Thanks to Cameron Heights for letting me attend their Annual General Meeting. Kudos to the Community League for raising over $750,000 (so far!) for community enhancements.
Trustees approved part 1 of the 2014-2015 Budget known as the Distribution of Funds. The Distribution of Funds allocates the total budget between schools and the business units of the District. The amount of funds provided by the Provincial Government for 2014-2015 covers enrolment growth, but per pupil funding and staff unit costs are virtually unchanged from the previous year. While the new funds are limited, keep in mind the 2013-2014 Budget was a $30 million reduction from 2012-2013. Issues of large class sizes, limited resources for inclusive settings for special needs and for a growing English language learner population, and continued investment in equipment, facilities, and staff remain. Part 2 of the Budget in the coming weeks will allocate the funds among schools based on per pupil allotments based on a number of defined classifications.
Trustees also approved the 10 year and 3 year capital plans. The 10 year plan provides a forecast of school space required, and the 3 year plan requests of the Provincial Government new schools and modernizations for the next 3 years. The Board continues to advocate as enrolment projections suggest the need for 15-20 new schools by 2019. I am pleased that a new K-9 school for Glastonbury or Granville is the District’s #2 priority request. The #1 priority is for a new school for Windermere, which has no school options within many kilometers. The Superintendent confirmed in his response to my question that EPSB is proactive in seeking partners for shared facilities (for example, partnering with the City to add a public library to a school) as one means to enhance the likelihood of obtaining funding.
Congratulations to the 3 finalists for this year’s District nominees for the Edwin Parr Teacher Award. This award, sponsored by the Alberta School Boards Association recognizes exemplary performance of first year teachers. Erik Lundeen is this year’s nominee. Erik is a teacher at Belmead School with a Grade 4-6 Interactions class. In his acceptance remarks, Erik emphasized this was a team achievement, and he thanked his supportive colleagues and mentor teachers.
A campaign priority for me was to find innovative ways to improve efficiencies. I’m pleased that at today’s meeting, Edmonton Public agreed to a partnership with Edmonton Catholic to explore the feasibility of a shared student transportation service. Preliminary analysis suggests significant cost savings which can be reinvested to enhance service and / or limit future cost increases. Hoping to build upon this success, I have requested our District administration identify areas beyond transportation where we might partner with other school districts to realize similar benefits.
The Board approved the 2014-2018 Vision, Mission, Values, and Priorities. As Chair of the District Priorities Committee, I am pleased we have brought this work to a successful conclusion. Thanks to the many parents that provided valuable input that was considered in developing the final statements. Next, the District will develop a strategic plan with more specific goals and strategies to realize the Priorities.
The Board also approved a revised School Calendar for 2014-2015 and for 2015-2016. This 2 year pilot recognizes a change in moving to maximum hours of instruction rather than minutes of instruction. In so doing the change facilitates opportunities for District wide professional development opportunities for our staff. Another consequence will be to add a couple of days off near Remembrance Day.
Finally, I’m really pleased the District is moving forward on another of my campaign priorities, that of considering consolidating old worn out schools with a modern, mulitpurpose replacement school in a mature neighborhood. I am hopeful we can create a win for students and for the communities.
The Night of Music, celebrating its 50th year, featured approximately 870 student musicians, led by 13 teacher conductors and 31 music teachers, sharing their musical expertise with parents, sponsors and community members at the Jubilee Auditorium. Preparations for the event included more than two months of practice and four months of preparation. Congratulations to all for a night of great performances, including Rio Terrace Division 1 and 2 choirs.
The Board introduced first reading a proposed new student and staff wellness policy. The draft policy is intended to reflect new directions from Alberta Education and combine a number of existing policies. I encourage you to view the draft and provide comments (available soon through epsb.ca). The Board will consider public input as part of second and third reading of the policy.
Thanks to Principal Martyn and the School Council for inviting me to attend. Thanks to MLA Matt Jeneroux for attending as well. While the main focus of the meeting was to respond to questions concerning the Growth Accommodation decisions, Council was treated to view student mosaics created in the CTS lab. The tile mosaics (and stained glass) were produced under the guidance of the Artist in Residence. The photo of the mosaic here depicts students with great ideas. What a great idea!
