Friday, April 30, 2010

Fear is the mind killer

Do you recognize the quote:  "Fear is the mind killer" ? (answer at bottom)

I have been thinking about this quote ever since reading David King's post on The Politics of Fear. The Politics of Optimism.  

Most of the time, I live in a pretty optimistic state of mind. I believe people are generally good because I am surrounded every day by evidence of this. I believe that I am very blessed and have ample reason to feel optimistic about my future, my children's future and the future of my city, my province and my country. As a friend of mine says: "We lucked out in the lottery of life". If you were to ask if I feel optimistic about about AIDS in Africa, about Arizona or about the ice caps... the answer becomes more complex. I do jump into the pool of fear on some topics, but, by and large, I am not ruled by fear in my day-to-day existence and I am so very thankful for that.

Fear is the mind killer. It stops creativity. It blocks options, closes doors and isolates people from one another and from themselves. It clouds people's minds to possibilities.  Fear is suffocating, choking off laughter, joy and my favourite: irreverant silliness. Worse, it breeds hatred, despair, loathing and a perpetual mistrust of others. Every action is seen as malevolent; fear-thinkers are in a state of hyper-vigilence trying to anticipate and stave off the next horrible deed. They over-react, assign incorrect motives and jump to hateful conclusions. They whip up others to a state of anxiety, so soon whole groups are swept along in the fast-running river of fear. There is no chance to stop and think, to analyze, to question, because fear completely over-runs thought. It demands a quick, irrevocable (and often completely inappropriate) response.

How do we tame fear?

With compassion. With calm. And, in the case of politics, I believe with open communication.  Until we can sit down and openly share points of view, articulate our own fears and listen, with compassion, to the fears of others... we will continue to suffer the consequences of half-articulated thought. How much better, for instance, if the conversation about Bill 44 could have allowed fears about homosexuality (and teachers!) to be openly discussed? Yes, it would have been uncomfortable. It would have been painful even, but I think we could have learned something. We could have grown.... UP.

How will we create a forum for this type of adult conversation about real fears when, for so many, their fears are the very things holding them back from even starting the conversation? Fear of emotion, fear of pain, fear of public humiliation, fear of loss of power or wealth or control, fear of the unknown, fear of listening to others, fear of being wrong, fear of being found out.

Until we can get past these smaller personal fears, we will never have time or space to worry about the bigger global fears, the fears that deserve and need our attention: fear of environmental collapse, fear of inequality, fear of children starving, fear of immorality, fear of hopelessness and despair erupting into global violence.

So, let's stop killing our minds with fear, open up to compassion and start moving forward. It's time to get over the boogie-man in the closet and start facing the real challenges of adult life.

Answer: quote is from "Dune".


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Budget Review Meetings

The trustees will be holding budget review meetings for schools and central decision units May 26- June 14. All of these meetings are open to the public and I encourage you to pop in and see what the budget holds for next year.

The complete schedule is available here, starting on page7

My schedule is:
May 26, 9-11 AM, Central decision units: Student Info, Special Projects, District Records & FOIP, Surveys
May 26, 1- 3:30 PM, with Trustee Esslinger, reviewing some of her ward's schools
May 31, 9 -11:30 AM, with Trustee Ripley,  reviewing some of her ward's schools
June 1, 8:30- 10:30 AM, full board reviews Superintendent/Communications/Board Admin/Legal Counsel

June 9, 9- 11:30 AM, Ward C schools: Afton, Brightview, Edmonton Christian West, Glenora, Inglewood, Mayfield, Westlawn

June 9, 1- 3: 30 PM, Ward C schools: Crestwood, Dovercourt, Grovenor, Jasper Place, Parkview, Westminster, Youngstown

June 10, 1-3:30 PM, with Trustee Fleming, reviewing some of his ward's schools

Jun 14, 9- 11:30 AM, Ward C schools: James Gibbons, Meadowlark, Meadowlark Christian, Prince Charles, Ross Sheppard, Stratford, Winterburn

June 14, 1- 3:30 PM, with Trustee Fleming, reviewing some of his ward's schools

All of the meetings will be held at the Centre for Education, 1 Kingsway, Free parking underground.

I hope you can make it!

Board meeting- outcomes (April 27)

Last night, I resigned as Vice Chair. I no longer feel I am the right person for the role. In particular, I am no longer confident in my ability to speak on behalf of the board to the media, should the Board Chair be unavailable. Therefore, I think it is in the best interests of the board for me to step down at this point. I look forward to welcoming the new Vice Chair (who will be elected, I believe at the next public board meeting) and am willing to provide any support needed to ensure a smooth transition and to allow the board to focus, without distraction, on the important work of governance.

All policies passed first and second reading. The policy about National Identity was amended to say singing or playing the national anthem on a regular basis was "expected" (previously written as "encouraged").

Trustee Colburn's motion re: establishing a wellness committee was defeated 7-2. I voted in support, however the majority of the board felt the timing and/or format proposed was problematic.

