Saturday, April 26, 2008

Survey Results- Student Advisory

Thanks to those who voted on my wee poll!

Question: If the Student Advisory Council is passed, what age of student should be involved?

- Jr and Sr. High students- 44%
- Sr. High Students only- 0%
- Grade 4 and up- 1%
- All grades- 44%

Check out the latest poll, which is related to Trustee Colburn's motion:
"The expenditure of any uncommitted operating surplus or capital reserves in the district require the formal approval of the Board of Trustees."

FYI- currently, this decision is made by the Superintendent.

Tues April 29 Board Meeting

The agenda for Tuesday's meeting is up on the web now. You can find it by clicking on the link to board agendas under my "Useful Sites" sidebar and then click on Tues, April 29th.

Here's some highlights:
- Update on the Community Collaboration Project (funded through AISI dollars). This project brings additional support to students through collaboration with outside agencies such as Big Brothers/Sisters, Capital Health, Rotary Club, the Family Centre, the City of Edmonton, etc. It brings services to families they otherwise would not have.

-The Board is requested to approve/renew of a number of locally developed courses, including American Sign Language, Punjabi, Fluid Power, Marine Biology, Cermamics, Sports Medecine, Sculpture, Learning to Lead, to name a few. Locally developed courses must be approved or renewed every three years and must meet requirements set out by Alberta Education. I had no idea EPSB developed so many new courses! It's quite an impressive list.

-The Board must vote on the terms of a lease-to-purchase agreement of the North Edmonton School by Excel Society. The plan is to renovate the school into an assisted living facility for seniors suffering from various forms of dementia and brain injury. The playing fields are not part of the purchase and would be declared surplus. Typically, the city retains the playing fields and continues to operate and maintain the fields.

- Revised Planning base (working budget for next year). 91% of our allocation from the government is directed to schools, 9% stays with central decision units (administration). This is a slight increase for schools of 0.6%. Check out ITEM 6 on the agenda to see where all the money goes!

-Mid-term report on enrolment, attendance, suspensions, leaves of absence, security, transportation. I am glad to see our numbers of suspensions going down slightly. (-4.6%). Our incidents of vandalism went down, but unfortunately the cost of repairs was significantly higher. We had 940 fewer students in Sept. 2007 than Sept. 2006.

-ITEM 9--Trustee Requests- answers for my requests on high school dropouts and the proposed pick up/drop off bussing site for Woodcroft families. Also, Trustee Fleming's request re: the KIPP program (Knowledge is Power).

-Principal Designations: Gordon King (Westmount) and Kerry-Ann Kope.

- Debate of Trustee Rice's motion: to plan a one-day school health symposium

-Debate of Truste Colburn's motion: that expenditure of surplus money require approval of the Board of Trustees.

-ASBA budget approval

-ASBA policy recommendation re: Alberta Supernet funding policy and joint funding for Early Education.

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the Board meeting on Tuesday. I will, however, be passing on questions, etc. to my colleagues. If you have anything you would like asked, please let me know by Monday.





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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Provincial Budget Announcement

Today was budget day at the Legislature.
Here's our reaction:

  • The Board is very pleased the government continues to recognize education is a priority in this province.
  • Both the Premier and Minister of Education have indicated they are committed to keeping public education high on the political agenda, and this budget announcement certainly reflects that fact.
  • The increase to the overall operating grant will be sufficient for us to maintain our current level of service, although not enough for us to provide any significant enhancements.
  • Some of the money announced in the provincial budget today is targeted for such programs as the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement funding and the Edmonton Student Health Initiative Partnership. These programs are of enormous benefit to students and schools.
  • Funds have also been specifically earmarked for the small class size initiative; this is good news for our District, teachers, parents and especially our students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes, who benefit the most from small class sizes.
  • We are pleased that today’s budget announcement allows us to address the salary increases for all staff groups.
  • We look forward to receiving the specifics of the funding announcement and how they pertain to our District in the next few days.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

School Closure Review Committee

A couple of people have told me that the link to the terms of reference of the Ad Hoc Committee to review the school closure process doesn't work.

I've gone back in and fixed the directions to the report.

I'll reprint them here for ease:
Go to....

www.epsb.ca/board/march2508_agenda.shtml

Under H, click on item 9 (Conference Committee Report #7).

You'll find the terms of reference on page 3 and 4 of this report.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Student Advisory Council

At this week's board meeting, I introduced a notice of motion to establish a Student Advisory Council. This will be debated at the Public Board meeting on May 13.

Here's the motion:
To establish a Student Advisory Council, which would meet directly with the Board of Trustees on a periodic basis with the intent of (a) strengthening the board's understanding of the student perspective of education and (b) encouraging civic engagement and leadership in our youth.

I feel that the student voice must be heard and that it's important that our policies and decision-making at the governance level be informed by the point-of-view of students. After all, who is more affected by our decisions than students? Who has the keenest interest in education being the best it can be?

I also feel that youth are currently sadly disengaged from the political process. Youth between the ages of 18-25 are the least represented at the polls. I've asked students why they think this is and they respond:
- none of the candidates care about me or my world
- none of them talk about anything that's interesting to me
- I can't make any difference to it...they will all just do what they want anyway

I would like to encourage youth to feel that they are indeed the future and that what they think IS important. I'd like to ask them: What kind of schools would you like to see? What can we do better? What do you dream of?

