April Workshop

Date: April 20, 2013 from 9:30am to 11:30

Location: Crossroads Community Centre – 1803 14th Avenue NE, Calgary, AB

Topics: Financial Literacy and Campaign Communications

We are fortunate to have Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to speak with us about understanding financial statements and telling a story with numbers. Derek Wilken will discuss messaging and public speaking and we’ll look at how to write and issue a press release.

Draft Agenda

9:30 Welcome and introductions

9:45 Understanding finances and telling a story with numbers

10:15 Messaging and public speaking

10:45 Writing and issuing a press release

11:15 Unstructured time to share ideas

March Workshop

Date: March 16, 2013 from 9:30am to 11:30

Location: Oakridge Community Centre – 9504 Oakfield Dr SW, Calgary, AB

Topic: Creating a Campaign Strategy

We look forward to having Sheila Taylor, CBE trustee, join us to share her campaign experience. She’ll explain what she did and what she felt worked, in order to get us started generating our own ideas. We will share ideas our reasons for running, our communication media (signs, websites, etc.) and how to get your message to voters. You will come away prepared to put together a campaign strategy that works for you, in your area.

Draft Agenda

– Who will support your campaign

– How will you communicate your message

– What is your strategy for getting the message to voters

– Unstructured time to share ideas

Campaign workshop notes

We were lucky to have speakers who brought a lot of political experience to address us. The benefit is that we were given a very realistic view of the hill (or mountain) that a political campaign has to climb. It was a daunting view, but we will have time to be able to address the work and complexities that we will encounter. Below are a few of the that I took.

The trustee races receive the least attention and resources. They are smaller, but also more strategic. Candidates will need to have a thick skin and a strong ego.

Don’t take advice from just one person. Campaigns are becoming longer (think: a four-year campaign) and more professional. You need to be “always on”, always branding yourself. As soon as you declare your intention to run for office, you are labelled a politician and you lose your credibility. So be professional.

A campaign can be summarized in three words: Indentify, Confirm, Deliver. Campaigns are dynamic and need to respond to their context. Make your campaign meaningful. Clearly define the purpose of each part: eg. why do we have a website? What will it do for us? There is no single tool that will win (or lose) the election, so use all the tools you can. What social media will you use? Why? How? (Beware, it can eat up a large amount of time.) Connect with people in person, at the doors.

Fundraising (or “friendraising” or “FUNdraising”). Approach people you know. If you need $5000, approach 50 people and ask them for $100 each. The trick is in actually doing it. Don’t be shy, it’s a yes/no question. If you aren’t comfortable asking, get someone on the campaign team who can do it. Democracy is expensive and needs to be funded. In this day, find a way to take electronic donations.

Campaigns can be fun, but we don’t do it for fun. We campaign to win. And that’s going to take a combination of desire, luck, hard work, determination, brains, and appetite for risk.

A very comprehensive campaign manual can be found at: www.ndi.org/files/Political_Campaign_Planning_Manual_Malaysia.pdf

We believe in the CBE

Over the past two years, members of ARTICS have been called many things; advocates, watchdogs, troublemakers, and armchair quarterbacks to name a few. However, since our inception we have consistently maintained that we are simply a group of concerned citizens working to improve the education system for all of Calgary’s students.

Perhaps we were overly naive in believing that we could have an impact by shining a light on areas of the system which we found very troubling. Some may have questioned whether our methods were appropriate. However, we strongly believe that change can only happen when the truth is confronted, not ignored. Like Abraham Lincoln, we believe that, “He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” And we truly want to help. There are very few things that matter more to us than the education of all of our children. They are our hope and our future.

For ages, people have fought the battle of “right against might” (Ghandi). Why do they do it? Why did we do it? Why did we sacrifice all the time, money and energy required to take a stand against a billion dollar organization with nothing more than willpower and dedication? Because, we believed that we could make a difference. We believed that our kids were worth it. And we still do.

We believe in the CBE. We believe that there are extremely dedicated and competent people in all levels of the organization who want what is best for our students. We believe that there are innovative practices and programs here that will better prepare our students for the future. We believe that our students are developing the skills that will make them the leaders of tomorrow. And we also believe that the CBE can do better. It must do better.

Transparency. Responsiveness. Accountability. These words are bandied about so often that they have become almost meaningless. But to us, they remain essential. It is upon these core values that great public organizations are built. And we want the CBE to be a great organization. We believe it can be. And we are willing to continue working as hard as we can, in the best ways that we are able, to ensure that it will be.

ARTICS – Looking back & to the future

“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.

