Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Results-Woodcroft/Ritchie

Last night, the Board of Trustees voted on Woodcroft, Ritchie, Coronation, Grovenor and Horse Hill. The recommendations from the administration, which came out of the Sustainability Review process, were: to initiate closure on Woodcroft and Ritchie and to have a continuation of the review until 2010 for Coronation, Grovenor and Horse Hill.

14 speakers registered (including members of the public, parents and two MLAs) to speak to the Board on this issue. They articulated their concerns, values, beliefs, innovative plans and hopes for these schools. The administration presented a report outlining how they had arrived at their recommendations. The trustees asked many questions and debated, at length.

In the end, the Board voted unanimously in support of the continuation of the review process for Coronation, Grovenor and Horse Hill. The vote was not unanimous on the other two schools, but in the end, the majority of the trustees believed the school closure process should be initiated for Ritchie and Woodcroft.

I did not vote according to the majority. I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed with the outcome, but democracy is my faith and I stand by it.

Here's the link:
http://www.epsb.ca/mediareleases/080129.shtml

Monday, January 28, 2008

School Closure Vote

First of all, I'd like to apologize for the last minute nature of this critical information. I only received it on Friday evening and have spent most of the weekend reviewing the recommendations. It's a very dense report and I haven't had a lot of time to share it with you.

Like all reports that come to Board, it is posted on the EPSB website on Friday, under the Board agendas. The report is called the Annual Implementation plan. (Click on the highlighted words to link to it directly or cut and paste: www.epsb.ca/board/jan29_08/item04.pdf).

The recommendations: Continuation Review for Coronation, Grovenor and Horse Hill.
Initiate closure for Woodcroft and Ritchie.

Initiating the school closure process does not always mean the school will close, but I believe in about 80% of the cases over the past couple of years, it does result in closure. The "glass half full" approach would be to say that 20% of the time, the school is not closed.

For me, this report represents the most difficult part of the job. Under what circumstances should we consider closure? What are the values upon which you want me to make my decision?

I will continue to wrestle with this until Tuesday evening. Right now, I'm trying to arrange a walk-through of Ritchie. When do we let go and decide that there is no hope? Could we have taken steps to avert its current situation?

Survey Results

The poll I set up is now closed.
The question: How important is public consultation prior to making key decisions?
85 people responded.
69% said that public consultation is essential prior to making key decisions.
27% said it was important but not essential
0% said it wasn't needed and that I could decide on their behalf
3% were not sure how to answer this question.

Thanks to all who participated. I have received the message loud and clear--- you want to be involved! So, check the next post to give me feedback on the vote on Tuesday...whether to initiate the school closure process.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Unconditional Parenting- Feb. 27

"Parents as Partners" is going on the road. Our next session (February 27) will be presented in association with GETCA at Barnett House (11010- 142 Street). The keynote speaker is author and educator, Alfie Kohn. The topic: unconditional parenting.

Here's the link to learn more:
http://intranet.epsb.ca/datafiles/PaP_QP_27jan08.doc

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

FAQ's on the role of the Board

I've just come across this FAQ sheet which answers questions like:
"What does a School Board do?"
"To whom are you accountable"
"Don't you just do what the provincial government tells you to do?"

If you've ever felt too dumb to ask the questions that many people share, here's your chance to find some answers!

http://www.asba.ab.ca/about_trusteeship/downloads/pdf/rrqas.pdf

ASBA Conference

http://www.asba.ab.ca

On Monday and Tuesday, I attended the ASBA (Alberta School Board Association) conference for new trustees. I attended workshops on: Turning Good Intention in Action, Conflict Management and Community Engagement. All three were worthwhile, inspiring and left me wanting more.

Some of thoughts that I took away:

  • Community engagement is essential to the long-term viability of public education.
  • Perception= Reality (How public education is perceived by the public IS reality)
  • A number of attributes are common to all leaders (including being genuine and trusting)
  • Conflict is built into the job of being a trustee and learning to deal with it effectively is essential.
  • The roles of the administration and the Board of Trustees are both independent of each other AND interdependent. Sometimes, the interconnectedness of the roles can lead to confusion or stepping on each other's toes.
  • Empathy is key to the role of trustee.
  • Management focuses on doing things right. Leaders focus on doing the right things.
The notes from the sessions will be posted on the ASBA website.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Representative or Participatory Democracy?

Hi-
I've added a survey (above). Please take a minute to fill it out. It will help me to know if you are interested in representative democracy or participatory democracy. (Wow! My first hyperlinks! Thanks to Ken Chapman for the instructions.)

Representative democracy, as best I understand it, implies that the public's democratic voice is heard only on Election Day. The public doesn't really play a role in the government's day-to-day decision-making...that is left in the hands of the elected representative, who is trusted to make the best informed decisions on the public's behalf. If you don't like their decisions, you speak with your vote on the next Election Day.

