Patience is a virtue. Change takes time.

Shortly after the 2010 election a group of former trustee and trustee candidates got together and formed ARTICS. It was widely acknowledged by most at the time that the board of trustees had become a club dominated by private meetings and voted en masse in public meetings to always rubber stamp what administration was presenting. Everything was great, don’t rock the boat, nothing to see here. For the most part, the public didn’t seem to care, especially at election time. The only time new trustees came on board is when an incumbent had decided not to run.

ARTICS was formed to focus on 3 things as we still do today. Accountability, Transparency and Responsiveness to the public from the board of Trustees. The basic democratic principal of those that are elected are responsible to the electorate. Boards during this time seemed more interested in supporting what administration wanted and justifying that with their interpretation of board policy.

The 2010-2013 board looked at ARTICS as the enemy. The relationship was very adversarial and every time we commented on decisions and spoke publicly seemed to make the majority of trustees angry.  Their marketing tag line at the time was “Learning as unique as every student” which wasn’t backed up by action very often listening to the issue’s parents were having advocating for their students in those years.

In 2013, three of our members decided to run for school trustee. The Chief Superintendent resigned and the long time Chair of the board stepped aside. Could this be a sign that our work was having an affect on the public? Were we having an impact? Well, not so fast!!! After that election, one of three won a seat. The incumbents we lost to were status quo, don’t rock the boat trustees. It seemed the public didn’t care about our message?

The 2013-2017 board, the first board to have a four year term, turned out to be another status quo group after much promise at election time. After all, we had 3 new trustees and an outspoken trustee back and elected as Chair. Status Quo, don’t rock the boat governance continued from day one with an agreement on day one that trustees would only speak to the media through the Chair. This lasted only weeks as a couple of trustees had second thoughts on it and that started them down a path of mistrust. During this time ARTICS re evaluated itself and it’s role and took a much quieter approach. Other groups filled that vocal void and took some hard positions on many issues, positioning themselves as left and right whether they wished to or not, the other painted them that way.

On Friday October 27th, 2017 Trina Hurdman, one of ARTICS founders, was elected Chair of the Board of Trustees. Will the 2017-2021 board be that change that ARTICS discussed 7 years ago? Will this group be able to bring transparency, accountability and responsiveness to the Calgary Board of Education? Will they be able to gain the public’s trust through this process and make good decisions for all students? Time will tell, but they have the opportunity to do so, with 5 new trustees elected and no more “status quo” trustee’s that held this board back for so long. The recipe is there, now lets watch this cake rise! As happened with the last board, they now start with a search for a new Chief Superintendent, the most important decision they will make.

Thanks to Carole Oliver, Laura Shutiak, Trina Hurdman, Victor Lough, Josh Traptow and Robert Hurdman for the vision that created ARTICS . We continue.

Much ado about Slates.

If your focus in the CBE Trustee election has been on social media, you might think this election is about supporting LBGTQ2 students and which “slate” is the best to take the CBE into a new era? With at least 4 new trustee’s at the table, the balance of power is at stake. I will tell you there are other candidates! I encourage you to look at them ALL before you decide who will have your back at the Trustee table.

First lets talk about Slate’s. The Students Count Slate (Althea Adams, Lisa Davis, Sabrina Bartlett, Sadiq Villiani and Mike Bradshaw) has launched and been clear that they are a slate, agreeing on 5 key points. 1. Fix math: Many have questioned how? 2. Fund classrooms not admin. 3. Fix report cards. 4. Ensure student wellness and 5. Keep big money out of election campaigns, which many have questioned why they don’t publish their donor list.  One of their members Bianca Smetacek has pulled out of the slate and stated the reason’s in this Herald article: http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/bianca-smetacek-leaves-students-count-slate-to-run-as-independent   One can’t help but think that some early controversy may have lead to her leaving: http://www.metronews.ca/news/calgary/2017/06/16/cbe-trustee-candidate-refuses-cooperate-twitter-shut-down.html  The Students Count Slate has been called the “Kenney Slate” by detractors claiming that they are aligned with Jason Kenney and his campaign to lead the new Provincial UCP Party. These detractors claim this Slate will “out gay kids” because of what Jason Kenney has said about the topic. We have seen the question asked and answered many times by candidates (Lisa Davis in particular) on the slate and they have answered and don’t seem to be aligned with Kenney on this and support the law which says teachers are under no obligation to inform parents if their children belong to Gay Straight Alliance Clubs (GSA’s). More on the LBGTQ2 issue in another Blog.

ARTICS will give the Students Count Slate credit for being up front about who they are and what they are about.

The Students Count folks will have you believe there is another slate. A Slate of candidates supported by Unions and also SOS Alberta, even linking them to the NDP Government. The tone from SOS is clear that they are certainly no fan of the Students Count Slate. I’m not sure they necessarily directly support any of the Union candidates. 5 of the 7 Ward sets have candidates publicly supported by the Calgary and District Labour Council to it’s membership. See Below. Laura Hack, Patricia Bolger, Richard Hehr, Julie Hrdlicka and Tory Tomblin have made this list. “Vote for the candidates who support working families”. It is less clearly a slate and less clear about what this support means about the candidates? Invest in our communities, Fair taxation, Better Wages and Good Jobs and sustainability are on the poster.

 

 

If you are looking at one of these candidates in your Ward for either Students Count, or CDLC we suggest asking hard questions about what these alliances mean to the Calgary Board of Education now and into the future.

It is extremely interesting that both Students Count and the CDLC have targeted 5 of the 7 Wards, the 2 that are not targeted both have incumbents running, even though Ward 5 and 10 have the former Students Count Slate member. Wards 1 and 2, with incumbent Trina Hurdman and challenger Gord Cummings have been supported by neither.

In other Wards, if you are looking for a more independent candidate, Wards 3 and 4 have Kim Tyers and Nimra Amjad. This race looks like a 4 horse race with 4 strong candidates. Single votes are going to matter here, so get out and vote.

In Wards 5 and 10, there are 12 candidates running. Some more seriously than others. This author lives in Ward 5 and 10 and has been involved in a candidate forum with many of the candidates. There are clearly some candidates that are just a name on the ballot. Many were difficult to find contact for and 6 didn’t show up for our forum and I haven’t seen evidence any of them having showed up for any other candidate events. Marilyn Dennis and Bianca Smetacek are the only candidates I have seen signs for, although Bianca’s are all on public spaces, while Marilyn’s are both on voters lawns and public property. There are also 11 candidates running for council in Ward 10 so there is a LOT of choice. Choose wisely 5 and 10 and research your candidates and be certain they share your values.

No independents in 6 and 7. In 8 and 9, there is one independent in Merle Terlesky. I drive through Ward 9 daily and see no evidence of Merle’s campaign. It looks like a choice between Bartlett and Hehr. No independents in 11 and 13 either.

Wards 12 and 14 is another super interesting race. I can’t comment on the sign war, not having been in the area. Independent candidates who seem to be campaigning hard on social media and receiving endorsements are: Samantha McLeod, Sara Peden, and Jennifer Seamone. Much like Wards 3 and 4, Single votes are going to matter, so educate yourself on the candidates and get out and vote.

Is SOS losing the plot?

Support our Students (SOS) started in late 2014 and gained prominence in 2015 during the Alberta Provincial election producing a video to campaign to MLA’s and would be MLA’s to properly fund education. It can be seen at the end of a CBC article here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-school-trustees-demand-government-reinstate-funding-1.3040960 which was followed up with an online e mail campaign. Some might argue that SOS’s impact lead to a government commitment to sustainable increased education funding.

Their stated goals on their website is “Support Our Students was born on the playgrounds of Alberta. Our experiences’ as parents witnessing the impact of chronic underfunding of public education on our children inspired us to organize. We believe in a public education system that is fair and equitable to all Albertan children. A public system where funding keeps pace with growth and every student is supported in a healthy and secure learning environment.”

ALL of these things ARTICS can get behind. We are all about encouraging citizens to speak out and be a part of the solution with their school board. Funding is a HUGE part of a good education. Public engagement, transparency and accountability for decisions from our Public School board are what we focus on.

ARTICS has been called a “public education advocacy group” and a “watchdog” for CBE Trustees. It disturbs us greatly when a group that claims to advocate “for” public education is doing so by advocating “against” another group of students and parents that choose choice. We too value a strong Public education system. 95% of Alberta students choose public education and together (citizens and school boards) we can make it better.

Recently in early 2017 , SOS advocacy has turned to attacking a part of what British Prime Minister David Cameron not so long ago called the best English speaking Education System in the world. SOS joined a group of Union’s, Labour groups and Edmonton Public Schools to advocate for eventual elimination for Public funding of Private schools. It’s important to note that slightly more than 4% of Alberta students attend Private Schools. While many of them pay extra tuition to attend, many others choose it for reason’s of special needs or unique learning environments that have nothing to do with their parents social status.

In recent months though, they have taken it a step further applauding extra costs for busing for Public School Alternative schools or “Schools of Choice” adding they “separate and segregate” students. They have called for the elimination of all choice and that the community school is where your students “should go”.

And then yesterday’s shocking and shameful series for tweets for your eyes below:

and the resulting newspaper article: http://www.metronews.ca/news/calgary/2017/08/14/sos-alberta-tweets-relating-events-in-charlottesville-to-schools-of-choice-shameful-says-calgary-education-advocate.html  with no apology for using this violent, racist event in Charlottsville to further an agenda. Are they that certain that mandating where you must educate your children, in one community school is the right way to promote inclusion? or a “healthy and secure learning environment?” The removal of all choice equates to a Utopian, non racist society? If so, we’d love to see and hear evidence based arguments for such a practice.

