Monday, September 29, 2008

Trustee Requests for Information

At every board meeting, trustees can request information from the administration.

This past meeting,there were quite a few. I thought you might like to know what is being requested and when the reports will come to Board.

Info on number of schools using School Zone and benefits of School Zone (Trustee Colburn, info to be presented at board meeting on: Oct. 14, 2008)

Additional information regarding full day Kindergarten in other districts (Trustee Gibeault, Oct. 28)

Differentiated instruction for males and females (Trustee Rice, Oct. 28)

Special needs reviews over the past 10 years, recommendations, outcomes and impacts. (Trustee Colburn, Dec. 9, 2008)

Number of times we were unable to fill requests for supply teachers/staff last year and in Sept. 08. (Trustee Huff, Oct. 28)

Review of Canadian court cases and existing guidelines on use of in-camera meetings by elected bodies (Trustee Huff, Oct. 20 Retreat & Public board following retreat)

Status of initiatives to improve high school completion and transition from school to work (Trustee Shipka, Oct. 28)

Also, coming out of the last board meeting:

The date of the next board meeting will remain as Oct. 14. (Motion to move it to Oct. 15, due to a conflict with the federal election, was defeated 6-3).
Two day health symposium approved unanimously.
Recommendation approved to reduce the Board's borrowing capacity to $30 million, from the original $60 million.
Information presented on the New Teacher Induction Plan. Very promising, I thought.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Profound Teaching Moment

I had the honour to witness an incredible moment of powerful teaching this week. It reminded me why I am so passionate about education, about children and about community.

At my daughter's school, a little boy died from leukemia. Although this happened a year and a half ago, this week, the school gathered once more to honour him and plant a tree in his memory. His parents returned to the only school their son ever attended and listened to a remarkable teacher named Linda tell the story of his life. She told us that he was diagnosed with cancer in kindergarten and the school responded by organizing a head-shaving fundraiser. More than 20 kids (including girls) shaved their heads, while parents looked on, eyes glistening. Linda talked about how he returned to school for the beginning of grade one, having beaten cancer. He waved the flag to begin the Terry Fox Run. She said how sad we all were when his cancer came back, forcing him back into treatment at the hospital. She talked about how many children and parents piled into a bus and sang "Happy Birthday" to him outside his window at the Stollery Hospital. She talked about the Christmas packages that were put together by families to help brighten his days over the holidays and how, when he was flown to Calgary for a bone marrow transplant, the entire school faced south to send him good wishes. But, still, she said, despite everyone's efforts, he died on Feb. 3. He was 6 years old and he never made it grade two. We all cried, again. She reminded them why it's important to remember him and the lessons he taught us: Lessons of love, bravery and compassion. Lessons of life. And then we all went out to plant his tree. The children cheered when they saw the tree go into the ground and then this little boy's dad picked up the flag and waved it to start the Terry Fox Run, as his son had done two years earlier.

It reminded me what is important and how school is so much more than a building, so much more than a place that delivers curriculum. It is, thanks to great teachers like this one, a place that teaches young people how to be great human beings.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sept. 23 Board Agenda

Here's the highlights for Tuesday's Board meeting:

Improving Student Achievement:
Improving Student Achievement Through the New Teacher Induction Program
Reports from the Superintendent of Schools:
Proposed Plan for Comprehensive School Health Symposium
Borrowing Resolution
Process and Timeline of the 2007-2008 Results Review
Funds for 2009-2010 Professional Improvement Program
Responses to Trustee Requests for Information

As well, we will be debating whether to postpone our mid-October board meeting, as it falls on the night of the Federal Election.

If you have any comments to make on these items or any other educational matter, please feel free to contact me or come to the Board meeting and speak to all the trustees. (Register with Anne Sherwood- if you wish to speak to an item on the agenda, or wait until the end of the meeting, when the Board Chair will invite anyone who wishes to speak to come to the microphone. In both instances, you will be limited to 2 minutes.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sustainability Review On Line Survey

I had a question about when this will be ready. We are in the process of developing the questions, based on the common themes that emerged from the focus groups (which were held over the summer.) It will take some work to get this work done and I would anticipate it will be ready sometime around mid-October. As soon as I know, I will, of course, put a big post on this blog... so keep checking!! As well, everyone who has been impacted by closure will receive notification.

