Friday, May 30, 2008

Surveys- we want your feedback

There a couple of surveys on the EPSB website right now and if you have a few minutes to spare, we'd love to have your feedback!

District Satisfaction Surveys- these cover a whole gamut of areas from how safe do you feel your child is walking to school to how satisfied are you with the leadership provided by your Principal; from how much input do you feel you have in decision-making to....(drum roll please)....how much confidence do you have in the Board of Trustees?

You may have received this survey in the mail already. If not, you can complete it on-line:
http://surveys.epsb.ca/surveysweb/login.jsp.
If my link doesn't work, it's on the bottom of the homepage (www.espb.ca)

The second survey is gathering input on the new Respectful Learning and Working Environment policy and how it should be communicated and apply to parents. This was the topic of the last Parents as Partners meeting and we got some good feedback on the proposed pamphlet and how we can make schools welcoming and free of harassment for everyone, including parents.

Here's the link to give your feedback:
http://partners.epsb.ca/CF/parents.cfm and click on the "ON LINE Survey" button towards the bottom of the page.

Thanks for taking the time to get involved!

If you have any ideas to share with us about the Parents as Partners program, we'd love to hear from you. Typically, our turn-out is quite low, so we're interested in hearing how we can make it more relevant, accessible and workable for busy parents. Video-conferencing? Taking it out into the wards? A change of time or day of the week? Specfic topics you'd like to see? Providing free child care or even having a session for parents AND kids? What do you think?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Outcomes- Board May 27

PASSED- The motion to provide free transportation to Woodcroft and Ritchie students, currently attending those schools, living within the attendance area, to their designated schools, for the duration of their elementary/junior high years. In essence, this translates to 28 Woodcroft students receiving free bussing to Dovercourt and 3 Ritchie students receiving free bussing.

APPROVED- The Budget for 2008-2009, amount $738,809,000.
We had a discussion about our budget subcommittee reviews and the themes/concerns/successes we heard.

AWARDED- The Margaret Stevenson Talented Young Writer Award to Westmount Jr. High student, Noel Toma

INFORMATION REQUESTED- I requested information on our current environmental practices across the District and where we would like to go in the future. I'm very keen to see our work in this area expanded as it is clearly a pressing priority for most Canadians. Environmental awareness is being taught in our schools, so why not walk the talk. I was very inspired to hear what is being done "on the Hill" in Ottawa. They have adopted a strong environmental policy across all their buildings, which includes composting all their paper towel and all their food waste in every lunchroom, cafeteria, etc.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Next Board meeting

Tuesday's board meeting is full of interesting items. We will be reviewing the budget for approval, hearing about full-day kindergarten and debating whether to provide free transportation to Woodcroft and Ritchie students. Hope to see you there. Remember, if you have an opinion on any of these agenda items, you can speak to the Board by registering to speak with Anne Sherwood, Board Secretary (anne.sherwood@epsb.ca) by noon on Tuesday. You will have 2 minutes to speak. A word of advice: write it down and time yourself; 2 minutes goes by very quickly.

I've cut and pasted the agenda highlights below:

Recognition:
Margaret T. Stevenson Talented Young Writer Award Recipient: Noel Toma from Westmount School

Reports from the Superintendent of Schools:
Longitudinal Effects of Full-Day Kindergarten Through to Grade Six
2008-2009 Non-Resident Fees
Board Review of 2008-2009 Plans and Expenditures Budget
Discussion of 2008-2009 Plans and the 2008-2009 Budget:
o Discussion of and questions arising from school budget reviews
- elementary schools- elementary/junior high schools- junior high schools- senior high schools
o Discussion of and questions arising from central services budget reviews
Trustee Motions for Amendments to the 2008-2009 Budget
Consideration of Trustee Motions for Amendments to the 2008-2009 Budget
Approval of the Proposed 2008-2009 Expenditures Budget

Responses to Trustee Requests for Information

Committee, Board Representative and Trustee Reports
Report #11 of the Conference Committee (From the Meeting Held May 13, 2008)- This report will be posted May 28, 2008.

Motion re Free Transportation for Woodcroft/Ritchie Schools Students

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ward Meeting on Thursday

Just a reminder:

Thursday, May 22
Jasper Place High School
7-9 PM
First hour: community use of schools
Second hour: open discussion on any topic

Childcare and snacks provided. Councilor Ben Henderson is hoping to attend and I will have some administrative support on hand for the first hour to answer all your tough questions about the Joint Use Agreement!!