The planning base (budget) passed. Next year's budget is over $822 million and the funding we are expecting to receive from the government will not meet our costs. So, the board approved using 60% of our operating reserve (also sometimes called surpluses held at individual schools and central decision units) to try and offset our projected shortfall. Despite using over $19 million of our reserves, we will still be $12 million short to meet our projected costs. This amount will have to be made up at schools and central units. As well, this will bring our reserves down to a slim margin (below the provincially recommended 2.4%) and of course, that raises concerns about subsequent years, should funding not increase from the provincial government. We are doing our best to minimize the impacts on the classroom and maintatin staffing levels, however, it will be a challenge for all.

A number of interesting motions were put forward for the next meeting:
From Trustee Colburn:  that a series of annual reports be scheduled, with dates made publicly available

From Trustee Shipka: that our debate rules be changed so that trustees will only speak for 3 minutes each, for a maximum of two times.

From Trustee Esslinger: that a policy be developed regarding attendance areas

From Trustee Ripley: that we pursue a school levy to be attached to the Oct. 18 ballot, asking the public for $20 million to use to for the renovation and renewal of EPSB buildings

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Healthy Schools

On April 21, I attended the Parents as Partners session on Healthy Eating, Active Living. It was a great evening, jam-packed with information on how to create and support healthy schools with healthy kids and healthy staff.

Research shows that kids who are well-nourished, well-rested and get sufficient daily exercise learn better in school and experience fewer behavioural or mental health issues.  Getting their heart rate up and keeping an eye on sugar/salt/fat intake can go a long way to improving the long-range health outcomes of children. We've all heard about the rapidly rising rates of childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It is predicted that this generation of kids could be the first who will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Clearly, it's time to take the health of our children seriously. EPSB has developed a policy and regulation on comprehensive school health and it is an expectation that all EPSB schools will promote and support health.

Here are a few resources from the information night. You may wish to use them to discuss how to boost the health of your school with your Principal or Parent Council.

From EPSB:

Board policy- Health and Wellness of Staff and Students

Administrative Regulation- Health and Wellness of Staff and Students

From Alberta Health Services:
"Steps to a Healthier School Environment handbook". (Each school has a copy of this)
"Alberta Health and Wellness Guidelines for Children and Youth" (each school has two copies of this).
Healthy U Campaign: you can order the "My Amazing Little Cookbook" (Full of kid-friendly recipes) and "Food Smart- your guide to eating well" from this website, free of charge.

From Health Canada:
"Eating well with Canada's Food Guide" (available in many different languages!)

Alberta Community Wellness Fund:
visit to submit an application for a grant

Ever Active Schools:
Full of info on:  healthy fundraisers (alternatives to chocolate almonds!), in-class rewards (other than candy), special days, etc.
Also: Single serving package food list- tells you which packaged foods are lower in fat/salt/sugar.

Enjoy! And be healthy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Board meeting- April 27, 2010

The complete agenda for Tuesday's board meeting, with all reports attached can be found here:

On the agenda (shorter version!):

  • Improving student achievement through authentic and meaningful opportunities for writing
  • Motion on creating a District Health and Wellness Committee (Trustee Colburn)
  • Responses to board requests for information:  Funding for high schools, Fulton Place annex, Portables, School Tax Levy, # of Preschool aged children, Providing services for vulnerable students
  • Locally developed courses
  • Policy review: Multicultural and National Identity, Public Gifts,
  • 2010-2011 Proposed Planning Base ($$$ for next year)
  • Process for Budget Reviews (meetings you can attend regarding budgets at schools/central decision units)
  • Response to Staff Group Presentations re: 2010-2011 Budget

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Moving Forward

So, the decisions of the Board have been made regarding school closures and now we focus on next steps. I believe in democracy and therefore, after all the viewpoints have been articulated, it is the decision of the majority that carries the day. I know that our District is providing support to children and staff at the affected schools and that we will work to ensure that transitions to the new schools are as smooth as possible.  I have heard from many parents over the past week- these are emails of great emotion- and I appreciate the difficulty many people are having  accepting our decisions.  I believe that each trustee evaluated the information and viewpoints presented and voted according to their best thinking, their conscience and their sincere desire to improve educational outcomes. I encourage families to continue to reach out and tell us what they need to make this a positive step forward.

I received one email from a parent who talked about focusing on their strengths as a family and trying to help their child look forward with optimism. To be able to reach this point, in one short week, I thought was truly commendable. But everyone moves through grief in their own time and their own way, so we should be prepared for different responses and be ready to provide support as needed.

I also need to look forward with optimism!

I am going to attend the Emerald Awards Semi-Finalist event in Calgary tomorrow. One of the schools in my ward, Westglen, is a semi-finalist in these provincial environmental awards. I believe Westglen is the only elementary school to make it this far, this year. I am bringing along a special guest with me: a grade six student who is part of the Earth Patrollers (environmental club) and who also happens to be my daughter.  We are both looking forward to the event and have our fingers crossed that Westglen will be one of the finalists. If so, she will be speaking on behalf of the school to the media about their entry.

I am also looking forward to the important budget work ahead. I will post my budget review sessions as soon as the particulars are known. The public is invited to attend any or all of these sessions, which will all be held at the Centre for Education (Blue building, 1 Kingsway Ave.). This is a good opportunity to understand the District's current financial situation and how individual schools and central decision units are dealing with the challenges of budget constraint. I hope to see some of you there! 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Board outcomes- Spruce Avenue

I had prepared notes about keeping a viable, working K-9 operating, etc. but this was all a moot point.

