We’re back!

You might wonder if we are still operating due to the lack of Blogs… there was much discussion by us and others in the media over the early months of this school year over a number of issues around the Trustee’s responsiveness, Transparency and Accountability and filled the need. NEW Blogs are coming….

Fake it until you make it.

With a new provincial government in transition and ready to take power, your Board of Trustees and Administration made an interesting decision. Administration had prepared a budget based on the budget that was announced by the previous government, with a reduced allotment for education funding. After the election, we know that budget is out the window. So what should the school board do now? The law states that school board budgets must be presented to the Minister of Education by May 31st. Administrators need to present a budget to Trustees on May 12th in order to reach this deadline.

A change in government hasn’t happened in Alberta in 44 years, so there is no “best practice” or experience on how to revise the budget. Although many school boards in other provinces have dealt with this, the ministry of education likely has an opinion and the new MLAs could offer an insight on how the school boards could most realistically revise their budget, none of these measures appear to have been discussed. In fact, the CBE administration appears to have decided to just make it up as they go.

The numbers contained in this “interim” budget are just made up. It would not be reasonable to budget as though no additional money were forthcoming. That would mean making unnecessary layoffs, just to rehire later. But there is no guarantee that the numbers promised by the new government during the campaign will be fully implemented in the short term. It would seem reasonable to assume 1/6th of the money promised in the NDP platform budget, given that CBE students represent 1/6th of the student population (approximately $20 million, although administrators were using the proportion of 1/5th). But, instead, as one administrator pointed out, the CBE will assume that the revenue would be all that we need to fully fund student enrolment growth (approximately $40 million).

Then, around noon hour on May 12th as the public board meeting was starting where this budget was discussed, the Premier-elect announced she was asking Alberta Education to extend the deadline by one month. The chair of the board read this statement from Premier-elect Notley at the meeting, some 90 minutes after the public announcement. Great news right? We don’t have to present and debate this fictitious budget, right? We can table it until we get some real numbers, right? Not so fast.

The board asked questions of administration about this pretend budget for close to 2 hours. The budget also appears on the agenda for voting at the next board meeting on May 19th. So while the new Government has given time for boards to revise and create a realistic budget, based on actual revenue from the new government, the Calgary Board of Education is rushing forward, in an unknown direction. They may be fortunate and not have to adjust this pretend budget, but there is no guarantee whatsoever that this budget will offer the school board all the money they want. The only reasonable route would be for trustees to take time to clarify the amount of revenue that the new government will offer and direct administration to create a realistic budget around that. So Trustees, what are you voting on?

So who should you vote for in Ward 11 and 13?

With an election happening in 9 days (April 13th) and advance polls open, have you decided who to vote for? If not, we hope to help with this rundown. All 5 Candidates had a chance to speak about their positions on a variety of issues. It was the first time we had a chance to hear from all of the candidates together. At the forum, I found it interesting that ALL candidates answered the question “Should Authority over schools be with CBE Administration or Principal” with “The Principal”.

In reverse alphabetical order, lets start with Wilf Phillips. Wilf ran for trustee in 2013, coming 3rd against long time Trustee Lynn Ferguson. On his website, he promises Transparency, Integrity, Accountability. He describes himself as a life long learner, with 37 years in Public Education as a teacher and life long Calgarian. During the Forum, he spoke often about “probing” questions, saying he doesn’t just accept the first answer that comes along. He feels a trustee should dig deeper and he won’t just blindly accept what someone is telling him. At the forum he expressed his thoughts on the technology in schools being “archaic”, adding many computers are hand-me-downs. He also advocated for less time spent in private meetings.

Victoria Morgan doesn’t have a Website, but a Facebook page, which says very little about what she stands for. She has been vocal on social media and regular media of late about her views on parent fundraising using Casino funds. While she feels it it wrong to have 3 different Government departments fund the classroom (Alberta Ed, Alberta Gaming and Alberta CIP Grants) and making parents work these Casinos to provide basics (not extras), as a Trustee she would not ask her colleagues to support the CBE rejecting Casino funds, but ask the Provincial Government to change the way they fund schools. During the Forum, she spoke about less time in private meetings, and suggested using the Corporate Approach to cut the “nice to haves” like travel, hospitality and off site meetings. When speaking about engaging the public, she says we need to speak to students as they are becoming more vocal on issues. She stated twice she’s been disillusioned in the board decision-making, having been denied the opportunity to have her say.

