Eleven education issues I expect to hit the news (fall 2015)

In a few weeks summer holidays will come to an end and the hallways of our schools will be filled with little feet once again. September always feels like the new year for me.

As a citizen and education advocate, I often get asked about what the “hot issues” will be this fall.  This is a combination of what I’ve been hearing at the BBQ circuit this summer as well as a few observations from the last couple of years. With another school year starting, here are some of the issues (in no particular order) that I anticipate may be on the radar this fall.

The Federal Election: This one might be more wishful thinking– that our federal candidates talk about supporting public education. It is likely that much of the mainstream media coverage will continue to be concentrated on the Federal Election. While public education is an area of provincial jurisdiction according to the constitution, there will be a few areas where federal attention could dramatically improve academic outcomes for our students. The first is the Federal government stepping up our commitment to aboriginal education. We have heard disappointingly little in the campaign dialogue this far about what our federal leaders will do to improve socioeconomic and educational outcomes for students. I support the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and would like to see more discussion on these issues during this election.

The EPSB By-Election: Since the election of former EPSB Trustee Sarah Hoffman to the provincial legislature, there has been significant interest from candidates in putting their name forward for EPSB School Trustee. The nomination date is Monday August 31st, 2015 and the  by-election will be held on Monday September 28th. I have spoke to about a dozen potential candidates thus far on the phone or in person and I thank all of them for their passion and enthusiasm for our public education system. For more information visit: http://www.epsb.ca/ourdistrict/board/about/wardgby-election/

So far declared candidates (that I can find websites for) include:

Bridget Sterling: (https://www.facebook.com/BridgetCampaign)

Ros Smith: https://voteforros.wordpress.com/

Gerry Gibeault: http://gerrygibeault.wix.com/gerrygibeault (Gerry has withdrawn his candidacy as of August 25th)

The Education Funding Framework: After the troubling provincial budget roll-out last year under Minister Dirks and Premier Prentice, Premier Notley and Minister Eggen fulfilled their promise of restoring the funding cuts. Over the last few years under the rural-dominated PC Caucus there were targeted cuts applied to the metro school boards. Calgary and Edmonton are not eligible for certain funding envelopes, such as small schools by necessity, that other school boards draw from. While I recognize there is diverse need throughout Alberta, our Metro School Boards do considerable heavy-lifting in our province and we need to ensure that equity and fair treatment is restored. As you can see from our Metro School Boards lobby document, we are uniquely challenged in terms of student growth, diversity, complexity, and special needs. (Metro Board Newsletter combined in .pdf)

The SLAs: After the controversial roll-out of the grade 3 SLAs last year, government and school boards will be carefully watching if this diagnostic tool fulfils its objectives. As a board, we have supported the SLA as a diagnostic tool to support student learning and assist teachers in developing appropriate interventions. Last year there were issues with the Grade 3 SLA implementation, so we’re grateful for any assistance Alberta Education can provide to mitigate any impact SLA administration might have on teacher workload. We’re also supportive of any changes that will make the SLA more effective for teachers and, ultimately, for students and their learning.

Teacher Negotiations: What format will bargaining take this time? Will it be local? Provincial? Or a hybrid model? With the current four-year contract expiring with the ATA in August 2016, discussions will likely start soon. Many Alberta School boards recently supported a call for a return to local bargaining initiated by Terry Riley, Chair of the Medicine Hat School District.

The Education Act Review: The Education Act will not be proclaimed this fall as planned. Personally I’m pleased that we will have another chance to look at the act, especially around some of the areas that may be problematic for us.

The Pre-Budget Consultation: I believe now is the time to end the public funding to Private and Charter schools in Alberta (so do other Alberta school boards for that matter) This money should be reallocated to the students with the greatest educational challenges. Secondly, I believe that as a revenue tool and a health promotion action, I support a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention is again calling for the province to implement this next step. My third request? Implement a Wellness Foundation in Alberta.

