Friday, December 19, 2008

update- Setting the Direction (Special Education Review)

December 2008 Setting the Direction Update
In mid-November, Setting the Direction for Special Education in Alberta began the first phase of community consultations. Representatives from the Steering Committee, Stakeholder Working Group, the project team and an arms-length consultant visited 10 Alberta communities and heard from approximately 1,050 Albertans. If you attended a community consultation, you will be receiving by e-mail a copy of the raw data from the session you attended.

In addition, more than 800 individuals and groups have completed the online questionnaire, representing the views of 1,400 Albertans. Finally, the project team has received over 400 print submissions. In total, approximately 2,850 Albertans have shared their thoughts on vision and principles for the future of special education in this province. Your voice has been heard.

As well, special education is this month’s featured topic in Speak Out, an Alberta Education online initiative to encourage Alberta’s high school students to speak out about their experiences with the education system. At the end of the month, student input will be collected from this site and added to the mix.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to participate during this phase of Setting the Direction, it’s not too late. The online discussion guide will be available until December 31 and print submissions will be collected up to this date as well.

Input gathered during phase one consultation will create a vision and principles and help identify key elements for a new framework for special education in Alberta.

As we begin planning for phase two consultations in late February and March, discussion will turn to a proposed ideal future for an education system that displays the characteristics that participants say are aligned with their vision and principles and will serve Alberta’s students who have special education needs.

More details on this phase of the project will be available in January.
From the Steering Committee Chair
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your commitment to Setting the Direction and for your contributions to this important discussion. I look forward to meeting with you in February and March and working further with the Steering Committee and Stakeholder Working Group to propose a more effective direction for special education in Alberta.


Naresh Bhardwaj
Steering Committee
MLA, Edmonton-Ellerslie Alberta EducationMain Floor, 44 Capital Boulevard 10044-108 Street Alberta, Canada T5J 5E6

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Visit with Santa

Today, Santa and his Trustee Elf (Sue) visited six schools in Ward C. It was great to see the surprise and joy when we walked into the classrooms. "SANTA!!!!!!" was often the response. The older children tried very hard to act cool, but you could tell, they were also happy to see the jolly old man.

Report to the Community

I encourage you to look at this report...which highlights some of the key initiatives of the District. It is an insightful overview and creatively formatted too! We shared this with our community partners at a special meeting a couple of weeks ago.

I want to also take this opportunity to wish you all the very best of the season. I will be taking the full two weeks to recharge and spend time exclusively with my family. (No emails, no blog, no cell phone!) I hope you can find time in all the hectic business of this time of year to count your blessings, remember who (and what) is important and share with those less fortunate.

See you in 2009!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Board Meeting outcomes

There was a good discussion about the Environmental Report, with three follow up actions by trustees. Trustee Gibeault asked for information on including more environmental references to the Energy Policy. Trustee Colburn put forward a motion to do a feasibility study on geothermal heating. And I put forward a motion to create an overarching environmental policy for EPSB.

The transportation of special needs children was also an important discussion. There was a follow-up article in the Edmonton Journal on Thursday, Dec. 11 by Sarah O'Donnell which provided some information on how the District hopes to move forward on this issue.

Trustee Colburn's motion to review the efficacy of our special needs programming and how our money is being spent in special needs education was defeated. Trustees Colburn, Shipka and Huff voted for the motion. Trustees Ripley, Rice, Gibson, Fleming and Gibeault voted against. Trustee Esslinger was in France on Board business.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Special Needs, Environmental action and student fees

The next Board meeting (Tues, Dec. 9) has some items you might find interesting:

The Environmental report- what is EPSB doing do be good environmental stewards?

Check out this link: District Energy and Environmental Management (This was carried forward from the November 25, 2008 Board Meeting)

Special Needs and Transportation, Student Fees, How much money does the province provide for technology, and how did EPSB address the Alberta Education Special Needs Recommendations

Answers can all be found in: Responses to Trustee Requests for Information

How will we spend$13 million in unreserved surplus funds?

See: Report #5 of the Conference Committee (From the Meeting Held December 2, 2008)

And a motion re: a report on how effective our programming is for children with special needs.
To see the exact wording, go to this link: Motion re Special Education

As always, if you wish to speak to the Board on any of these items, please register with Anne Sherwood, ( by NOON on TUESDAY.

The meeting starts at 6 PM and there is free parking underground. (1 Kingsway Ave.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lieutenant-General to speak to parents

Lieutenant-General The Honourable Romeo A. Dallaire will be the presenter at the next Parents as Partners session.

Date: Sunday, January 25, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Location: Fantasyland Hotel
West Edmonton Mall

Lieutenant-General Dallaire has requested that, in lieu of his usual speaking fee, attendees at the parent event be asked for monetary donations in aid of Rwanda. This is a unique opportunity for Edmonton Public parents and the address will likely include the importance of raising children to have a global perspective.

I pulled this from Lieutenant-General Dallaire's website:

Public Speaking Romeo Dallaire's presentations discuss leadership and conflict resolution, illustrated with stories of his own experiences. He inspires listeners to address the ethical and moral issues in conflicts and insists that governments put humanity above political and economic interests.

Client Testimonials "Through all your trials and sorrows, you have come to exemplify the greatest ideals to which we can aspire. You move us to come together and express our common have made us all more human, more feeling, more emotionally attached to people and situations half a world away. We know one thing - you will not quit - and this in itself is a reason for all of us to remain hopeful, to keep looking for reasons for optimism."

For more info, visit:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sustainability Survey

At Tuesday's board meeting, I gave a verbal report on the work to date by the Ad Hoc Committee to review the Sustainability Review and School Closure process. Here are the highlights:

Focus groups were held over the summer with parents, community members and staff to gather feedback on the current process. These sessions were held by an independent facilitator, Sandra Johnston. Sandra compiled the common themes and created a document that summarized the feedback attained during the sessions. From these common themes, a draft of an on-line survey has been created.

The survey was shared with trustees via email and, at the meeting, it was requested that it be included on the December 2 conference meeting agenda to allow input from all trustees.

Before the on-line survey can be posted, several things need to happen, including: final approval by the Board, building the survey with the help of our IT Dept, creating the letter to notify the stakeholders who have experienced either closure or sustainability reviews and stuffing 3,500 envelopes (of said stakeholders!).

Needless to say, we don't want this survey to get lost in the Christmas the decision was made to delay mailing the letters until January 5. This will allow everyone concerned the opportunity to participate (rather than risk missing those who are away over the holidays.) Following notification, the survey will be up from January12- 23.

I know this is a long time coming...but, trust me, it's worth it to get it right! Building consensus has been challenging and the committee has worked very hard to make sure that all points of view are represented and acknowledged.