Friday, December 21, 2007

Wishes for the season

It is the last day of school. My family is all very excited about the holidays and spending two weeks together, skiing, laughing, sleeping in, visiting friends and family, skating and enjoying a break from all our usual obligations and routines.

I hope you will have the time to reflect on the blessings in your lives and to share some good fortune with others. May 2008 be a year to learn from our past and move forward with compassion and optimism.

Best regards to all. See you in the New Year.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Election Promises

"Oh, politicians...they promise the moon during election time and then don't even give you a lump of cheese once they're elected."

I thought I'd include my forum speech, so you could see what I've promised...and hold me accountable:

FORUM SPEECH- 2007

Hello and thank you for coming tonight.

My name is Sue Huff and in the next 6 minutes, I’d like to introduce myself, my beliefs, start the discussion of what I would do as your trustee.

First of all- who am I?

I am a professional writer, performer and film-maker. I’ve written for national television, CBC Radio, film and the theatre. As an actor, I’ve performed on most of the professional stages in Edmonton and appeared in both film and television productions. I have directed a film for the National Film Board of Canada called Kids Talkin’ About Death, which has been recognized locally, nationally and internationally.

I am married to a teacher who works in Spruce Grove and we have two fabulous children, aged 9 and 12. Like you, I am actively involved in my children’s school through the Parent Council and countless volunteer hours. Last year, I formed the Westglen Advocacy Group to address our school’s declining enrolment. As head of the group, I organized monthly meetings, set the direction and met with everyone and anyone who I felt had a role to play in keeping the school open…including parents, teachers, EPSB Planning Dept., Trustee Don Williams, our MLA, city councilors, the community league, school alumni, local businesses and the media. I organized a presentation on the Designated Community School Program, to share information on this formerly provincially funded program. I scheduled regular meetings with our principal and together we set priorities and objectives for the year. And I’m happy to report, we hit them all. One year later, Westglen’s enrolment has jumped significantly and we are no longer on the 1-3 Year Sustainability Review List. It was truly amazing to see what can be done with a concerted, collaborative and dedicated effort. It was a year of unpaid work, but it was well worth it.


What do I believe?
I believe in community and that we have a responsibility to look after not just our own children, but all children.
I believe community schools are vital and must be preserved as a choice for parents.
I believe in public education and the right for every child to be well-educated and to realize their potential, regardless of their race, creed, religion, socio-economic standing or disability.
I believe children’s success should be measured by more than a series of test results; they are individuals and should be treated as such.
I believe teachers have an incredibly challenging job to do and they require more support. I believe parents are being asked to do too much to support schools and that their primary role should be to support their child at home.
I believe education is under-funded in this province--- the richest in Canada—and that it is the trustees’ responsibility to increase that funding and to advocate for public education strenuously and fearlessly.
Most importantly, I believe in children.

Someone said to me, it’s not enough to say you represent change. We want to know how you will do it. Good point.

How will I effect change?
Slowly, persistently and with a smile. A combative, divisive stance gets us nowhere. Change happens with increased awareness and a true desire to work collaboratively with others.

Currently, collaboration is not just happening. Too many people feel unheard. Too many good ideas are being dismissed. Too many concerns are left unaddressed. And there are too many restrictions on open communication between trustees and the public. Trustees are frequently advised not to speak, not to comment and their silence does great damage to the perception of the role and its usefulness.

To restore trust in our trustees, I think, transparency, accountability and open communication are essential. We need to put the PUBLIC back into public education.

To do this, I would re-establish the public ward meetings that were held by former trustee Lynn Odynski. Everyone would be invited to share their concerns and ideas with me. These meetings would be held four times a year in community league halls, throughout the ward and the cost for these meetings would come out of my expense account. I would also explore additional avenues to open up the lines of communication, including using my website, emails, and regular newsletters to make it easy for my constituents to contact me, ask questions and find the information they need.

I would establish working relationships with all levels of government and begin the process of advocating for change. I would work towards increasing the authority and accountability of trustees, including a return to the right of local taxation, an open book policy and fewer meetings behind closed doors. I would listen and learn from all the partners in education: custodians, teachers, parents, advocates, principals and community members and bring those views forward. Ultimately, as an elected official, I answer to you, the constituents, not to the administration or the province.

Finally, I promise that I will be a strong advocate for children, because they deserve nothing less.

Thank you. I look forward to your questions and hearing your ideas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Activities of your trustee

So, what have I been doing lately?

Here's a few things from my daytimer for the past couple of weeks:
- attending the Many Faces of Childhood Well-being symposium (focused on children 2-6 yrs.)
- attending and speaking at the District Recognition Awards
- meetings for both the Community Relations and District Priorities committees
-Serving pizza to principals
-visiting Inglewood school
-being interviewed by the Examiner
-performing in and attending the 1881 Schoolhouse Christmas concert
-meeting with Crestwood parents about their concerns
-listening to individual parental concerns and providing links to appropriate supports
-attending the All-city Junior choir's performance at the First Presbyterian Church
-meeting with parents from Laurier Heights
-attending Westglen School's choral performance at City Hall
-Public board meetings and conference board meetings(of course)
-Hosting the District Priorities committee consultation with high school students (great feedback!)
-participating in the trustee coffee party for administrative staff
-researching and preparing for the school closure review debate in January

It's a busy time of year...but children's voices bring great cheer.

Merry Christmas to all!
Sue

Monday, December 10, 2007

Timing of closure process

I've heard a number of emotional stories about enduring school closure and although some would say there is no way to do it without creating animosity, I think the answer lies in timing. We need to allow sufficient time for communities to feel heard, to know they've been given a fighting chance and, if closure is indeed the only option, they need time to realize this fact, to grieve the loss and to grow to accept this reality. Like a death, you don't ask people to "get over it" within a matter of days. And like a death, you help people rebuild their lives afterwards.

The process needs to be compassionate, human and sensitive. People will not remember what we said but they will remember how we made them feel.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Promoting Community Schools

RE: "evaluating EPSB policies to ensure equity in promotion of all district schools"

When I was head of the Westglen Advocacy Group, I began exploring options to market and promote the school. I discovered that a number of schools had websites; we did not. I heard that some schools were funded in part by societies, parent tuition or cultural groups which supported their program of choice. We did not have this additional funding.

I turned to EPSB to see what promotional support they could offer. I saw brochures advertising the many alternative programs. I asked if EPSB could put out a brochure highlighting community schools and all they have to offer, but it never materialized.

I've since discovered what may be a reason. Although we have an open boundaries policy, which allows any school having an alternative program to promote to any student across the city...community schools are only permitted to advertise or promote their school within their boundaries. This strikes me as unfair. Open boundaries should be open for all or open for none.

In order for people to understand that community schools are an excellent choice, more equitable promotion is necessary. Given the inadequacy of previous policy, it may require considerable effort to "level the playing field" for community schools. Community schools are not a second-rate, default choice for parents who can't be bothered to find something better. They provide an excellent education, foster strong citizenship and responsibility in their students, and ultimately a sense of belonging and community for all.

Friday, November 30, 2007

JANUARY 15th not 11th

Hi,
First of all, the Board debate and decision on my motion will be held on Tues, January 15th (not the 11th).

Check out the article in today's Edmonton Journal on the motion.

I've been asked why I wanted to do this at a Public Board meeting instead of having a "behind closed doors" conversation.

