Friday, February 29, 2008

ATA on Election

I received this from the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA)....

For additional information on election issues relating to education and the positions of the various political parties, go to www.vote4kids.ca. Five general issues are outlined and the responses of the PC, Liberal and ND parties are provided.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Candidate responses

The Edmonton Public Schools Board of Trustees is committed to strengthening support for public education. To that end, the Board has prepared a list of questions on a number of educational issues that represent challenges for our District.

The questions were sent to all Edmonton candidates running in the March 3 provincial election. Their responses are now available on the district website at www.epsb.ca. We hope these responses will help to clarify each candidate’s position with respect to these important educational issues.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Next Board Meeting

The agenda for Tuesday's Board Meeting includes:

and

Trustee requested information reports on :
-The impact of 9 proposed P3 schools on enrolment across the District (and specific schools)
-Challenges of low-income families and how the District is supporting them
- Comparison of achievement results for schools with less than 140 students compared to those over 400

These information reports can all be found at www.epsb.ca/board/feb26_08/item06.pdf

The board meeting starts at 6 PM, at the Centre for Education (1 Kingsway Ave.) and everyone is welcome to attend. (Free parking underground). There is a provision towards the end of the meeting, where anyone can speak to the Board on any educational issue.

Small Schools Rally

Woodcroft Community League President, Patricia Greill, organized a rally for small schools outside Woodcroft School today. In attendance, were representatives from many schools across Edmonton who had been touched by school closure, many Woodcroft community members and children, the President of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, and the political candidates from three parties (Liberal MLA Bruce Miller, PC candidate Heather Klimchuk and ND candidate Arlene Chapman). Many people spoke about the need to recognize the vital role community schools play and to seek alternate means to support them financially. I did not speak at the rally, but listened to the opinions expressed and spoke with my constituents personally. The media was there and I did a few short interviews following the rally about why I was there ("to listen to my constituents"), what challenges the Board faces ("balancing the educational and financial responsibilities with the needs of communities") and what hope I saw ("the Review committee's work to improve our processes" and "that it was encouraging to see all three political parties speak about the need for collaboration between all orders of government to find solutions that work for communities".). They also asked if trustees had open minds going into the vote on March 25 ("of course").

Friday, February 15, 2008

Board decisions- Feb. 12

Quick update following the Tuesday Board meeting: The motion to establish a foundation was passed. I'll keep you posted as things develop.

The District Priorities have been approved and will now circulate to schools. Planning at every level will now revolve around these priorities. Here's the Link: www.epsb.ca/datafiles/DistrictPriorities.pdf

Also, there is an education questionnaire which will be sent to all candidates in the upcoming election, if you are interested, you can look at it here: www.epsb.ca/datafiles/questionnaire.shtml

Happy Family Day! I hope everyone has a wonderful long weekend and takes some time to rest. Enjoy the warm weather.

Ward Meeting #1

On Wed, Feb. 13, I held my first ward meeting, with the kind cooperation of Ross Sheppard High School's principal, Jennifer Lawley. 15 people came, which was a nice manageable number for the initial meeting. I circulated a survey asking a number of questions about the future format of the meetings. It was wonderful to have this dedicated crew help me to decide the shape of meetings to come.

The consensus was: 3-4 meetings throughout the school year, 2 hours in length, a portion of the meeting would be a set topic (topics determined by group input), the remainder of the meeting would be open for discussion on any item. The length of time for the set agenda item would depend on the participants' engagement and interest level... however, it would not exceed one hour. Childcare would be provided at all meetings and the meetings would move around the ward. The Principal at Jasper Place High School has already kindly offered to host the next meeting!

Once we'd agreed on the shape of things to come, we spent the rest of our time together discussing items of concern. Everyone brought something valuable to the conversation. I heard about: school closures, inclusion of special needs students, the importance of public engagement, PATs (standardized testing) failing to recognize the brilliance of auditory and spatial learners, bus ride times, site based decision-making, the need for open communication, etc. We started a great conversation around the question: What is public education? What does it stand for? I also heard what people expect of me as their trustee and what their hopes are for our District.

Thank you to everyone who joined me on Wednesday. I was honoured by your presence and inspired by your comments.