School Nutrition: This was a platform item in the NDP campaign. I support a comprehensive universal school nutrition program that would assist in addressing issues of poverty (no child should have to come to school hungry) while simultaneously educating students about healthy eating. A Universal School Food Strategy for Alberta – Alberta Policy …

Bill 10 implementation and supporting Transgender students: Out of 63 school boards in Alberta, how many of them have a Gay Straight Alliance in their district schools? Great controversy erupted when Bill 10 came forward. The right for students to form GSAs were opposed by both Catholic Bishops, certain special interest groups and some school boards, but after significant public outcry from all over society (The City of Edmonton Youth Council with Claire Edwards, for instance or the on-air rant by Ryan Jespersen or Mike’s Bloggity Blog or hundreds of others…)  respect and inclusion won the day. On March 10th, then-Minister Gordon Dirks made an impassioned Ministerial statement in support of GSAs and as of June 1st, Bill 10 was proclaimed. Safe spaces and accommodation will likely remain a hot-button issue this fall, especially for students who are transgender. Edmonton Public passed a landmark Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy in 2012 that guides us as a district (Read it here). How long until all 63 school boards have at least one GSA in their district? Grand Prairie Catholic Chair Ralph Wohlgemuth stated “Our district hasn’t and won’t block GSA if students request one.”. How will the Legislature measure if Bill 10 is being lived in Alberta schools?

Rethinking School Board Advocacy: With Edmonton Public Schools debating leaving the Alberta School Boards Association this fall, and the continued collaboration of metro school boards (Calgary Public and Edmonton Public together account for 1/3 of students in the province. With Edmonton Catholic and Calgary Catholic that number jumps to half) it will be interesting to see how different stakeholders represent their individual interests to the minister. School boards have expressed an interest in returning to a more local form of bargaining rather than centralization. There are already 3 other school trustee interest groups actively representing their specific Public, Francophone, and Catholic interests– is there a need for yet another organization? And if Edmonton leaves, will other boards follow? (Last year I resigned as Vice-President of the Alberta School Boards’ Association. You can read my resignation letter here.)

Banning Corporate and Union Donations in Municipal Elections: With both big-city mayors and numerous other stakeholders in support (click here to read the letter from Edmonton Public Schools) let’s rework our systems now, well in advance of the 2017 municipal election cycle. (Further details here: http://www.michaeljanz.ca/2015/06/i-support-banning-corporate-and-union-donations-and-municipal-campaign-finance-reform/)

This post is getting pretty long but I would add countless others: school fees, full-day kindergarten, sex education, transportation, and our ongoing desperate need for new school space to meet unprecedented city growth.

Can you see why I love being a school trustee? There is never a dull moment!

Alberta Needs A Wellness Foundation

I believe our province needs to shift our healthcare system towards a greater focus on disease prevention.

I also believe that prevention efforts must focus on our most formative years: the early years and our K-12 education system. Healthy children grow up to be healthy Albertans. There is only one tax dollar, and dollars spent treating preventable diseases, are dollars not available to invest in our school system. If we can shift our system to be more proactive and preventative, we will see significant cost savings that could be invested in other areas, such as K-12 education.

At our September 8th Public Board Meeting I will be giving notice of motion that our board join the chorus of other advocate organizations, municipalities, and school boards calling for the establishment of a Wellness Foundation as outlined by Wellness Alberta.

I believe that a Wellness Foundation would be of significant interest to our School board because of the potential future investments in health promotion in our school system. Lifelong habits are formed during the school years, and I hope that as a school district can be a supportive partner in turning the (healthy) learners of today into the (healthy) leaders of tomorrow.

As a school district, we already are partners in reducing tobacco use. We have eliminated the sale of junk food from our schools. We are working on numerous programs that increase physical activity. We are partners in drug and alcohol programs. We are continuing to increase our focus on the early years and supporting those students at the greatest risk or who are entering our school system with the greatest needs. The Wellness Alberta proposed Wellness Foundation is aligned with our mission, vision, and priorities.