Here are my answers:
A- This is an issue that concerns the public, so they deserve to have the opportunity to be involved
B- This is a complex issue and as a Board we will be held accountable for our decisions later in January. If we don't "show the work" and let the public witness our deliberations, how will they have confidence in our choices? How will they know what we've considered?
C- This is an opportunity to hear new ideas, to consider new ways of thinking without the pressure of talking about specific schools. It is a chance to identify values, philosophies and belief systems....outside of the emotional context of a specific school's review.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Motion to Review School Closure

Last night I put forward the following notice of motion. It will be debated and trustees will cast their votes on January 15. (Debate was postponed to allow the return of Trustee Esslinger and Superintendent Schmidt who will both be in China during the December public board meeting.)

I encourage you to post comments here about my motion to save my email inbox from being over-run. Please start by stating whether you would vote for or against this motion. I would like to encourage full dialogue and don't want to edit the comments, so please be respectful and considerate. If you would like to express comments privately, feel free to contact my by email. (suehuff@shaw.ca) Thanks!

NOVEMBER 27- NOTICE OF MOTION BY TRUSTEE HUFF
"Move that the Board establish an Ad Hoc committee of the Board to review the school closure process and impose a one year moratorium on the closure of any district school until this review is complete and has been duly considered by the Board.

The scope of the committee's review shall include, but not be limited to:
-broad base consultation with the public to determine their support for school closure
-evaluating the full impact of school closures on community
-evaluating EPSB policies to ensure equity in the promotion of all district schools
-evaluating EPSB policies regarding capping school sizes to facilitate a more even distribution of students
-transparently identifying the actual savings of closing a school
-assessing current research on the value of a small school vs. big school education
-reconsidering the timelines in the current Sustainability Review Process to allow schools sufficient time to implement ideas before initiating the school closure process
-exploring expanded intergovernmental and interagency partnerships to support schools with declining enrolment

and most importantly:
- fully explore options other than school closure to respond to declining enrolment."

Sale of Junk Food

Last night, the Board voted unanimously in support of Trustee Colburn's motion to ban the sale of junk food in schools. Eight members of the public came out to speak to the motion- 6 in favour and 2 against (Wendy Keiver, Amanda Beseigal). It was a great night for Trustee Colburn, who has been working tirelessly on this issue for a number of years and a great night for kids in Edmonton.

Someone called me today to express their gratitude that finally elected officials had voted the way they wanted them to... their faith in democracy had been restored.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Junk Food Ban--- VOTE

At the public board meeting this week, Trustee Colburn raised the motion to ban the sale of junk food in Edmonton Public Schools.

We will be voting on this at the next Board Meeting on Nov. 27.... so please give me your input!

Role of the Public in Public Education

As part of the PSBAA conference, we read the book Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming our Democracy by David Matthews. It's an American book but has a startling number of similarities. Inspiring stuff.

A key message:
Public Education is owned by the public, not parents, not teachers, not administrators and not the government. SO public engagement in public education is not just a "nice idea" it is essential to preserving the health and vitality of public education.

The role of the trustee is to ensure that the public has a say.

What have I been doing?

Well, it's been pretty much non-stop since getting sworn in on Oct. 30.

Here's a few highlights;

Results Reviews- every fall, every department and school has to review their results with us trustees. This involves looking at the budgets and goals that were set in the spring and measuring the success rates. It's a way to make sure everyone is accountable and also that trustees have a sense of what's happening across the District. We look for trends and patterns and input to help us determine where we should go next. What's working well, what's not.

Orientation- We've been given a session on legal matters, the media and our responsibilities.

School visits- I've been going out to several schools in Ward C to see things "first hand" and have a chat with the Principals. These meetings were my own initiative and I've really enjoyed them.

Meetings- Public Board meetings, conference meetings, meetings with the Superintnedent, lots of meetings!

Conferences- I went to the Public School Board Association of Alberta's conference in Calgary for New Trustees. I have another one this weekend.

Lots to do!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Photos from Swearing In


This was taken last night at the Organizational Board Meeting. We started out in alphabetical order, so I started next to Trustee Esslinger (in the Vice Chair seat). Once Trustee Gibeault was elected to Vice Chair, I moved over to his seat.

Monday, October 29, 2007

exploding brain

I haven't even begun the job yet (I get sworn in tomorrow) and already my brain is exploding. I'm finding out new information every day...about education in general, or specific programs in Edmonton, or policy, or the rules governing what trustees can and can't do, or how all the various boards across Alberta work together...

We did a three-day retreat this week to see what our common values and priorities are, set some objectives and get to know each other. It seemed like every time there was a piece of information, I had more questions. It's like those Russian stacking dolls...there is always another piece inside.

This weekend I'm off to Calgary for another new trustee orientation hosted by the Public School Board Association of Alberta.(PSBAA) A month ago, I didn't even know it existed!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Polling Results

This is from Christopher, who took the time to look over the results by polling station. (I'm so lucky to have him on my team!)

Strengths

- Going in, Sue had good name recognition in eastern neighbourhoods. Her victory in Ward 4 areas (east of 149th Street, south of 111th Avenue) was overwhelming, where she captured 75 per cent of the vote.
- Sue earned her largest margin of victory, both in percentage (86%-14%) and total votes (470-75), in Grovenor.
- The community that gave Sue the most votes was Westmount (518).
- Sue did really well in the following neighbourhoods: Glenora (515 votes), Parkview (506), North Glenora/McQueen (483), Laurier (390) and Crestwood (349).


Weakness

- Setting aside institutional polls, Sue placed second in three communities: Dovercourt, Lewis Estates and Westview Village. The last two areas are designated to Winterburn School.


Special Concern

- The decision to remove the polling station from High Park disenfranchised voters. Of all regular polling stations in Ward C, Mayfield School saw the least traffic (206 total votes, with a two-to-one margin in favour of Sue). In Britannia, a similar neighbourhood, more than 400 people voted. I’d say that’s another cost of school closure: residents dropping out of the democratic process.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

NEW Cell Number

Yesterday I bought a couple of bags of office supplies to set up my home office. I also got a new cell phone number for all trustee business. (780-709-4036). This will be the easiest way for people to contact me and it will also allow me to keep my home number free for family use.

I will also be re-vamping my website, so it can be used easily by everyone. I hope to include the following features:

ACCOUNTABILITY FEATURES:
- "How Did They Vote"... a page that will show how I (and every other trustee) voted on any given issue.
- A Calendar... showing where I am, what I'm doing, etc. This will also help people know when I might be available to attend their special event. I want to try and get out to every school in Ward C at least once every year.

COMUNICATION FEATURES:
- An on-line newsletter-- this will be sent out to anyone who subscribes to it, but also will be available on line to read. I will try to summarize what is happening and what is coming up.
- A Parent-to-Parent Board--- where parents can write and share events, ideas, resources, etc.
- Feedback-- I need to find a way to solicit and process feedback on many issues. Typically, information will come to me from the administration on Friday which I may have to vote on/ comment on at the Tuesday meeting. So I'm hoping we can devise a way to "Check in and Comment on Monday."


What else would you like to see??

Thursday, October 18, 2007

First Meeting

Today all the trustees met for the first time at the Centre for Education. Most of them I knew, but George Rice and Ken Shipka were new to me. We began our orientation process, which involved a lot of forms! I came home with a feeling that my head was about to explode, but as my hubbie reminded me, I "don't have to figure everything out today".

Everyone seems very keen to build a strong Board that will accomplish a lot together. Having four new faces certainly changes things and already I could sense that they aren't really used to someone as quirky (goofy?) as me. It will be interesting to see we gel together next week at the retreat.

