Board Update: September 10, 2019

Yesterday your Edmonton Public School Board of Trustees met for the first time this school year, it was a short but important meeting. Here are the highlights:

Remarks from the Board Chair:

Board Chair Estabrooks highlighted the impact of not having a current provincial budget on the decisions of the board and schools, in addition to the impact of the newly introduced Education Act and additional regulations.  She discussed the McKinnon report, our board’s concern about potential cuts to education, the need for predictable, long-term and sustainable funding for all students, and the need for this funding to not be tied to student performance.

Report on School Nutrition Program:

The board received a report on the impact of the School Nutrition Program. Trustees expressed how delighted we were that the government of Alberta released news yesterday that this $15 million dollar program will continue to receive funding for this school year.  Edmonton Public Schools receives $1.2 million from this fund, which allows us to provide a nutrition program for students in 22 schools.  The board heard how important this program is, as 1 in 10 Edmontonians is currently living in poverty. In this discussion, Trustees also heard that at least 77 schools are providing some form of food program to students, with help from  many community partners.

The report described how a nutrition program can increase learning, attendance and positive behaviour. I believe it is also a necessary part of well-being, a word now included in Education Act as part of the responsibility of boards. When we think about student well-being, I am reminded of an important theory called the Hierarchy of Needs which describes that physical needs such as food, clothing, and shelter are the foundation of well-being, necessary before social and psychological well-being needs can be met. For many students, schools are a secure foundation of learning, achievement and well-being, and the critical importance of a universal nutrition program in schools can’t be over-stated, as it allows us to maintain a secure program that is not as unpredictable as relying on charitable donations (as important and valuable as they are).

Upcoming motion on seclusion rooms:

Over the summer, the board chairs of the four school boards in Edmonton and Calgary drafted a statement asking for the Ministerial Order on seclusion rooms to be rescinded. The Minister of Education has since released Interim Standards on Seclusion, Physical Restraint, and the Practice of Time-Out. As our Board of Trustees is an important stakeholder in this conversation, I believe it is important for us to have a public and transparent discussion about this issue. In addition to a request for a report on the use of seclusion and time-out rooms in our district, I tabled the following motion, which will be discussed at our next meeting, Sept. 24th:

1. That Edmonton Public School Board advocate to the Minister of Education that involuntary confinement (seclusion rooms and time-out rooms) is not used as a punishment or behavior management technique, and is only used as a last resort in emergency situations endangering the physical safety of students or staff. 

2. And, that Edmonton Public School Board advocate to the Minister of Education for the systemic changes needed to work towards a system where these rooms are no longer needed or used, through:

    • Increased cross-ministry collaboration to serve students with disabilities and mental health concerns
    • Increased and adequate funding for students in need of specialized supports
    • Increased funding for staff training in positive behavior supports and increased funding for regulated specialists to work with teachers and educational assistants

Find out more about this board meeting, or view it on-line: