2511, 2015

Patricia Heights School Council Meeting November 24, 2015

25, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thanks to Co-Chairs Sarah and Joyce, the rest of Council, and Principal Kope for the opportunity to attend the Council meeting (and the popcorn for dinner!).  Ms. Desjarlais’ technology presentation was interesting.  I appreciated the various perspectives on the strengths and challenges of potentially using SchoolZone as a communication vehicle between parents and Trustees/ the Board.

2511, 2015

Highlights of the November 24, 2015 Board Meeting

25, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

3 items to highlight:

First, Trustees reviewed the District results and approved the plan for the next 3 years.

This year, our Accountability Pillar results have improved, with all measure category evaluations at good or excellent. In fact, out of Alberta Education’s 44 measures, we’re higher than the provincial average for 32 measures.

District-wide, academic success was positive (pages 26-31) and the 3 year plan (pages 37-38) is focused on improving teacher practice and student performance for literacy and numeracy skills.

Staff, students, and parents highly rated our schools as welcoming, inclusive, and safe (page 52). The District plans to build upon initiatives that promote and encourage student leadership, continue to develop its capacity around mental health needs, and to advance its efforts in creating safe school environments where bullying behaviour is reduced or eliminated. It is the District’s desire to strive towards school communities where all students, staff, parents, and community members feel welcomed, safe, and respected every day (page 54).

From the District Survey, 96.6 per cent of parents indicated that they were satisfied with the opportunities they have to communicate with their child’s teacher; 88.7 per cent of parents reported satisfaction with the manner in which student progress is reported; and 82.9 per cent of parents indicated that the information they receive from the school tells them what they need to know in order for them to help their child be successful in school (page 72).

The District Feedback Survey asked parents what additional information they would need in order to know if their child is being successful in school, the top three responses provided by parents were: improved/more regular communication and feedback; specific/personalized/transparent information regarding their child’s achievement; and indicators of their child’s success other than grades. This information provides the District with feedback for our 2015-2018 plan in support of a strong partnership between home and school (page 73, 74).

Second, with funding uncertainty under the last budget of the previous provincial government, prudent spending allows the District to add to reserves which can now be reinvested to meet long term needs.

The District believes that having reserve funds is a sound financial practice and helps to shield schools and students from unpredictable provincial funding and/or unforeseen events that could otherwise financially impact the District in any given year.

A District Sustainability Fund was approved to stabilize funding and service during times of financial uncertainty, as well as provide resources to address high-priority planned and emergent district-wide issues and opportunities. The following resources be established within the Sustainability Fund:

a. School Equity Fund: The Fund directs resources to schools and groups of schools in greatest need.

b. Price Stabilization: These resources combine the surplus funds from Insurance and Energy Management. These resources are intended to mitigate fluctuations in price/volume.

c. Transportation: The transportation surplus is restricted and is to be used exclusively to stabilize transportation fees.

d. School Building Equity: These resources are to be used for emergent needs in district schools that are not covered under maintenance funding or IMR. Examples include a rotational program to clean ducts and improve overall air quality in schools, and installation of security systems.

e. Growth Accommodation/Programming: These resources will be used to offset welcoming school costs, including specialized rooms, lifts, elevators, ramps, reconfiguration of class spaces, etc. In addition, it is anticipated multidisciplinary teams will be required to respond to the emerging situation of Syrian refugee arrivals in Edmonton, as well as supporting our already high immigrant and refugee populations.

f. Energy Conservation Fund: Energy efficiency improvement projects such as lighting, controls, etc. that will improve on overall efficiency, reduce negative impacts on the environment and promote longer term future cost savings (reduced utilities).

g. Property Management Capital: These resources will be used for lifecycle needs on our closed school buildings and central services (Distribution Centre, Print Services, etc.). This fund will cover major costs such as boilers and roof repairs that cannot be paid with IMR.

h. Enterprise Systems: These resources will be used for the purchase, installation, and upgrade of key enterprise systems, e.g., PeopleSoft HR, PowerSchool, Archibus, Intranet, etc.

Third, the Fall update to the 2015-2016 budget continues to focus funds on District priorities. With the restoration of Provincial funding for enrolment growth along with drawing down previous years reserves, 92 teachers have been added to District schools (see Attachment 6, page 18 of the attached report).

2411, 2015

S Bruce Smith School Council Meeting November 23, 2015

24, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thanks to Co-Chairs Gaylene and Rick, the rest of Council, and Principal Watson for the opportunity to attend the Council meeting. Bravo to all the Council for braving the wintry weather to attend!

I was pleased to learn of the involvement of Council and representatives from other school partners in the selection process for new Assistant Principal Prato – that’s generative governance in practice!  I was also very impressed with the Council’s development of a workplan calendar – a best practice that could benefit all school Councils.  Finally congratulations to the STRIVE team and the whole school for exceeding your food and funding targets for donations to the Edmonton Food Bank through We Scare Hunger.