And so it begins!

Lunch with Bev

Bev Esslinger (former Chair) took me out for lunch yesterday. It was a chance for us to meet and get to know each other a bit, ahead of all the hub-bub. We chatted about our priorities and hopes for the next three years.

Today is the first official meeting of all the trustees and the beginning of the orientation for the new trustees. I'm looking forward to getting to know all these people that I will be working with so closely. Next week we go on a retreat to Canmore for three days.

And so it begins!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WE WIN!!

Wow! What a night... we had over 50 people crammed into my house, watching the results as they came in and cheering loudly every time the numbers jumped up. There was food and drink and laughter and kids running around and the phone never stopped ringing. I was trying to do interviews, while champagne was being poured and a cacophony of sound bounced around my house. It was GREAT!!!!

Here's the article I'd always hoped to see:

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=3db8dd50-cd86-48a2-a6c1-68e24126b712&k=60205

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Election Day- tomorrow!!

I can't believe it....we've reached the end of the campaign trail! I started in July, so this has been a long road.

I'll be watching the results unfold via the internet and so can you!

www.vote2007.edmonton.ca

Tomorrow night, my husband and I are hosting an open house for all my supporters, friends and family. I'm looking forward to sitting down and sharing a few laughs.

Thank you to everyone for your help and fingers crossed the results are favourable tomorrow.

Addiction Awareness

I had a phone call yesterday from someone wanting to know what my stance was on addiction counselling in schools. I told him I had met with someone last week at AA who was available to come into schools and do awareness and prevention programming, but that she received very few calls from schools. He suggested that it would be worthwhile to have an addictions counsellor in every high school.

I think he's right...or at least to have counsellors that are shared between schools. We aren't doing enough and most addicts say their addictions started when they were in junior or senior high school. Of course, there was a time when every school had a guidance counsellor on staff, but most of us have forgotten those days. When I went to school, we also had a school nurse and a room with a cot for students who felt ill. What's happened that we've grown so used to all these jobs being cut from schools? Why do we think that counselling kids is a frill? Surely prevention is far less costly than treatment ...or worse yet...ignoring the problem and letting it spiral into a myriad of other social problems. How much does it cost then?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

St. Andrew's, Graham Hicks

Yesterday morning I spoke at St. Andrew's Centre on 111 Ave. A very lively Q and A followed my brief presentation. It was very encouraging to see that even though these seniors no longer had any children in the system, they still cared about the state of education and about the welfare of children in Edmonton. Some of the staff even stopped what they were doing to join in the conversation.

By contrast, I spoke with Graham Hicks of the Edmonton Sun to see if he would be interested in writing something about the trustee race. His response was that "the government controls the money, the trustees have no power, next question." His attitude is shared by many and it provokes the question- why do we even have trustees?

The usefulness of the role of the trustee has sparked an interesting conversation on line at www.connecct2edmonton I have posted my response today. It's certainly something we should be discussing more.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sign waving with the kids


Today we honoured the long-time tradition of sign waving. We went out to the corner of 142 Street and Stony Plain Road and waved at some people driving home from work. I was accompanied by my two kids, my niece, my nephew and four neighbourhood children and four adult friends. We did the
can-can, the hokey-pokey, we chanted, we marched, we laughed and we waved. It was a hoot...and a lot of people hooted their horns and waved back. Who says campaigning can't be fun?? Oh, and thanks to Christopher for bringing timbits to keep us going!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ross Shep forum

Today Don Williams and I attended a student forum at Ross Sheppard High School. Approximately 120 Social Studies students attended and asked questions. It was, hands down, the most interesting, engaging, fun and thought-provoking forum I've attended. The students were largely from grade 12 and had been well-prepared in advance by their teachers. (Thank you to Doug Senuik and his colleagues for their work in this.)

At the end of the forum, I had the opportunity to ask the students a question: "Why don't young people vote?" And they had provided good answers. Don did not take the opportunity to ask them anything.

Each student was given a ballot to cast their vote and I won by a landslide (82%!!)

Here is the link to the article which will run in tomorrow's Edmonton Journal:
http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=b59d9046-3949-493b-a4bc-5ad769f82970&k=45984

Ross Shep forum

Today Don Williams and I attended a student forum at Ross Sheppard High School. Approximately 120 Social Studies students attended and asked questions. It was, hands down, the most interesting, engaging, fun and thought-provoking forum I've attended. The students were largely from grade 12 and had been well-prepared in advance by their teachers. (Thank you to Doug Senuik and his colleagues for their work in this.)

At the end of the forum, I had the opportunity to ask the students a question: "Why don't young people vote?" And they had provided good answers. Don did not take the opportunity to ask them anything.

Each student was given a ballot to cast their vote and I won by a landslide (82%!!)

Here is the link to the article which will run in tomorrow's Edmonton Journal:
http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=b59d9046-3949-493b-a4bc-5ad769f82970&k=45984

Stephan Dion, Tommy Banks

Yesterday, I was invited to attend the Chamber of Commerce luncheon to hear Liberal Leader, Stephan Dion speak. The people at my table were all very interested in the trustee race and we had some stimulating conversations about education. Mr. Dion delivered a passionate speech and I was impressed by his ideas around emission reduction.

Senator Tommy Banks was also in attendance. I introduced myself and said, "I believe you are a graduate of Westglen." We talked for a while about the challenges Westglen faced last year and the successes of the Westglen Advocacy Group. He was very happy to hear it and shared his ideas about campaigning with me.

All and all, a lovely and productive afternoon.

Laurier Heights Door-knocking

Last night, Christopher and I went to Laurier Heights to knock on some doors. It was, as it has been every time, a very affirming experience. One man congratulated me for getting out into the community and said it was better than waving on the street. I laughed and said, "Yes, I find the interaction to be a little more meaningful if people aren't driving by at 60 KM/hour."

I spoke with a man in the playground with his young children. He took several brochures to give to his friends and promised to direct people in his address book to my website.

People are very generous with their time and don't seem to mind the interruption at all. They seem genuinely touched that I've made the effort to visit them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Edmonton Social Planning Council

Today I attended an all-candidate mixer hosted by ESPC. The other tenants in the building- Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, AA, Action for Healthy Communities- were also in attendance.

I spoke to a number of people and asked them the question: how can we build connections between the excellent social work you are doing and schools to help children?

There were a lot of ideas in the room:
--Action for Healthy Communities is always looking for gyms and other facilities to host their programming for youth.
--AA is willing to offer programs for children who are living with alcoholism.
--The Mennonite Centre has community brokers who can work in schools to help immigrant children. They also prefer to offer language classes in community schools, to reach more people.

There are so many ways to improve services for children and schools should be the obvious hub for the delivery. Working in concert with these agencies, pooling resources rather than duplicating services...together we can offer a more comprehensive approach. Together, we can reach more children in need and address those needs at the correct time. Avoiding the problems we see in elementary school won't make them go away....it will only make them grow.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Shiny Blue Building

I had a very interesting email exchange with a man who contacted me through one of my leaflets. He was concerned about the general state of disrepair of many of our schools, in particularly in the maintenance of the grounds. We emailed back and forth on this issue and then he wrote: "I can't help but notice that striking disparity between the state of many schools and the shiny blue building downtown" (where the School Board is housed).

