Sometimes I get questions from parents about why we have so many PD days, or why their child’s school gets out early on Thursdays. I hear from parents about the challenges this places on families, particularly in regard to child care.
As a parent scrambling for childcare on PD days, I understand the difficulty! Yet it wasn’t until I became a Trustee that I understood exactly what happens on those early-dismissal Thursdays and PD days.
I wish I had the chance to bring every parent and family with me to my morning meeting today.
Today I had the pleasure of attending part of our District’s Annual Results Review – the review of annual goals set by schools and school-groupings for continual improvement of student learning, how these goals are measured and the work to improve for the following year. I heard from principals across Edmonton Public Schools about their work on improving literacy and numeracy, improving staff capacity to serve students in need of specialized supports, and work to support the growing diversity of needs in the district. Principals spoke about the work they are doing to collaborate, they discussed in detail the professional learning undertaken on a regular basis to get better at their work, learn from experts and learn from each other. They spoke about how they are working on staying up-to-date with current evidence-based practice, conducting their own action research, and constantly discussing the implementation of best practice.
What I wish every parent and family knew was that Thursday afternoons, after teaching until 2pm our teachers and educational assistants gather to sharpen their skills and improve, share with one another what has been working and what hasn’t, plan lessons together and collaborate for the good of our students. On PD days, they are getting up early, taking charge of their professional learning and spending the day improving their skills for the next day when they’re in the classroom. Education is not static, it is constantly changing, and I’m inspired by the work being done to keep on top of it, to model the practice of life-long learning.
Today our board debated and voted for an amendment to our capital plan in light of our growing enrolment and urgent infrastructure needs. Our board voted to re-order our list of capital funding requests to the province in light of spring funding announcements, meaning that our number one request is for an urgently needed high school in the south east of the city, as well as an amendment to include a specific concept for a school consolidation in Brittania-Youngstown, Mayfield and Canora neighbourhoods.
As the trustee for these neighbourhoods, I spoke about my reasons for concern about this specific concept and school consolidations in these neighbourhoods, detailing the reason I voted against this plan and I would like to include my comments in this blog below: Continue reading “Capital Plan Amendment and Britannia School Consolidation Concept”
At yesterday’s Edmonton Public School Board meeting, we were presented with a report detailing the effects of cuts or freezes to education in the province. The scenarios presented in the report were hypothetical. There are no announced funding freezes or cuts. And while some are questioning the reasoning for contemplating scenarios that are hypothetical, I believe that the board is making public what every good board of governance does, which is to plan for any potential scenario when funding is uncertain, which happens every time there is an election looming, or provincial rhetoric of any kind about belt-tightening or compassionate cuts.
More importantly, the numbers provide important information on why funding for growth is important to public education in our province. Before I became a parent, and more keenly aware of provincial education funding, I thought that growth funding was a form of adding extra money into the education system to expand learning opportunities and services for students in schools. But this is not the case. Funding for growth simply means that a district with growing numbers of students will receive extra dollars to match the percentage of extra students in the district. Funding for enrolment growth means a status quo budget for a school district, it does not provide extra money for additional teachers or educational assistants per student, it does not provide extra dollars for specialized supports to students or services such as mental health supports.
And in fact, while Edmonton Public Schools has received provincial funding for growth over the past few years, that funding has not increased to account for inflation. This essentially means small cuts to our funding, as our costs tend to increase over time due to inflation. Every year we do not receive funding for inflation but our costs go up due to inflation, we are slightly behind in the services we can provide to students.
It is prudent for every school board who faces growing numbers of students to consider what it would mean if we were not funded for enrolment growth – if funding were frozen. This report shows that for our district alone it would result in the loss of roughly $40 million dollars, or 188 full-time staff, that would be required to keep up with the extra students coming into our system. It would be a significant loss, and would impact class sizes and direct supports to students.
And this is just the impact of a funding freeze. If deeper cuts to find provincial budget efficiencies were contemplated, it would mean less resources flowing directly to classrooms, less teachers and educational assistants supporting our students, cuts to wraparound supports, and impacts on students.
As a trustee, I want all of these situations to remain hypothetical. As a parent, I need these situations to remain hypothetical. Our board has requested all parties describe their position on funding for education, I sincerely hope all will commit to funding for enrolment growth, and secretly hope for additional funding to help us increase the resources available to students and schools. Investing in education is investing in our future, and our greatest resource, our children.
It was wonderful to re-join my colleagues on the Edmonton Public School Board as we held our first meeting of the 2018-2019 year.
As an organization board meeting, it was short and efficient! Our Board elected by acclamation, Chair Michelle Draper, and Vice-Chair Bridget Stirling.
I’m thrilled that our Board has also created a Mental Health Committee to focus on issues of advocacy for the mental health needs of our students and families, with a particular focus of increased funding for accredited mental health professionals providing services in schools. This arose out of a motion I put forward last year, which was approved unanimously by the board.
I also submitted two Requests for Information:
The nature of school consolidation projects undertaken by the District has been evolving, with a current focus on modernized and/or replacement schools. This has resulted in extensive engagement throughout the process of potential school consolidation projects and in certain cases, requests to the Minister of Education for exemption to sections of the Closure of Schools Regulation.
Please provide an outline for a series of steps for school consolidation/school closure considerations, including a timeline for public engagement, and requests for information such as a community impact statement from the City of Edmonton. As well, an outline for reports and recommendations to come before the Board of Trustees in the form of Capital Plan items and amendments, and school closure motions required by the School Act.
Edmonton Public Schools values partnerships with community at the school level, advocates for schools as community hubs, and recognizes the importance of childcare to many families. Many daycares, out-of-school care centres and preschools share space within Edmonton Public Schools.
- How does the district manage relationships and leases with childcare organizations?
- If a school no longer has space to accommodate a childcare organization, how does the District ensure that partnerships are to be ended in a mutually beneficial way?
- Is there a minimum required notice to end a lease agreement with a childcare organization?
I’m looking forward to our next board meeting which will see a longer agenda and more to blog about.
As we head back into the classrooms, we know that many students had a wonderful summer and are coming back refreshed and ready for school. But it’s also true that not everyone had a great summer. Sometimes life throws difficult things at young people over the summer. For these students, heading back to school and routine can be a relief. Or, school might feel difficult and there is no excitement at being back, for these students, it might feel like a long day.
No matter how it feels heading back to school today, I want you to know that you are being thought about and considered by your school, your teachers and the team of people working behind the scenes at Edmonton Public Schools.
A new school year is the time many of us set intentions for the year. Maybe it will be to do that home reading every day, maybe it will be to join a school club (or start one!), maybe it’s to share lunch with a new friend, to feed your kids healthy snacks after school, or to get more sleep. Edmonton Public Schools shares the intention of doing the best we can for the students who trust us with their education, and who trust us to share in the day-to-day moments that shape the year. Thank you for sharing your excitement, nerves, tears and laughter with us today.