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. (

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.

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