I will let the reader decide those answers. For ARTICS, we will continue to promote YOUR civic duty to learn about your candidates for Trustee and vote for the person that best fits with your philosophy of schooling in YOUR public school system.

Get engaged Calgary.

Who’s running in 2017?

We will be updating this information as it becomes available, right up until election day if need be. ARTICS wishes all candidates the best of luck and encourage all voters to learn about each of the candidates and please, vote for the person who best represents your priorities. We desire good people at the trustee table to have solid vigorous debate and make good decisions. Transparently, Accountably and Responsive to the electorate. All views are welcome and encouraged in a good democracy.

Elections Calgary Candidate Profiles: http://www.calgary.ca/election/Pages/meet-the-candidates/school-trustee/default.aspx 

Wards 1 and 2

Gord Cummings

Website: https://www.gordc4trustee.ca/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/gordc4trustee

Twitter: @gordwcummings

Trina Hurdman

(incumbent in Wards 6 and 7, moves to Wards 1 and 2)

Website: http://www.trinahurdman.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Trina.Hurdman.Trustee/

Twitter: @trinaYYC

Wards 3 and 4

Althea Adams

Website: http://altheaadams.studentscount.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AltheaAdamsTrusteeCandidate/

Twitter:

Kim Tyers

Website: https://www.kimtyers.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimtyersyyc/

Laura Hack

Website: http://laurahack.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laura.hack.3720

Twitter: @LauraHack34

Nimra Amjad

Website: http://www.votenimra.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NimraAmjad4CBETrustee/

Twitter: @nimraar

Wards 5 and 10

Bianca Smetacek

Website:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BiancaSmetacekTrusteeCandidate/

Twitter: @bianca4trustee

Gurpreet Singh Grewal

Can’t find any online presence…

Jameela Ghann

Website: http://www.jameelaghann.com/

Jasbir Chahal

Can’t find any online presence…

Marilyn Dennis

Website:  marilyndennis.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Marilyn-Dennis-Trustee-Candidate-Wards-5-10-314351209006001/

Twitter: @marilyndyyc

Pamela King

(incumbent)

Website: www.pamela-king.com (web address from 2013, not live)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Trustee.Pamela.King/

Twitter: @PamelaKing510

Raman Gill

Can’t find any online presence…

Rekha Dhawan (Elections Calgary has left off their profiles)

Website: http://www.teacherfortrustee.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeacherforTrustee

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teacher4trustee

Sohail Sherwani

Can’t find any online presence…

Syed Hasnain

Can’t find any online presence…

Veerpal Rai

Can’t find any online presence…

Wasima Sultan

Website: http://www.wasimasultan.com/

Wards 6 and 7

Lisa Davis

Website: http://lisadavis.studentscount.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LisaDavisTrustee

Twitter: @Lisadavisyyc

Patricia Bolger

Website: http://www.patriciabolger.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PatriciaBolgerforTrustee/

Twitter: @patriciajbolger

Wards 8 and 9

Merle Terlesky

Website: http://www.voteterlesky.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TerleskyYYC/

Twitter: @MerleTerlesky

Richard Hehr

Website: http://www.richardhehr.ca/

Twitter: @richardhehr

Sabrina Bartlett

Website: http://sabrinabartlett.studentscount.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SabrinaBartlettTrusteeCandidate/

Twitter: @Trusteesabrina

Wards 11 and 13

Julie Hrdlicka

(incumbent)

Website: http://www.juliehrdlicka.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/electJulieHrdlicka/

Twitter: @julie_hrdlicka

Sadiq Valliani

Website: http://sadiqvalliani.studentscount.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrusteeSadiq/

Twitter: @SadiqValliani 

Wards 12 and 14 

Carla Obuck

Can’t find any online presence…

Jennifer Seamone

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferSeamone4trustee/

Twitter: @JSeamone

Karen Lynn Draper

Can’t find any online presence…

Mike Bradshaw

Website: http://mikebradshaw.studentscount.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mike-Bradshaw-Trustee-Candidate-1704889793148124

Twitter: @mikebyyc

Muzaffar Ahmad

Can’t find any online presence…

Samantha MacLeod

Website:  samanthafortrustee.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/samanthafortrustee/?hc_location=ufi

Sara Peden

Website: http://sarapeden.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/SaraJPeden/

Twitter: @SaraJPeden

Shauna Eldan

Website: (e mail) Seldan4trustee@shaw.ca

Twitter: @cbeeldan

Tory Tomblin

Website: http://www.torytomblin.ca/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yyctory/

Twitter: @yycTory

Does defunding Private Schools help public education?