I appreciate the support of Council to explore a Trustee / Board portal on SchoolZone, provided the communications are relevant.  It was interesting to learn that a central communication can sometimes reduce the workload for school staff performing the task on behalf of the District.

1811, 2015

Grade 6 Callingwood School democracy assignment

18, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thanks to Jacob, Omar, Cody, Shaquille, Eric, Redan, Ja’Leeine, and Vivian for your questions about trustee roles and representation in your study of democracy.  These Grade 6 Callingwood students asked me about who I represent, how I was chosen, how do I communicate with constituents, my roles, and who do I work with.  I was also asked how difficult is it to make a decision and still keep everyone satisfied, is it hard being a trustee, am I busy, and do I like being a trustee!  All great questions and my answers were as follows:

1. I am the representative for the public school electors for Ward E. Edmonton is divided into 9 wards, for a total of 9 trustees.  Ward E is in the west end. There are 2 public school systems in Edmonton, one for people who support the Catholic religion school system, and one for everyone else – the public system.  In the 2013 election, there were about 60,000 public electors for Ward E, of which about 10,000 cast a vote for the trustee election.  Electors are people over 18 years of age, that are registered by the City of Edmonton as being eligible to vote in the election.
2. I was chosen through an election. In order to be eligible as a candidate to be elected, I had to belong to the group of the public school electors, and I had to be nominated by 50 of them. This means 50 people had to sign my nomination paper for me to be eligible. The election takes place once every 4 years, by secret ballot (so that the voters aren’t bullied into voting for a specific candidate).  This past year, we also supported election of a student trustee to represent students, and we are changing that approach to one that involves more student input than a single student representative can provide.
3. Trustees try and communicate with the people they represent through a variety of means.  I try and go to school council meetings at each school in my ward.  There are also special meetings with parents and community members on specific issues, such as where to locate new schools. I publish a blog on my own website as well through Twitter and Facebook.  I write articles in community newsletters and I attend community events.
4. School trustees do a number of things:
- we hire and work with the Superintendent
- we work with all the other groups to set priorities for the school district and review results by each school in support of those priorities.
- we engage in communication with students, parents, staff, and community to understand community needs to make sure the priorities and plans respond to those needs
- we develop policies to ensure that actions of staff and students support learning, and student and staff well-being
- we approve the budget, that is how money is allocated to fund schools and other educational supports developed by the District to achieve the priorities
- we advocate with other levels of government to ensure their policies and funds they provide are adequate to meet the needs of our students and families we serve
5. Trustees work with everyone who cares about public education!  First, they work together as a 9 person Board.  They also work with the Superintendent of Schools, and all the staff of the Edmonton Public Schools.  The Superintendent is sort of like the principal of principals, all 7,000 staff report to the Superintendent. Trustees also work with parents and parent councils, other levels of government like the City of Edmonton and the provincial government, and community organizations like the YMCA.
6. Governing means choosing between different choices, so not everyone is satisfied with one choice over another.  What trustees try to do is: make sure everyone’s opinion is heard and considered, that people know what we did with their input (what we supported and why, and what we didn’t support and why), and what steps we have taken or may be able to take to help them adjust to a decision they didn’t agree with.
I am accountable to the electors, that means that if they don’t think I did a very good job, they can elect a different trustee at the next election. In between elections, the Board of 9 trustees reports each year to the Minister of Education and to the public (and our electors) on how well the school system is doing. These reports include student achievement results, how safe and caring our schools are viewed by students, parents, school staff, and community members. If the Board of 9 can’t work together, the Minister of Education has the authority to replace the Board with a non-elected Trustee until an election is called, but this has never happened in Edmonton.
7. Just like a student, being a trustee is not hard if you are curious, willing to learn, and committed to the preparation and effort to do a good job. I tell my electors that any one of them could do the job of a trustee, if they commit to these attitudes.

8. Just as students like you organize to accomplish a lot, trustees can get a lot done by being organized.  I have a full time job in addition to being a trustee, so I have to be organized to be effective.

9. I do like my role. Students including you and your friends are the future of Edmonton and it makes me feel good helping support you in creating a better future.
I hope the students share their final reports with me!
1811, 2015

Bessie Nichols School Council, November 17, 2015

18, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thanks to Co-Chairs Shelley and Selby, the rest of Council, Principal Allen and Assistant Principals Simmons and Hall for the opportunity to participate in tonight’s Council meeting. I was delighted with the very positive comments from Council for newly arrived Principal Allen, and was able to witness his engagement in seeking parental views about traffic safety issues, congestion due to the siting of portables, tracking of mud, student led conferences and rules around Halloween imagery. I am interested in learning about the paired reading program. I was pleased to hear the School’s goals for 2015-2016.

