Rethinking the JUA: Opportunities for strong school and strong communities

I’ve been reflecting on the last few months at city hall, and I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts related to the future of multi-institutional collaboration…

We just went through a $5 Billion school building boom, and that was just counting our schools.

In the good times, everyone wants their own building, and many have fallen hostage to a kind of “edifice complex”— Their own school, library, faith centre, seniors centre, corner store, community hall.

Now that the economic weather is getting colder, (provincial austerity, a slow pandemic recovery, a climate crisis and numerous economic hardships) how can we better collaborate on municipal land and infrastructure?

How do we continue to have "nice things" in Edmonton, who pays for them, who maintains them, and who gets to access them?

We could, as Don Iveson suggested at the Executive Committee on January 18th, look at public land through a shared vision of affordable housing, parks, green space, and public assets. How can we think about collaborative advocacy for amendments to provincial legislation that can enable better use of the tax dollar?

Two recent debates are raising the question of how different orders of government and organizations work together— or don’t.

I welcome your feedback and advice, so please help me think this through if you believe that I'm missing an opportunity. (michael@michaeljanz.ca)

Both of these conversations tie into our Joint Use Agreement, signed between all three school boards and city hall. (Read more)

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What if EPSB was powered by 100% Renewable Energy?

What if the Edmonton Public School Board was entirely powered by renewable energy?

In addition to the numerous ecological benefits, in an environment of economic uncertainty, committing to renewables maybe a sound fiscal strategy to avoid upcoming budgetary stings– carbon pricing, coal phaseout and other market vulnerabilities.

The educational opportunities to embrace solar micro-generation on our school roofs are fascinating, and should be considered as an in-school educational opportunity. The chance to be a part of a new economic diversification project would be very aligned with our Career Pathways plan.

We would not be the first school district to take this step. As reported by CBC, 25 schools pooled their purchasing power and bought themselves a wind farm to power 50o schools around Alberta.

For a large urban district like Edmonton Public Schools with over 200+ school buildings, this is a very exciting possibility. Check out this video:

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Celebrating English Language Learners through lessons on Winter

Last week at the Edmonton Public Board Meeting we heard a presentation from our administration, our schools, and our students about helping students who are English language learners (ELL) be successful in Edmonton Public Schools.

Edmonton Public Schools is committed to providing welcoming, safe, inclusive and responsive learning environments for all students. We have been welcoming newcomers to Canada into our classrooms for years.  Our current ELL population is supported through multi-disciplinary teams in Inclusive Learning and four reception centres, for family orientations, assessments, consultations, coaching and professional development for teachers and staff. Community partnerships play a valuable role in supporting newcomers in our schools.

The number of students identified and coded as ELL, as of September 30, 2015, is 22,437. This includes 166 early learners and 1,625 Kindergarten students. This is an increase from 12 613 identified students in 2010-11.

These numbers continue to grow. The classroom of today looks very different than it did twenty years ago. Our schools are incredibly diverse with many students coming from many different backgrounds around the world.

 

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Public Dollars Should Remain in Public Schools

Update April 23rd, 2016:

The EPSB Board of Trustees approved my motion as amended. The new amendment read:

That the Board of Trustees reaffirm its commitment to Alternative Programs within Edmonton Public Schools and continues to advocate that the provincial government should phase public funding away from private schools and reinvest it in public education. Furthermore, that the Minister should incorporate charter schools into public school boards.

This replacement motion still encapsulates our principled position on this issue, but also reminds our parents that we are committed to the dozens of choice programs within our public framework.

The debate was very educational. I didn’t know this, but Ontario does not give any public subsidy to public schools. Another reader emailed me this:

The proportion of funding that private schools get is an arbitrary number. Prior to 1998, it was 50% (a proportion that is much more common in other provinces). Jim Prentice was part of a task force that then pushed the number to 60%: http://rabble.ca/…/1998-private-school-funding-report-puts-…

Today’s 70% funding level was made at a closed door caucus meeting held by the PCs in the dead of summer 2008 during the Calgary Stampede – a move surely meant to fly under the radar: http://www.teachers.ab.ca/…/Province%20increases%20private%…

It is interesting to note that the increases to funding had little effect on the proportion of students that attended private schools. I’m quite sure that parents opt for private school independently of how much public funding they receive and that rolling back the funding level would not drive students back to the public system en masse.

 I had a great discussion with one of my parent friends yesterday about private facilities that receive special needs support. I think it is crucial to distinguish that some private schools are very class-based and charge thousands and thousands of dollars of annual tuition. There are others that are publicly subsidized religious schools teaching a very specific denomination or faith. To me these are very clear examples of where church and state should be separated or where giving millions to the millionaires is not warranted. With the third example of special needs school sites, as I stated below, this points to a greater need for public investment in the public school system so every child can receive the education they deserve.
I also had another interesting discussion about public oversight and the lack of transparency from Private/Charter schools. Going beyond the idea that they should be supervised by all citizens (like the public or catholic system), they should also have to be subject to FOIP and the same public disclosure regulations that all other school boards are.
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51,540 Lessons on Child Poverty During a pandemic

By no fault of their own, 165,000 Alberta children, or 1-in-6, are in poverty.

That is 51,540 children in Edmonton. The number jumps to almost 1-in-2 children if living on a reserve.

The pandemic has not affected all of us equally. Some of us with privilege have transitioned relatively seamlessly. Others are losing businesses, livelihoods, their heath, and their lives. We cannot have a one-size-fits-all response from any order of government. Literacy or epidemiology, you cannot be truly well in a sick society. In the USA, prisons are forecast on grade 3 literacy levels. I really worry about the youngest and most vulnerable who are experiencing the negative compounding impacts and must be front and centre.