Instead I said:

With the closure of McCauley and Parkdale, we have been painted into a corner. There are no options now. We must close the elementary program at Spruce Avenue to accomodate those junior high kids because they have nowhere else to go. I have been boxed in and I must support this recommendation against my will, even though I regret having to split up a viable working K-9 with a solid enrolment.


Meeting adjourns at 1 AM or so. I get home at 1:30 AM and stay awake until 3 AM. Alarm rings at 6:30 and it's time to get up and face the day. I think about the families that have been impacted by these decisions and what they must be feeling today. In particular, McCauley is in my mind a lot. I feel a great sorrow.

Board outcomes- Parkdale


CRUD and NET Team proposals specific to 118 Avenue corridor. Not transferrable.

Eastwood and Parkdale have year-round calendar. Parents appreciate it, works well with their work schedules, kids don’t lose as much over summer months. Research shows that the educational gap widens most over the summer, with kids from high SES moving ahead and kids from low SES falling

I do not believe this modified calendar will be offered at Delton. Delton is a fully functioning school community of 200+ students. They are happy with the regular program calendar and as a different community with different needs, I doubt they will be interested in adopting this calendar to meet the needs of Parkdale and Eastwood children. Delton (Delton av income $57,670 higher than city average, Parkdale/Eastwood $32,288.)

When we first received the recommendations to consider closure, some months back, I suggested combining Parkdale and Eastwood and Trustee Esslinger said she wanted to hear if the community wanted that. I heard they did. The relt between the two schools already exists, they share a bond already. One school would be preserved in the 118 Ave corridor to align with the City’s revitalization efforts.

Issue with DELTON's Capacity

ACOL 480
By adding Parkdale and Eastwood students the enrolment would be: 416
Daycare takes up 77 student spaces: 416+ 77 =493
Over the limit.

Partnerships, children with special needs, space to eat lunch- all of these would be compromised in an overcrowded school. As well, a school of 400 socially vulnerable children does not make sense to me. Bigger is not better. Transferring additional partnerships will be very difficult. The Extra curricular activities offered at Delton will be of little benefit to kids who have to bus home right after school. I don’t believe Delton has the space to offer a hotlunch program, that is so valued by the parents of Parkdale and Eastwood.

We’ve promised better outcomes for kids through consolidation, but I don’t think that a school that is over capacity, with kids eating in shifts, no hot lunch program because there is not room to offer it, displaced from their neighbourhood, unable to access after school programs, separated from their siblings who now ride a different bus, and with less parent involvement due to distance barriers and they don’t have a car--- this doesn’t sound like a better educational environment to me.

The Catchment area has been widened to a 5.38 Km2. (p. 53)  Why so large when other catchment areas aren't as big? Why should the most vulnerable neighbourhoods have such a large catchment area?

Cost of transportation for CCEP kids $900,000


This is a challenge. But there are other options. Avenue Theatre is close by. 12 Parkdale kids attend Vic, 9 go to Virginia Park, so there may be some attraction for arts-based options. A partnership with Avenue Theatre, professional artists, might be worth exploring and I know the artistic director there and would be willing to investigate that.

If we close both Parkdale and Eastwood it will have a devastating effect on the revitalization efforts the city has put in. Revitalization which is “well on its way to rebuilding a sustainable community. Plans to do transit rebuild near LRT. Overall numbers of children set to increase over next 15 years. Reinvestment clearly indicated # of bld permits, achieved primary goal to promote families recommitment to the area.” That’s why they are stepping up to the plate with money and programs and partnerships. Clearly, they see the connection between school and community. Do we?

In the Journal yesterday, former principal ME Lazerte Dick Baker, suggested establishing a community council to look at schools within the context of community needs and have solutions generated by the council. I like this idea of rich civil democracy a lot (ad lib: and I think they would do a better job of serving community than this board.)

VOTE: 6-3, with Huff, Colburn and Gibeault opposing.

One left...

Board outcomes- McCauley


Current enrolment 200. (A number many private schools would promote as a selling feature.)

From the City Impact Statement:

Social Vulnerability of McCauley: lone parent 35% (19% city av),

$22,109 income ($57, 085 average).

¾ of community considered socially vulnerable.

Dollars and Sense: report that examines cost benefits of small schools  states on p. 7 “smallest schools should exist in poorest neighbourhoods.”

Immigrant and Refugee population increasing in CCEP area

Overall forecast for CCEP children to increase significantly in next 15 years.

yrs         2009    2014    2019

0-4        2277    3497    4250

5-9        1907    2815    3798

10-14     1914    2317   3157

Downtown population set to double in next 20 years, commitment to family oriented dwellings. YMCA Welcome Village – 60-70 units for families, 2.3 av per family, 3.5 for Aboriginal and newcomer families= 180-210 children coming into McCauley.

Transit build surrounding LRT (McCauley)

School is only meeting place for the community.

“Another kick in the teeth” Councillor Ben Henderson. Really set the community back and destroy the efforts of the city.

Unique, not transferrable, cultural context. The idea that all CCEP schools are the same and that there are “commonalities between the sites” significantly undervalues the unique nature of McCauley. It is, I would suggest, a bit classist- to assume that all those inner city schools are the same.

