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.