Participatory democracy is on-going. The elected official remains connected to the public, regularly seeks their input on key issues and regards their feedback as crucial to their decision-making process. In this way, the elected official seeks to align their decisions with the values and beliefs of the public.

Some would suggest that representative democracy was the only logical choice when distance, time and the lack of technology prohibited contact between the elected official and the public. It would follow that now because these barriers have been removed by technology that participatory democracy is a valid option.

The question is: Do you want it? Or are you too busy to participate?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Changes to my blog

I have made a few changes to my blog.

First, I've activated the "Moderate" button, because after some advice from the very knowledgeable blogger, Ken Chapman, I've become more fully aware of my responsibilities. As the owner of this blog, I'm responsible for everything on it, in the same way that a publisher is responsible for the material in their publication. So, comments will come to me first and I will decide whether to post them or not.

I want to emphasize that I have no intention of vetting on the basis of whether I agree with the comment or not. It's only in the grey area of libel that I'm going to exercise caution. I'm a big proponent of free speech and I want this blog to be used to discuss ideas, generate feedback and promote interest in and awareness of public education. I encourage difference of opinion and even provocative discussion, but I can't allow libelous comments to appear. (Next step: increase my own understanding of what is slander/libel and what is fair comment.)

Second change: I've renamed the banner.

"Sue for Trustee" was started as a campaign banner and it seems a bit odd now that I have been elected to continue with it. That being said, the address will remain the same (http://suefortrustee.blogspot.com)
because I have NO IDEA how to redirect the entire blog to a new location and I don't want to lose the beginnings of this journey.

As you can see, I'm muddling through this new form of communication. Unlike my son, I didn't grow up with this technology. But I believe it holds great potential and so I will venture forth, learn, adapt and, no doubt, issue many apologies along the way!

Post-Debate Musings

Over the past couple of days, I've been reflecting on the last Board meeting (Tues, Jan 15) and the debate of the motion I put forward. How did I feel about it? What did I learn? What would I do differently next time? What did I miss? It's a very human (and annoying) reaction to think of all the things you should have said the next day, but in the end, I'm very pleased with how well the Board held up the ideals of democracy on Tuesday night. Points were clearly stated, concerns articulated and despite the vigorous difference of opinions, it never spiralled off into table-thumping or name-calling. Yes, it was long and there were many amendments as we struggled to find consensus, but as I've said before: "Democracy is messy work". If you want quick, decisive and irrevocable, dictators are the way to go!

Here's the summary of the meeting which includes the final wording of the motion. http://www.epsb.ca/board/jan15_08/item00.pdf

If you are interested in reading the full transcript, you can request it by contacting EPSB.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Board Decision re: school closure motion

On Tuesday evening, the motion I put forward regarding reviewing the school closure process and imposing a moratorium on school closures was debated. Prior to the debate, we discussed a very comprehensive report which provided a historical overview of Edmonton Public School Board's work in this area.

The debate was extensive and revealed the complexity of the issue. Many different points of view were articulated by the Board. As well, seven members of the public voiced their opinions and concerns (there is a Board policy which allows anyone to speak to a topic on the agenda for two minutes, providing they advise the Board Secretary of their desire to speak previous to the day).

Achieving consensus was challenging work and many amendments were proposed to the motion. In the end, the motion was split into two parts: (1) the Ad Hoc Committee to review the process and (2) the moratorium. As well, specific details about what the committee would address were removed and the language of the motion was modified to address various concerns expressed by the trustees.

The final result, after the lengthy debate, was the Review Committee passed and the moratorium was defeated. Both votes were very close.

I am looking forward to the establishment of the committee. I feel confident that its work will be significant, constructive and meaningful.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Santa and his Trustee Elf


Just in case you're thinking that being a Trustee is all work and no play....
Here's a photo of me and the Jolly Old Man taken at Coronation School just before the Christmas break. Santa and I had a great time together, visiting schools in Ward C and have already planned to meet up again the same time next year.
I think we make a dashing couple, don't you?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

District Priorities

Happy New Year!

Along with Trustee Esslinger and Trustee Rice, I am on the District Priorities committee. We've been hard at work meeting with many different groups.

In case you have no background on this:
Every three years, District Priorities are set by the Board of Trustees to guide the work of the administration. They are developed through consultation with Edmontonians, which reflects our commitment to public engagement.

So far, I've met with students and community leaders. Both sessions were very enlightening and worthwhile. On January 9th, I will meet with teachers and on January 16, it will be parents. As well, by the end of this month, my colleagues will have met with business leaders, secondary education and principals.

I want to let you know that participation is open to EVERYONE through the wonders of the web. An on-line survey can be completed by visiting www.epsb.ca.

Please take the time to add your voice to the discussion. What should our focus be in order to prepare our children for the future? What values would you like us to use to guide our work?