MOTION:

That the Edmonton Public School Board endorse the need for the Alberta Wellness Foundation. (Background: Wellness Foundation)

Wellness Alberta brings together thousands of individuals including business, health and recreational leaders and non-governmental organizations who support a meaningful investment in the prevention of disease and injuries. Through a sustainable investment in an Alberta Wellness Foundation, Albertans will benefit from improved health outcomes and reduced demands on health care, which will greatly enrich the quality of life for current and future generations.

We, the undersigned, support the efforts of Wellness Alberta and believe the Alberta Government should establish a Wellness Foundation in Alberta, which is:

 Well-financed (initial investment of $50 million annually, increasing over 3 to 5 years to an amount equivalent to at least 1 percent of the health care budget or $170 million  annually),

 Sustained and protected by legislation, and

 Functions independent of the acute health care system to maintain financial autonomy, accountability and transparency.

A number of school boards have already endorsed the Wellness Foundation including the Edmonton and Calgary Catholic school boards.

The City Councils of Edmonton and Calgary also provided unanimous support for the proposed foundation.

This motion would be debated at the September 22nd Board Meeting.

You can find a number of background documents on their website including an endorsement form.

Click here to download the Wellness Alberta Statement of Support Form and Overview Document: FINAL-WellnessAB-FaxBack-Endorsement Form-April_22_2013

Here is a list of other endorsers: http://www.wellnessalberta.ca/current-endorsements.html#.VbhJ5PlViko

Background on the Wellness Foundation:

Wellness Alberta Recommends:

 Establish a Wellness Foundation to transform the health and quality of life of all Albertans.

 The Wellness Foundation must be well-financed, sustainable and operate independent of the health care system.

 The Wellness Foundation must focus on primary prevention to address major modifiable risk factors for chronic disease.

Wellness Alberta is very concerned about the chronic disease epidemic in Alberta. Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in Alberta and it has a major impact on the physical, mental and economic health of all residents. The good news is that over 40% of these diseases can be prevented by taking action to reduce risk factors including tobacco and alcohol use, poor nutrition and physical inactivity.

Protecting mental health by preventing adverse childhood experiences and reducing risk for injury and disability is also crucial to preventing chronic disease. Unfortunately, the Alberta Government is spending more than ever before on acute health care, with the majority (over 90%) spent on treating and managing preventable disease and disability.

Wellness Alberta believes Alberta needs to make new, long-term and sustainable investments in preventing disease and promoting health to reduce the burden on our health care system and improve our quality of life. Alberta needs a Wellness Foundation.

To maximize the impact on the physical, mental and economic health of Albertans, the Wellness Foundation must be well-financed, sustainable and independent of the health care system. The Foundation will focus on primary prevention initiatives to address six major modifiable risk factors including physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, tobacco use, alcohol misuse adverse childhood experiences and injury.

 We recommend that the Foundation be announced in August 2013 and initiate operation in April 2014.

 We propose the Foundation be initially financed through an annual grant of $50M, increasing to at least $170M annually (representing an amount equivalent to at least 1% of the Alberta Health budget) over a 3-5 year period.

 The Foundation funding must be new investments that are in addition to Government’s current overall investment in prevention and health promotion and must not be reallocated out of existing health budgets.

 New investments can be derived from the Alberta Government’s general revenue fund or by the creation of a “Wellness Levy” funded by modest mark-ups on alcohol and tobacco products.

 Stable, long-term funding dedicated to prevention and health promotion is a good value for money: a one dollar investment can be expected to result in a minimum $4-5 cost savings in future acute health care expenditures. However, some large scale interventions have been shown to produce a return-of-investment of up to 50:1.

 The Foundation will ensure new investments are directed to evidence-based strategies and sustained over the long-term to improve the health of Albertans and reduce the burden of chronic disease and disability on our health care system.

 The Foundation must function independently of the acute health care system to maintain financial autonomy, accountability and transparency.

 The Foundation should be created by an Act of the Legislative Assembly and report directly to the Assembly each year.

 The Foundation should be governed by an independent board comprised of key stakeholders that are selected by an all-party committee of the Legislative Assembly.

