Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What an election- ARTES a gamechanger

Last night, I watched the election results come in at Trustee Dave Colburn's gathering at the Highlands Golf Club. Dave was acclaimed, so it was, from the outset, a different kind of celebration- it was about other people. Dale Hudjik was there, from ARTES, the Association for Responsive Trustees in Edmonton Schools, a grass-roots, volunteer organization that formed to encourage and support progressive candidates in this election for school board. ARTES had specific qualities it wanted to see in trustees: forward-thinking, progressive, responsive to the community, transparent and independent in thought. They held monthly meetings, discussed good governance and provided mentorship and support to candidates. ARTES was instrumental in the community-led forums for candidates that sprang up when EPSB cancelled their forums and provided a constant source of information to interested citizens through twitter (@yegtrustee, @stolenfire) and their website. They even supplied a report card for each candidates, with the majority of their top picks being successful last night.

There were some very noteworthy results last night: Sarah Hoffman had over 14,000 votes in Ward G, to knock off incumbent and retired principal George Rice. Sarah was second only to the mayoral candidates in terms of number of votes- she had more votes than any councillor and I would guess more votes than any trustee EVER.   Heather MacKenzie was in a three-way race in Ward E (west end), but in the end was victorious. She is one of four trustees under the age of 35 on this new board...another record. Michael Janz did very well- proving that in Ward F (University, downtown) people are more interested in electing someone with board/political/community experience than an experienced principal/adminstrator.  To me, the results last night represent a fundamental shift in how the public perceives the trustee role and how seriously they take the job. It is clearly seen as a political role, requiring political skills, rather than the logical next step for retired administrators.  In fact, other than Ken Shipka, not one of the educators who ran, was successful.

Last night, I texted Christopher Spencer (Ward C) some words of congratulations before he had been officially declared a winner, but when it was obvious that he would be successful. He texted back his thanks and added, "but I'm most excited for Heather, if she can just hang in there."

Heather will not walk into that first meeting, as I did...a lone individual. She will be walking into a group that knows her and values her already. This is perhaps the most valuable things ARTES did- it provided a meeting ground for the board-mates before they were thrown into the pressure-cooker of board life. Almost all of the candidates elected last night know each other already through ARTES meetings. They will walk into their first meeting as a team, with respect and trust already established. What a gift. I think this board will do great things.  And I thank the volunteers of ARTES, most notaably Dale Hudjik, for the support and encouragement they have given these new trustees.

The Board of 2010-2013
Ward A- Cheryl Johner
Ward B- Ken Shipka
Ward C- Christopher Spencer
Ward D- Dave Colburn
Ward E- Heather MacKenzie
Ward F- Michael Janz
Ward G- Sarah Hoffman
Ward H- Catherine Ripley
Ward I- Leslie Cleary

And, now I sign off- my blogging as a trustee ends here. I am returning to my first love: acting. I start rehearsals today for "The Fourth Graders Present the Un-named Love/Suicide" for Northern Light Theatre. It is a very dark script about bullying and will be performed Nov 2-14 at the Arts Barns. Tickets available through Northern Light Theatre.

After that, I will be performing in "True Grid" a hilarious comedy about four rabid Edmonton Eskimo Fans, Nov 24, 25, 26 at the Stanley Milner Library Theatre downtown. This show is part of the official Grey Cup celebrations and tickets are available now through TIX on the Square.

Thanks for reading. It's been fun!

I'll post the address for my next blog on politics, life and whatever else strikes my fancy....sometime in early November.