Saturday, October 5, 2013

Forum Follow Up

On October 3 I had the privilege of speaking with the public at a forum organized by Laurier Heights Parent Advisory Council (and they did a phenomenal job at it, by the way).  It was an evening rich in questions and diversity, with great opportunity to engage you, the voters, in what matters to you as you choose your next school trustee.  You are my hiring committee and I appreciated the interview!

I was able to articulate three key factors that will influence my leadership should I be elected to this position:

1. I will follow in the footsteps of good work
2. I will follow with a critical eye toward what we can do better
3. I will expect you, the voters/parents/grandparents/community members to engage in the process of advocacy for our children.

I will follow in the footsteps of good work

Predecessors of this position, Christopher Spencer and Sue Huff, have worked tirelessly to ensure a new era of communication and collaboration with government.  I commented at the forum my disagreement with a statement that advocacy to-date has been “all asks” relative to the School Closure Moratorium Committee.  I think the previous board has done amazingly well to establish a relationship with the government of Alberta that is reciprocal, and with the best interests of students at its heart. While this relationship is never easy, I do think that the board has forged ground that will allow the new trustees to effect change to the betterment of our students, teachers, and classrooms within Edmonton Public Schools. 

More importantly though, issues of inclusion were discussed at length at this forum, and I’m so grateful that they were!  I was able to articulate my firm belief that if there is a policy as sound and effective as the no-bullying policy, and its extention to the LGBTQ students in our schools specifically, then that is simply a policy that must be implemented.  PERIOD.  I am grateful for the opportunity to formally (and informally in conversations afterward) to articulate my deep conviction to this awesome policy. 

I will follow with a critical eye toward what we can do better

The forum audience raised questions about school closures:  a matter near and dear to my heart.  I participated in the Sector Review Process, so I know how debilitating and disheartening process can be in relation to school closures.  I know from conversations with other parents in that time in my role as chairperson of a school council that we can do better!  There were suggestions in that process that emerged from parents as alternatives to school closures that I don’t think that the board has investigated, or at least not fully investigated.  I also think that now is the time to be fully open as a board to all aspects in our budget:  the money that we have available to us must match what the board has skillfully named as priorities for our district.  In my experience as an entrepreneur and as a former Corporate Director of a multi-decision unit company I have deep concerns over the anticipated spike in absenteeism and the costs (human and financial) associated with that.  Additionally, there are budget items that, despite hours of inquiry as a private citizen, are still unclear to me.  There are clearly many avenues of conversation about cost-saving and cost-sharing that simply must be explored. 

Communication with the public and policy implementation are two additional ways that the board can work better.  While communication with government has deepened, I’m certain that we can do better at communicating with the public.  In terms of policy implementation, I was present at the board meeting when a former Physics teacher from Ross Sheppard spoke about the lack of implementation of the boards policy on Student Assessment, Achievement and Growth  which allows teachers to issue zeroes.  Why is that?  Why are board policies not being followed?  This is the critical eye that I bring to the board as a parent and as a citizen now, and expect the trustee to bring as well. 

I will expect you, the voters/parents/grandparents/community members to engage in the process of advocacy for our children.

It won’t work without you, though!  I have been part of a small group of concerned parents and active citizens who have asked questions of our elected officials.  This has been hard work, but it is also PIVOTAL to the success of democracy.   I KNOW that your voice, your opinion, your input has power.  I know this because a small group of communicative and vocal parents helped strengthen the motion for changes to our utilization measure to incorporate child wraparound services as utilized space.

I am so grateful that I was able to articulate to the forum audience that I expect them (and you!) to be engaged in the process.  Ask me questions!  Talk to me about how policies are, or are not, being lived out in your schools.  Attend meetings in person or online, be on Alberta Education conference calls, talk to your school councils and community league boards, talk with your MLA, support initiatives for a super-board collaboration between schools, or any other way to make your voice heard.  For I deeply value the power of grassroots communities voicing their vision, their hopes, their concerns, and their wisdom.

It was such a rich evening!  I can’t wait to meet more of you at the North Glenora Community League on October 16 from 7-9 PM.

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