For more information about what a Wellness Foundation could do to promote and protect the wellness of children, adults, families and communities in Alberta, please see our website www.wellnessalberta.ca.

 

Celebrating EPSB and Metro School Board Advocacy

Click the underlined text to download and read our Winter Metro Board Newsletter. Like most blogs, this post is a personal reflection on provincial public education advocacy.

I’m excited for the Edmonton Public School Board to further strengthen our relationship with the Metro School Boards Group (MSBG) next year. This is easily the biggest “bang for our buck” advocacy relationship for EPSB. Together, we amplify the voices of our communities while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are maximized in the classroom. An example of this action was the ad-hoc April 20th gathering of 19 school boards during the provincial election, (initiated by the four metro school boards).

Percentage of Alberta Students by School Board:

Calgary Board of Education: 18.3%

Edmonton Public School Board: 14.5%

Calgary Catholic School District – 8.5%

Edmonton Catholic School District – 6.2%

As you can see, the four metro boards make up 47.5% of students. Calgary Public and Edmonton Public school boards alone represent a third of students in Alberta.

The other rural school boards are part of other trustee advocacy organizations such as the:

Alberta Catholic Trustees Association (all 18 Catholic School boards are members)

Fédération des conseils scolaires francophones de l’Alberta
(All 4 Francophone boards are members)

Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta (28 public boards are members. Calgary Public and Edmonton Public are not members.

Private and Charter Schools have their own lobbying groups as well.

At this time, 63 school boards in Alberta are part of the Alberta School Boards’ Association. There are 63 school boards in the ASBA (and two from the Yukon) representing 601,678 students paying $2,993,302 in membership fees.

ASBA members include all Public, Catholic, and Francophone boards from rural and metro areas. Most of the other rural school boards have very few students and very different challenges than the four metro school boards. For example, 0nly nine Alberta school boards have more than 10,000 students and sometimes in trying to be everything to everyone, individual messages and values get lost. Anecdotally, I have also heard from a few different rural public school boards that they would prefer to only be a member of the PSBAA, rather than being a member of both the ASBA and the PSBAA, because the PSBAA better articulates their public concerns on issues such as Gay Straight Alliances or Catholic School Board expansion in rural communities. Similarly, I’ve also heard from Catholic trustees who would prefer to only be members of the ACSTA.

I predict we may see a shake-up in school board representation at the provincial level (a subject for a future blog post). In 2013 Calgary Public was quite frustrated with the ASBA and moved to withhold 10% of their membership citing concerns about the value of ASBA membership. Edmonton Public Schools will be debating leaving the ASBA this fall. Personally, I resigned as Vice-President of the ASBA and you can read my letter of resignation here.

So what is the most effective way to tell the Calgary and Edmonton education story?

When I look at the political landscape and reflect upon where our board can get the biggest bang-for-our-buck, it’s by focusing on expanded and collaborative advocacy with the four metro school boards. In the municipal world, the urban and rural are not under the same umbrella. The cities are part of the AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association) while the counties are part of the AAMDC (Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties).

The four chair’s of the metro school boards regularly participate in Video Conference calls strategizing on joint issues of concern and brainstorming about new opportunities to advocate. Last year we published joint newsletters, held meetings with the Education Minister, lobbied government and opposition MLAs, and shared best practices and collaborated on emergent issues.

Being a big school board can sometimes mean “more money more problems” but there are also unique opportunities as large boards. We recognize that there is a diversity of need throughout the province (urban, rurban, and rural). As metro boards, our issues and our capacity to respond to these challenges are simply different. This isn’t to say that as metro boards we aren’t willing to support other boards or associations on an ad hoc basis when our issues align like we did with the 19 boards during the provincial election.

The best part? The Metro School Board Group partnership is virtually free. We don’t have staff, expensive travel and accommodation costs, we are focused on Alberta (as opposed to out-of-province activities) and we don’t charge a membership fee. The contribution is the opportunity cost of our time and the occasional staff support on projects. We are nimble, efficient, and effective.

