Friday, November 21, 2008

New School Closure plan

I've pulled this report out of the November 25 agenda for easy access (see link at the end of this entry). It discusses the plans for the next year and in particular, references the new sector-based planning idea. I've titled this blog: "New School Closure Plan" because I've heard from many people that sometimes our language in education is not readily understood. So, "Annual Implementation Plan" or indeed even "Sector-based planning" might not be automatically translated into "school closures" or "how are we going to deal with our low enrolment schools?"

I hope my attempt at plain language doesn't alarm you, but I think it's important to be clear. We have a problem with under-utilized schools in mature neighbourhoods. Because we are funded by student (not by building), when there aren't a lot of kids in a school, the budget is stretched very thin. As a District, we will be gaining 5000 more student spaces in 2010 when the new ASAP schools are built.This will make our existing space problem even more pronounced.

So, how will we deal with this challenge? This report outlines a new process, to look at schools in a cluster, within a sector and try to decide what makes sense for the area. Which school could best handle consolidation? What are the options? How can the community best be involved in this process?

Please read the report and if you wish to speak to the Board on November 25, remember to register with Anne Sherwood, Board Secretary ( before noon on Tuesday.

Here's the link:

Nov. 25 agenda

Improving Student Achievement:

2. Improving Student Achievement Through Technology Integration Planning Services

G. Reports from the Superintendent of Schools:

3. School Year Calendar 2010-2011

4. Annual Implementation Plan: 2008-2009

5. Aboriginal Education Policy and Regulation Implementation Plan: Year One

6. District Energy and Environmental Management

7. Responses to Trustee Requests for Information

H. Committee, Board Representative and Trustee Reports

8. Report #4 of the Conference Committee (From the Meeting Held November 19, 2008)

9. Report #1 of the Audit (From the Meeting Held November 19, 2008)

10. Trustee Subcommittee Review of 2007-2008 School and Central Department Results

11. Annual Education Results Report 2007 2008

12. Fall 2008 Update to 2008/2009 Budget

Inclusion- Special Needs consultation

Join us for a stakeholder consultation:

“Setting the Direction for Special Education in Alberta”

Monday, December 1, 2008
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Community Options
#200, 12345 – 121st Street, Edmonton, Alberta

Alberta Education is conducting a comprehensive review of special education entitled: Setting the Direction for Special Education in Alberta. Phase 1 of this review is gathering stakeholder information from the public. The goal is to generate a vision and principles that will shape future policy, funding and accountability for Special Education in Alberta. The purpose of this ERC-hosted consultation is to ensure that the critical voices of families are heard.

You are encouraged to find out more about the review on Alberta Education’s website: We strongly suggest that you download the discussion guide, read it over and bring it with you to the consultation. This document will form the basis for the consultation discussions that evening. If you are unable to join us on December 1, please take the time to be involved. Visit the Alberta Education website to find out how to:
- participate in one of the other in-person consultations taking place in the Edmonton area
- participate in the online consultation
- print a discussion guide and mail it in

For more information contact: Wendy Sauve
Phone: 780-490-0574
To register to attend this event:
Phone: 780-453-3971
FAX: 780-447-4948

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Next Ward Meeting

Thanks to C.P. for rattling my cage about my next ward meeting.

It will be:

Thursday, December 11, 7-9 PM
AFTON School, 16604- 91 Avenue
Free childcare provided (and snacks!)

Bring a friend! Bring your ideas.

Topic for first hour: What can we do to improve student success?
Topic for second hour: Whatever you want to talk about.

You don't need to stay for the entire two hours, if you are busy (and we all are!)


An ad will be sent to schools. If you are willing to put up a few posters for me in your neighbourhood, please let me know. I'd love to reach out to that large (and largely quiet) public.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Building Hope

The last two weeks have been a bit of a blur. Results Reviews occupy a lot of time for trustees at this time of year. As part of our oversight function, we go out to schools and talk to the Principals about their results last year- celebrating the successes, examining the challenges and discussing implications for the upcoming year. Parents attended most of my sessions and it is always valuable to hear their insights and perspectives as well. Each trustee reports back to the Board on what common themes they heard and this information helps guide the planning for the upcoming year.

I am still sifting through all that I've heard thus far (I have one more review session to complete).

My first impressions are:
(1) The challenges facing teachers today are immense. Teachers are being asked to differentiate instruction for children whose abilities and background experiences are so incredibly diverse. We have children showing up in kindergarten who have had such tremendously rich preschool lives that they can already read. Other children arrive at our schools who have never seen a book and don't know "how it works." We sometimes get hung up on split-classes and the impact that they may or may not have on learning. I would say that my impression is, really, there isn't a single class in Edmonton that ISN'T a split class, when we consider the wide range of abilities. A supposedly "single grade 5" class, can easily have children reading at grade 2 level sitting next to children reading at grade 8 level. The teacher is also likely to have children who are English language learners, children with learning disabilities and sadly, children who are hungry. Somehow, the teacher is to teach them all, nurture them all and see they all fulfill their potential.