This raises a very valid point. Why do our trustees and administrators get to be surrounded by every modern convenience, while our children are sweating (or freezing)? Why does every trustee need an office in the Blue building? Surely a shared office would suffice. Aren't the trustees supposed to be "in their community"? Why don't trustees have offices in schools in their Wards? Wouldn't that give them a closer connection to public education and their constituents?

I don't need or want an office in the Blue Building and if I'm elected, you'll find me in Ward C. My shiny office can be rented out and the money can be used to help fix the cracks in one of our schools.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Giving Thanks


I have so many people to thank in this campaign... people who have donated their skills, their time, their knowledge, their contacts, their insights, their money. Complete strangers who contacted me through my website to say "you can put up a sign on my lawn" or to ask me a question. People who walked for two hours to deliver my leaflets.


My family for putting up with the constant interruptions, the frequent change of plans and my campaign-fixated brain. My sister for being my organizational guru and always being willing to take "just one more job."

Friends who sent words of encouragement and jokes when I was in danger of losing my sense of humour.

So to all of you--- THANK YOU....and Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Parents of Children with Special Needs

Today, I had a wonderful 2 1/2 hour conversation with some parents of children with special needs. It was a crash course for me in all the challenges of the current system and what needs to be put into place so all children can be encouraged to see themselves as learners and reach their full potential. It is a world I know a little bit about through my own family, but the issues are quite complex.

However, in only 2.5 hours, I heard concrete suggestions of what could be done to stretch the educational dollar further, to meet specific needs of individual children. This is exactly the kind of collaborative approach I believe should be adopted for all educational issues. The expertise is out there. The parents are reasonable, knowledgeable and willing to help schools. The resources can be better allocated. We can think outside the box and find new, innovative approaches.

Of course, funding needs to be increased, but as I've said, over and over again...what can we do until the funding comes? What do we know? What do we need to know? Where can we pool our resources to benefit more children? How can we bridge the gaps and provide more support for families?

I am lucky to have such open discussion with people...and intend to preserve that (tooth and nail) if I'm elected. The comment came out: "It's great to be able to talk to you this way, before you get in, because once you're in the blue building, we won't be able to talk this freely." That's a sad statement and one I intend to disprove.

Multicultural Survey

The Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation sent out a survey. Only four trustee candidates answered the survey, including me. All our answers are posted on the CMEF website.

Here's the link:

http://www.cmef.ca/surveypublic.htm

The councillor candidates also posted answers, if you go back to the main page (www.cmef.ca) you will find the link.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Crestwood School

Yesterday, I read to two classes of grade 7 and one grade 4 class at Crestwood School. I enjoyed chatting with the librarian, Louise. On one wall in the hallway, I noticed they had a display concerning a school-wide event for cross-grade interaction. Older children mentored younger ones, acting as teachers for the day. The comments from all the students were very positive. Certainly, creating a family atmosphere at a school is a great way to prevent bullying.

I noticed though that 7B has a very, very hot room. The students were sweltering and it obviously effected their ability to concentrate. One poor girl was almost falling asleep from the heat. When I commented on the heat to the teacher, she remarked that it was always like this and if she opens the window, the heater kicks in to compensate for the cold air, making it even hotter. The best she can do is close the blinds and avoid wearing sweaters.

Surely we can do better!

Questions for Ward 4 candidates

Last night, I attended a councillor candidate forum hosted by the 124 St. Business Association. I had asked the organizer (Helen Nolan) if trustees could be included in the forum, but unfortunately this was not possible. Helen was kind enough to introduce me to the crowd.

I asked the 15 councillor candidates the following questions:

1-What type of relationship would you like to see between the city and the School Board trustees?
2-How do schools fit into your vision of Edmonton?

The answers were almost unanimous in their stated desire for more collaboration between the city and the School Board. (Jane Batty who felt there was already a level of cooperation). In particular, it was mentioned that closing schools in communities that are undergoing a revitalization was very counter-productive. There was talk of increased affordable family housing in areas where schools are suffering declining enrolment. I was pleased to see that all the candidates felt schools were essential to the city and the vitality of communities. Of all the candidates, I felt Ben Henderson, Lewis Cardinal and Deborah Peaker were the most interested in forming strong, working relationships with the trustees.

CBC ON LINE article

In 2005, I lobbied the School Board to make modifications to the lockdown drill for elementary schools. Working with former Trustee Lynn Odysnki and the media, we were able to convince them that having a set drill for k-12 was not in the best interest of children and that the drill could be adjusted for younger children, without losing any of its effectiveness.

Across Canada, other schools are now facing the lockdown situation. Here is an article recently written on it. I'm quoted at the very end of the article.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/school-shootings/lockdowns.html

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Woodcroft & Westlawn Schools

Today, I read for some grade 4's at Woodcroft and some grade 8's in Westlawn. Both were a lot of fun, but completely different.

Woodcroft is a small elementary school. It is one of the schools in Ward C facing possible closure this year. (Everyone in administration is careful to say they are "undergoing the Sustainability Review Process, of which one of the possible outcomes is closure"...but I think it's better to cut to the chase.) I asked how being under review impacted the school and one staff (anonymously) told me that it was stressful. Of course. It puts everyone on edge. There is no sense of "let's solve this problem together," instead it feels like all the cards are in the Board's hands. I got the sense that parents and staff at Woodcroft are waiting to see what the outcome will be. I advised the staff member to encourage the parents not to take a passive role, to be proactive and to start their own process of self-evaluation and problem solving. I would be happy to share what I learned at Westglen last year with any Woodcroft parents.

Westlawn is a mid-sized junior high. Two classes' worth of grade 8 students lolloped in to hear me read. They were all arms and legs and hair in their eyes. The teacher thanked me for coming, because so many people don't want to read to junior high kids. "They are afraid of them," she said. I have a junior high kid and my husband teaches junior high kids, so I'm not fooled by their size and attitude. They are challenging, they make you work, but ultimately, they are just kids. They seemed to enjoy my theatrical style of reading and I enjoyed winning them over. My acting skills, parenting skills and sense of humour seemed to work for me today.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Glenora & Parkview Schools

Today I visited Glenora & Parkview to read to students as part of Read-In Week. Although this isn't part of my campaign, it does offer a wonderful opportunity for me to spend some time in a number of the Ward C schools. I will be reading at six other schools this week.

It's amazing how you can quickly get a sense of a school and how the building tells a story: I noticed clean floors and walls, a quiet calm atmosphere, a staff room that is well-maintained and has lists of extracurricular duties assumed by each teacher. You immediately sense that this is a place of respect and a place well-suited for learning.

The principal at Parkview gave me a tour and even took me into some of the special classes they have, including English Language Learning and an Interactions program for students with autism.

I also learned that the librarian is shared between two schools, which is an unfortunate bi-product of funding cuts. Maintaining a library for a school of more than 600 students is not a part-time job.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sign juggling

Everyday, I'm getting more requests for signs and I've run out!! I'm going to have to rotate signs, I think and reclaim some from the public roads. Two months ago, I wondered if I could find 200 people who would take a sign, now it appears I could have ordered more. It's fantastic to have such a groundswell of support.

Today, my husband and I are going to put up the remaining big signs (4' X 4') and deliver some more lawn signs. I will also repair the signs that were vandalized. (Some people have too much spare time on their hands!!)

This morning, I opened my inbox to find 34 emails. It made me shake my head when D.W. said he had "five emails last week and six phone calls."

