Sunday, November 7, 2010


I've started up a new blog- which will cover a wide variety of topics that interest me- like education, politics, family, theatre and anything else that is banging around in my head trying to get out.

I hope you will come by for a visit:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What an election- ARTES a gamechanger

Last night, I watched the election results come in at Trustee Dave Colburn's gathering at the Highlands Golf Club. Dave was acclaimed, so it was, from the outset, a different kind of celebration- it was about other people. Dale Hudjik was there, from ARTES, the Association for Responsive Trustees in Edmonton Schools, a grass-roots, volunteer organization that formed to encourage and support progressive candidates in this election for school board. ARTES had specific qualities it wanted to see in trustees: forward-thinking, progressive, responsive to the community, transparent and independent in thought. They held monthly meetings, discussed good governance and provided mentorship and support to candidates. ARTES was instrumental in the community-led forums for candidates that sprang up when EPSB cancelled their forums and provided a constant source of information to interested citizens through twitter (@yegtrustee, @stolenfire) and their website. They even supplied a report card for each candidates, with the majority of their top picks being successful last night.

There were some very noteworthy results last night: Sarah Hoffman had over 14,000 votes in Ward G, to knock off incumbent and retired principal George Rice. Sarah was second only to the mayoral candidates in terms of number of votes- she had more votes than any councillor and I would guess more votes than any trustee EVER.   Heather MacKenzie was in a three-way race in Ward E (west end), but in the end was victorious. She is one of four trustees under the age of 35 on this new board...another record. Michael Janz did very well- proving that in Ward F (University, downtown) people are more interested in electing someone with board/political/community experience than an experienced principal/adminstrator.  To me, the results last night represent a fundamental shift in how the public perceives the trustee role and how seriously they take the job. It is clearly seen as a political role, requiring political skills, rather than the logical next step for retired administrators.  In fact, other than Ken Shipka, not one of the educators who ran, was successful.

Last night, I texted Christopher Spencer (Ward C) some words of congratulations before he had been officially declared a winner, but when it was obvious that he would be successful. He texted back his thanks and added, "but I'm most excited for Heather, if she can just hang in there."

Heather will not walk into that first meeting, as I did...a lone individual. She will be walking into a group that knows her and values her already. This is perhaps the most valuable things ARTES did- it provided a meeting ground for the board-mates before they were thrown into the pressure-cooker of board life. Almost all of the candidates elected last night know each other already through ARTES meetings. They will walk into their first meeting as a team, with respect and trust already established. What a gift. I think this board will do great things.  And I thank the volunteers of ARTES, most notaably Dale Hudjik, for the support and encouragement they have given these new trustees.

The Board of 2010-2013
Ward A- Cheryl Johner
Ward B- Ken Shipka
Ward C- Christopher Spencer
Ward D- Dave Colburn
Ward E- Heather MacKenzie
Ward F- Michael Janz
Ward G- Sarah Hoffman
Ward H- Catherine Ripley
Ward I- Leslie Cleary

And, now I sign off- my blogging as a trustee ends here. I am returning to my first love: acting. I start rehearsals today for "The Fourth Graders Present the Un-named Love/Suicide" for Northern Light Theatre. It is a very dark script about bullying and will be performed Nov 2-14 at the Arts Barns. Tickets available through Northern Light Theatre.

After that, I will be performing in "True Grid" a hilarious comedy about four rabid Edmonton Eskimo Fans, Nov 24, 25, 26 at the Stanley Milner Library Theatre downtown. This show is part of the official Grey Cup celebrations and tickets are available now through TIX on the Square.

Thanks for reading. It's been fun!

I'll post the address for my next blog on politics, life and whatever else strikes my fancy....sometime in early November.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oct. 16 Sector Review Think Tank Cancelled

Here is a message from Dialogue Partners: October 16th Think Tank workshop cancelled

The public engagement process for sector planning was to have included an event on October 16th, to bring together a variety of participants from different organizations to discuss creative ways to work together going forward.

We've heard from many participants that they have concerns about the timing of this meeting, which was to have been two days before the civic election. We have also received complaints from participants about Trustee Candidates and an existing Trustee campaigning and/or attempting to influence discussion at workshops.

Based on this input, we have decided to cancel this session. After the election, we will ask the new Board of Trustees for their input on how they would like to proceed.