The next meeting will be in May and I will be sure to give everyone more advance notice.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Establishing a Foundation

At the next public board meeting, we will be debating the idea of establishing a District-level foundation. Here's the link: www.epsb.ca/board/feb12_08/item10.pdf

The purpose: to promote public education and focus on engaging community support in specific areas. It would be a fund-raising entity, that would seek charitable status and it would complement the existing fundraising activities at schools. It would be run by two staff members and overseen by a board of 10-12 individuals and would report initially to the Superintendent. For three years, it would be funded by EPSB, at a rate of around $400,000 per year. After three years, it would be expected to be self-sufficient. Other school boards have similar foundations, with the most notable being the Vancouver Foundation.

What do you think??

Friday, February 8, 2008

EPS and EPSB

Last night, I attended an open meeting with the Edmonton Police Service, West Division, which seems to coincide almost perfectly with Ward C. The meeting was poorly attended, but the Police Chief and all the officers were very gracious. It was an important lesson to me: appreciate those who DO come out, rather than pining for those who DON'T. If you focus on the people who aren't there, the ones who have made the effort to come out feel inadequate.

I was very impressed by the work EPS is doing. The Police Chief talked candidly about the feedback his town hall meetings had generated... most of it negative. Rather than being defensive about the criticisms, EPS fearlessly embraced them and used them to propell themselves into improving their level of service. Prior to the town hall meetings, their response time to high priority calls was 18 minutes and the public wasn't pleased. Rather than point to lack of resources or argue with the public that there was nothing they could do to change the situation, they devised a new deployment system. Now, 9 months later, their response time is 7 minutes, which may be the fastest in Canada. EPS seems focused on meeting community needs, responding with care to every public concern and actively building partnerships.

I asked some questions about how EPS and EPSB could work together more closely to help at-risk kids in particular. They were very open to new ideas. We agreed that investing in our youth today and being proactive, creative and collaborative in our approach makes good sense.

All and all, it was well worth venturing out into the cold and dark. It reminded me that we have amazing people in this city.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Committee(s) update

RE: "Ad Hoc Committee to review the school closure process and sustainability process and all matters relating to this issue" (We're going to need a snappier name!)

The steering committee had its first meeting to begin the work of setting out the terms of reference. When the terms have been finalized, we will bring these ideas forward to the Review Committee (which includes every member of the Board) to discuss, deliberate, change and modify. It will be exciting, challenging work. As I've said before: the issues surrounding school closures are complex and emotional. Solutions are not going to come from the wave of a wand, but I feel confident that the Review Committee will accomplish a great deal. I have been very impressed by my colleagues' willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Another committee I sit on (District Priorities) has completed the bulk of its work. Soon, the new District Priorities will be appearing in schools across Edmonton. It was incredibly challenging to try and condense the input of over 800 surveys into a three-sentence statement! We tried very hard to reflect the predominant and reoccuring themes. Of course, some people will look at the priorities and wonder where "their" comments are. I hope if anyone feels unclear about the Priorities or has questions about why "this" or "that" was left out, that they will contact me.

The third committee I'm on (Community Relations) has developed an extensive list of recommendations, which we are now fine-tuning based on input from our colleagues. It will be great to see some of these ideas kick into action. The overall aim is to increase public awareness, confidence and commitment to public education.

There is so much work that happens out of the public's eye. I had no idea!

I hope I can shed a little light on the work, so that people can understand what trustees do and why it is important.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ward Meeting- Feb. 13

During my campaign, I promised to hold Ward Meetings to foster open communication between me (your trustee) and you (the people I'm elected to represent). The meetings will take place 3-4 times a year, at various locations across the Ward.

Well, the first one is happening on Feb. 13, from 7 to 9 PM, at Ross Shep High School and YOU are invited!! You don't need to stay for the entire two hours...drop in, say hi and let me know what's important to you. Ross Sheppard High School is located at 13546- 111 Avenue, near Westmount Mall.

If you aren't sure which Ward you are in: Check this link--
http://www.epsb.ca/trustees/brdwho.shtml

Spread the word.. Everyone is invited. Parents, students, teachers, staff, community members, seniors...we all have a part to play in education. I will arrange child care on-site.

See you on Feb. 13!