Friday, September 28, 2007

All Women Candidates Breakfast

Yesterday at 7:30 AM, I attended the All Women Candidates Breakfast, hosted by the YWCA's One Woman, One Vote Committee. It was a great chance to network with other female candidates (both councillor and trustee) and share our common experience of campaigning. We also had a wonderful presentation by Dr. Linda Trimble, Chair of the U of A Political Science Dept. She spoke about the stalled representation of women in politics (20% in the last four elections). She spoke about the perceived barriers to women becoming involved in political life and the importance of mobilizing women (half the population) to vote. She concluded on a positive note: hope lies in municipal government, where women are more actively involved and represented.

It was a great presentation, a great morning and just what we all needed to boost our resolve.

Meadowcroft Seniors Residence

Today I visited a seniors' residence, the second one I've visited during my campaign. The residents were extremely active, engaged and interested in education. I really enjoyed chatting with them all.

Seniors have a great wealth of knowledge and experience that is being ignored and underutilized. They all remarked on how much they appreciated me coming, that I was the only candidate besides Mayor Stephen Mandel to do so. They had never seen a trustee before.

Some of their questions:
-- Why do students have to pay so much to attend school (textbooks, school fees, field trip fees, sports fees)?
-- What can be done for students who do not have the support they need at home and are falling behind?
-- Why are we busing kids all over the place and ignoring the community school that you could walk to?
-- Some schools have seniors come in to help children who need some one-on-one time. Why don't all schools do this?

Great questions.

I talked to them about the Living History project which has been developed by a 80 year old friend of mine. He wants to pair seniors with school-aged children to develop history projects together. It could be a film or a story or a short play. The senior provides the real-life context and some of the research for the piece of history. They literally bring history alive.





HIgh Park Crime

I attended a community meeting in High Park last night. The community had come together (in great numbers) to address the growing problem of drug houses in the area with police officers. Councillors Linda Sloan and Karen Liebovichi (spelling?) were also in attendance. The police officers talked at length about the role community members play in combating the drug trade problem. They spoke about the importance of knowing your neighbours, walking your streets, and being a constant presence. I asked Constable Maurice Brodeur if having a boarded-up school (High Park Elementary) had an impact on crime rates, if it sent the message that "crime is okay here". He said that absolutely it had a negative impact and that having a school contributes to the vitality of a community.

Trustees needs to reflect on the far-reaching effects of the decision to close schools.

All Candidate Forum

The All Candidate Forum was held at the EPSB (Blue Building attached to Vic Comp) on Sept. 26. It started with a keynote address from former Minister of Education, Dave King on the role of the trustee and then we all split up in Ward rooms. Don Williams and I were seated side by side at a little table. My family, including my two kids, Mum and sister were in attendance along with about 25 or 30 others. Don and I each had 6 minutes to present our platforms and then it was opened up for questions from the floor. The evening was moderated (with great skill!) by two Jasper Place high school students.

Some thoughts on the evening:
Answering questions off the cuff is hard, but a great way to solidify your position and learn what is important to people. It is also a great chance for people to see if you WILL answer questions or if you are more concerned with "not saying anything" or towing the party line.
The overall event was poorly attended. Why don't people come? What stops them? How can we reach people more effectively?
The overall event was too restrictive. People want to be able to share their opinions, ideas, concerns and suggestions without having to conform to a structured procedure. Every interaction with the public that is set up by the School Board administration is too "procedure oriented." People do not feel heard. They feel stifled. This may be why public participation is so poor.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

SHAW TV interview

Today I went to Shaw TV to do a quick interview with Jacqueline. She is interviewing all the trustee candidates, which will be a great help to raise the profile of the job. I was surprised to hear from her that some candidates have declined to be interviewed. As a publicly elected official, you need to be comfortable speaking with the public and using whatever means, including the media, to facilitate that communication.

My interview will start airing around 4:20 PM today. It will be in a rotation that repeats every hour. I've also ordered a DVD copy to load onto my website.

Monday, September 24, 2007

SHAW TV

Tomorrow I will be interviewed for SHAW TV. I think it's essential to work with the media to promote the message: public education deserves our attention. I'm not sure what they will ask me, but I'm comfortable in front of a camera, so I'm not really worried about it.

I asked why trustees were not included in their televised candidate debates and they said there wasn't enough time. I encouraged them to consider including trustees next time. I'm guessing it just wasn't of interest. Somehow, we need to raise the profile of education.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Big Signs



Today, former Trustees Lynn and Leon helped me find key locations for my large signs. My husband Kevin and friend, Christopher were the muscle. In other locations across the ward, Roger and Dave were pounding in more signs. THANK YOU ALL!!

In case you are wondering who did the fabulous design, it was donated by graphic designer and friend, Dave Jackson. You can contact Dave through his business- the Wired Cup in Strathearn.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trustees Can't Speak

Today I was contacted by the Edmonton Sun to comment on the responsibility of school boards to screen community users of schools, in response to the charges being laid against a man teaching Tae Kwon Do out of Meadowlark School. The Board Chair and Trustee Don Williams had already been contacted for comment and the writer had found it frustrating that no one would give a "straight answer." Because I'm not a trustee, I was free to comment.

In reviewing the Code of Ethics for Trustees, there are a number of limitations concerning when, how and what a trustee may say. I will be seeking advice on this as I'm still uncertain where the line is and why it is there in the first place. As an elected official, doesn't your constituency deserve to know where you stand on issues not just what the board decision is? How can we balance the need to govern effectively and provide clear messages to the public (and avoid legal consequences), with the democratic obligations to be held accountable to the constituents and the personal right to freedom of speech?

I'm sure I'm going to put my foot in it a few times, but it seems to me if we want true communication between trustees and the public and if we want the trustees to effectively advocate for public education, we need to remove some of these gag orders and allow trustees to speak as an individuals. Currently, a trustee acting independently has "no authority above an ordinary citizen." Does no authority to make decisions or implement policy necessitate no voice? Are we taking the intent of the code and applying it in a broad-based way that hampers the fundamental roles and responsibilities of the trustee?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Schools This Week

I've been standing outside many schools this week talking to parents and handing out leaflets. Perhaps you've seen me! People are a little nervous at first, wondering what I'm "selling", but are pleasantly surprised when they realize I'm a trustee candidate.

Here's a few comments I've received:

"You're the first trustee I've ever seen."
"Is she running for President, Mom?"
"I've never known who to vote for before. Thank you."

Mostly, they just say thank you and promise to read my leaflet later. I see standing on the sidewalk outside their child's school as the first step to improving communication between parents and trustees. Trustees need to be in the community and people need to know they are there for THEM.

Municipal vote for Non-Citizens

I received a question from the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers asking if I would support their initiative to give immigrants a say in municipal politics. In short, they want the right to vote in municipal elections because they pay taxes, run businesses and their children attend schools. However, they are not Canadian citizens.

Here is my answer:

Hi Katrina,
Thank you for raising the important question of how we can engage immigrants more fully in the community and political landscape of Canada. I would not want a founding assumption of democracy (voting by citizens) removed. However, as a trustee, I would wholeheartedly support more direct consultation and input from immigrants on matters of education. We need to hear more about the concerns and issues of immigrant parents and work to break down the barriers of communication. One concrete step I would take would be to re-establish the public meetings which would be open to all community members, parents, teachers, principals and students. The meetings would provide everyone a chance to express their concerns to their trustee and MLA and to ensure that all voices from the community are heard.