February Workshop

Date: February 9, 2013 from 9:30am to 12:00 noon

Location: Crossroads community centre. 1803 – 14th Ave. NE. Calgary, AB

Topic: Fundraising and Volunteers

In February, we’ll share ideas about setting a campaign budget (what the money will be used for), how to raise that money, what rules exist around campaign funding, and how volunteers can help when money isn’t available. We’ll bring some people with experience and some templates. This session will be ideal for candidates, those thinking of running, and campaign volunteers.

Draft Agenda
9:30am – Welcome, greetings

9:45am – Campaign tasks (Robert Hurdman)

10:00am – Finding people to help (Barry Davidson)

10:30am – Campaign budget (Troy Wason)

11:00am – How to raise $5,000 (Ken McNeill)

11:15am – Open questions and sharing

March Workshop
Save the date! We will meet again on March 16, 2013 at 9:30am. Be prepared to bring a draft of your print materials: sign ideas, brochure draft, website sketches, whatever you have. We’ll share ideas, give constructive feedback and have some experts who can apply some polish.

December Workshop Invitation

Networking and Building Capacity

Date:   December 8, 2012

Time:   10-12 noon

Location:  Good Earth Cafe at Glenmore Landing (1600 90th Avenue SW T2V 5A8 View in Google Maps)

Purpose: We will be holding an open conversation to generate and share ideas to extend our influence. This will eventually serve to draw in new people who want to become involved in the 2013 trustee election, either as candidates or volunteers.

Proposed Agenda:

10 am:             Welcome & introductions:   Robert Hurdman

10:15 am:          Question:  How can we get people emotionally involved enough to care and act?

10:45 am:          Question: How do we make trustees relevant? What do we want to change? What is our passion for this change?

11:15 am:          Question: Which influential people do we need to reach out to?

11:15 am:          Take Action: Each person will identify what they are able and willing to do before our next meeting.

12:00                Adjourn

Notes on the 2011-12 financial statements

The 2011-12 audited financial statements were publicly released yesterday. Here are some random notes of things:

  • In 2011-12, total revenues were $1.188 billion and total expenses were $1.138 billion.
  • The trustees approved a budget with a $19.2 million deficit (to be funded by reserves). The CBE ended the year with a $49.8 million surplus. That is a difference of $69.0 million (although $41.3 million of that is due to the sale of two schools and the old administration building).
  • The CBE collected $37.4 million in fees. That is 25% more than the previous year (2010-11).
  • The CBE spent $9.4 million on “lease agreements for office spaces” (i.e. new administration building).
  • Including all benefits and allowances, trustee remuneration was between $55,669 (Trustee Lane) and $68,679 (Chair Cochrane).
  • Although the trustee expenses do not match those made public for less than a day in October, they are fairly close and range between $3,079 (Chair Cochrane) and $6,061 (Trustee Bazinet).
  • Chief Superintendent, Naomi Johnson made $380,672 including benefits and allowances. She also posted $26,760 in expenses.
  • Rod Peden, former CBE legal counsel who resigned? was forced out? last September was paid $175,345 in “other” (severance?).

Shutting down public conversation

On November 4, Trustee Taylor posted on her blog a report proposing that the Board direct administration to conduct a public survey on the issue of donor recognition. She had already sent this to her fellow trustees and she wanted to add it to the Novermber 6 public board meeting agenda. (If you recall, she had tried to bring forward a notice of motion at the previous board meeting on October 16 to add it to the November 6 agenda, but was shot down by Chair Cochrane). This issue has been widely reported in the media and even questioned in the legislature after it was discovered that the CBE administration had changed their regulations to allow for parts of schools being named for corporate donors. While many would think that a public discussion in the boardroom on the matter would seem entirely appropriate, most trustees did not agree.

At the beginning of the meeting, which you can watch online, Trustee Taylor brought forward a motion to amend the agenda to include item 7.2, “Public survey: Donor recognition.”

At the start of the debate on the motion, Chair Cochrane reminded trustees, “We are not debating the content of the report, we are simply debating whether or not to add this to the agenda.”

After Trustee Taylor’s opening remarks, only two trustees decided to participate in the debate. Here is what they said:

Trustee Ferguson, “So, I will not be supporting the motion. A survey would not be the initial tool that I would be comfortable using to inform the conversation on corporate sponsorship or donor recognition. Thank you.”

Trustee Bowen-Eyre, “So, Trustee Taylor, thanks for the time and effort that you put in bringing forward a report to us, however I believe it is a bit premature for the Board to approve a survey at this time. I need more information from administration before I will be in agreement with the motion.”

Chair Cochrane realized that these comments were not related to the motion at hand, but only said, “Let’s be careful that we’re not debating the contents of the report, just the motion whether or not we’re putting it on the agenda tonight.”

Perhaps this would have been more appropriate: “It seems as if you have a position on whether or not a survey should be done. If you want to express that position, the appropriate time to do so would be during a debate on the actual item after it has been added to the agenda. This is not the appropriate time to be bringing forward positions on the report itself.”