People all over the city, over the past month, have talked to me about McCauley. People who don’t have children in the system. People who have never talked to me about educational issues before. They all say: "You have to keep McCauley open". Even a parent at the Spruce Avenue public consultation, who was arguing to keep the elementary program alive at Spruce Avenue, stopped and said to me: but if you close McCauley, oh that will just break my heart. Why are people so passionate about McCauley? Why does it resonate? I think the immigrant and refugee population stirs something in people. As Canadians, if we aren’t Aboriginal, all of us come from somewhere else. Most of us have stories within the last generation or two of someone who fled their country, under circumstances of war or famine or desperation, to arrive here in Canada with the hope of building a new life. These families have found a haven, a safe place at McCauley and to remove it now feels most unkind.

I have a deep concern that the McCauley parents did not understand the consultation process. No translation was provided and they were very disadvantaged in this critical point.

Concern that we are applying our values to others and disregarding their needs, values and hopes. We have built this recommendation on the idea that kids will be better served through consolidation and that we will be able to offer increased programming. But I heard over and over again that programming was not as important as the sense of belonging, care, wraparound support and cultural sensitivity found at McCauley. The presentation from The Muttart Foundation and the Multicultural Health Brokers articulated the values of the McCauley community well. Emphasis on the extended family, the ownership felt by the parents who created the Multicultural daycare, parental support maximized when parents are within walking distance, well being based on acceptance. Chris Smith (Muttart):  He is “Not confident cost of closure will be outweighed by academic benefit of increased programming.”

I just spent 3 days at a national youth conference for at-risk, underserved youth. I was in a room with kids who were out of school and out of work, most had never completed high school. I asked what would need to change for them to stay in school or return to school. There were a lot of ideas and suggestions, which I will share with my colleagues and our administration…but not one kid, not one said: “a shop class or a home ec class”. Not one. What they said was: small class sizes so I can be helped, teachers who care about me and are interested to know about the rest of my life and what’s going on, a place where I can be myself, where I am safe from racism and bullying, homework help after school because my parents don’t speak English and they can’t help me, a school that’s like a home, because my home isn’t so good or I live on the street.

When I heard these things- these wishes from kids who have fallen through the cracks- I thought of McCauley. McCauley is doing this.


I believe the educational needs and emotional needs can be met at McCauley. Excess space in the building should be examined and some of the 27 organizations looking for leases should be placed in there to offset the costs. We should actively seek provinvial and municipal support for wrap around services. The City has applied for a Community Hub pilot and it seems that McCauley would be the logical location. Application states repeatedly: “Geography matters”. “Bring services to where people live”. (quote document)

ESL Classes can be offered through Metro. We can develop the ideas presented by the Multicultural Health brokers for a Centre of Intercultural Excellence.


Junior High programming: I recognize that bussing to Spruce Avenue is a problem. I suggest we work with local businesses and agencies to explore alternate ways to deliver option programming. Intercultural cooking classes or other work experience opportunities in the community could be delivered through innovative partnerships like YAP- youth apprenticeship program. Intercultural music, dance, art could be delivered through the AFA artist in residency program or some other partnership. In short, build upon what is there and celebrate and honour the unique offerings of the community, rather than bussing to learn how to build a birdhouse or cook an omelette on toast.

McCauley is renovated and Spruce Avenue is not. Many have expressed that they feel going to Spruce Ave would feel like a step backward, not forward.


Many families have expressed concerns about bussing. With the recommendation to provide free bussing, we have addressed the financial concerns. However, the safety issue continues. - answer to question 37- what happens if the kids miss the bus? Has many middle class assumptions; Wait for the bus with your child (assumes you don’t start work at 7 AM), Call the carrier (assumes you have a cellphone), check the Late Bus website (assumes they have a computer), Make alternate arrangements (assumes they have a car).

People will have to move if McCauley closes, impacts are severe.  Urge my colleagues not to support this recommendation.

VOTE: 6-3, with Huff, Colburn and Gibeault opposing

*At this point, I put my head in my hands and cried. It was around 12 midnight and I was completey and utterly drained. But there was more to I pulled it together for the next debate: Parkdale.

Board outcomes- Eastwood

Eastwood has 106 students. Daycare/Headstart has 14-18 students

What I heard from public consultations, (among other things): safety concerns, what is a reasonable walk distance? concern re; loss of the out of school program, loss of hot lunch program, safety issues in the area without a school, noted neglected condition of the gym (peeling paint), appreciation for year-round modified calendar.

I am concerned about extremely low numbers at Eastwood. I supported the closure with the caveat that I felt a better designated school would be Parkdale than Delton. I had asked parents at Eastwood about this and they said of course that they didn't want their school to close, but they would prefer to go to Parkdale than Delton. They knew Parkdale, it was connected with their school already, it was in "their" neighbourhood and they felt a kinship with that school. They also saw it as a way to keep one school in the area. I felt that the community concerns raised about losses if Eastwood closed, could be better answered or offset at Parkdale than Delton. For instance, Parkdale has an excellent out of school care and offers the hotlunch program. As well, both Eastwood and Parkdale offer the year- round modified calendar. This could be continued at one site. Delton does not offer the modified calendar.

Concerns about capacity of Delton to act as receiving school for both Eastwood and Parkdale. If however Eastwood were to combine with Parkdale, there would be 201 elementary students- a viable number in my opinion.