Thanks for the question!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Policy Development & Review-- FEEDBACK

I've just discovered a link on the EPSB website that takes you to all the policies that are currently being reviewed. As part of this review, the public is invited to give feedback via a web survey. Typically, the response is very poor...but maybe you're the kind of person who likes to give feedback!

The link is: I'll post this under my sidebar title: "Helpful Links" as well for future reference. I'll name it "EPSB Policy Review Listing".

You can also find it by clicking on Policies on the left-hand menu on the main page, then clicking on Policy Development and Review submit feedback, and then "Listings". (I think the link is easier!)

Policies that are currently under review and open for feedback until October 14th are:
Authority for Personnel Decisions
Employee Relations
Terms/conditions for employment
Staff Leave of Absence
Acknowledgements of deaths/bereavements

If you are interested, you can see the existing policy and fill out a short survey to comment. I would be interested in hearing if you have any ideas to improve the format of the survey as well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Calling all Parent Council Chairs

I will be hosting a free luncheon for Parent Council Chairs on Oct. 15. Invitations to all Ward C PAC Chairs went out today. It's my way of saying thank you to those people who fill this vital role.

Think you might like to be the Chair, but feeling a little intimidated and unsure? No problem.

Attend a free School Council Training Sessions at the Centre for Education (Blue Building, 1 Kingsway) on Saturday, October 4 from 9 am to 4 PM. Breakfast and lunch provided. Free parking underground. I'll be there to say hi.
Contact Sheila Thirlwell for more info. (429-8229)

Also: The Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium is offering two workshops-
Roles and Responsibilities of School Councils
School Councils and Fundraising Societies.
Visit for more info.

Parent Council-- have a voice in your school.

Raises and Requests

Some other outcomes from the first Board meeting....

The Board voted unanimously to give the Superintendent at 4.53 % raise. This was based on the Weekly Average Earning Index for the previous year and is aligned with the 4.53 % that the teachers were granted by the government and that we subsequently as a District offered to all our employees. This puts the Superintendent's salary at $209,000, which, of course, is a lot of money. However, I believe there are many CEO's of large corporations making much more. Mr. Schmidt is in charge of 4,320 teachers, 2,685 non-teaching staff, 80,000 students and close to 200 schools. The annual budget is over $700 million. The Superintendent's shoes are not easy to fill and I believe we have a very good one. So, although it's more money than I will ever see... I feel it is well-spent.

In a similar vein...we also voted to give ourselves a 4.53% raise. There was an existing clause in place to give us a raise just over 3 %...this was rescinded in favour of the Weekly Average Earning Index, which is what MLAs and nurses also receive. So, we will see an increase to our pay-cheque of just over $1000. The remuneration for trustees was reviewed in relation to other Metro boards and we at EPSB are right in the middle. I feel that if a trustee does his or her work well, this is a steal of a deal... of course, if they don't...then it's a waste of money. It's up to the electorate ultimately to make this decision and come election time, to make an informed decision.

Finally, I requested information on how the redevelopment of the municipal airport might impact schools. (They are talking about 32,000 homes.) Also, I asked for information on school fees- what the average and range charged per student, broken down by elementary, junior and senior high. As well, I want to know the total amount this represents being charged to parents.

Next Public Board meeting: Sept. 23, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chair, Vice, committees, etc

Last night was our Organizational Board Meeting, which is our first public board meeting of the year and focuses on who should fill which roles this year.