Thanks to Principal Ron Thompson and the Callingwood School Community for inviting me to enjoy the annual Concert. Ms. Baron and the entire staff and students did a fantastic job with “Music Around the World”. One of my favorites was the dancing and headbands and bell bottoms for the Grade 6 Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Twist and Shout” as part of the British Invasion Medley.
Thank you to Rio Terrace School Council and Principal Langenhahn for allowing me to briefly join your meeting last evening. Congratulations to Rio students for raising $14,000 through the “Hair Massacure”, a cause that supports finding cures for childhood cancers. Thanks to students for the Random Acts of Kindness teddy bear! Rio Rocks!
Dear parents and school council members, With the election of a new Board of Trustees comes the important task of establishing the Priorities statement that will inform decision making and use of educational funds for the remainder of their four year term. At this time, we are in the process of finalizing a set of draft priorities we wish to share with key community stakeholders for feedback and confirmation. On Monday, FEBRUARY 3, the Board of Trustees will host a public consultation workshop to provide more information about the draft priorities and obtain feedback from various educational stakeholders. The workshop will take place at the Centre for Education (One Kingsway) from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Free underground parking will be available in the Centre for Education. As a key educational partner your voice and perspective is valuable in the work to establish District Priorities. The District hopes you are able to participate on February 3. Please R.S.V.P. your attendance to Judy Abernethy at 780- 429-8110 or firstname.lastname@example.org by WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 29. If you are unable to attend, but still wish to provide feedback to the Board, you may do so by participating in the http://fluidsurveys.com/s/epsb/dbpfs/ . This link will be live from February 3 – 14. Thank you in advance for your participation in this feedback process. We know by working in collaboration with parents and community partners, we will be most successful in providing excellent educational opportunities for our children and youth. Sincerely,
Ken Gibson Ward E Trustee
Today the Province announced approval of three modernizations of Edmonton Public Schools: Ross Sheppard, Vimy Ridge, Belgravia; and a new replacement school for up to three mature neighborhood schools. This announcement is welcome news for providing improved learning facilities for the students in those schools. Edmonton Public continues to advocate for new schools to address growth and enrolment pressures in our new neighborhoods. Our MLA Matt Jeneroux has been advocating on behalf of these communities and I thank Matt for his advocacy.
The Board also met today (Board package can be accessed here). Highlights include:
- The Board approved a recommendation for the Board Chair to write a letter to the Premier in support of the Child Care Poverty Reduction Report authored by the Alberta College of Social Workers, Public Interest Alberta, and the Edmonton Social Planning Council. While I support the goal of the Board encouraging the Province to end child poverty because of the positive educational impacts, I voted in opposition to the recommendation as worded.
I spoke in favor of receiving the report for information. My reasons were 3 fold:
1. The Board’s Advocacy committee had not been asked to examine where this recommendation fits in the advocacy plan currently under development.
2. The wording of the recommendation ties the Board to supporting the Report authored by outside parties. To my knowledge, the Board has no specific data that our constituents support the methodology and recommendations of the Poverty Reduction Report.
3. One specific recommendation of the Poverty Reduction Report is a call for changes to the Provincial tax structure. The 2010-2013 Edmonton Public Board decided against requesting a temporary tax levy to fund school infrastructure, a feature that already exists within current tax policy. It strikes me as inconsistent that the current Board would now endorse changes to taxation policy as a means to address child poverty reduction, when our predecessors chose not to use this tool for an item within our mandate.
The debate of this recommendation shed light on these cautions, and I am confident that the Board Chair’s letter will focus more on urging achievement of reducing child poverty than on the how to get there. I don’t think it sets a good precedent for one level of government to tell another level of government how to go about achieving its objectives, especially in areas outside our direct mandate.
- The Board received information about the Lost Prizes Program used by several Manitoba school districts to improve outcomes for disengaged youth. Learning about potentially effective programs is important work of the District. I am particularly interested in learning whether the program has been successfully delivered in urban settings.
- I received the District administration’s response to my question from the December 3, 2013 Board meeting about whether the proposed Lewis Farms junior high school in the District’s current 3 year Capital Plan can meet the enrolment growth we expect over the next few years. The administration’s response is that it does not. This request provided an opportunity to advocate on behalf of communities outside the Henday that future versions of the 3 year Capital Plan need to better reflect the need for new schools as identified by data from the growth accommodation consultation.