Archive: February, 2011

Terms of Reference for the EPSB Moratorium Committee

Click here to download the terms of reference for the moratorium committee:

All trustees are invited to attend the meetings and work together on the commitee and I look forward to the outcomes of our multi-pronged approach we have taken to building strong schools and strong communities.

The Board passed a two-year moratorium on school closures on November 30, 2010 with the intent of seeking to “understand the issues and impacts surrounding school closures” and to “identify a number of ways to support schools instead of close them.”

On December 14, 2010, the Board approved the creation of a committee “to further understand the issues and impacts surrounding school closures and that this committee work to keep schools open by recommending initiatives to the Board that will address these issues and impacts over the period of the moratorium. And further tasked “that the Committee report back to Board with the proposed terms of reference and a plan and budget by the end of February.”

The School Closure Moratorium Committee, comprised of Trustee Colburn, Trustee Hoffman and Trustee MacKenzie (Chair) have developed the attached Terms of Reference for the School Closure Moratorium Committee (Appendix I) for the Board’s consideration.

Fighting Bullying with Edmonton Public Schools

There is a motion to be debated tomorrow evening regarding creating and anti-bullying advisory committee. UPDATE: This motion was carried 8 votes to 1.

Motion re Anti-Bullying Advisory Committee

RECOMMENDA TION

That the Board establish an Anti-Bullying Advisory Committee that will develop a list of recommendations for the Administration to consider implementing in an effort to identify the scope and reduce the extent of bullying in Edmonton Public Schools. The Advisory Committee would consist of one Trustee, a member of Central Administration who specializes in this area, one active staff member of school, one junior high student, one high school student, one elementary school parent and one person from the Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities. The Committee would provide recommendations to the Administration by May 31, 2011.

I think change happens both from “TOP DOWN” and “BOTTOM UP” approaches. I think that there are some already fantastic initiatives going on in our district at certain schools that could shine a light. There is no sense reinventing the wheel and I don’t think this committee intends to do that, but rather to examine policies and practices that should be shared across the district. I also think that the profile that this committee could give to the recommendations, both in the media and in the education community would be a positive downstream effect of the committee’s work.

One area we need to do better is with regard to sexuality and gender-based bullying. Another area is the growing complexity regarding cyber-bullying and helping our students. Much work is to be done!

As a final excerpt, I thought I might share some final thoughts from the ATA code of conduct as we discuss how to define bullying.

From the ATA Code of Conduct:

In relation to pupils:

1 The teacher teaches in a manner that respects the dignity and rights of all persons without prejudice as to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical characteristics, disability, marital status, family status, age, ancestry, place of origin, place of residence, socioeconomic background or linguistic background.

New Report: “School Closures and Sustainability: Factors to consider”

For Tuesday evening’s board meeting a report has been tabled for discussion. This report was requested as a background discussion paper for our Tri-level discussion group with the city and the province. It’s a quick read but very informative as to some of the pressures the district is facing. Click here to read the report in PDF.

Most concerning is the projected urban growth map for Edmonton and in turn, the unspoken expectation for new schools in new neighbourhoods.

I believe in building a compact, livable, efficient city and seeing a plan that moves more and more families away from existing schools and infrastructure and into the suburbs does not bode well for the health and vitality of ALL neighbourhoods in our city. Every new family that moves into the suburbs mean fewer children in the catchment areas of our existing public schools. The cost of fixing and keeping older schools open is dwarfed by the enormous costs on the taxpayer of building more new schools in these new neighbourhoods.

Let’s help families move back to where the playgrounds, pools, parks, schools and other amenities already are. Strong schools and strong communities go hand in hand.

I hope that the Tri-level discussions and the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Revitalization will be able to help address this flawed urban planning model that is bleeding out the heart of our city.

Click here to read the report: http://www.epsb.ca/board/february22_11/item07.pdf

How to follow EPSB and Alberta Education debates on social media

“I’ve been watching your Board Meetings through the online webcasts and they are great! I’m so glad I can throw on my PJs and not have to worry about getting a sitter or finding parking. I love being able to watch from home and share my opinions online knowing that trustees are engaging with constituents in a variety of different ways!”

A constituent asked me how to get started following the education buzz online and on twitter. The great thing about twitter is you are always welcome to watch from the sidelines- no need to create an account or having to give out any personal information! If you are new to the social media community and you’d like to follow the various discussions about education, let me give you a few trailheads to start out with.

Click the following underlined links or “hash tags” (any word or group of letters following a number sign is called a “hash tag” in twitter speak.)

These hyperlinks will take you to a page where you can see all of the different users typing various messages all indexed together by their common hashtag. Hash tags are generated by anyone and usually they just catch on once enough people start using them such as #sirken for the Sir Ken Robinson talk last week in Red Deer. There are quite a few other trustees on twitter and you’ll usually find them under tweeting under one of the below hashtags.

  • #yeg (yeg is the airport code for Edmonton so most people generally tag their posts with #yeg if they want to talk about Edmonton related matters just as our friends in calgary use #yyc)
  • #epsb (Edmonton Public School Board related tweets)
  • #abed (Typically tweets related to education in Alberta)
  • #ableg (Tweets related to alberta politics)
  • #abfuture – The tag for the tweets from the Learning Our Way conference
  • #asba – Alberta School Boards’ Association
  • #ata – Alberta Teachers Association related matters
  • #yegcc (Tweets related to edmonton city council)
  • EPSB on Facebook This is the official Edmonton Public Facebook site. If you are looking for me, I’m here and here.
  • EPSB “GO PUBLIC”on Twitter: This is the official Edmonton Public twitter site.
  • If you want more general updates about all things political in Alberta, give Daveberta a read as he has an excellent list along his sidebar of various alberta political blogs. Ken Chapman also has a fairly comprehensive list.