Thank you to the Edmonton Social Planning Council and Public Interest Alberta for the provocative presentation and report. 

Be sure to check out Public Interest Alberta's campaign, Even One Kid in Poverty is One Too Many

 

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Welcoming More Family Friendly Housing at the Future Michener Park Site

During my annual Results Review meeting (November 23rd, 2020), with Lansdowne Principal Janice Anderson, she specifically highlighted as part of her 2019-2020 school year challenges, increased community concern around school closure. Last year, Lansdowne School was significantly impacted by the loss of over 100 students as a result of the closing of the Pre-Kindergarten Program and the redesignation of students from Michener Park to various communities across the city of Edmonton.

It was with great interest that I've been following the renewal of the Michener park site (Just south of 51ave on 122nd street, between Malmo/Lansdowne neighbourhoods).

As Trustee, in my professional life with the EFCL (Live Local Strategy, or now called 15 minute communities in the new city planand in my own personal life as a father) I've been an advocate for family-friendly housing. Many of you supported helping get changes to legislation that allowed for adult-only buildings and reduced housing choices available for families. With the legislation changing, the next challenge is supply-side, and advocating for significantly more family-friendly housing choices, especially around our schools. Since we fought together for a moratorium on school closures in 2010, one of our key recommendations has been increasing affordable, family-friendly housing.

I have assured the community that, as their Trustee, I would communicate our hopes and our concerns as the University Land Trust proceeds with their planning. In collaboration with parent and community partners, I have written a letter and expressed a willingness to engage in conversation.

Parents and community members have conveyed to me that given the many wonderful schools, parks, transit, and shops nearby, the Michener park site is an excellent opportunity to welcome new families and align with the objectives of the new City of Edmonton City Plan. We have many incredible public education opportunities in the area surrounding South Campus that could welcome the increased enrollment of new students.

While I understand that the Land Trust is arm’s length from the U of A, as a proud alumni, former U of A Student Union President (2007-2008) and member of the Board of Governors (2007-2009) I participated in many exciting visioning exercises for south campus and the importance of providing family-friendly housing to attract graduate students and global talent to the university. As President Flanagan endeavors to attract 15,000 new international students to the University, I would posit, that there is still a significant gap in family-friendly housing, and the future-state of Michener Park could play a role in closing this gap. 

I have also included a letter from the Parent Association of Lansdowne Students.

As I know more, I will share more with you, but I would encourage you to get involved with your local Community League and advocate for your preferred solutions for the site. If you have ideas on how we can collaborate, please reach out to me at michael@michaeljanz.ca


Taking Action on COVID (December 2020)

At the November 24th meeting I introduced the following motion that will be debated at the December 8th meeting of the Edmonton Public School Board. This is a revised motion given the most recent provincial guidelines and changes announced (Nov. 24th) and was reported in the media (https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/edmonton-public-schools-trustee-lobbying-province-for-stricter-covid-19-measures-1.5192590)

I welcome your feedback into the motion and if there are suggested amendments or more specific steps you would like to see included:

MOTION:

In order to assist with contact tracing, reduce in-school transmission, keep schools open, and avoid another lockdown, the Board of Trustees write a letter to Premier Kenney requesting:

  • Immediate access to the federal contact tracer app, "COVID Alert”.

  • Board flexibility to determine local transition to online learning for schools.

  • Specific public metrics when to return to in-person learning, such as a zero-contact tracing backlog

    and a threshold of community transmission.

  • Sharing of data on suspected incidents of in-school transmission with school divisions to inform

    and adapt safety measures.

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Board Committed to Concussion Safety

* Updated: Please see media release below. I am pleased to see the resulting information from our administration and the steps they are taking to ensure that no shortcuts are taken when it comes to student health. *

Building on District Priority #4 (Promote health and wellness for all students and staff) at our Tuesday, November 27th Board meeting I put forward an RFI (Request for Information) to the administration regarding concussions and compliance with best practices.

Request For Information: Please provide information on how EPSB teams are compliant with best practices regarding concussions in athletics.
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Save Scona Pool (2020 edition)

A message for those of you in mature neighbourhoods, attendees, or alumni of Strathcona High School or the surrounding schools:

It looks like Scona Pool is proposed again for closure. Eastglen, Scona and Oliver pools as well as Oliver and Tipton arenas have been recommended for closure, which would save the city $1.4 million in operating expenses this budget cycle. As the Trustee for Strathcona High School and Ward F (the central area Edmonton communities), I’ve witnessed the pool's contributions to Strathcona High School, and to schools and central communities (Parkallen Community League launched a petition in support of the pool which you can see here). Strathcona High School administration have reiterated the benefit of the pool, and I have heard from leaders really creative ideas and a willingness to help keep the pool open until one day a new facility is opened.

CALL TO ACTION: For those of you available on Monday, the Queen Alex Community League has coordinated a special 1 hour conversation about the Scona Pool & Tipton Arena. There will be more information provided about how to make your voice heard, volunteer, and support your community. RSVP here to get the Zoom link. 

Please make your voice heard by filling out this quick survey. We want to know how you feel about the proposed closures.



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Taking Action on COVID (November 2020)

At the November 24th meeting of the Edmonton Public School Board, I will be introducing the following motion and requesting a Notice of Motion so that it can be debated and actioned immediately. I welcome your feedback into the motion and if there are suggested amendments or more specific steps you would like to see included:

MOTION:
In order to assist with contact tracing, reduce in-school transmission, keep schools open, and avoid another lockdown, that the board write a letter to the Premier requesting: 
1) stricter community health measures and 
2) immediate access to the federal contact tracer app, "COVID Alert”.
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