Sue's comments:
I have repeatedly raised concerns about the timing of this event. It seemed strange to try bring councillors and trustees together for an "out of the box" think tank two days prior to an election. Even if something productive were to come of the discussion, many of the participants would not be around three days later to follow through with the ideas. I was also concerned that it would turn into a last-minute campaigning session for candidates and quickly de-generate into sound bytes and accusations. Thinking outside the box takes courage, creativity, trust, openness, playfulness and hope. I am not convinced that those qualities will be in strong evidence two days prior to an election. So, I support the decision to cancel it. The timing of the decision, however, is poor. This event should have rescheduled long ago. To cancel it on such short notice feels disrespectful to those who were planning to attend and to leave its future status vague is unsettling.

I hope, in the flurry of activity post-election, the new EPSB board can find time to discuss this matter and confirm a date. The community has been asking for a conversation around alternatives to closure and cross-jurisdicational cooperation for a long time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

EPSB Information Night for Parents from African communities

What are parent teacher interviews? Where do I go for information?
What is my role as a parent in the school?
What is an IPP and why does my child need one?
How do report cards work? What do students think?
What are assessments and why are they needed? What is CTS? What is RAP?

Do you have questions about Edmonton Public Schools?

Come to an information session for immigrant and refugee families of African background.

WHEN: Saturday, October 30 at 3:30 p.m.

A simple meal will be provided at the end of the session.

WHERE: Africa Centre 13160 – 127 Street

WHY: Make connections and have your questions answered.

RSVP: To register call Chem Chinoda at 780-616-5732,
or email by October 22, 2010.

Organized by Partners in Education Program, Edmonton Public Schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Hosted by Africa Centre.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Optimal Enrolment Limits for schools

Last year,  I argued that we needed to use accurate, reliable and realistic capacity numbers for schools.  I argued that the provincially calculated ACU was woefully inaccurate and presented a false picture of underutilized space in the District because it included non-teaching space like hallways in its calculations. I argued that it was physically impossible and educationally irresponsible to even CONSIDER filling schools to the ACU number. Although our funding is tied to this calculation,  I argued that we should not be using it to make critical decisions about combining school populations in closure scenarios.

I argued that the ACOL capacity was more realistic, as it was calculated by multiplying the number of actual classrooms in a school by the Alberta Commission on Learning recommended class size for those grades. (12 classrooms X 20 students in a class = school capacity of 240)

I also argued that the even-finer calculation called Optimal Enrolment Limit (OEL) was ideal. The OEL  is a number devised by the Principal and the Planning Department, looking at the on-the-ground realities schools are facing. It allows for adjustments, for instance, for special needs students in designated sites, who are not expected to operate in a classroom of 20. For their educational needs, smaller class sizes are essential. It also takes into consideration multiple programs offered at a school and ensures that if a child starts in Kindergarten in an alternative program that there will be room for them all the way until grade 6.  OEL is a practical, real number for individual schools to prevent over-crowding. And surely, that is what we all want.

Just to give some concrete examples, so you can understand how wildy varying these three capacity measures are, here are three examples in my ward:

Westminster (ACU: 837, ACOL: 650, OEL: 535)
Westglen Elementary (ACU: 452, ACOL: 300, OEL: 240)
Parkview (ACU: 957, ACOL: 855, OEL: 725)

I pushed the issue and the Board agreed to use all three numbers in school closure discussions. Therefore, I was disappointed to see when I attended a sector review meeting last week,  that only ACU and ACOL numbers were listed on the map on each table. I searched through the sheets available on the table, found OEL numbers and wrote them onto the map at the table I was sitting at. However, I am guessing that most tables were continuing to explore options using the ACU and ACOL, without the benefit of realizing that some of the schools in Ward C are already over-capacity according to their OEL. To add more students to these schools would be unthinkable. When you need to ensure space for children not only for this year, but every year, it is not simply a matter of adding X and Y together to get Z.  As you can see below, some schools have enrolment limits set for the entire school with no caveats, some have notes about limits for specific programs or even specific grades.  The capacity of the school is far more complex than many might think!

As well, it's worth noting that several schools are "small by design". Their optimal enrolment is under or around 200. So, again, a school's enrolment that may look small on paper (and seem empty according to the ACU) but it is actually full. You could not increase enrolment without risking over-crowding.

I hope the next board will take the important step of discontinuing the use of the ACU in any school closure considerations and only use ACOL and OEL. Encouraging the province to complete its review of ACU, improve this measure and adjust funding accordingly is worthy advocacy. But in the meantime, the next board should not feel obligated to measure water with a funnel instead of a measuring cup. 