One could describe Sean McAsey as the wild card in this race. Two issues were brought forward by him and are also strongly expressed on his newly live website. One being Corporate partnerships. From his websiteThere are many millions of dollars that can be infused into the CBE by partnering with the private sector.” This line alone could make you love him, or run the other way. A strong bold issue to be sure. He added at the forum that he wouldn’t question Administration expenses and only focus on raising revenue. The other issue Sean feels strongly about is living in the Ward. Again from his website “Unfortunately, two of the individuals running for trustee in this election are not residents of wards 11 or 13.  Outsourcing representation for our wards is NOT an option.” I am sure the other 2 residents that are running appreciate his support, if you feel strongly about that issue. Many Trustees have been elected that do not live in their Wards. In some cases, their children go to school in the Ward. There are elected Trustees that do not have any children going to school at all. This issue, while often mentioned by candidates, doesn’t seem to be a factor at the ballot box.

Karen Lloyd is the past President of CAPSC (Calgary Association of Parent and School Councils) and she feels strongly that in that role she has already been doing the job of Trustee. It’s on her website, she said so at the forums and on social media. Parental Engagement needs to be taken to the people she said at the Forum. Quoted in Metro from the Forum “They don’t have time for the 1964 model of going to a regular meeting and hauling themselves to this and to that place,” Lloyd said. “We need to take the school and the meetings to them.” She shares the fact that CAPSC lost funding and she was able to manage a tight budget and also feels her campaign is a good example of being fiscally responsible with smaller campaign signs. I can honestly say I have only seen 2 candidates’ (Lloyd and Hrdlicka) signs thus far (but don’t live in the area). I’d be willing to bet at least two of the other candidates will spend less than Lloyd. Wilf spent $1122.81 in 2013. She stated she is the only one of the five candidates that regularly attends board meetings and would like the public board to make a strong case for students staying rather than worrying about funding for other boards. Karen has many Blogs on her website for more in depth views.

Julie Hrdlicka was first out of the gate announcing her candidacy early and launching her campaign well ahead of nomination day. Julie stated at the Forum her entire professional career has been spent as an advocate making her ready for the job. During the forum she spoke against Private and Charter schools saying all kids should have equal opportunity. Not much a trustee can do about that, but advocate to the province. She put a finer point on the disconnect between the board and its citizens, referencing the lack of consultation with the Christine Meikle school re location adding the CBE is a huge bureaucracy and that parents need help to navigate it. From her website “I believe one of the roles of trustees is to help parents understand the system,” also adding many parents do not know the role of Trustee and what they do. From Julie’s website ” I will find more opportunities to consult with parents about issues important to their children. I have been bringing communities, organizations, and individuals together to address complex public issues for many years.” Also from her site, Julie strongly states “I will commit to working with the CBE, the City of Calgary, parents, community groups, schools, and local childcare providers to come up with ideas and initiatives to open up affordable spaces.” Although this is not typically something Trustees have been involved with, I can imagine families appreciating work toward this solution.

The Metro News article about the forum cites most of the candidates, who agree that “We continue to be underfunded, we continue not to have the support staff that we need, the support for kids with special needs, the huge workloads for teachers.” To be clear, every single trustee in recent memory have “advocated” to the province for more funding. Whoever wins this race will add their voice to the choir. Trustees can only ask or advocate to the province for more funding. Voters should focus on issues that Trustees have power to change. There are many good solid Trustee issues stated here by all the candidates. Still undecided? Check out CAPSC video of the forum along with some live tweets from Jeremy Nolais of Metro News and a couple links to news coverage: http://capsc.ca/2015/04/trustee-by-election-forum-for-wards-11-13-candidates/. Get informed Ward 11 and 13 and get out there and vote on April 13th.