Next steps…

In future, there may be need or interest in enhancing the work we do with the four metros — maybe even formalizing this partnership with a Memorandum of Understanding (or the creation of the Metro School Boards’ Association?) but with limited time and energy, I’m pleased to see the results and the relationships that have developed by focusing on the areas of shared concern.

As our board debates this fall about the merits of membership in the Alberta School Boards’ Association, it is certainly worth reflecting on which relationships provide the greatest return on investment for our students.

Edmonton Public Schools to debate leaving the Alberta School Boards’ Association

(This post copied from June 23rd Highlights blog post)

Our next EPSB board Meeting is September 8th. We will certainly have a very busy year ahead!

One of the first items on our agenda will be discussions about provincial advocacy and what the place of the Edmonton Public School Board is within various member organizations. As you may recall in 2012, the EPSB ended it’s membership with the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta. Our board may yet have a similar debate about our future relationship with the Alberta School Boards’ Association, a member-service and advocacy organization.

Trustee Orville Chubb moved the following Notice of Motion.  The Motion will be discussed at the September 8, 2015 Board meeting.

Please be advised that the following Notice of Motion was served at the June 23, 2015 Edmonton Public School Board meeting:

  1.   That the Board affirm its desire to maintain coverage for its employees under the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan.
  1.   That the Board give notice of its intention to, in the fall of 2015, consider a motion to end its membership in the Alberta School Boards Association.
  1.  That the Board give notice of its intention to ask the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Alberta School Boards Association, and the Board of the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan to amend the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan Deed of Trust to delete the requirement for membership in the Alberta School Boards Association to be eligible to be a participating employer in the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan.
  1. That the Board give notice of its intention to ask the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta School Boards Association and the Board of the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan to exercise their discretion to allow the District to continue to be a participating employer in the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan irrespective of its membership status in the Alberta School Boards Association.

I will craft a more fullsome blog post soon outlining some of my thoughts on provincial advocacy opportunities and strategic partnerships.

I believe there are exciting ways to amplify the voices of our communities while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are maximized in the classroom. An example of this was the ad-hoc April 20th gathering of 19 school boards during the provincial election, (initiated by the four metro school boards, not by the ASBA).

Since we do not use ASBA services, the significant expenditure that EPSB spends on the ASBA ($206,286 plus trustee time, travel, and staff support) has been of unanimous concern to our board as articulated in the February 23, 2015 Letter from Trustee Nathan Ip requesting a membership fee reduction of 10%, and that the ASBA cease membership in the American National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the Canadian School Boards’ Association (CSBA).

As leaders, we want to be proud of every single dollar we spend as stewards. I reflect frequently on our responsibility as stewards as the taxpayer dollar and I ask myself: “Do we derive value from our participation in the ASBA?” and if not, “can we build a better alternative?”

*update June 25th: Metro News picked up the story: http://metronews.ca/news/edmonton/1408528/edmonton-public-schools-to-consider-leaving-alberta-school-board-association/

*You can also read the proposed budget & bylaws bulletin for the ASBA here: bb_bulletin15

* You can also read my letter of resignation here: http://www.michaeljanz.ca/2015/06/resignation-letter-as-vice-president-alberta-school-boards-association/

Highlights from The June 23rd Board Meeting

It was a jam-packed board meeting and thank you to everyone who attended. We will have a very busy fall, but until then, enjoy the summer holidays!

Highlights

The final Board meeting of the 2014-2015 school year concluded last night.

  • I was pleased that the board voted to support my motion on campaign finance reform with additional expense disclosure (with an amendment by Trustee Nathan Ip requesting that municipal donations be eligible for a tax receipt mirroring provincial or federal elections).
  • I was pleased to see that we will continue to support the student Leadership Legacy Program and the proposed next steps with the student trustee program. Thank you again to Johannah Ko for her service as our first Student Trustee!
  • I was pleased with the budget the Superintendent brought forward and the proposed allocations (see below)
  • I was extremely pleased with the school names and were honored to have Dr. Ann Armour, Nellie Carlson, and Michael Phair in attendance at our board meeting.