Votes: 7-1 with Colburn opposing

Board outcomes- Fulton

Fulton Notes

240 weighted enrolment, strong k and grade 1 numbers. ACOL 480. (Ad lib: Note that Trustee Esslinger mentioned we have a policy about reopening schools, with a benchmark of 150 students and Fulton has that, so if things don't work out tonight they might want to consider that avenue.)

Troubling precedent being set. There are 66 schools with less than 220 enrolment. Viable thriving school being sacrificed to fill up nearby empty school.

No educational benefit of moving to Hardisty- combining Logos in one bld could happen by moving gr 5 and 6 logos back to Fulton Moving two grades of kids rather than moving 5 grades.

Hardisty’s viability as jr high not improved by creating K-9. Doesn’t add any junior high students.

Based on past trends, 50% of kids from closed schools go to designated school. Given push back and vocal opposition from Cap and Fulton parents, likely to think it would be the same here. 218 Fulton- 50% = 109. 114 Capilano- 50% = 57 109 + 57 = 166. Over three programs: Reg, Logos and ISP. Multiple grade still likely.

Many said they won’t go and will choose nearby Catholic school. With each child funded at $6000, and although I'm not purely driven by financial considerations, we need to consider if we will lose a number of these children and what the cost might be to our system.

Hardisty renovation- $580,000. Very unlikely that the govt. will fund this as they have not approved any of our requests lately, so it would have to come out of our Capital Reserve. Cost of erecting a wall $20-50,000. “significant abundance of space is our challenge in Hardisty area” I agree. Let’s deal with that and close a wing of Hardisty for a fraction of the cost. We have recently received a list of 27 groups seeking leases with us… surely some would fit in this wing? Perhaps even Suzuki School could co-locate.

Note: Petition of 344 names.

Very concerned about the way the Daycare has been treated. 35 year marriage and we didn’t even consult them. Play a very significant role with the school and the community. 140 students. Changed the lease from 5 year to a one year. They have invested a great deal in the building and have plans to do more.

Another concern: Fulton didn’t participate to the same degree as other communities because they assumed they were safe, with the highest enrolment of any elementary in the area. I think they were disadvantaged in this way and community members who said we want to keep Hardisty did not understand that would come at the cost of their elementary. Perhaps we need to consider making some changes to the consultation process. It is not currently about how to keep schools open. It does not allow for exploration of viable and workable options, because Planning is not involved. Would it be better for us to start by drafting some workable options, take them to the community for comment, input, perhaps they would develop new ideas based on what we’ve started. To expect them to miraculously come to a consensus on which schools need to close is unrealistic. Without supplying them with the critical background information they need, how can they be expected to build something out of thin air?

From City Impact statement:
Fulton is not a disadvantaged community. They are not socially vulnerable. Higher than average income, lower percentage of single parent families. There are no plans from the city to engage in revitalization. The student population is expected to be stable over the next 15 years.

I support the idea of consolidated Capilano and Fulton. If 50% of Capilano students (57) were to chose Fulton, we would have viable numbers for the regular program, equally the very good support already existing for the Logos program at Fulton. Total population: 275. Perhaps 300, an optimal educational number for an elementary by the research quoted by Trustee Rice.  I note that both Capilano and Fulton parents expressed concern about the K-9 configuration and stated a preference for the K-6. This would honour that desire, reduce the impact to students and maintain the strong relationship with the Fulton daycare.

Votes: 6-3 with Huff, Gibeault and Colburn opposing

Board meeting outcomes-- Capilano

As you probably know by now, all the recommendations for closure passed last night. Only one of these votes was unanimous. I value transparency and accountability, so I will provide notes from what I said last night and my vote.

The order of the recommendations was changed last night. So I will list them in the order that they appeared:


I heard that people valued the small school atmosphere, the strong connection to their school, and know the quality of life that comes from being able to walk your child to school, having 10 friends on speed dial..this is my lived experience and I wish more people understood the incredible benefits of attending your neighbourhood school. It is not a second choice, a default for lazy parents, it is a wonderful, sensible, ecologically- aware, values-based decision.

As a District, I believe we have let community schools down. We have not given them equal promotion. Our publications, bus signs and flyers promote alternative programs. Our reputation is built on choice and we proudly tour international delegates through our bilingual or alternative program sites. We cultivate international partnerships to support our language programs. We have an entire group of administrators dedicated to curriculum development and program development. We support choice through bussing subsidization and policies that encourage choice. Choice costs. And who pays? Community schools. We neglect them. We let them flounder. We hobble them with policies that say that they can only advertise within their catchment area, while alternative programs are free to advertise city wide. We don’t treat all our schools equally, in my opinion. Community schools have typically been the ones to face closure. They have suffered the low enrolment and we have contributed to their demise, by not ensuring a level playing field and considering them also “schools of choice” in all ways, and in all policies.

I had someone ask me if community schools are a dead concept for EPSB. I replied I don’t think they are dead, but they are definitely in need of some intensive care to see that they continue to be options for parents.

309 signed petition .I wonder what number would change people’s minds?

No grade 6 next year
Projected enrolment  next year 97
Small numbers K 11, grade 1- 14
33% space utilized, 27% funded, how do they meet P O & M Needs?
Kids living in the area: 152
53% of resident kids choosing school other than Capilano, including Goldbar (15) and Fulton (15).

