“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to surface the hidden tension that is already alive.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Over the past two years, ARTICS has engaged in many actions that has brought to light the tensions within the Calgary Board of Education. These include:
- creating this website where we laid out a clear vision on our home page of what we expect from our publicly elected trustees;
- attending, video recording and posting board meetings after the Board of Trustees voted against doing so themselves (They changed their minds a year later, which is why recordings since April 2012 are no longer posted here);
- live-tweeting board meetings on the #yyCBE hashtag;
- maintaining a Facebook page where we post all media articles related to the CBE;
- making multiple stakeholder reports encouraging trustees to do more of their work in public as required by the School Act, to allow the public to have a voice at board meetings, and to hold administration accountable;
- asking public questions during the allotted time at board meetings, especially around CBE financial allocations (questions were then banned by the Board of Trustees in April 2012);
- writing 120 blog posts to raise public awareness of CBE issues;
- being quoted regularly in media stories about the CBE;
- meeting with parents, school councils, community members, and politicians at the school board, municipal and provincial level to discuss CBE issues (including a two-hour long executive meeting with the Education Minister in Fall 2011);
- organizing public workshops to inform and help potential trustee candidates to understand the issues and to run a high caliber campaign.
All of the above is being accomplished through the volunteer efforts of our members who have dedicated hundreds of hours to this cause. Last year, we gratefully accepted our sole donation of $750 which covered a portion of the expenses incurred. Over the years, we have received many words of thanks from parents and, surprisingly, from teachers. We have also heard some criticism (second hand), with the most common being that we are too negative and too public. On the other hand, we’ve also been told that we’re too boring and too quiet because we always strive to be respectful and back up our concerns with solid evidence rather than rhetoric, and because we have declined to organize any protests or devote ourselves to a single issue that people could rally around.
As you may have noticed, ARTICS has been less focused on reporting about board issues over the past few months. This is partly because the trustees have transferred so much power over to the administration under their new policies, which has resulted in board meetings that are more about commending the administration than about discussing how to improve the education system. We have also abandoned any hope of affecting a change towards more transparency, responsiveness and accountability and have decided that our efforts are now best spent on helping people with those values get elected as trustees.
On January 29, Larry Leach, took a leave of absence from his role as ARTICS chair and announced his intention to run for trustee in wards 5 and 10. Josh Traptow, vice-chair, will assume Larry’s responsibilities until after the October election.
We encourage all Calgarians to become involved in the next trustee election. Trustee candidates cover huge areas on comparatively tiny campaign budgets and need all the support that we can give them. Education is fundamentally important to society. Let’s make it the best it can be.