I am asking them to be a part of building the future of Edmonton Public Schools.

Parkview visit


Tonight I had the pleasure of chatting with some parents and staff at Parkview School. I brought some news from the Board, including the establishment of the Cree Alternative program at Abbott School, the implementation of the healthy initiatives plan and an update on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee to review the school closure and sustainability process.
At Parkview, they are leading the way with banning junk food and selling healthy choices. Of their own volition, they have already made significant changes to their school store, including selling soups and sandwiches, granola bars, milk and fruit bars. We talked candidly about some of the challenges of changing the menu and I asked them what advice they would like to share with other schools who will follow in their footsteps over the next three years.
They offered the following:
1) go slowly. A radical change overnight will meet with great resistance.
2) talk to the kids about what they would like to see. There's no point in buying food you know is good for them but they hate.
3) expect a downturn in revenue for the first little while. But a rebound will come.
4) be willing to compromise. They sell lunch combos of soup/sandwich/granola bar and chips. They won't sell chips on their own....they can only be bought as part of a combo. So the kids get mostly healthy food (and then they also get chips!)
5) while you are tied to a vending machine contract, try to implement pricing that sees healthy choices being cheaper than non-healthy ones. The kids soon figure this and buy accordingly.
6) buy in small quantities until you figure out what sells well.
It was great to see the commitment and enthusiasm at this school.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sustainability Review Committee

I've been asked what is happening with the Ad Hoc Committee to review the School Closure and Sustainability Review Process.

Here's the link to the TERMS OF REFERENCE , as approved at the last Public Board meeting.

Go to :
www.epsb.ca/board/march2508_agenda.shtml

Under H... click on Item 9 (Conference Committee report).

The terms are listed on page 3 and 4 of the report. (Appendix I)


I will post all the links to future interim reports on this topic as they come to public board. The work will continue until January of 2009.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Board meets at JP

Our next board meeting is going to be held at Jasper Place High School. The Community Relations committee (Trustee Esslinger, Colburn, Ripley and myself) thought it was worth trying something new: take the meeting to the public. Doing our work in a school appeals to me and it will be interesting to see if a change of setting brings a new perspective, increases attendance of the public or simply makes no difference at all. This is an experiment and we will be evaluating its merits. It would be great if you could come and give us some feedback.

Jasper Place High School is located at 8950-163 Street. (www.jasperplace.ca)
The meeting will be held on April 15, 2008, starting at 6 PM.

On the agenda:
- A report on the STAR program at JP (I wrote something about this in my blog... a great interagency program to provide on-site counselling and support for kids)
- A look at Glendale School
- Info on second languages and the Confucius Institute
- Recommendations re: the Cree Alternative Program
- The unrestricted bus pass

Plus the usual items- trustee reports, notices of motion, comments from the public and communications from the Board Chair and the Superintendent.

The full agenda will be posted on Friday, April 11 around 5 PM with all the links to the full reports.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Requiem

Last night, I saw "Requiem" at the Jubilee Auditorium. This unique collaboration brought together the Alberta Ballet, the ESO, the Edmonton Opera and the Richard Eaton Singers. It was profound, expansive and very moving. It filled me with joy and appreciation of the incredible talent and beauty we have here in our midst.

Oh, the things human beings can do!! We have such enormous potential for expression and innovation. People can move in ways you wouldn't think possible...they can sing in ways that are not logical...they can create and visualize in ways that shock, surprise, delight and sadden. They can communicate beyond words, beyond technology, beyond language and culture. They can connect.

Collective experience is powerful. It was far more meaningful to witness that performance up in the second balcony and share it with a thousand other souls than to watch it on TV, complete with close-ups, alone in my living room. We need community. We need to feel connected to other humans and to share joy and sorrow. We need art to remind us of who we are and what greatness (and cruelty) we are capable of.

What's all this got to do with education and being a trustee? Everything. If we want our children, the future of our society, to be healthy, productive and to live sustainable lives, we need to ensure that every child recognizes the importance of community. We are not built to live alone and pursue that which benefits us alone. We must recognize the shared and interdependent nature of humanity. We need each other...and we need to be able to express ourselves and communicate with each other. Every child should be encouraged to find the fullest range of expression, to be innovative, to risk, to explore and to strive to create something beautiful, unique or joyful for the benefit of others. It could be a perfected engine or a geometric proof or a soaring aria... art is not limited by form. To me, art is in the intent, the expression and the act of giving.

How do you think creativity fits with learning? How important do you think it is to develop the creative/innovative thinking skills of students?

For an amazing speech on creativity in schools, visit:
www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/66
Sir Ken Robinson delivers a thought-provoking and entertaining speech on the topic.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Optimism

I've been speaking with (via email and phone) many constituents from Woodcroft since returning from my break in Jasper. They are grieving and with grief comes many emotions- anger, disbelief, despair and more anger. I've had a bit of experience with grief and I know that all of this is normal. You can only let it rip through and know that eventually the waters will still and you will be able to see the shore again. It's hard to even imagine feeling happy when you are grieving. When imagination fails, we rely on faith or a deep-seated optimism.

Someone sent me the following article called the politics of optimism. It is centered on the environmental debate, but it feels relevant. It talks about the political act of creating a better future by rejecting despair, cynicism and apathy. It holds up optimism as a guiding political light.

http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007919.html