From the City Impact statement:
Not socially vulnerable- 14% single parent (compared to city wide average of 19%), $81,911 ($57, 085 city average) No plans from city to revitalize, etc.
Forecast stable over next 15 years.

In the end,  I supported this recommendation. I felt conflicted, but in the end, the very small numbers did not seem sustainable to me and I didn't see any new hope looming for the school.

VOTE: 7-1, with Trustee Colburn against.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ideas from Youth Conference

Canadian Underserved Youth Forum

Out of School/Work Demographic

April 10, 2010 - Dialogue Notes

Note from dialogue leader:
These are the notes I generated from our final dialogue session; they are pretty much word for word of what was written on the flip charts around the room. Once again, you guys did an amazing job coming up with all of the issues, ideas, solutions and action plans, I hope these notes are helpful in maintaining the commitment you made to the group during one of our final rounds.

Theme One:  Having more of a ‘youth voice’ in employment and education.


• How can young people advocate for themselves?

• How can we make ‘reaching out’ easier?

• Need greater representation of young people on student councils (i.e. high achievers are always on student councils)

• More collaboration between young people and teachers/employers (i.e. no more us vs. them)

• More cultural sensitivity for immigrants/different races so they don’t lose their culture

• Have a greater sense of community and ability to rely on each other


• Conferences on advocating change, like this one that happens every year (possibly start on a provincial level and then move toward federal level)

• Employers, counselors, government officials and teachers should be actively seeking out youth opinions and needs

• Kids who have been expelled or suspended should have opportunities to speak out at student council meetings

• Hire teachers from other cultures

• Youth coming together (facebook, sports, flyers, twitter)

• Youth to meet with government officials/superintendents/principals

• Group of diverse kids meetings

• School discussions

• School Assemblies where students can voice their opinions

• Motivational speakers and job fairs

• Seniors be advocates for younger students that they relate to in some way

• Teachers and students on the same level; more of a friend, but still a teacher

• Make student councils more open – lower achievers will turn into higher achievers if given the chance to participate. Mix it up and give us a chance!

 Theme Two: School staff need to be more understanding.


• Better staff training/development

• Have consequences that make sense

• “Teachers shouldn’t be that smart”

• More relatable teachers/speakers/role models

• Help more with transitioning out of High School

• Train teachers in different methods of reaching out to students or offering more assistance

• More 1:1 time with teachers

• Instead of students adapting to teachers, have teachers adapt to students


• Get rid of suspensions for minor offences (skipping/late)

• Deal with underlying issues, not the behaviors

• Have youth speakers/group of youth representatives work with teachers on PD days

• Use understandable language for everybody

• Students pick speakers and presenters base on what they are all interested in

• Circles/peer support that link up with teachers/office hours for teachers to be there

• Smaller classes

• More hands on training with students

• Relatable and sincere teachers

• More down to earth teachers

• Get respective students to hold job interview processes of their own with potential teachers

• Teach in a way that is more fun (good environment vs. bad environment)

• Take time to know and understand students

• 1:1 time during class

• Have positive speakers come in that had past issues so students can relate, then use circle dialogue process to debrief

• Try and figure out why the students are acting up and try and help problems (not acting right away through detention/suspension/expulsion)

Theme Three:  Change school curriculum to meet the diverse needs of young people


• Tailoring to meet students with different learning styles

• Changing grading techniques

• Less lecturing, more doing!

• Include more of a review of previous year’s materials in new grade year

• Make classes more applicable and current to real life issues

• Know students and their diverse learning styles

• Integrate circle process into schools

• Have more flexibility

• More homework help/tutoring

• Language (i.e. ESL) recognition and making it easier for these students to feel like they understand and can keep up with schoolwork


• Smaller class sizes or more teachers per class

• More second chances/do over exams, after receiving help

• Taking away the worst two test grades from each semesters FULL mark/average

• Having different options for assignments (i.e. speech instead of essay)/open ended assignment options

• Circle process instead of rows in classes (more effective for picking up info)

• Choice of teacher selection that is based on individual student needs

• Spread the word about circle processes by going into schools

• Give students extra time/extra year

• Get teachers or translators who speak their language

• New textbooks/teacher support to relate curriculum to real world

• After school/before school homework help

• Training for teachers in other styles of teaching (hands on)

• University B’Ed program needs to change

Take input from youth to the ‘right guy’ (Minister of Education, Dave Hancock: email, call office, facebook, twitter)

• More hands on workshops

• Eliminate desks and use chairs/tables when needed

• Update text books every few years

• Review materials that student’s need refreshed from previous year

• Have more flexible hours for homework and tests

• Get Rosetta (ESL program)

• Have a homework hotline where you can call and get help

Theme Four:  Have a better connection between school and work.


• More co-ops (work experience opportunities)

• Paid co-ops

• Make school curriculum more practical to life outside of school (why waste my time teaching me all the things that are not practical and then have me take even more school to get a job?)

