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!