Here is a list of OEL numbers for EPSB schools as of February 2010. 
Please note:  not all schools within the District have been assigned an OEL.


A. Blair McPherson 850 3 classes per grade

Abbott 250  Kindergarten - 40 Students (1 Cree extended, 1 regular class),Grade 1 - 6-60 students,  Cree extended, 2 regular classes)

Aldergrove 300 Not grade or program specific

Allendale 500 Cogito - 2 classes per grade, German Bilingual - 2 classes per grade

Argyll Not Applicable Traditional Program - 300

Athlone 180 Kindergarten to Gr. 6 - 1 class per grade

Avalon 600 Not grade or program specific

Balwin 475 Not grade or program specific

Baturyn 360 Not grade or program specific

Beacon Heights 150  Kindergarten - 2 classes Early Education - 4 classes Grades 1 to 6 - 1 class per grade

Belgravia 135 Kindergarten - 1 class – 25 Students Grades1 to 3 - 67 Students,Grades 4 to 6 - 51 Students

Belmead 240 Kindergarten- 2 classes – 40 students Grade 1- 1 class

Belmont 310 Logos - 1 class per grade, Regular - 1 class per grade

Bisset 325 Kindergarten - 3 classes, Grades 1 to 6 - 2 classes per grade

Brander Gardens 375 Not grade or program specific

Brookside 330 Not grade or program specific

Caernarvon 420 Mandarin Bilingual - 1 class per grade

Callingwood 275 Not grade or program specific

Centennial 310 Kindergarten - 2 classes

Clara Tyner 175 Not grade or program specific

Crawford Plains 350 Not grade or program specific

Crestwood 415 Elementary - 7 classes, Junior High - 9 classes

D.S MacKenzie 560 200 Students per grade

Daly Grove 375 Not grade or program specific

Dan Knott 500 Not grade or program specific

Delwood 500 French Immersion Program - 2 classes per grade

Dickinsfield 410 Not grade or program specific

Dr. Donald Massey 850 3 classes per grade

Donnan 470 Not grade or program specific

Dovercourt 300 Mandarin Bilingual - 1 class per grade

Dunluce 425 Kindergarten - 1 regular class

Earl Buxton 460 Not grade or program specific

Eastglen 1045 Grade 10 - 350 Students, Grade 11- 350 Students

Edmonton Christian School Senior High Campus 450 Grade 10 - 150 Students

Edmonton Christian School Northeast Campus 581 Not grade or program specific

Edmonton Christian School West Campus 633 Not grade or program specific

Elizabeth Finch 850 3 classes per grade

Elmwood Not Applicable Kindergarten - 30 Students, Grade 1 - 30 Students

Ellerslie Campus 560 Kindergarten - 4 classes, Grade 7 - 2 classes

Esther Starkman 850 3 classes per grade

Evansdale 430 Kindergarten – 55 Students, Grade 1 - 50 Students 2 classes per grade

Florence Hallock School 850 3 classes per grade,

Fraser 300 Not grade or program specific

Garneau 290, Child Study: Kindergarten – 40 students, Grade 1 – 40 students, Grades K to 6 – 10 classes

                       Regular Program: K & 1 – one class per grade

George H. Luck 400 Not grade or program specific

George P. Nicholson 450 Closed Boundaries

Glendale 165 Not grade or program specific

Glengarry 560 Kindergarten - 4 classes

Glenora 190 Not grade or program specific

Grandview Heights 300 Grades 1 - 6, 1 class per grade, Junior High - 2 classes per grade

Greenfield 540 Regular Program - 12 classes, French Immersion Program - 13 classes

Greenview 475 Regular Program - 1 Kindergarten class

French Immersion Program - 2 Kindergarten classes

Harry Ainlay 2185 Grade 10 - 700 Students, Grade 11- 700 Students

Hazeldean Not Applicable Kindergarten - 28 Students, Grade 1 - 22 Students

Hillcrest 500 Not grade or program specific

Hillview 200 Kindergarten - 21 Students, Grade 1 - 25 Students

Holyrood 500, French Immersion Kindergarten - 3 classes, French Immersion Division I - 3 classes per grade, French Immersion Division II - 2 classes per grade, Ukrainian and Regular Programs - 7 classes total

Homesteader 242 Early Education - 50 Students, Elementary 1 class per grade - 182 Students