• More outreach


• More work partnerships with schools (teachers, employers, school trustees, more councilors, employment/government)

• If we can combine work and school (school for 3 weeks/paid work for two weeks)

• More expendable programs like YOUCAN, government officials, youth advocates, community partnerships, and after school programs (music, sports, work)

• More volunteers (outreach)

• Explain more about what co-ops/work experience is for and how it can help you in the future

• Job fair coming to school to explain jobs

• Having audio text books (back to learning styles) for optional (shop) classes as well

• Mandatory life skills classes in every school (working, budgeting, laundry, etc.)

• “Need to deal with life, as well as transition you into work” – takes healthy living navigation skills (i.e. transit, maps)

• More career fairs that start at end of elementary school or beginning of jr. high

• Have half-day co-ops for credits that at end of school can count as training for that job/career. So, school supported co-op that turns into career options upon graduation

• Reach out to more businesses

• Youth connections to employment and government to provide career counseling to see what kids are interested in

• Build opportunities based on kids’ interests

Board meeting re: school closures

Sorry I'm late posting this agenda...the last few days have been a little hectic. Tuesday's agenda is entirely focused on the school closure recommendations. If you wish to speak about a particular school closure recommendation, you can do so by registering with Anne Sherwood (Board Secretary) by NOON on Tuesday, April 13. You need to tell her your name and which school you would like to speak about.

If you miss that deadline, you can still come to the meeting and speak during the "Comments from Staff and Public" item of the agenda. You don't need to register for this spot. Just come down and line up at the microphone when the Board Chair announces it. In both cases, you will have 3 minutes to speak, which isn't a lot of time, so I suggest you write out your comments and time them. Try to be mindful of all the other comments and if you see duplication, you can simply agree with the previous speaker(s) and then emphasize the part of your speech that is new and unique. It's going to be a long meeting. I anticipate we will be there until 10 or 11 PM, so be prepared for that.

I don't advise bringing children to the meeting, as it is a very emotional event and I don't think keeping them up late on a school night is in their best interests. I know people want to remind the trustees that this is about children, but I would encourage parents to think carefully about the cost to their children of being in such a heated environment.  I believe children deserve a voice, but I also think we as parents need to ensure that this happens in a safe and healthy way. At this point, if you wish your child to have a voice, I would encourage you to act on their behalf and relay their message, rather than putting them in front of the microphone.

Here's the agenda, with all the reports attached. It's a lot of reading....

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Minister's Student Advisory Council

The Minister of Education, Dave Hancock, is looking for 24 youth, aged 14 to 19, with different backgrounds, opinions, experiences and perspectives from all regions of Alberta. The Council provides its perspectives to the Minister and Alberta Education on educational issues. Council member teams are for one year and members receive leadership, facilitation, media and public speaking training and also meet with the Minister a few times per year. Each Council member hosts their very own Speak Out Forum using the DVD Tool Kit (send email to to get complimentary copy and all supplies you need to host your own forum). Biographies and Terms of Reference for the Council are available online ( The application process for the 2010-11 Council is now open online. Application deadline: Friday, May 21, 2010.

This is a volunteer position. All transportation, accomodation and meals are provided for the meetings.

The 2010-11 Minister's Student Advisory Council will meet in Edmonton on the following dates:

October 1-3, 2010
January 28-30, 2011
May 13-15, 2011

For more information, please contact Jennifer Keller, Director of Student Engagement, at or 780-422-0390 or Jamie Anderson, Student Engagement Coordinator, at or 780-422-5656.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three Days Listening to Youth

For the last three days, I have been attending the Canadian Underserved Youth Forum,  hosted by YOUCAN and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Youth delegates from all across Canada were flown into Edmonton to discuss a variety of topics. Policy-makers were also supposed to be there to listen and help formulate next steps and policy implications to better serve youth and move us forward as a nation, as provinces and as cities. As I looked around the room, I saw very few policy-makers. I was the only trustee. There were no councillors and no MLAs. What a tremendous opportunity those politicians missed.

I was in the group discussing the many issues around being "out of school and out of work". The youth in my circle were largely high school drop-outs and several are now involved with YOUCAN. They had a lot to say about why school didn't or doesn't work for them. I took copious notes and I will be sharing this information with my board and administration. I have long felt that if we are ever going to improve our high school completion rates in a meaningful and sustainable manner, we NEED to start listening to the youth who are walking (or being forced) out the door. We need to connect with homeless youth, addicted youth, abused and neglected youth, isolated youth and kids involved in gang activity. We need to change policy to make things WORK for these kids. Currently, only 65% of our kids who enter grade 10, graduate three years later in grade 12.  35% don't. That's just unacceptable. Some of those who leave do come back and complete high school later, bringing our 5 year completion rate up to 75%. But still, to me, that leaves 25% who never complete high school.  The kids in my circle had a lot of advice on how to change that stat and I think they are the ones who should know.

Other groups focused on: mental health, street-involved youth, addictions, homophobia, youth in care and some more topics that I'm forgetting right now.

The keynote speakers/ presenters at each meal-time were outstanding:
John Stapleton- 30 years experience with the government, giving advice on how to create policy and influence policy (gold!),
Andree Cazabon screened her new film, "3rd World in Canada", highlighting the appalling conditions of the Aboriginal people in northern Ontario (this should be seen by every student, every adult in Canada!)
Kathy Hutchinson (Walking After Midnight author) talking about redemption, forgiveness, restorative justice and the dangers of mob mentality,
Jeremy from Jer's Vision and Day of Pink- who won the first human rights case when he sued his school for failing to prevent homophobic bullying,
Oni the Haitian Sensation who introduced me to slam poetry for action/change,
and a video on youth homelessness in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia put together by some youth, which compelled their Mayor to act.