Here's the new line-up:

Board Chair- Bev Esslinger
Vice-Chair- Catherine Ripley
Conference/ Audit Chair- George Rice

Evaluation of the Superintendent Committee: Trustees Fleming, Shipka & Ripley
District Priorities Committee- Trustees Esslinger, Rice & Gibeault
Board Evaluation Committee- Trustees Gibson, Fleming and Huff
Community Relations Committee- Trustees Colburn, Ripley and Rice
Government Relations committee- Trustees Gibson, Esslinger and Huff
Planning and Policy Committee- Trustees Fleming, Shipka and Gibeault
Sustainability/School Closure Review Committee- Trustees Rice, Ripley and Huff
Multi-cultural Task Force- Trustees Shipka, Esslinger and Colburn

ASBA Provincial Executive- Bev Esslinger
Alternate- Dave Colburn
ASBA Zone 2/3 Executive- Don Fleming
Alternate- Sue Huff
ASBA for Languages Education- Ken Shipka

Public School Board Association Liaison- George Rice
Alternate- Dave Colburn

Capital Region Services to Children Linkages Committee- Ken Gibson
Alternate- Sue Huff

I'm looking forward to my two new committees (Government Relations and Board Evaluation) as both tie in well with my interest in strengthening the Board's work in the areas of advocacy and governance. The work on the Community Relations Committee and District Priorities last year was rewarding, but I leave those committees in capable hands! I will continue on the Sustainability Review committee as it was decided that continuity was important for this work. As well, I continue in my role as Alternate on Linkages. This is an exciting collection of people from various agencies, boards and levels of government all committed to creating partnerships to benefit children.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The New Couch Phenomena

This past week, we bought a new couch. It's a leather sectional that can easily accommodate everyone in the family comfortably and makes sense in our unusual living room. What an amazing thing to finally have something that fits! Being frugal by nature (and by design as a freelance artist), this was an expense that I'd long put off, telling myself that what we had was "good enough", even though my husband's feet dangled over the edge when he tried to recline and guests often looked awkward and cramped.

Now that we have this comfy couch, I wonder what took us so long.

Which made me think: What, within our education system, would also benefit from a well-fitting, expensive upgrade? How many of our schools are making do with systems or resources that may seem "good enough" on first blush, but actually are falling short, awkward, difficult or cramped? What response would a new "couch" bring? Would teachers, staff, students and parents marvel at how things were made easier, more enjoyable, rewarding and productive? Would improved results follow?

With an $8 billion surplus, perhaps it's time for Alberta to invest in a great educational couch.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Welcome Back

September is an exciting month of new possibilities and fresh hopes: new pencils, new haircuts and back-to-school clothes, fresh new agenda books and new commitments to reach for our greatest potential in the ten months ahead. The wish is shared by teachers, trustees, staff and students... we all want this year to be a stellar one.

In my opinion, last year was a year of "forming" for the Board. It takes a while for a group of nine to come to understand each other's perspectives and build trust...but investing this time was essential and I think we are now poised to take some significant steps forward.

One of the most significant pieces of work we've done over the past year is to create a Strategic Plan. Every board member had input on this and it is endorsed by the entire Board. This work is completely distinct (although aligned) with the dedicated work of our administration. In short, this is work that only the Board of Trustees can accomplish. The plan outlines our work in the areas of Leadership/Governance, Advocacy/Government Relations, Steawardship and Community Engagement. I'm very excited to see this plan coming together. It will help us to focus on the key areas and ensure that, at the end of our three year term, we will be able to clearly articulate our accomplishments as a Board.

What are some of the areas of focus for this Board?
-Governance and stewardship- We want to be an effective and relevant Board and are willing to examine our own practices to continually improve.
-Early learning opportunities. We believe that having children ready for kindergarten will greatly improve their success throughout their entire school years.
-Increasing mental health supports for at-risk students
-New multi-cultural policy to reflect changing Edmonton-- our multi-cultural task force will inform this work
- New Public Engagement Policy- We want to ensure effective, meaningful public engagement.
- High school completion-- our numbers have been increasing, but we want to go further. It is our belief that every child who enters kindergarten, should complete high school.

So, I look forward to seeing you over the coming year. And I look forward to working with you.