Also, as this will be my final Ward meeting before the summer break, I will be distributing a "Report Card for Sue" at the meeting, asking people to grade me on my first year in office. I think it's good practice to take time to reflect and evaluate. "Assessment FOR Learning" is used in most of our schools and I would like to create opportunities for me to follow this practice as well. What went well, what could I have done differently, what have I learned and where can I improve for next year. I hope you will attend the ward meeting and take a moment to fill in a report card for me to help me continually improve my service. The report cards will be anonymous, of course.

Happy Victoria long weekend. Hope you're all busy in your gardens! I'm off to finish the fence (assuming the rain will hold off.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Downtown Business Association Awards

Today, I (along with Board Chair Bev Esslinger) attended the Downtown Business Association Awards luncheon. This year it focused on the development of the film industry in Edmonton, with kudos going to Mayor Mandel for orchestrating the arrival of Lionsgate to film a 13 part series for NBC called Fear Itself. I met a number of interesting folks and easily struck up a number of conversations. It's amazing how many links there are to education, once you start looking. It really is a common thread for our society.

I met the volunteer coordinator for the Zebra Centre, which brings together a number of specialists to assist children victimized by sexual abuse. She told me how the centre was child-centered, so children no longer have to fill out reports in adult-centered police stations. Now, they don't have to disclose repeatedly to different authorities, and they are protected by a screen from having to face their abuser in court. In fact, their disclosure is taped at the Zebra Centre and played back in court. The child only has to confirm that the tape is indeed them. The conviction rate and guilty pleas have gone up incredibly since these protective measures were introduced. I asked her about connections with schools and how we could work together more effectively. She said that teachers are often who the child discloses to first, so a training program on how to receive that information might be beneficial.

Then I spoke to the woman who coordinates The Places (Art and Design in Public Places). She told me about a huge 80' mural that was painted on the side of the Boys and Girls Club in Little Italy. The artist mentored two youth and taught them how to create this type of large scale work. I asked what partnerships they have with schools. There aren't any formal ones yet, but schools are able to book free walking tours and learn about educational opportunities and scholarships through their website. (http://www.theworks.ab.ca/)

I spoke with businessmen from Oxford Properties about what skills our students need to be ready for the world of work and mentioned that we consult with business leaders in setting our District Priorities. I gave him my card and invited him to be part of the next round of consultations. We had an interesting conversation about the effects of our increased reliance on technology and how, for some people, engaging in face-to-face conversations were challenging. They prefer the anonymity of email.

I spoke with some folks from the Winspear centre about creating a Winspear School (along the lines of Zoo School or Museum School). The Winspear would be a logical place to learn about the Science of Sound, with its amazing acoustics and pipe organ.

Also in attendance: the Mayor, most of the city councillors, MLA Laurie Blakeman and the new Minister of Culture and Community Spirit, Mr. Lindsay Blackett.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May 13 board meeting

Last night was a quick board meeting. The first one, I believe, that we've finished before 9 PM.

Of note:
Increases in bus pass fees. Due to the fact that our grants do not cover the full transportation costs, we will be obliged to pass on some mild increases in bus passes to parents. However, it should be noted that we are assigning $1 million to mitigate these increases. The discussion from trustees included questions about ride times for special needs students, the higher level of service we provide than is mandated and measures to help families who find the fees prohibitive.

PASSED- Trustee Esslinger's motion to establish a multi-cultural task force. This will mirror the Aboriginal task force of last year, which consulted with Aboriginal elders and community members to better understand their perspective and concerns. Out of that task force, a series of recommendations arose, which ultimately informed EPSB's new Aboriginal educational policy. With our growing population of multi-cultural students, the Board feels it is essential to understand the particular issues of these students and their families, in order to better support their success in school.

DEFEATED- My motion to establish a Student Advisory Council. Some concerns raised: Do the students want this? How will we ensure participation when students are already so over-committed? There was an additional motion to defer until a report on best practices to engage stakeholders was received by the Board, but the motion to defer was defeated.

I gave the following notice of motion:
That students currently enrolled in Woodcroft/Ritchie and living in the attendance area of those schools be provided free transportation to their designated schools for the duration of their elementary (Woodcroft)/junior high (Ritchie) years.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Budget reviews

I've spent the last week visiting attending budget subcommittee reviews of the various schools in my Ward. It has been very interesting to hear the exciting new plans schools have for 2008-2009 to address the District Priorities and in particular how they are aligning their resources in new and innovative ways to meet the needs of their students.