From the Board Media Release:

BOARD APPROVES $1 BILLION BUDGET FOR 2015-2016 SCHOOL YEAR

Wed, 24 Jun, 2015

News Item: Board approves $1 billion budget for 2015-2016 school year

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the Edmonton Public Schools’ $1.08 billion budget for the 2015-2016 school year at their regularly scheduled board meeting yesterday.

The budget means more teaching and support staff positions in schools to cope with increased student enrolment, restored funding for students with learning challenges, additional funds for instruction and many areas holding the line on spending.

BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

  • Funding for instruction will increase 4.4 per cent due to increased enrolment and higher teacher salaries.
  • At the school level, there will be an additional 67 full-time equivalent teaching positions and an extra 51 full-time equivalent support staff positions.
  • For students with learning challenges – funding will be restored for inclusive education at $61.8 million and PUF (Program Unit Funding) at $38.2 million.
  • The overall fall enrollment is expected to be more than 92,000 students – an increase of about 2,700. Most of the increase, 1,655 students, will be in elementary grades.
  • Board of Trustees’ budget of $859,000 remains the same.
  • System Administration & Board Governance is just 3.3 per cent of total spending, well under the 3.6 per cent cap set by the province.

“This budget shows our dedication to putting money where it’s needed most – in the classrooms to support both students and staff, and ensuring our most vulnerable students are getting the services they need,” said Board Chair Michael Janz. “We feel this budget also ensures we have enough teachers and staff to work with our rapidly growing student population.”

NEW SCHOOL NAMES

In other board news, trustees approved five names for new District schools – Margaret Ann Armour School in Ambleside, Nellie Carlson School in MacTaggart, Ivor Dent School in Rundle Heights, Roberta MacAdams School in Blackmud Creek and Michael Phair School in Webber Greens.

SCHOOL YEAR CALENDAR FOR 2016-2017

The 2016-2017 School Year Calendar was approved on Tuesday afternoon as well. The calendar ensures all District schools have the same calendar and common days off, which makes it easier for families to plan childcare or transportation. Feedback from families and staff has been positive. Time off for the 2016-2017 calendar has allotted for a fall break with a six-day weekend, an extended May long weekend and a two-day Teachers’ Convention.

LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION

Trustees also unanimously approved writing a letter to the Minister of Education noting the community supports consolidating students from Highlands, Montrose and Mount Royal Schools at a modernized Highlands K-9 School.

—-

Our next board Meeting is September 8th. We will certainly have a very busy year ahead!

One of the first items on our agenda will be discussions about provincial advocacy and what the place of the Edmonton Public School Board is within various member organizations. As you may recall in 2012, the EPSB ended it’s membership with the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta. Our board may yet have a similar debate about our future relationship with the Alberta School Boards’ Association, a member-service and advocacy organization.

Trustee Orville Chubb moved the following Notice of Motion.  The Motion will be discussed at the September 8, 2015 Board meeting.

Please be advised that the following Notice of Motion was served at the June 23, 2015 Edmonton Public School Board meeting:

  1.   That the Board affirm its desire to maintain coverage for its employees under the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan.
  1.   That the Board give notice of its intention to, in the fall of 2015, consider a motion to end its membership in the Alberta School Boards Association.
  1.  That the Board give notice of its intention to ask the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Alberta School Boards Association, and the Board of the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan to amend the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan Deed of Trust to delete the requirement for membership in the Alberta School Boards Association to be eligible to be a participating employer in the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan.
  1. That the Board give notice of its intention to ask the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Alberta School Boards Association and the Board of the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan to exercise their discretion to allow the District to continue to be a participating employer in the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan irrespective of its membership status in the Alberta School Boards Association.

I will craft a more fullsome blog post soon outlining some of my thoughts on provincial advocacy opportunities and strategic partnerships.

I believe there are exciting ways to amplify the voices of our communities while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are maximized in the classroom. An example of this was the ad-hoc April 20th gathering of 19 school boards during the provincial election, (initiated by the four metro school boards, not by the ASBA).

