It has been one of the biggest honours of my life to serve alongside my colleagues on the Board of Trustees for Edmonton Public Schools. Yesterday was this board’s second-last meeting. Our last meeting will be held in September, about a month before the municipal election.
I’m looking back at the work of the board, and am astounded by the many important issues that our community has brought to us. Even looking at the agenda of yesterday’s meeting, it is almost overwhelming to take in the number of issues over which a school board makes decisions and collects information. I’d like to share some of that work in one of my last board updates on this blog.
New School Names
The Board of Trustees announced that the new K-9 school in Keswick neighbourhood will be named Joey Moss School. I’m thrilled that one of our schools will carry the name of this leader in our community. Our board heard about his work to establish a charitable organization and a foundation, his contribution to sports in Edmonton and his amazing heart. It was wonderful to share this moment with some of his family.
The board will also be engaging with the current Dan Knott school community and Elders and Indigenous community to arrive at an Indigenous name for this school and this process will begin in the fall.
Important Policy Work
The board passed a final reading of the new Anti-Racism and Equity policy for the school division, and I am hopeful to see the acknowledgement of the impact of racism, a commitment for systemic change and the creation of a safe-reporting mechanism. We discussed what will be the work of the next board: to review the board’s policy on human resources in response to the many calls for action on human resource practices to promote a teaching staff representative of the students who attend Edmonton Public Schools. The board also created changes to a draft of Student Behaviour and Conduct policy which now includes reference to the new Anti-Racism and Equity policy as well as additions of restorative justice and the purpose of responses to behaviours including restoration, learning and intervention. I believe these additions have the potential for incredible positive change and are more reflective of current thinking and practice in our schools. The policy will go out for community engagement as a next step.
Strategic Plan Update Report on First Nations, Metis and Inuit Students
The board was presented with plans to continue work with a pilot high school completion coach, a caring person dedicated to help navigating and removing systemic barriers. We also heard about plans to close the achievement gap by more directly monitoring what is working, planning for continuity for students, and looking at how dedicated funding is spent. I believe this work is incredibly important, particularly given the work of education in the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s Calls to Action and the call to end the achievement gap in one generation. My hope is to see more updates on this progress as each year passes.
Emergent Motion on Engagement on Provincial Inclusive Education Standards
The board passed a motion to advocate that the Education Minister pause plans for a Ministerial Order on Inclusive Education and engage in meaningful consultation with stakeholders, specifically including students, parents and caregivers. Our board will advocate for the importance of hearing from the voices of those most impacted before releasing new or updated standards.
Motions on Renaming Schools
In response to a large community-led advocacy to change the name of Prince Charles School, I put forward notice for the following motion:
Given the significance of the Awasis (Cree) language and culture program at Prince Charles School, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commision of Canada Calls to Action regarding the commitment to Indigenous languages and action in education, the Edmonton Public School Board commits to renaming Prince Charles School and requests administration facilitate a consultation process with students, families and staff of Prince Charles School, and relevant Elders and Knowledge Keepers in the community to gather feedback to inform the renaming process.
Our board chair also put forward a motion to call for a committee of students, families, staff and community members to review current school names within EPSB to inform a draft renaming policy. Both motions will be debated at our last board meeting in September. I’m hopeful that Edmonton Public School Board will rename Prince Charles School with thoughtful engagement and have a respectful and informed process and discussion of all school names in the future.
That’s not all. The board also voted to support recommendations from the Council for Early Learning and Care, heard from community on playground replacement, voted on marking the new federal holiday for Truth and Reconciliation, received updates on the impact of the pandemic and work to provide free menstrual products in schools.
This is the work of publicly elected Trustees. It is important work that impacts schools and communities and it is directed by your voice and during the election, your vote.
Thank you for the opportunity to do this work. It has been humbling, and it has been eye-opening. There continues to be much to do.