Three CBE trustees hold a public conversation about the proposed budget

Three trustees, Taylor, Stewart and Hurdman, met with members of the public at Filos restaurant in Deer Run to discuss the proposed CBE budget. The purpose of the meeting was to get input from the public, find out what questions people want asked in the upcoming board meeting and what issues people feel need to be addressed by proposing changes to the budget. This type of meeting is exactly what we should expect of elected representatives. They held a wide-ranging discussion with about 20 people who brought up many issues. They tried to speak to everyone in the room and genuinely listened to what people had to say. They wisely had a signup sheet to keep in touch with voters.

Unfortunately, there were too many people for the number of trustees. Some of the issues that came up were clearly the responsibility of the provincial government, which prevented the trustees from having a useful response. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have an MLA present to field those concerns?

Ideally, the trustees would have had a clearly defined use for the information and ideas that were gathered, a plan to use them to influence the final budget. That group of trustees didn’t give the impression that they feel able to affect the final budget, which is a reflection of the poisonous dynamic within the board as a whole.

It’s great to see three trustees make an effort to understand the public they represent. We are concerned by the total lack of effort or concern by the other four CBE trustees to seek public input.

Trustee Hurdman has another event planned Thursday May 15, 4pm – 8pm at Higher Ground Cafe

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:

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 notes

We had a great conversation with an impressive group of people. In attendance, besides potential trustee candidates and ARTICS members, were a trustee, an MLA, a CEO and a political operative. Participants also represented a range of political views, from conservative to liberal. What was most gratifying was that everyone was able to participate and contribute, and that the conversation remained respectful and constructive.

We began by presenting the theme of the conversation: How can we extend our influence, get people involved and reach influential people? We recognize that trustee elections are low profile, the lowest among all elections, which translates into lower participation than at any other level. We raised questions about who can bring greater attention to and promote trustee elections. Is it the province, the media, ASBA or PSBAA, or the candidates themselves? Only a small proportion of voters have school-aged children. It’s possible to reach those with kids using emotionally charged messages about issues that affect them, such as fees, but other voters tend to be indifferent. It’s possible to reach other voters with messages about the size of the budget trustees are (supposed to be) responsible for, and issues of misspending. We could create a strategic media plan, but we realize that we have limited time, energy and resources,

We need to get in front of people and talk with them. ARTICS could fundraise, advertise and try to raise awareness about the importance of the election. In fact, there are significant issues. But there are other organizations better positioned to take on this task, groups that have done this in the past, such as ASBA. We’ll never reach everyone, but our efforts will have the greatest impact if we focus on the election.  ARTICS started out by trying to influence the current CBE board of trustees to adopt greater transparency, accountability and responsiveness. We have realized, again and again, that we are simply not in a position to effect that change with the current trustees.

We don’t need candidates to agree on everything. We are really looking for shared values of transparency, accountability and responsiveness. To us, this means listening to constituents, engaging in debate in public and  thinking about both sides before making decisions or creating policy. If decisions are made the right way, even if we don’t agree with the final decision, we can be reassured that they will be higher quality and outcomes are more likely to be successful. Candidates will represent change and democratic values over the status quo.

The media is unlikely to create a story based just on our values. Rather, we need to talk directly with citizens. We need to listen to them, find out what their issues are, and help good candidates know how to campaign.  We see a need to shift our focus and how we spend our effort in order to bring positive change to the way decisions are made at the school board and to overcome some of the significant issues that we perceive.

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

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.

November Workshop Invitation

School Governance:  Different models and perspectives

Date:   November 10, 2012

Time:   10-12 noon

Location:  Community meeting room at Calgary Coop (Midtown Market 1130 – 11 Avenue SW)

Who this workshop is for: 

  • This program is for any Calgarian with a passion for education who aspires to be the change in their educational community.  If you are considering becoming involved on a parent council, or wish to develop your effectiveness as a council member, or running for elected office as a trustee, this program is for you.


  • Advance a shared understanding of governance  and  provide participants with an overview of different governance models
  • Examine key components and strategies of CBE’s “coherent governance” model
  • Identify principles and approaches for effective practice.
  • To identify our individual philosophy and approach for effective practices in governing


10 am:             Welcome & introductions:   Robert Hurdman

10:15 am:          Panel:  Facilitated by Julie Kearns

  • Best practices in school governance.  Dale Hudjik, governance consultant
  • CBE’s new  “Coherent Governance” model.   Carol Bazinet, CBE trustee
  • Managing under corporate governance.  Geoff Shorten, COO of WesternOne

10:45 am:          Questions & Discussion

  • What is the link between good governance and effectiveness in education systems?
  • What is the role of the chairperson in ensuring successful boards?
  • What is the role of parent councils and other stakeholders in board governance?
  • What strategies are needed to avoid board meritocracy?

11:30 am:          Summary of emerging themes

11:45 am           How do we gain governance skills?

12:00                Adjourn

Recap of our public meeting

Our first public meeting was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who organized and everyone who attended. The number of people who care about the public education system in Calgary and who are willing to take time and make the effort to strengthen democracy by getting involved exceeded our expectations. Sign up to receive notices of future meetings or events:


The conversation was wide-ranging and covered many topics. We suggested the following prompts to start the dialogue:

  • What qualities should voters look for in a trustee candidate?
  • What will draw public attention to the importance of the trustee election?
  • What is the most important job of a trustee?

We welcome your answer to any of these questions in the comments below.

Below is a video of Carole Oliver’s opening remarks about why she founded ARTICS and why it’s important to us that more citizens pay attention to and get involved in the next election.

Carole Oliver introduction to ARTICS from ARTICS AssocResponsiveTrusteeCgy on Vimeo.