Since we do not use ASBA services, the significant expenditure that EPSB spends on the ASBA ($206,286 plus trustee time, travel, and staff support) has been of unanimous concern to our board as articulated in the February 23, 2015 Letter from Trustee Nathan Ip requesting a membership fee reduction of 10%, and that the ASBA cease membership in the American National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the Canadian School Boards’ Association (CSBA).

As leaders, we want to be proud of every single dollar we spend as stewards. I reflect frequently on our responsibility as stewards as the taxpayer dollar and I ask myself: “Do we derive value from our participation in the ASBA?” and if not, “can we build a better alternative?”

*update June 25th: Metro News picked up the story: http://metronews.ca/news/edmonton/1408528/edmonton-public-schools-to-consider-leaving-alberta-school-board-association/

*You can also read the proposed budget & bylaws bulletin for the ASBA here: bb_bulletin15

* You can also read my letter of resignation here: http://www.michaeljanz.ca/2015/06/resignation-letter-as-vice-president-alberta-school-boards-association/

Resignation Letter as Vice-President Alberta School Boards’ Association

From: Michael Janz
Date: Fri, May 29, 2015 at 11:48 AM
Subject: Letter of Resignation as Vice-President ASBA
Dear Board Chairs and School Board Trustees:

Re: Letter of Resignation as Vice-President ASBA

It is with great concern and regret that I this letter to you. Effective immediately, I resign as Vice-President to the Alberta School Boards’ Association.

When I campaigned for Vice-President at FGM November 2013, I made it clear to our membership that, if you elected me, my priorities were 1) Focus on Advocacy and 2) Fiscal Restraint. On my campaign material and in debate, I explicitly outlined my commitment:

Fiscal Restraint: Control costs, focus our initiatives, and help keep our fees down.

  •  In alignment with provincial direction, demonstrate restraint and help focus dollars on the classroom
  •  Demonstrate transparency and build the confidence of our membership in the allocations of our budget
  •  Find ways to encourage efficiencies while offering high-quality services to members.

I do not believe these commitments align with the current direction of the ASBA and thus I cannot continue as your Vice-President and fulfill this mandate.

I believe that as elected officials we risk undermining our own advocacy efforts when our advocacy for education funding to support the classroom is not congruent with actions that align with our values. Despite my best efforts to work toward the above committments, as I feel I cannot speak in support of the direction, I resign on principle.

This is a very difficult decision that I do not take lightly. Personally, I will not be pursuing further leadership within the ASBA, but would encourage others to get engaged. I believe the association would be strengthened by policies and opportunities to inform and engage member boards in debates that occur at the board of directors table.

Outside of the ASBA, I continue to welcome opportunities to work collaboratively, such as continuing the work the 19 growth boards started during the provincial election.

If you would like to discuss this further, I will be at the Spring General Meeting, speaking from the floor as Edmonton Public School Board Chair. I hope we can work together to create a budget and pass bylaws that enhance confidence in our association. You can reach me at this email.

Sincerely,

Michael Janz

The Edmonton Sun Picked up the story on May 31st:

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2015/05/31/edmonton-public-school-board-chair-michael-janz-says-hes-stepping-down-as-vice-president-of-the-alberta-school-boards-association

I support banning corporate and union donations and municipal campaign finance reform.

imagesOn Tuesday June 23rd, 2015 I will move two motions to request that the Edmonton Public School Board add our voice to a chorus of other voices calling for campaign finance reform at the municipal level.
Recommendation 1) That the board grant waiver of notice of motion to consider recommendation #2 at the June 23rd Board meeting.

Recommendation 2) That the Edmonton Public School Board would write a letter supporting campaign finance reform measures that would ban corporate and union donations in municipal elections.