However, moving on…

Trustee Taylor then said the following: Just a point of information – Trustee Bowen-Eyre, in your comments, you mentioned that you wanted to get more information from administration before proceeding with any action and I wonder if we would expect a motion to come forward compelling administration to provide information on this matter for us.

Trustee Bowen-Eyre: Not that I’m aware of tonight, no.

No other trustees entered debate and the following are Trustee Taylor’s closing remarks:

“I haven’t heard from every trustee, but typically if people have a strong feeling of support, they will chime in on the debate. I will say that I would certainly be disappointed if trustees did not support having this type of debate. There have been a lot of comments made in the past that we feel that this is an important issue. I think that naming and donor recognition in schools is a Board matter – it is clearly in our Board policies. We did, in June 2010, ask the Chief Superintendent to bring forward reports to the Board on this matter on a quarterly basis. Those reports did not come to the Board, so as a result, we have not had information presented to us. I think it is important for the Board to be holding administration accountable and to be setting policies. The reason that I had wanted this item to be added to the agenda is because I think we need to have those conversations about this matter. We need to be setting the policy at the Board level, we need to be engaging our communities directly on matters like this. It disappoints me that it will not be on the agenda for a number of reasons, but also I do feel that it is important for trustees to have the right to bring forward motions and not to bring forward motions in this manner, through adding them to the agenda. The School Act talks about decisions being made through formal votes. It talks about this being the manner by which decisions are made and I feel that we should not be having debates like this about adding items to the agenda. We should be debating the issues. Trustees should be accountable for the decisions on the table and not simply recusing…”

At this point Chair Cochrane interrupts her by saying, “Trustee Taylor. To guide you back to the actual decision that we are debating, which is whether or not to put this item on the agenda. Right?”

Trustee Taylor: “Absolutely. I feel that is what I’m doing Chair Cochrane. I feel that we do need to be having these kinds of debates and not be jumping through two hoops; 1. To add an item to the agenda and; 2. To have the actual debate itself. Trustees should be accountable to their constituents and should be voting on the actual matters at hand and not simply voting to not add items to the agenda.”

The motion failed 5-2 with only Trustee Bazinet in support of having a public discussion on the matter.

Governance workshop overview

We had a very productive conversation on November 10, 2012. Our purpose was to understand what good governance is and how it might look at a publicly elected board of school trustees. The question we set ourselves was: How can a trustee balance: representing constituents, presenting a coherent vision, and making sure it translates into action? Dale Hudjik, governance consultant, Carol Bazinet, Calgary Board of Education trustee, and Geoff Shorten, COO of TSX-listed WesternOne Rentals shared their expertise with us. We captured some highlights of their comments on video.

Good Governance for Public Boards from ARTICS AssocResponsiveTrusteeCgy on Vimeo.

We also noted some of the highlights of our conversation. As a reminder, this isn’t a reflection on any current board, but opinions on best practices. We believe that all trustees and candidates arrive with good motives.

  • Good governance is about principles, purpose and accountability. Trustees must have integrity and be able to respectfully disagree. Trustees should be willing to take a position and speak on the public record.
  • “One voice” should apply when giving direction to management, not in conversing with the public. Individual trustees should be connected to their community.
  • Trustees set the culture of an organization. The chair in particular sets the tone for a board.
  • Trustees set their own role. But they need training to learn their jobs.
  • Millions of decisions are made in an organization and the board will not be involved in all of them. In order to allow the board to make good decisions, management needs to work through and present all alternatives with a clear recommendation. They should provide detailed briefings, but succinct presentations with pros and cons.
  • Policy governance must define a clear vision. The board is responsible for strategy, for ensuring management is successful and for financial and safety controls. They govern by policy (eg. system-wide decisions), not case by case. Management has expertise, not the board.
  • The board is ultimately in control and needs to be independent, respectful and confident and able to have trust in management. For that, they must have the right people. There is a healthy tension between the CEO and an independent board. It is important to ask questions and to have respectful differences of opinion. There can be a discussion without pointing fingers.
  • It is normal for the CEO to be the only management at a board meeting, with the COO and CFO attending just long enough to make their presentations. In theory, the board has a single employee, but in practice the CEO, COO and CFO all report to the board.
  • There is a healthy tension between the CEO and an independent board. The independence of the board and ability to ask questions is key. It is very easy for management to mislead a board, intentionally or unintentionally. Management needs to provide pertinent information, but not too much information. The board should not make operational decisions, but they need to judge the process of how decisions were arrived at.
  • The will to govern is essential. It’s sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, but the board can only be effective if they are willing to make the effort and take the necessary action to govern.