issues and concerns brought to her on a daily basis. Lack of teachers, poor parents’ involvement in school activities, improvement and/or absence of facilities are only a few of the challenges found.
With the measly annual SEF budget of roughly Php 40,000 during that time as a 2nd class municipality, Mayor Calaunan allocated a portion from the General Fund to fuel various programs, projects and activities for the education sector.
Determined to have a better grasp of the struggles on the ground, Mayor Calaunan immersed herself in school affairs by incessant interaction with parents, teachers and school heads in all kinds of community and school-based gatherings.
Mam May completed her three terms as Municipal Mayor and LSB Chairmanship in June 2010 leaving the LGU and the LSB with a strengthened partnership along with the provision of learning materials and some improvement of school facilities.
The board was taken over by a new leadership under Hon. Marlo Guillermo whose mother and wife are both teachers in the public school. Inheriting a blossoming relationship with the Synergeia Foundation, the new board chairman began to re-invent the LSB via membership expansion. The School Governing Councils (SGCs) then became deeply involved in the board and more importantly, attendance to every LSB meeting became mandatory to regular members.
In 2013, the Education Governance Effectiveness (EdGE) Program was infused by Synergeia Foundation.
Three years later, LSB Diffun made a turning-point when Synergeia generously funded a training seminar/workshop for all School Governing Councils (SGCs), head of schools and barangay captains in Bauang, La Union on April 28-29, 2015. This engagement sparked a big change that after the seminar, SGCs and the schools in general exhibited life-changing achievement in terms of working relationship as gleaned from both the schools’ physical outlook and performance of learners especially in the reading proficiency of grades 1 to 4. Significantly enough, drop-out incidence has been reduced.
While it is true that from 2010 to 2017 almost half of the SEF budget went to the salaries of LSB teachers, the leadership was not remiss in addressing other pressing needs of schools in their learning requirements. It was herculean with almost fifty elementary and integrated schools. But over the years, LSB Diffun witnessed the fruits of budget allocation increase in education. Schools and their learners have become more vibrant in terms of their performance; The SGCs have become more receptive in their roles as partners and more importantly, the LSB became the bedrock of hope for quality education.
Having done so, Synergeia Foundation played a significant role in strengthening, re-invigorating and re-inventing the LSB through its indispensable guidance.
In July 2019 after completing three (3) terms as Vice-Governor, Hon. May Calaunan came home to Diffun in a fresh mandate as municipal mayor. Faced by the unprecedented challenge of the pandemic barely five-months after she took office, Madam May met with the board and discussed how the learners in the municipality can be facilitated in such lamentable situation. The rest of the story is a milestone to reckon with.
Along with this, we acknowledge SMART Foundation for the School-In-a-Bag that facilitated teachers in remote areas and to Sea Oil whose fuel assistance eased the burden of the LSB in their school visits and supervision.
The Local School Board (LSB) of LGU Diffun is grateful for capping the much-coveted Seal of Good Education Governance (SGEG) four-times in a row since 2017. Such recognition is a veritable testament that education stakeholders in the locality are in the right path not only in taking care of the learners and their future but also in ensuring that the future of this country remains promising through them.