Who’s Running? Ward 11 and 13 By-election

The CBE Trustee by-election in Wards 11 and 13 will be held on April 13, 2015. We will be updating this information as it becomes available, right up until election day. ARTICS wishes all candidates the best of luck and encourage all voters to learn about the candidates and vote for the person who best represents you.

Please let us know of any additional information to add. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

CAPSC Candidate Forum on March 31st, video available, click here.

Julie Hrdlicka:

Website: Juliehridlicka.ca

Facebook: http://www.facebook.comp/ElectJulieHrdlicka

Twitter: http://twitter.com/julie_hrdlicka

Karen Lloyd:

Website: http://www.karenlloyd.ca

Twitter: http://twitter.com/KarenRuthLloyd

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

Sean McAsey:

Website:  www.seanmcasey.ca

Victoria Morgan:

Website: http://www.victoriamorgan.ca

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Vicmoyyc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Morgan-Trustee-Candidate/309823099227132?sk=timeline

Wilf Phillips:

Website: http://www.wilfphillips.ca/

Herald Candidate page from 2013: http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/Wilf+Phillips+Candidate+Calgary+Board+Education+Wards/9053308/story.html

Email: wilf.phillips@wilfphillips.ca

CBE Trustee Forum 2015 - All Candidates

What does a CBE trustee do?

On April 13, 2015, there will be a by-election to fill a vacancy on the CBE board of trustees. Both for those considering running for election and those researching their vote, we want to address the work of the public school trustees in Calgary.

The board has seven (7) trustees, each of whom represents two city wards. Those two wards contain between 20 and 40 schools, depending on the area in the city. Trustees are expected to be familiar with the issues that affect their schools, respond to parents of students in those schools, and attend events to which they receive invitations.

Trustees also have regular board meetings (both public and private) as well as informal work sessions. These meetings average between six and nine hours per week. Add to that preparation time of reading reports, responding to questions from constituents and attending events (see above), the job is expected to take about 20 hours per week, some of which may be in the evening. For this half-time work, trustees earn a salary of about $45,000.

The Alberta School Boards Association has put together much more detailed information about the purpose and responsibilities of school boards and trustees. For the last 4 years, ARTICS has encouraged and advocated for Trustees to be more accountable, transparent and responsive to the public.

Ward 11 & 13 By-election Announcement

The City of Calgary has announced some important information about the by-election for Calgary Board of Education public school board trustee in wards 11 & 13.

Nomination Day is March 16, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at City Hall in the Council Chambers. If you want to be a candidate in the election, you need to come in person, with completed nomination papers containing at least 25 eligible signatures, and $100 (cash is preferable). If you are late or if you don’t have the signatures or the fee, you cannot be a candidate.

The nomination form can be picked up at the Election and Information Services office on weekdays during business hours. When you pick it up, you will have the choice of signing the public or the private register. The public register is available for anyone to see and should be used by most candidates. The private register is not available for public viewing and makes sense mainly for those still undecided about whether or not to run.

At noon on March 16, the opportunity to become a candidate closes. However, candidates are given 24 hours within which to request that their name be removed. After that time, even if a candidate indicates a desire to withdraw, their name remains on the ballot.

The vote will take place on April 13, 2015. Voting locations will be announced online later this month, and we expect most will be within public schools. There will also be advance votes for those who will be out of the city on election day.

Ward 11 and 13 By-election: Who’s Running?

The CBE Trustee by-election in Wards 11 and 13 will be held on April 13, 2015. We will be updating this information as it becomes available, right up until election day. ARTICS wishes all candidates the best of luck and encourage all voters to learn about the candidates and vote for the person who best represents you.

Please let us know of any additional candidates or information to add. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

CAPSC is hosting a Candidate Forum March 31st, 2015 7-8:30 pm at Chinook Park School 1312 75th Avenue SW.