Some common themes I heard were:
Increased collaboration between teachers. Gone are the days of teachers closing their doors and working in isolation. All schools are partnered with others in cohort groups to share best practices and find solutions to common problems. Collaboration also exists within the school. Some schools have teachers planning units together and then following up by evaluating the effectiveness of the lesson and continually looking for ways to improve it. Peer coaching and support seems to be the norm now, rather than the exception.
Increased collaboration with outside agencies. As the needs of our students grow increasingly complex, schools realize they can't do it alone. Many strong and mutually beneficial partnerships are in place in our schools to help with nutritional, emotional, educational, physical and social needs. Schools are able to offer tutoring, mentoring, hot breakfasts, coaches, and professional services due to these partnerships.
Infrastructure gaps. Some schools are experiencing frustration around the deterioration of their buildings. Others are happily newly renovated and enjoying the benefits. We need to find a way to make sure that boilers are replaced, windows upgraded and roofs are fixed in a timely way. We shouldn't have to operate on a crisis basis, with many needs being ignored year after year.
Focus on the whole child. Students are not simply empty vessels to be filled with knowledge. They are human beings who need to feel connected, to feel valued, to feel recognized and supported. They bring their own knowledge and schools are there to guide them and help them to achieve their potential. I was excited to hear how schools are rearranging their systems to better fit the needs of the students, rather than the reverse (which was, I think, the way I was schooled: "Here's the system, now you conform to it.").
Staff health and wellness. Schools are looking at ways to reduce stress, increase capacity, share ideas to support staff wellness. One Principal talked about simple measures he has taken to increase the control teachers have over their professional lives. The teachers have a say in their timetabling and they direct their own professional development. This shared model of leadership allows teachers to feel ownership and increases buy-in. Everyone wants to feel they are steering their own ship and a sense of control is certainly tied to mental health. I applaud this initiative. It may take a little longer to plan when everyone has a say, but the benefits are long-standing and obvious.
Connections with parents. Schools are looking at new ways to engage parents. In particular, there is a move towards on-line communication (school zone, some teachers have blogs, etc.). Schools recognize that parents have incredible demands on their time and that assembling people for a meeting is increasingly difficult. Flexibility and ingenuity are being shown to ensure that parents are "in the know" and able to support their child's learning.


Next week, I will be accompanying Trustee Gibeault to some of his schools in Millwoods. It will be interesting to see if the same themes arise in his ward.

Board Meeting- May 13

Tuesday, May 13 will be our next public board meeting.

On the agenda:
Increases in bus fares (http://www.epsb.ca/board/may13_08/item04.pdf)
Debate on establishing a student advisory committee
Debate on the board having approval of unanticipated surpluses

For the full agenda, please visit: Agendas (http://www.epsb.ca/board/agenda.shtml)


If you wish to speak on any item on the agenda, you can do so by contacting Anne Sherwood (anne.sherwood@epsb.ca) by Tuesday at noon and ask for your name to be included on the list.
If you wish to speak on any educational matter, you may do so by waiting until the end of the meeting. The Board Chair will say something like: "At the end of every meeting, we allow time for any member of the public to speak to the Board on any educational matter. Please approach the microphone at this time if you wish to speak." In both cases, you are limited to 2 minutes which goes by very quickly, so I suggest you write out your speech and time it, so you don't get cut off.

Hope to see you there. (Blue Building, 1 Kingsway Ave. Across from the Royal Alex, attached to Victoria School, free underground parking. Meeting starts at 6 PM.)


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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Budget Reviews

For the next two weeks, the trustees will be reviewing budgets in schools and central decision units. Parents and community members are welcome to attend any of these sessions to learn more about how the money is being spent in schools and what the rationale is behind these decisions.

Here's my schedule:

Monday, May 5- 9 AM to 3:30 PM- Central administration- Blue Building
Wed, May 7- 8:30 AM - 10 AM- Review of Glendale, James Gibbons, Jasper Place, Mayfield
Location: Mayfield School 10950 159 Street
Wed, May 7- 10:30 to noon- Review of Afton, Brightview, Coronation.
Location: Brightview School, 15425- 106 Ave.
Thurs, May 8- 8:30 AM to 10 AM- Review of Westglen, Westmount, Winterburn, Youngstown
Location: Westglen School, 10950-127 Ave.
Thurs, May 8- 10:30 AM to noon- Review of Ross Sheppard, Stratford, Westminster
Location: Westminster, 13712- 104 Ave.
Friday, May 9- 8:30 am t0 10 Am- Review of Laurier Heights, Meadowlark, Parkview
Location: Laurier Heights, 8210-142 Street

During Week 2, I'm down in Millwoods, accompanying Trustee Gibeault on his reviews of schools in his ward.