Bravo to our Calgary Public School trustees for NOT following in the footsteps of the Edmonton Public Board and making a meaningless motion to defund Private Schools. You might want to bookmark this one! ARTICS is praising Trustees for NOT doing something.

Every few years, the debate surfaces. This year, spurred on by a motion put forward in the legislature by PC leader Ric McIver that commits the government to nothing. McIver introduced Private Member’s Motion No. 504 to urge the government “to affirm its commitment to allowing parents the choice of educational delivery for their children, including home, charter, private, francophone, separate, or public education programs“. The Government and Education Minister had already said publicly that the funding for Privates and Charters (choice) would be supported in the 2016-2017 Provincial Budget, which it was.

Before anyone spoke a word in the house about this motion, Public Interest Alberta came out with a Blog post condemning the funding of Private and Charter schools, calling on the Government to defund them all now. The Fraser institute published their own findings which spurred debate on Twitter spurred on by directors of Public Interest Alberta and ATA members with one former PC cabinet minister on the topic. As Churchill famously said, “The first casualty of war is the truth”. This war of words is decades old in this province.

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Some Calgary education advocates got into it devolving unfairly into personal attacks. It is a shame that Union and political differences can get emotions running so high. So to the question, would defunding private schools help public education? The PIA blog states “Last year the Alberta government gave over $200 million in public funds to private schools.” In a recent Calgary Herald article, “Lisa Davis, vice-president of CAPSC, said if the CBE reduced the percentage of its $1.3 billion budget split between administrative costs and school and instructional supports to the same level of the Calgary Catholic School District’s, it would mean an extra $160 million that could go back into classrooms.”

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For some context, 4% of Albertans choose Private Schools, and the total overall budget for the Province to private schools is $200 Million. The Calgary Board of Education appears to outspend the Calgary Catholic District in administration alone to the tune of $160 million. The answer is clear that defunding private schools would not make public education better, nor would it necessarily get to students on the front lines who need special supports. A funding review of not how much each board gets, but how it is distributed and how it is spent is something that the public would benefit from. Afterall, it is the law that only 4% of school funding should be spent on administration. That is clearly not the case with Alberta’s largest school board. That is clearly laid out in the above mentioned Calgary Herald article. Those who advocate for a strong Public Education system are taking their eyes off the ball if they argue that defunding Private Schools is better for the Public system.

If Parents and average Calgarians want to help make Public Education the best it can be, the focus should clearly be on your local public school board. Look at what they spend, where they spend it and where the priority of your trustees and administration lies. Make certain your board knows your priorities and shares your priorities. Get engaged at election time and elect someone who shares your educational priorities. Stay tuned and we will share important information to help you get involved with that. ARTICS has and will always advocate for our Public School Board to be Accountable, Transparent and Responsive to encourage and help citizens to run as a Trustee or help a campaign. CAPSC has done a fantastic job this year in advocating for our Students and Parents, pointing out issues publicly and helping parents get their voices heard. SOS seems bent on getting all the money sent to the Calgary Board of Education to do with it what they will. A wise person once said, you’ll never solve money problems with more money. If you make the public system the best choice then the alternatives won’t need to be there.

More questions than answers with CBE International Travel announcement.

Late on Thursday November 26th, this appeared on the CBE website: Information about international travel. In a nutshell, ” For now any schools planning international trips have been asked to pause trip planning activities.”

Reaction Friday morning was swift from the media and from parents affected.

 

 

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In the release, they refer to “Recent global events” as the reason for this pause. The attacks in Paris were a full 2 weeks prior to this release. In fairness, we have no idea when and where any planned trips are going, but the public is going to react to the speed of such a statement. Why make this announcement now? Why rush to announce before winter break?

And a briefing with less than 24 hours notice:

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Our biggest concern, and what we hope is a concern for our Trustees, is do we not have policies in place already that keep student and guardian safety as the number one priority when considering international travel? What did the events of Paris change? The world has been witness to unstable countries all around the world since country states have been established. Our Foreign Affairs office has issued Travel warnings for many countries for decades. The threat of terrorism in this millennium has been at the forefront of the news.

So what is the international travel policy? The only policy (administrative regulation) we could find that is relevant is AR 3027 Off-Site Activities the details of which refer to the Off- Site Activities Procedures Manual on most of the policy statements. We could not find the Off- Site Activities Procedures Manual publicly. One would hope that any parent whose student is going on an international trip is privy to the details of this manual.

To be clear, we support ANY public engagement involving discussion and possible concerns from those that are affected. So having a public discussion on an International Travel Policy from time to time is prudent and welcome. Proper notice of such a meeting and time for consideration including all relevant information is also welcome and prudent.  What is of concern is  “pausing” of International Travel, citing “Recent global events” as the reason serves to cause unnecessary angst amongst those affected and uncertainty amongst parents of the safety of their children.

Stay safe.