I was moved, inspired, angered and compelled to move forward on youth issues. This may well set the course of my life for the next while. Connecting with youth who had been written off by so many people, who had been involved with gangs or drugs, who had survived incredible abuse/neglect/sorrow/bullying or cruelty, who had never been made to feel valuable and who, despite all that, still want to make a positive change in the world..... this is powerful stuff.

I wish more politicians could have experienced it. I intend to work with these youth to bring the message forward. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Letter to all Ward C- input on upcoming sector reviews

This is a letter being sent out to all parents involved in the upcoming sector reviews in Ward C. I'm posting it here so community members will also learn of their opportunity to provide feedback.

April 7, 2010

Change is Coming ‐ Edmonton Public Schools Sector Planning Review

In the fall of 2009, Edmonton Public Schools initiated a Sector Planning Review for the Greater Hardisty
and City Centre Areas. As we enter the spring of 2010, sector planning reviews will begin in three
sectors. We’ve attached a map to this letter so you can see which sectors are being reviewed.
We are sending this letter to let you know a public engagement process to discuss the sector review
will be starting soon, and to ask for your input to help us plan opportunities for involvement.

Why do we want your input?

So that we plan an effective public engagement process, we want to first understand your concerns and views. This is your community, your school, or your children that may be affected, so your thoughts and opinions are very important. We are just starting to plan the public engagement process, and as soon as we
have dates for events and meetings, we’ll let you know right away. Once we get started, we’ll invite you to participate in both our online and face‐to‐face engagement processes.

What is Sector Planning?

A Sector Planning Review is about managing student space. Sector planning is a review of all school space within Edmonton Public Schools to address areas of low enrolment, low class size, and a surplus of school space.

• Sectors are geographic areas of the City, and the three sectors under review in 2010 are the West 1, Central and South Central sectors.
• The goal of the review is to make the best possible use of resources so that students in all areas of the city
have access to vibrant schools and a range of programming opportunities.

• Sector review might mean change.

• Possible outcomes of a sector review include status quo, consolidation or reconfiguration of schools in a
sector, or possible closure.

An external consulting firm, Dialogue Partners Inc., will be working with us to involve parents, families, organizations and community members in the public engagement program.

How can you get involved?

Answer the questions ‐ Dialogue Partners Inc. will be conducting interviews and receiving email and
hand written responses to interview questions. The questions are noted here in this letter, and we would really appreciate hearing from you by April 16, 2010.

Join the contact list – include your name on your response to the attached questions, or send an
email to

Check the website ‐ The website will be updated regularly. More information about the West 1,
Central, and South Central sectors is available on the website at

Watch for notices – Regular Notices will be sent home with students and to community organizations.

Participate – In April, May and June, there will be opportunities for involvement, including forums,
workbooks and online input. We’ll let you know as soon as we have dates and times.

If you have questions about the public engagement process, please contact Dialogue Partners Inc. by
emailing or calling toll free 1‐866‐269‐1276. If you have questions for
Edmonton Public Schools about the sector planning review project, please contact Lorne Parker,
Managing Director, Student Planning and Transportation by email at or by
calling 780‐429‐8426.

Edmonton Public Schools is committed to the following in the Sector Planning Review:

• Sharing information on the facts and figures relating to current use of school space
• Talking with the community about school space
• Involving the community in identifying sector specific considerations and options for school space use in the future.
• Discussing the outcomes and impacts of sector review ‐ including status quo, consolidation or reconfiguration, or possible closure of schools in each sector.

Tell Us What You Think – Answer These Questions

We really want to fully understand all the issues that are important to you regarding Sector Planning
Review. We will use the information we gather to help us plan a meaningful public engagement

You can respond by:

• Send an email to and note the question numbers in your email with your response.
• Fax your hand written answers to us: 1‐613‐724‐2450.
• Drop off your responses to the office in your local school – we’ll arrange to pick them up.
• If you have questions, you can call us toll free at 1‐866‐269‐1276

Please reply by APRIL 20, 2010.

1. Have you previously been involved with Edmonton Public Schools in a school review or school

closure process? If so, please tell us about your experience.

2. What, if any, information or knowledge do you have about the sector planning review project

that is about to begin?

3. Have you been involved with an organization on these issues? If so, to what extent and what

has been your role?

4. What issues relating to a review of school space are most important to you? Of those issues you

have mentioned, are there any that are more important to you than others?

5. Do you have ideas you can share with us about how space is used, how much and which space

is needed, and what might be done with closed space?

6. What other organizations or individuals do you think might be interested or have a stake in this

sector planning review discussion?

7. What are the interests or concerns of those individuals or organizations, as you see them?

8. Who else do you think the consulting team should be sure to speak with or hear from?

9. Do you have specific suggestions for us to consider in the public engagement process?

10. Do you have other comments, ideas, suggestions you would like to make?

11. Would you like to be added to the Sector Planning Review contact list?





Organization (if applicable):

Do you have children in school? YES NO

If so, what school do your children attend?

What area of the City do you live in?