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:


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.

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