Julie Hrdlicka:

Website: Juliehridlicka.ca

Facebook: http://www.facebook.comp/ElectJulieHrdlicka

Twitter: http://twitter.com/julie_hrdlicka

Karen Lloyd:

Website: http://www.karenlloyd.ca

Twitter: http://twitter.com/KarenRuthLloyd

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

Sean McAsey:

Website:  www.seanmcasey.ca

Victoria Morgan:

Website: http://www.victoriamorgan.ca

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Vicmoyyc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Morgan-Trustee-Candidate/309823099227132?sk=timeline

Wilf Phillips:

Website: http://www.wilfphillips.ca/

Herald Candidate page from 2013: http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/Wilf+Phillips+Candidate+Calgary+Board+Education+Wards/9053308/story.html

Email: wilf.phillips@wilfphillips.ca

 

Can a court decision send the right and the wrong message?

Much of law is based on precedent. Much of our human behavior is also based on that.
On Monday a judge ruled in favor of the defendants in a case where a group of residents in Scenic Acres filed court papers to block or delay the building of a Francophone school in their community.

So what are the messages this decission sends to the public? Firstly and rightly so, you had better come with a better argument against development of a school in your community than “it will take away our prized green recreational space” and “it will add traffic to our neighborhood.” These arguments may play well in your community with those of like mind and they may even play well in the court of public opinion, but they clearly have little impact on a judge and the law. Secondarily it sends the much simpler message that you can’t go above the head of the school board with much success.

Then what is the message this sends to the Boards of Education? Sadly, it is “we can do what we like, when we like and how we like”. Even though the Boards of Education are legally bound to engage the public in processes of building schools and program or school closures, the process that they follow is clearly flawed. Every year groups of parents and citizens are fighting their own school boards over decisions made with very little public consultation. Every group, including the two groups that have gone to the courts, have all commented that the CBE in particular as an organization, does not follow their own policy when it comes to properly informing the public about opportunities for engagement, and encourages very little dialogue. These managed sessions leave the public feeling as though their voice and concerns are not heard.

So while one might think that the school board had better listen to parents and citizens or be forced into a costly court battles, the reality is much different. Since Mayland Heights School succeeded in avoiding a closure motion in 2011, nothing has changed in the CBE public engagement strategy. Since 2012 when Roland Michener School was saved from closure by the residents in Marlborough Park, nothing has changed in the CBE public engagement strategy.

Until the Calgary Board of Education Administration and Trustees take seriously the role of representing the public, engaging them on important decisions and come to the situation with a framework instead of a ready made decision, more tax payers dollars will be wasted on fighting with the public. Citizens shouldn’t be suing their own public school board and the school board should not make the public feel as though they have to.

Trustees making reasonable progress.

The board of trustees has goals or objectives for the operation of the public school system. They call their desired outcomes: Results. As an example, in yesterday’s board meeting, the administration attempted to show that reasonable progress is being made toward Academic Success. Likewise, we (as members of the voting public) have expectations of our trustees. We expect them to be transparent, responsive and accountable to the public.

During the December 2, 2014 public board meeting, the Trustees voted 5-1 in favour of holding a by-election in wards 11 and 13. This was a great move in support of local democracy and in support of providing a trustee to be accountable specifically within wards 11 and 13. Despite our doubts, the board of trustees did the right thing.

Furthermore, trustees also discussed, debated and made motions around some serious areas of concern from reports of some Grade 9 PAT exam results. (It should also be noted that Grade 12 diploma exam results received a commendation for the Chief Superintendent). It is refreshing to see trustees honestly raise areas of concern, respectfully debate positions and move forward in agreement.

There is a wise saying that “if you aren’t making improvements, you are going backwards.” It seems that too often, CBE trustees applaud, praise and repeat tired phrases like “we have the best education system in the world,” without looking for areas of improvement. That seemed to change yesterday, however, when trustees discussed how our “world-leading education system” can be made even better.

It is our hope that this meeting signals a turnaround for the board, characterized by respectful and honest dialogue about what the CBE is doing well and where improvements can be made. At ARTICS, we see in this one meeting that trustees have made reasonable progress toward our expectations of accountability, transparency and responsiveness. We commend you.