For those of you in the #abed community who think I might have missed something, Please leave a comment with your suggestions. If you have any hashtags I missed or should include in my list, please comment below and I’ll revise this post before sending it out to my school councils.

In just 60 seconds of scrolling down the #EPSB list I can get a quick “environment scan” of what the daily buzz is, what is in the newspapers, and what issues might be coming forward for our trustees to deal with. Social media is no substitute for being present on the ground at school councils, events, and other public gatherings, but it’s a free and easy way to keep informed!

Community Revitalization Task Force and Edmonton Public Schools

The launch of the Mayor’s task force on Community Revitalization is a positive step in the right direction for our city, and on a personal note, has reinforced to me one of the reasons why I wanted to run for trustee in the first place. One of my biggest frustrations during the last round of school closures was the “siloization” of different jurisdictions and the lack of cooperation that might help prevent future school closures in future. Both school boards, the city, and the province have representation on this committee.

To have the city come forward in such a significant way is a major acknowledgement that we need to start treating school closures as a city-wide problem and not just a school board decision. As we know that the impacts of closure reach beyond just the parents of school age children, this is an encouraging  moment to see such a diverse cross-section of representation on this Task Force.

During the election, I frequently said that we were asking the wrong question (which schools to close instead of how do we keep more schools open) It sounds like this group is working towards asking the right questions and taking a comprehensive, collaborative approach. We need to attract more families away from the new houses and back into the core where we already have existing services and amenities. Let’s be fiscally and environmentally sustainable and embrace the infrastructure we already have paid for.

Here is a link to the story: http://www.inews880.com/Channels/Reg/LocalNews/story.aspx?ID=1358953 (and photo credit too, by the way)

But how bold will this task force be able to be?

Small changes to programs or marketing won’t be enough to keep our schools open. We need transformative change when it comes to our future urban development. I hope that the committee presents comprehensive findings on revitalization that can be applied city-wide. Is the future planned sprawl of our city conducive to vibrant communities throughout the city? With the new city growth plan has Edmonton continuing to sprawl with a 3:1 ratio on new developments compared to infill in existing areas, how can we ever hope to stop school closures or revitalize mature neighbourhoods if our families are fleeing to the suburbs?

Where will our families live in 5 years? In 10 years? In 40 years?

The issues of family-friendly infill development, increasing the amount of families who live in our mature neighborhoods and initiatives designed to foster aging in the right place are just a few of the community-led pushes coming from Edmonton non-profits and community organizations. I hope this new task force consults the great work already being done in our city. I remain optimistic about the task force and look forward to the findings.

Community Use of Edmonton Public Schools

The Board Policy committee (of which I am a member) is in the process of collecting feedback on our Community Use of District Buildings Policy. The subject of sharing space in our schools is a very complicated question as there is a very high demand for use of school facilities during peak, non-school hours. Given the scarcity and conflicting demands, we are trying to come up with a solution that is truly fair and transparent. The draft revision of the policy is below.

I hope to see us work with the city, province, and external partners to transition our schools to be available and fully-utilized more often. I truly believe that these buildings remain the heart of our communities and that we should seek to make the most use of them as possible. I do not believe in diverting resources from the classroom, but I think we can do more with the partnerships we have available.

This was a question I heard about frequently on the doorsteps and from constituent emails. Now is your chance to help have input into a policy that could help better connect our schools to valued community partners. Please give me your thoughts on the blog, by michael@michaeljanz.ca, or by filling out the survey below.

Click here to complete the survey on our community use policy by FEBRUARY 14th!

The intent of Board Policy JG.BP – Community Use of District Buildings is to guide the Board and staff in determining community use of district buildings. The most significant changes to the policy include clearly identifying the role of the City of Edmonton in implementing the Joint Use Agreement: Facilities and the methods surplus learning space can be utilized by community groups.

Revised Board Policy JG.BP – Community Use of District Buildings    (http://www.epsb.ca/policy/adraftjg.bp.shtml) is open for stakeholder input from January 17, 2011 to February 14, 2011.

Here is a copy of the proposed revised policy for your feedback:

CODE: JG.BP
TOPIC: Community Use of District Buildings
EFFECTIVE DATE: 11-02-1997
ISSUE DATE: 16-05-1997
REVIEW DATE: 02-2002

The Board believes in cooperating with community organizations to meet the educational and recreational needs of the community in the effective management of district facilities to meet the needs of students and also the principles of the Joint Use Agreement: Facilities, which supports the sharing of publicly funded facilities to maximize benefits to students and citizens of the City of Edmonton.

In support of this belief, the Board encourages the use of district buildings by the community provided there is no conflict with school programs the District’s mandate to provide (K-12) education Use of district space leased by other users and the use shall be compatible with the Board’s educational aims and objectives. Surplus student spaces can be utilized in operational and closed buildings.

Members of the community can access surplus learning spaces through the following methods:

    A group represented by the City of Edmonton under the Joint Use Agreement: Facilities.

    An occasional paid rental for groups not eligible under the Joint Use Agreement: Facilities.

    As a group with exclusive use of space as specified in a lease agreement.

    As a group with limited use of space as specified in a license agreement.

    As a group with shared use of space with a direct benefit to the students at the school in a Memorandums of Understanding.

Fees for paid rentals will be determined annually by the Superintendent.

Leases are intended to be at no cost to the District. Information regarding leases in the District shall be provided to the Board annually.