Once again, I appreciated parental and staff feedback about the possible use of SchoolZone for trustee/ Board communication with parents.  There have been common themes raised in the various council meetings:

– frequency should be determined by need

– don’t undermine staff efforts to economize the number of notifications

1811, 2015

Laperle School Council, November 16, 2015

18, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thanks to Chair Todd, the rest of Council and Principal Bayko for letting me join the Council meeting. I learned a lot about targeting to specific ages the digital reading resources Fast Forward and Reading Assistant, and the impact of the Earth Rangers visit to raise awareness of endangered species.  I also appreciated parental feedback on the possible use of SchoolZone for trustee / Board and parent communication. Again, sparing use of the tool will be most effective.  I also learned that staff resources already strive to incorporate parental input to improve SchoolZone.

1811, 2015

Lymburn School Council, November 16, 2015

18, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thanks to Chairperson Michelle, the rest of Council, and Principal Collier for letting me join the Council meeting. I appreciated learning more about reading assessment and the tools the staff are using to evaluate phonics and fluency.  Early identification assists staff intervention to provide support for students to master the required skills.

I also appreciate the feedback regarding the possible use of SchoolZone as a communication tool between trustees / Board and parents.  As with other school councils, I heard widespread support with some cautions:

– not all parents use SchoolZone regularly, so cross reference to newsletter

-don’t bombard parents with email alerts – keep communications few and pertinent!

– consider a schedule except for emerging issues


1011, 2015

Visit to S. Bruce Smith Junior High, November 10, 2015

10, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thank you to Principal Watson, and the staff and students of SBS for hosting me the morning of November 10th.  I appreciate the opportunity to meet with individual staff members, students, tour facilities and participate in events.  Considering how busy the school is with 670 engaged students, it was truly a privilege to be hosted for 3 hours.

The visit began with a warm welcome from Sharon at reception and Principal Watson asking me to join her morning welcome to students at the front entrance.  I was impressed with how polite and friendly the students were (with a few sleepy ones too!).  Next I had a chance to meet the morning announcements team along with program initiator Mark Johnson. I observed a great blend of teamwork, leadership, and communication and technical skills development.

Next I had the opportunity to meet with math teacher Emily McDaniel who leads enterprise learning through “Creating Your Own Business” to help equip students with planning, design, and presentation of business concepts.  Emily brings retail management experience to her teaching fostering authentic learning for students.

After that, I had a chance to tour the Career and Technology labs with teachers Bunny Chan and Mark Johnson to see SBS’ unique blended CTS approach.  I enquired of Mark how might the construction industry (my full time employer) get involved with the SBS construction lab and look forward to following up.

After the tour I met with work experience coordinator Lyndsey Adrian and two students Tommy and Megan.  SBS is quite unusual in offering over 60 Grade 9 students course credits for work experience.  Megan works at a local daycare and Tommy at a local McDonalds; both students very mature, poised, and enthusiastic supporters of the program!

Finally, I was invited to join in the Remembrance Day Service led by student announcers.  All the school participated in a quiet, respectful, and solemn manner befitting this important event.  Sergeant Robitaille was able to share his overseas experiences with the assembly and shared with me how impressed he was with the students and his appreciation that similar assemblies are held throughout Edmonton Public schools.

The staff of SBS exemplify creating a warm, caring, and engaging environment. The students truly are becoming the leaders of tomorrow.  The visit reinforced my pride at being part of Edmonton Public Schools. A great day!

1011, 2015

Aldergrove School Council, November 9, 2015

10, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thanks to Co-Chairs Lori and Shane, the rest of Council, and Principal Kun for the opportunity to participate in the Council meeting. I applaud Aldergrove’s 3 goals for June 2016, particularly the goal that 100% of students will advance one grade level in writing as measured by HLAT test results.  It was interesting to learn that one strategy under the goal to create 3 community partnerships, that with the U of A Community Services Learning Partnership, could see as many as 40 University students assisting with learning in the April – June 2016 period.

As with other recent School Council meetings, I had the opportunity to seek Council and staff feedback concerning the possible use of SchoolZone for trustee and Board communications.  While supportive in principle, feedback also included:

– the need to engage with parents and schools in which SchoolZone is not the primary means of communication

– the use of SchoolZone itself and alternative technologies is evolving, so timing of such an initiative needs to be considered

– confidentiality of parental feedback needs to be maintained

– care must be taken that parental communication to the trustee does not duplicate existing school-based communications, nor create duplication for staff to respond to enquiries

311, 2015

Ormsby School Council, November 2, 2015

3, Nov, 2015|Comments Off

Thanks to Co-Chairs Casey and Bree-Ann, the rest of Council, and Principal Marshall for the opportunity to participate in tonight’s meeting. It was great to learn about Ormsby’s approach to reading assessment (thanks Ms. Fletcher!), last year’s excellent accountability results, and the widespread parent support for Ormsby’s FNMI (First Nations, Inuit, and Metis) programming.  I once again asked about the idea of using SchoolZone for trustee / parent communications.  The Council was very supportive and the valuable feedback they provided included:

– ensure the notification is consistent and regular, eg. 15th of the month

– add to the email notification

– make it easy to find (eg. on the District tab)

– ensure consistent messages across trustees

– schools will need to promote as not every school has strong SchoolZone usage

– would like it to be two-way but SchoolZone currently is not interactive