I am very focused on community outreach and feel that schools provide an obvious and natural learning place for all members of the community. I would like to initiate more after-hours community use of schools, for things like computer literacy classes, ESL classes, physical education, social events and other community-building opportunities. I see the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers as an obvious partner in this venture. If I’m successful on October 15, I hope we can work together to explore these possibilities.

I hope this answers your question, but if you need further clarification, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards,
Sue Huff

CUPE, ATA questionnaires

It's been a crash course on everything political the past four days. I've read through stacks of research from CUPE and the ATA and tried to formulate answers to their extensive questionnaires. Luckily, I have a fantastic group of advisers around me and I'm not shy about asking questions. I've actually enjoyed reading the briefs and papers. It reminds me of my days at Alliance Atlantis when I worked as a researcher and development writer. I love to learn and ferret out details. I have one questionnaire left to do. It's on line. (Connect2Edmonton.) I'm looking forward to a night off...the first one in about 10 days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Photos from Nomination Day


Chatting with Ben Henderson.

Ben and I share many of the same views about community, city planning and the arts. I know he would be great to work with increase the connections between the city and the school board.




Trying to raise the profile of the trustee's role with the media.


I did interviews with CBC TV, CTV, City TV, CHED Radio and the Edmonton Journal.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Community outreach

I've been trying to meet as many people as possible over the past week or so. I've had some good (although brief) conversations with people at community barbecues, pancake breakfasts, and in front of schools. Here's some of the things I've heard:

- I don't have kids in the system, so I don't know what the issues are.
- Why don't we have one school board instead of two? It would save money and my daughter could go to the school across the street. I think 2 +2 is the same there. (from a Catholic parent).
- There are so many more kids coming into our neighbourhood, but now they closed our school.
- Things have changed a lot over the past twenty years. The classroom has changed. Parents are expected to do so much now.
- Who is responsible for the school property over the summer? We had homeless people camping out on our school and my daughter was afraid to go to the playground
- I'm sick and tired of the school board refusing to do anything for aboriginal kids. They just keep ignoring the problem.
- It's all about the kids. for me, that's what matters. They are worth it.

Media- City TV

Last night, City TV ran a good piece on trustees, which featured a few clips from me. I was pleased to see the trustee race get a little coverage, as all the other television stations ignored the trustee candidates in their election coverage. Nomination Day at City Hall yesterday was an experience: camera lights, microphones, African singers, candidates with offensive t-shirts... it only lacked the ringmaster and a couple of lions! I managed to connect with a number of people, including Lewis Cardinal, Michael Phair, Mark Ramsankar (the head of the ATA) and Ben Henderson. But it wasn't a great place to chat! I'll post some photos later.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Inclusion

I had a great chat today with Paul about inclusion of children with special needs in community schools. He sent me a questionnaire asking my viewpoints on this. I think it's important if we are a District of Choice that ALL parents have equal opportunity to make the choice that is best for their child. For inclusion to be successful, we need adequate support in the classroom, sufficient funding for those supports and more information about the benefits of inclusion. Currently, there is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding the idea and people of children without special needs often fear the negative effects of inclusion. With the correct supports, inclusion teaches tolerance, compassion, active citizenship and fosters the understanding that we all have limitations and we all have gifts. These are lessons that will serve our children well throughout life. Studies also show that there is no negative impact on academic achievement for "regular" students who are part of an inclusive classroom, while there are tremendous positive gains academically and socially for children with special needs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

CBC Radio

I will be interviewed, live, on CBC Radio (740 AM) on Friday, September 14. This will happen some time around 12:40 PM. The interview will center around why more people don't consider running for trustee (and by contrast, what possessed me to take it on). In the last election, of the 400 available trustee seats in the province, 200 were taken by acclamation. No one ran against the incumbent. What are the obstacles preventing people from running? Why is our Board in Edmonton entirely white, with the majority from an education back ground? This lack of diversity needs to be challenged and we need to find ways to make this job more accessible and inviting to people of all walks of life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Website traffic

My website is starting to generate some interest. I'm up to 100 hits per day, which is, I know, small potatoes compared to other websites, but could easily be one of the most visited Trustee websites. (Yes, I know, hardly any other Trustees have websites!!)

This month, I've had visits from: Sinapore, Mexico Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Switzerland, Italy and the Phillipines.

Now I just need some more visits from Lewis Estates!!

Leaflets to pick up



20,000 leaflets all organized into routes and bundled with maps. My sister, Kris is a marvel of efficiency and organization!!

We will be handing them out at Grovenor Hall (14325 104 Ave.)on Friday, Sept 14, from 6-8 PM.

Come say hi. Join the fun!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Business of Education

Here are some great comments from a friend of mine. (Reprinted with permission, of course)

It continues to amaze and disappoint me that school boards - and to some extent, the media - continue to view schools in "business model" terms. Schools are not a business. They don't work that way. We went through this with Suzuki being a charter school and every five years in order to have the charter renewed the onus was on us to prove that it was growing. It had very little to do with the excellence the students were achieving because of the environment (low class sizes), parental commitment, great teachers (often being paid less than their peers in the Teacher's Association.) It just came down to "show us the numbers." Enrolment went up, but it's hard to say whether that made the school more successful. Schools should be there for students and not the other way around. Frustrating.

Linda


Fabulous article- Sheila Pratt

A wonderful article was written about my campaign by Sheila Pratt and published in today's Edmonton Journal. I really enjoyed meeting Sheila. She is a senior writer who knows all the right questions to ask, immediately puts you at ease and has an obvious intelligence. Somehow she distilled our hour-long conversation into a cohesive and focused piece.

Here is the link to the article:

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/opinion/story.html?id=82d61c29-d184-4a21-bd33-97fe247f7466&p=2

Saturday, September 8, 2007

3 Ward C schools to be reviewed

In the Edmonton Journal today, there is an article written by Florence Loyie on the five schools to be reviewed this year. Three are in Ward C. Two are in the rest of Edmonton. Christopher Spencer (Grovenor School) was very quick off the draw and made sure the media had our contact information. In this way, we were able to present our message first: community schools deserve a real chance to address enrolment issues.

Well done, Christopher for being diligent and proactive in this.

Here is a link to the article:

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=536c8cc0-6759-4743-9bfd-47f3806b35e6&k=38672

Shaun Johnston endorsement

Shaun Johnston (one of Alberta's best loved actors and an all-around great guy), has sent out the following endorsement to all his west end friends and associates:


Hi y'all. Shaun here. A friend of mine, Sue Huff, is running for EPSB school board trustee. Take it from me, this gal is super human and will be the best thing that the EPSB has ever known. She's got a couple kids that she expects the very best for and will fight like an ugly man at closing time for what's best for all kids. VOTE FOR SUE HUFF when the time comes. Truly!
Shaun.


Thanks Shaun!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Coronation School

Tonight I was meeting people at Coronation School and North Glenora Community League. We found out at 4 PM today that Coronation, Grovenor and Woodcroft will all be reviewed this year.

Here's the document released by the School Board:
http://www.epsb.ca/board/sept11_07/item14.pdf

I will be attending the September 11 meeting, in support of all three schools. There are alternatives to closing schools. Community schools deserve a strong advocate.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

No Jobs for Graduates

I spoke with a man this evening about the lack of jobs for graduating teachers. He felt we needed more schools and that, given the current baby boom in Alberta, it did not make sense to close schools. He also raised some good points about how Catholic teachers are permitted to teach in the public system but not visa versa. As always, it was great to hear someone else's views and share mine.

