Calendar change survey, finding efficiencies, and other board highlights

Our board meeting today was long and varied, here are the highlights:

Communications from the Board Chair

Board Chair Estabrooks thanked staff for keeping spirits up during cold weather, including our maintenance and custodial staff for keeping schools running smoothly.  She shared thanks for a meeting with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange regarding the needs of Edmonton Public Schools, in which Minister LaGrange shared our board’s view that it is important to direct as many dollars to the classroom as possible.  Chair Estabrooks expressed that she attended a meeting with board chairs from across the province, during which many school boards shared concerns and hopes for the results of the funding formula review. Chair Estabrooks shared thanks for the invitation to speak at the Annual Autism Conference where she shared our commitment to work to eliminate the use of seclusion rooms.  And she expressed a thank you to community and parents for taking the time to complete our survey on transportation.

Policy Motions

Our board had the second, third and final reading of an updated Technology Policy.  Changes reflect additional values around safety, security and privacy of information, collaboration, and definitions of technology and it’s use.  We also had an omnibus motion for updating policy references from the School Act to the Education Act for policies where there were no significant impacts to the meaning of the policy.

Motion on results of Choice in Education Survey

Trustee Draper introduced a motion requesting the results from the provincial government on their Choice in Education Survey conducted this fall.  She described how Trustees have encouraged parents and community members to fill out the survey and would like to be able to see the results in order to inform future decisions on choice in our division and our province.  The motion was amended to include data from the survey, focus groups and all other data collected during the consultation process.  The motion passed unanimously, with Trustees expressing that the data could be useful at informing our future decisions for providing choice in a manner important to parents, and the application of potential future charter schools in Edmonton.  I voted for this motion because I believe that choice is sometimes conflated with voice, equity or quality of education, and seeing the stakeholder feedback could be helpful in shaping future decisions.

Ward Boundaries

Trustees discussed interim ward boundary changes due to the City of Edmonton’s annexation of land to the south of the city.  There are currently 30 students living in this area south of the city, and these students are welcomed into Edmonton Public Schools, while were are working collaboratively with Black Gold School Division.  We passed a motion assigning an interim Trustee to these areas be established under Ward H, so that families can have this information prior to pre-enrolment.

Report on Operational Efficiencies

The board discussed a report on operational efficiencies, outlining Edmonton Public Schools’ work to find efficiencies within our division and our collaboration with other school divisions to find efficiencies and reduce costs.  Highlights include our work to share bussing with Edmonton Catholic Schools and work within a provincial purchasing portal to reduce purchasing costs.

Report on Climate Readiness

The board discussed a report on climate readiness requested by Trustee Stirling.  The report includes work with a firm to monitor the Division’s carbon footprint, and look at a potential climate change vulnerability assessment.  The Division reported on looking into a new Climate Action Incentive Fund established by the Government of Canada, work to improve our infrastructure, including the addition of portable air conditioner units to modular classrooms during increased temperatures.

Motion on Survey for Calendar Changes

Trustee Gibson tabled the following motion, “that Edmonton Public Schools Administration conduct a survey or otherwise gather parent and staff input regarding preferences on how a calendar that has an additional three PD days and two non-instructional days, while maintaining overall instructional time and the quality of our students’ education could be structured and bring that information back as a recommendation report to the Board.”  This motion came out of a report we saw at our last board meeting on the cost savings to the board of restructuring our calendar.  Trustees debated the importance of gathering parent and staff input on how a calendar change such as this could be structured in the best interest of education and family commitments.  Trustees expressed concern about engagement under quick timelines, and concern that our board is in the position of having to consider such a large shift in order to maximize limited resources to the classroom.  The motion passed with a 5-2 vote (two Trustees were absent for this meeting).  I am in favour of engaging with parents and staff on  how we can reduce the impact of a provincially frozen budget on our classrooms, and I would highly encourage all parents to provide input on the best way forward.  I’ll be in touch as soon as the survey is crafted and released.