J.A. Fife 450 French Immersion Program - 1 class per grade

J. Percy Page 1130 Grade 10 - 385 Students, Grade 11- 375 Students

Jackson Heights 310 2 Classes per grade

Jasper Place 2200 Grade 10 - 725 Students, Grade 11- 700 Students

John D. Bracco 600 Not grade or program specific

Johnny Bright 850 3 classes per grade

Julia Kiniski 390 Not grade or program specific

Kate Chegwin 560 Grades 7 to 9 Regular, 6 classes per grade

Keheewin 400 Kindergarten - 2 classes

Kenilworth 450 Not grade or program specific

Kensington 470 Not grade or program specific

Kildare 550 Mandarin Bilingual Kindergarten to 4 - 3 classes per grade, Mandarin Bilingual Grade 5 to 6 - 2 classes per grade

Kirkness 340 Not grade or program specific

Lago Lindo 370 Not grade or program specific

Lansdowne 200 Not grade or program specific

Laurier Heights 500, French Immersion - K to Grade 1 - 2 classes per grade, French Immersion- Grade 7- 1 class, Late French Immersion- Grade 7- 1 class, Regular K to Grade 1 and Grade 7 – 1 class per grade

Lillian Osborne 680 Grade 10 - 340 Students, Grade 11- 340 Students

Londonderry 570 Grade 7 - 190 Students, Mandarin Bilingual - 2 classes per grade

Lorelei 390 Not grade or program specific

Lymburn 425 Not grade or program specific

M.E. LaZerte 1965 Grade 10 - 640 Students, Grade 11- 640 Students

Mary Butterworth 600 Not grade or program specific

Mayfield 300, Early Education 100 Students, Kindergarten - 20 Students, Grades 1 to 6 - 200 Students

McKernan 600 Not grade or program specific

McLeod 360 Not grade or program specific

McNally 1030 Grade 10 - 385 Students, Grade 11- 375 Students

Meyokumin 490 Closed Boundaries Cogito - Kindergarten to Grade 6 – 2 classes, Regular Kindergarten - 1 class, Regular Grade 1- 2 classes, Regular Grades 2 to 6 - 1 class

Meyonohk 440 Not grade or program specific

Michael A. Kostek 460 Kindergarten Division I - 3 classes per grade

Millwoods Christian 710, Division I & II - 350 Students, Division III – 175 Students, Division IV - 185 Students

Minchau 346 Not grade or program specific

Montrose 175 Kindergarten- 1 class

Mount Pleasant 375 Cogito Kindergarten to Grade 6 - 2 classes per grade

Old Scona 360 Grade 10 - 120 Students

Ottewell 732 Grades 7 and 8 classes (240 Students)

Overlanders 270 Not grade or program specific

Parkview 725 Kindergarten Division I, II - 1 class per grade, Grade 7 - 7 classes

Patricia Heights 295 Not grade or program specific

Pollard Meadows 425 Cogito - Kindergarten to Grade 6 - 2 classes per grade, Regular Kindergarten to Grade 6 – 1 class per grade

Prince Charles 295 Not grade or program specific

Queen Elizabeth 1320 Grade 10 - 450 Students, Grade 11- 450 Students

R.J. Scott 140 Regular - 1 class per Kindergarten to Grade 6

Richard Secord 510, Cogito - Kindergarten to Grade 4 - 2 classes per grade, Cogito - Grade 6 - 1 class per grade, French Immersion - 1 class per grade

Rideau Park 245 German Bilingual - 1 class per grade

Rio Terrace 375 Not grade or program specific

Riverbend 630 Challenge - 2 classes per grade (60 Students per grade)

Rosslyn 590 Challenge - 2 classes per grade (60 Students per grade)

Ross Sheppard 1965 Grade 10 - 640 Students, Grade 11- 640 Students,

S. Bruce Smith 645 215 Students per grade

Satoo 300 Kindergarten - 2 classes

Scott Robertson 300 Grade 1 - 25 Students

Sifton 300 Not grade or program specific

Spruce Avenue 325 Kindergarten to Grade 6 - 7 classes, Grade 7 to 9 - 6 classes (Note: THis will be changes as Spruce Avenue is now a 7-9 school only)

Steinhauer 375 Kindergarten to Grade 3 - 3 classes per grade

Stratford 530 3 classes per grade, Kindergarten to Grade 4, 2 classes per grade; Grades 5 to 9

Strathcona 1425 Grade 10 - 450 Students, Grade 11- 450 Students

T.D. Baker 690 Not grade or program specific

Velma E. Baker 340 Kindergarten - 2 classes

Vernon Barford 765 Grade 7 - 240 Students, Challenge - 2 classes per grade (60 Students per grade)

Victoria School of Performing & Visual Arts 900 (High School) Grade 10 - 310 Students, Grade 11- 300 Students

Vimy Ridge 950 Grade 7 to 9- 550 students, Grade 10 to 12- 400 students

Virginia Park 210 Not grade or program specific

W.P Wagner 1460 Grade 10 - 470 Students, Grade 11- 455 Students

Weinlos 375 Not grade or program specific

Westbrook 450 Kindergarten - 2 classes

Westglen 240 Kindergarten- 2 classes

Westminster 535 Grade 7 - 175 Students

Windsor Park 174 Regular - 1 class per grade Kindergarten to 6,

Winterburn 450 Regular Elementary - 1 class per grade, Logos Elementary - 1 class per grade

York 335 Regular - 1 class per grade, Challenge - 1 class per grade

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Creating the necessary dialogue

A fellow out-going trustee, Gerry Gibeault, has started up a blog, called Secrets of a School Board. Every day leading up to the election, he is posting one tip or piece of advice for candidates seeking a spot on the board. I think it's a great idea to capture the wisdom of out-going trustees, especially those, like Gerry, who have served for a long time (15 years!) and have great insights to share. This was the reason I put forward a motion to create a succession plan for the next board.

I chatted with Gerry the other day and commented on his blog, saying: "There are some good ideas in there- why didn't you fight for them while you were a trustee?"  He said that, as a trustee, you need to take the temperature of the board and determine whether or not things will fly. He didn't see much point in putting motions on the table that would go down in flames.

I value Gerry's perspective and certainly he was able to stay in the game five times longer than really, what do I know?  But I have to disagree. From where I sit, it's important to stimulate conversation, even if it doesn't result in immediate change or tangible success. It's important to put forward ideas, to discuss them, to explore why people oppose them, to understand what is still missing for your idea in order for it to be successful. If you never bring those ideas to the table, for public discussion--- how can we generate new ideas and challenge ourselves to grow, progress and develop?

To the new trustees, or anyone sitting at a table that is setting direction--- I would say: Take a chance. Innovate. Present your ideas. And never confuse short term failure with the long term merit of an idea. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and explored ideas that most thought were "wrong," "impossible" or "idealistic."

It's amazing for me to see how many people are talking about alternatives to school closure in this election. Even councillor candidates and the Mayor seems to be on board with this idea. This was something that I included in my first motion on the board, within months of being elected. In a round of amendments, the wording "and most importantly, seek alternatives to closure" was removed by the board. Three years ago, this idea was considered a dud, now it feels almost inevitable. With Trustee Dave Colburn's motion to create tri-level discussions around school closure and space utilization, there is a clear and obvious lever to move this idea forward by involving the city, the province and the school board in finding real solutions.

So, it's important to share your ideas, todiscuss them in the public arena and see where they go. If you keep them to yourself, because you fear they will not "pass" rob yourself and future colleagues of an important tool for change.

So- to the new trustees who will be elected on Oct. 18, I say: Be courageous! Be kind! Be bold!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Public lectures on inclusive education- Oct. 13


James McLeskey is a professor, School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies in the College of Education, University of Florida.

Dr. McLeskey has worked extensively with administrators and teachers on school improvement efforts,
seeking to provide educational services for students with disabilities that are more effective and inclusive. He has written about these activities in several articles and books, including Inclusive School in Action: Making Differences Ordinary (ASCD, 2000), and Inclusion: Effective Practices for All Students (Pearson Education, 2010).


“Qualities of effective, inclusive schools”
October 13 3:30 – 4:30
Room ED N 2-115
This presentation explores qualities of a highly effective and inclusive school.

“Reflections on developing effective, inclusive schools”
October 13 7 – 9 pm
Room TL 12 (Tory Lecture Theatre)
This session addresses potential problems that arise, and how these problems may be addressed in developing effective, inclusive schools. An emphasis is placed on making differences ordinary as students with disabilities are included in local schools. The qualities of effective, inclusive schools will be briefly discussed.

Questions and comments from the audience will be encouraged.

Contact Wendy Suave at ERC (Edmonton Regional Coalition for Inclusive Education) for more info.