Later start time for students

I was out door knocking today in Westmount and got the following comment: "Why can't school start later? Maybe 9 AM for younger kids and 9:30 AM for high school."

Certainly, I've read a number of studies that say that teenagers go through a profound shift in their internal (circadian) clock and that they basically aren't awake until 9:30 or so. Most teenagers are sleep-deprived because they just can't get to sleep early enough to give them the hours they need. Some schools in the States have moved to a later start time and shown drastic improvement in testing results. It's worth discussing.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Thousands of leaflets

I picked up my 20,000 leaflets today. Three huge boxes. I will need an army to distribute them all. My sister has been working like a fiend, analyzing neighbourhood maps and dividing them into routes.

It can all seem a little daunting, but then today I received an email from David saying:
"I need 900 leaflets for my team to cover our area."

I have teams!! It's very heartening.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

High Park School

Yesterday, I sat across from High Park School,waiting to hand off some leaflets to Kim and Clare. What a sobering sight to see the windows boarded up and the final message on the school sign: "Good Bye High Park School."

By the front entrance, bright yellow flowers were profusely blooming. It seemed a defiant reminder that someone cared enough to plant them. I walked around the school and it struck me how solid the foundation was, how new the building.

What a loss for that community.

Monday, September 3, 2007

MLA Bruce Miller

Bruce invited me to attend a Pancake breakfast he was hosting with two other west end MLAs in Belmead (91 Ave and 182 Street). I met a number of people who live in Ward C, including the son of Wop May!

It was a glorious morning, sunny and warm, and everyone seemed glad of the opportunity to come together.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

September schedule

September is filling up fast. I received the list of all the Meet the Teacher Nights yesterday from Loreen. I will be at as many of these as humanly possible, chatting with parents as they come to the school and handing out flyers. I also have three senior's residences booked, a coffee party in Laurier, the Candidate Forum, the student forum at Ross Shep, two barbecues, a community league meeting and of course, door-knocking. I also want to try and visit every school in the Ward at least once before October 15.

I'm thinking we should add a few more days to September!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Door knocking in Crestwood

My husband and I were out last night in Crestwood with our dog, Jag in tow. I was very pleased when a couple of households agreed to take a lawn sign including one that supports the separate system but was impressed that I was out knocking on doors. I spoke to a few people who didn't feel sufficiently educated on the issues to vote, but I encouraged them to take a few minutes to visit my website and consider voting this year. I feel as if I am gathering votes one at a time!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Door knocking 127 Street

I was out the night before last testing the water. It was great fun, actually. I met a woman who went to Westglen when it was a high school and then sent her daughter there years later. It turned out the daughter, now aged 27, had the same fantastic teacher (Linda Hut) that my daughter had in grade two. People were very surprised to have a Trustee candidate at their doorstep, but very pleased and supportive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Door Knocking with David Eggen

Yesterday I went door-knocking with MLA David Eggen in Prince Charles. I really enjoyed it and see why David does so much of it. He quickly finds a way to connect with people and put them at ease. He is an excellent example of a politician who truly represents his constituents and a great role model for me.

For the next 6 weeks, I'll be doing a lot of door-knocking, so I really appreciated my time with the "master".

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mature Neighbourhoods

I've been receiving updates from the Mature Neighbourhoods group (MNAG). It's interesting to see that some people see schools as an essential part of revitalising and maintaining mature neighbourhoods and some don't. I believe neighbourhoods and communities are created and sustained in many ways. Schools are a vital ingredient in community building. There are many studies that show once a school is closed in a community, the effects are measurable and very determental. As we all strive to find solutions to global warming, an obvious one is to walk to school. As soon as we get out of our cars, we find more opportunities to talk to our neighbours, notice changes in our community and increase our investment in our area and each other. In short, we start to build community.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The New Dog


This is completely unrelated to the campaign, but here's a photo of our new puppy, Jag. We've always been a cat family, so the addition of a dog (a Boxer/Standard Poodle cross) is newsworthy! I'm looking forward to lots of walks with Jag.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Faith

I will need between 75 and 100 volunteers to drop my 20,000 leaflets in mailboxes. There will need to be a tremendous amount of coordination to plan the routes and make sure we don't overlap. It's a huge undertaking, but I'm hopeful that I will have enough people to help out. I've ordered the signs and leaflets on faith that the contributions to the campaign will come in. Running a campaign seems to require a lot of faith!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Trustees in the driver's seat

I have been learning a thing or two about how things are done in the Blue Building. Currently, the administration sets the agenda for every meeting. Most of the meetings are behind closed doors and Trustees don't meet "on their own". Consequently, there's little or no opportunity for the Trustees to spearhead new ideas, discuss problems or brainstorm. I am fully in support of working meetings for Trustees, where real discussions can take place about issues the Trustees bring forward. As it stands now, the administration is driving the boat and the Trustees are simply passengers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Coffee with seniors

I'm booking appointments with various seniors lodges, residences and nursing homes in Ward C. My plan is to briefly introduce myself and explain why I would like to be the next Trustee. I have some ideas of how schools and seniors might work together well. I am also looking forward to chatting with people informally to hear their ideas about education. If you know a senior's group that I should connect with, please let me know.

Fringe Show

True Grid is previewing tonight at Theatre Network, 107 Ave and 124 Street, 7:30 PM. Tickets are $10 at the door. Fringe dates start Sat, August 18, at the Telephone Museum Venue. All tickets $14 and remember, all tickets sold in advance this year. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reaching communities

Ads for my campaign will be appearing in the Westmount, Crestwood, North Glenora and Woodcroft newsletters. I am still waiting to hear back from some other newsletters.

Other pieces of the puzzle are coming together. I'll be at the Westmount Community Picnic on Saturday, August 18 from noon to 2 PM. MLA David Eggen and I are going to start door-knocking together in Prince Charles the following week.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Inner City High Question

I wonder why the Inner City High is separate from the Public system? What obstacles stopped the Oilers charity from working with the School Board to develop this innovative high school with on-site housing? Why did the idea come from outside? How is the system failing these kids, making this school necessary in the first place?

I applaud the commitment shown by the community to help these kids and I wish them every success.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

4 Heavy Hitters in my corner

Three politicians have agreed to support my campaign by handing out my leaflets in the areas where our districts overlap: MLA Bruce Miller, MLA David Eggen and city councillor candidate Ben Henderson. I'm so lucky to have their support.

My fourth heavy hitter is the (fabulous) former Trustee Lynn Odynski. Lynn has been acting as my advisor throughout this process and her expertise is invaluable. She had incredible support from Ward C and is connecting me with her network.

With people like these in my corner, I feel very optimistic.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Newsletter feature

David (Emergence by Design) and I are planning to add a feature to my website if I get elected: a monthly newsletter mailout.

I would send the newsletter to all the Parent Council chairs, the schools in Ward C and any individual parents who signed up to receive it. The newsletter would keep people informed about the activities of the Board, new policies that are being discussed, upcoming meetings and things I'm working on. I could also provide a shorthand guide to navigating the EPSB website, so people can pinpoint the information they need quickly and easily.

My hope is to create a more direct link between the Board and the parents.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

My website is crawled by Google

I met with Dave yesterday (Emergence by Design) and we're going to add a mailing list form to the website. I told him the positive feedback I've heard already and thanked him again for donating his expertise.