(2) There is a growing disparity between our schools. Some schools have incredible achievement results; some do not. How will we confront this disparity and provide support for the schools that are experiencing challenges? I do not believe that there are "bad schools" or "bad kids". This type of labelling is very destructive and when you enter the building and talk to the teachers and see the children's is simply wrong. Some schools have a higher percentage of "at risk" children. They have a higher percentage of families living below the poverty line. We know there are pockets of need. So, how can we fill those pockets? How can we provide additional support to the families, the children and the teachers? How can we empower the community to help itself? And how can we build the bridges of understanding and compassion between the "haves" and the "have-nots"? How can we strengthen the human bonds?

(3) So much work is already being done. Our schools are working very hard to meet these needs and challenges. We have breakfast clubs, mentoring and success coaches. We have partnerships with Aboriginal Elders and Multicultural health brokers. Teachers do home visits, come early and run homework clubs after school. Principals drive to pick up kids on exam day and secretaries call to wake up kids in the morning. The compassion and dedication is overwhelming. The stories are endless. But still, some kids are falling through the cracks. The band-aid solutions can only take us so far.

(4) We need something larger than individual efforts. I don't think the Principal, the teachers, or indeed the Education system can solve the underlying problems that are facing our schools. A more integrated, cohesive and comprehensive system needs to be constructed to serve the complex needs we're seeing in our classrooms.

What will I do? What can I do?

The solution will emerge by listening. I will be listening to those who understand the problem best and who can help me develop a keen understanding of the barriers to success. I'm not willing to give up on these kids. I'm not willing to accept that "some of our kids just can't make it."

What can you do?
A lot! Join me in learning more about these children, these families and these communities. Don't see these children as "someone else's problem." Reach out. Get involved and most importantly, have the courage to believe that you can make a difference.

Last night, I attended a joint board, cross-ministry (Health, Children's Services, Justice and Education) dinner meeting. A young man spoke about the importance of simple gestures in the lives of at-risk youth. He read a message from a young woman who said that the day her counsellor told her he was proud of her was a pivotal moment. She saw herself differently and from that moment decided to turn her life around.

It was a powerful message: we all have the capacity to build hope.

Special Needs Review- part 2

All EPSB parents who have children with special needs should be receiving the following information via their school.... just in case anyone is missed, here's a reprint of the information. Please note the NOVEMBER 26th sessions at the Ramada Hotel. I will be attending the 1:30 PM session. Hope to see you there!

Attention Parents: Speak Out on Special Education

Setting the Direction for Special Education in Alberta is a provincial initiative intended to create a framework that will assist students with special education needs to be successful in school and in life. Alberta Education is providing opportunities for input on the vision and principles that will govern special education programming into the future.

Make sure your voice is heard. Your three options for participating in the consultation process are:

Participate in the online consultation by completing the survey at

Print the discussion guide found at (English version) and (French version) Then fill it in and send it to:
Setting the Direction for Special Education in Alberta
c/o Special Programs Branch, Alberta Education
10044-108 Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 5E6
Fax: 780 422-2039

Register at to participate in one of the in-person consultations taking place in Edmonton on November 26 at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre.

For more information on Setting the Direction for Special Education in Alberta, see

Monday, November 3, 2008

Special Education Review- provincial

Special Education Review
Alberta Education is consulting with Albertans on Setting the Direction for Special Education. The project will create a new special education framework that includes vision, principles, policy, accountability and funding. You only have until December 31, 2008 to ensure that your thoughts and opinions are heard.

Albertans can share their views at:

In addition, there are in-person consultation sessions around the province that you can register for, see:

Please participate in this important discussion.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tues- Nov. 4- lecture on learning disabilities

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, I will be attending a lecture entitled, "Early Intervention Works! Screening and Early Intervention for Students at Risk for Reading Difficulties."
The session is free and open to the public, so if you are interested in attending here's the info:

University of Alberta, Faculty of Education
Room 254, Education South. 7-9 PM

Internationally known scholar, Dr. Linda Siegel will present her exciting research evaluating the outcomes of North Vancouver School District's Firm Foundations Program screening and early intervention program for students at risk for reading and writing difficulties. This intervention has resulted in dramatic decreases in students assessed with reading difficulties, among both English speaking and English language learners.

For more information, call 780-448-0360 or visit

Writings on the Wall

Congratulations to the McArthur School Council that hosted the third annual free conference for parents. It featured many interesting sessions on how to support your child's success in school. I attended a session on increasing reading capacity and will be receiving the notes on adaptive technology for children with learning disabilities. Sessions were grouped into six streams: Authors and Writing- encouragement for student writers
Careers- why writing matters in the world of tomorrow
Special interest- all about health and safety in school and out
School Skills- tips and tricks to help you help your child learn

I believe the plan is to make all the information available via the website. I encourage you to check it out and plan to attend the fourth annual conference next fall. It is truly an amazing resource.