He showed me how I can track how many hits the website has had. It's amazing- I can see the date, how many pages have been opened, which pages have the most hits, and how people found the website. We also saw that Googlebot has discovered my website (Dave referred to it as google crawling my page). I found this all very fascinating.

www.suehuff.ca now shows up if you google "Sue Huff for trustee." I also tried "Sue Huff + kids" and it found it, although my film for the NFB came up first. If I get more hits, it will move up in ranking with google and show up more readily.. So visit that website!!!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Money, money, money

The next campaign meeting is set for Tues, Aug. 7 at the Westmount Community Hall. The most pressing thing is probably fund-raising...to buy signs, leaflets and ads in local newsletter. Being a campaign-newbie, it's quite an eye-opener how much money (and volunteer hours) are involved even in a small-scale campaign like this one. Nothing happens without it. Cassandra has agreed to handle all the contributions for me, with David overseeing everything as a chartered accountant. In this way, I won't know who the contributors are or how much they have given and I won't be beholden to anyone.

So, to all my unknown contributors--- THANKS! I really do appreciate your support.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Working with the city

I've reached out to city councillors Linda Sloan and Jane Batty and candidate Ben Henderson to talk about ways that schools and the city can work together. Currently, there is very little communication between the Board and the city councillors, each maintaining their own "jurisdiction". I would like to create a more cooperative relationship as our decisions have great impacts on both sides.

Front and centre for the city is the homeless situation. I think about the children who living in tent city or in the river valley- without the basics, how will they fare at school? Saying "it's not my problem" is short-sighted and irresponsible. It is our problem.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Community Use to Save Schools

The School Board says it can't afford to keep schools open with low enrolment, but it seems to me that they've never really considered other sources of income. Renting schools during the summer months, weekends and after-hours could generate the needed shortfall to keep schools open. There are so many wonderful resources within a school: gymnasiums are obvious, but computer labs, art rooms, music rooms, even the staff rooms can be used by groups and organizations. I could see seniors updating their computer skills, immigrant families taking ESL classes in their own community, at risk youth playing late night basketball, clubs holding their weekly meetings and young mothers receiving parenting support. The current booking system needs to be changed, to make it more user-friendly. Principals and teaching staff need to be educated on the benefits of community use and the cost of the custodian needs to be factored into the rental agreement. But these are all minor adjustments in the face of the upheaval and community damage done by closing a school. There are always alternatives.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Partnering Seniors and Schools

Seniors and schools could work well together. Most families have two parents that work, so trying to arrange time off to go on fieldtrips or help out in the classroom is difficult. Seniors have more time available during school hours. As well, seniors have the knowledge and experience that could really bring history alive for students. In turn, schools have great resources like new computer labs that could be of benefit to seniors. Perhaps the kids teach the seniors how to design a webpage and the seniors teach the kids how things were done "in their day." A mutually beneficial relationship is a longer lasting one and I think schools have something to offer to seniors and visa versa.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Greatest Failure --- Eight Percent

I was reading a newspaper article in the airport which stated that the provincial high school completion rate for aboriginal teens is "about eight percent." I was shocked. This is an abhorrent failure. I don't know what is being done to help aboriginal students, but clearly it's not working. I would like to work with aboriginal leaders and elders to develop a clear plan to improve these rates.

Some other appalling stats:

"In Canada, the aboriginal teen suicide rate is three times the national average."
"In Alberta, 33% of all youth remanded in custody are aboriginal even though they make up only 6% of the youth population."

Education is the key to open the doors for a brighter future.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Website launch

I just previewed the website. It looks fantastic. Thank you David at Emergence by Design. It will be up with the next day... check it out: www.suehuff.ca

I also have a superb leaflet and ad design ready to roll. Thank you Dave Jackson at the Wired Cup.

Lucky me!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cash-seeking Cassandra

Cassandra and I met today to discuss our fundraising strategy for the campaign. It all felt very official--- handing over the receipt book, the deposit book and banking information for the "Sue Huff Campaign" chequing account. She wants to plan a couple of fund-raising events for August and September. Should be fun and a great way to meet more people.

Cassandra, if you don't already know, is a mighty dynamo of energy and commitment. I feel very fortunate to have her on my side!

I'm off to Toronto and Montreal for a family holiday, returning on July 31. I'm going to try hard not to do any Trustee work while I'm away.

Stay cool!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Maps, maps and more maps

I've started printing maps of the neighbourhoods in Ward C. These will be used for leaflet drops and my own personal door-knocking. My lovely sister has agreed to coordinate all this in her kitchen.

I found the 2004 voter turnout list on the city's website. It tells you what the turnout was in the last election for each polling station. By cross-referencing the turnout with the ward map, I can start to focus my efforts. But everything ground to a screeching halt because the numbers don't match. It turns out the city has renumbered most of the polling stations. I've since found the document explaining the new numbering system and so now I will cross reference all three documents.

No one said it was going to be easy!!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What the heck does a Trustee do???

It's been something I've been asked a lot, already. Most people have no idea, which is sad statement in itself.

I see the job involving three main responsibilities:
1) to be in contact with the Ward they represent, to hear what people's concerns are and to take these forward to the Board.
2) to examine the policies, actions, protocols and budgets presented by the administration to be sure they are in the best interest of children
3) to be a strong and passionate advocate for education to other levels of government, the media and the public in general.

On a side note, I think to do the job, you need to form working relationships with a lot of people: the other Trustees, the administration, parents, Principals and teachers, the ATA, CUPE, city councillors, community leagues, seniors, the media, MLA's and the Minister of Education, advocates ... the list is long.

Ray Martin described the job well: "It's what you make it."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Catherine the Great

Today I met with another Trustee hopeful: Catherine Ripley. She's running in Ward H. Three years ago, she ran for Trustee and very nearly won. She was very generous in sharing her campaign tips to me. We found that we share a lot of the same beliefs and values (and a similar sense of humour!). I know we could accomplish a lot together. I hope I have the chance to work with her!

Hot day out today...hope you kept your cool.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Two Designers named Dave Donating

Hi-
I've sent off my stuff to the two fabulous fellas who have agreed to donate designs for my campaign. This is an enormous help and I'm most grateful.

Dave Boroditsky at Emergence by Design (124 St. and 102 Ave.) is setting up a website for me. Dave Jackson from Wired Cup (91 street and 94 Ave.) is putting together a design for my leaflet.

Both designs will use the colour green and have circles somewhere. Ah, the circle! So round, so inclusive, so child-friendly.

Sue

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Family affair

Hi-
My nephew and son painted a huge sign yesterday for the front lawn. My niece wants to make up t-shirts and my daughter wrote her own message to send out:

Hello, my mom is running for trustee. I am really trying to encourage you to vote for her. I think she is truly the very BEST choice. Her slogan is…Putting Kids First. I think that is a wonderful slogan, and she will make a great….. Well, let me rephrase that….. She will make the best trustee EVER!!!!!!! Oh, I also forgot to tell you….. She spearheaded the saveing my school from shutting down she can do it again!!!!!!!
Yours truly,
-Hannah
p.s. her name is Sue Huff so please vote for Sue Huff


I think maybe she's a little biased but, hey, she's nine.

Sue

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

July 10, 2007

Last week, I decided to run for School Board Trustee. The leap from acting to politics may seem unexpected, but I guess if the States can do it, so can we!

I'm going to attend the Rapid Transit meeting at City Hall this afternoon. The parents in Grovenor are concerned about the effect that a six-lane street with buses roaring down it will have on their community school. I've long maintained that more cooperation needs to exist between city planning and school planning.

I'll bring you up-to-date on everything that's happened over the past week. It's been a whirlwind already.

Sue