Rationale:
Recommendation 1 (if passed unanimously at the meeting) would give us the opportunity to debate recommendation 2 at the June 23rd board meeting. If Recommendation 1 does not pass unanimously, we would not have the opportunity do debate the recommendation until our next board meeting in September.
Recommendation 2)
Given that the Provincial government is proposing campaign finance reform and banning corporate and union donations in the sitting of this legislature, it would be most appropriate timing to ban corporate and union donations in municipal elections as well.
I understand that Edmonton City Council will also be voting on a similar motion with support from Mayor Iveson and Councillor Knack: (http://www.edmontonsun.com/2015/06/16/edmonton-mayor-supports-campaign-finance-reform)
The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues prepared a thought paper on campaign finance reform (attachment 1) which raises important concerns about the democratic accessibility of elections:
‘The EFCL is concerned that some of our most dedicated and qualified potential public servants are getting priced out of office. It is also concerned about council members being placed in difficult situations, when the majority of the donations are coming from companies and unions that have a direct interest in decisions made by city council.’ – EFCL
Blogger Daveberta has also provided more background to this issue here: http://daveberta.ca/2015/06/ndp-ban-corporate-union-donations-municipal-elections/
“The NDP should not limit the ban on corporate and union donations to the provincial level, they should also ban corporate and union donations in municipal elections. The provincial legislature approves the law that governs municipal election financing, which allows corporate, union and individual donations up to $5,000 during an election year. The provincial law also allows for an odd exemption that individual municipal candidates can contribute a maximum of $10,000 to their own campaign.”
I would appreciate your support and would ask you to write your MLA: (https://www.assembly.ab.ca/lao/mla/mla_help.htm ) and urge them to legislate campaign finance reform for municipalities.
David Staples at the Journal had an excellent opinion piece:
Read the full report from the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues:

Alberta School Boards should support a tax on sugary drinks.

On April 7th, the Edmonton Public School Board will be debating adding their support to the growing number of organizations calling for a fifty cents per litre added tax on Sugar-added beverages.

It is further requested that these additional revenues (conservatively estimated at $168 million per year) be targeted at health and wellness prevention initiatives for students.

If the Edmonton Public School Board supports this idea there are two potential pathways forward. First, it could be put forward to the Alberta School Boards Association for debate at the June 1st Spring General Meeting. Secondly, it could be advanced for debate to our regional School board area (ASBA Zone 2/3) as a potential policy position to be brought forward to the Fall General Meeting in November 2015.

My preference is that we could have the debate sooner at Spring General Meeting 2015 in Red Deer, and provide an opportunity for all school boards to support a new revenue tool that would combine a deterrent to unhealthy consumption habits while additionally raising provincial revenue– funds that could be invested in prevention activities, especially those targeted at supporting positive lifelong nutritional habits for students.

RECOMMENDATION That the following proposed Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) policy positions for submission to ASBA Zone 23 be approved:

1. That the Alberta School Boards Association write a letter to the Minister of Health in support of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention’s recommendation that The Alberta Government establish a 50 cent per litre tax on sugary drinks in Alberta and request that additional revenues be targeted to student health and wellness in Alberta.

2. That Recommendation 1 be forwarded as an emergent policy issue for the Alberta School Boards Association Spring General meeting.

See the full recommendation report and additional research here:

http://www.epsb.ca/media/epsb/ourdistrict/boardoftrustees/boardmeetings/2014-15/03-ProposedPolicyPositionsforASBAFallGeneralMeeting.pdf

Metro News: http://metronews.ca/news/edmonton/1332823/edmonton-public-school-board-chair-wants-province-to-tax-sugary-drinks/

Recommendation 1 – Rationale

A January 2015 media release (Attachment II) from the The Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP) states that: Decreased sugary drink consumption has major benefits for Albertans, such as reduced risk of chronic disease, improved quality of life, increased productivity and academic performance for students, as well reduced health care costs. In terms of revenue generation, a 50 cent/ litre consumption levy could generate approximately $158 million annually for the province, assuming a 20 percent reduction in consumption from taxation (7,8).

The February 2015 APCCP’s Submission Recommendations for a Levy on Sugary Drinks in Alberta (Attachment III) states that: A provincial levy on sugary drinks is one evidence-informed intervention with potential to reduce consumption of sugary drinks, improve health and generate revenue for the province (17, 18). Advocating for a sugar-added drinks tax would further support the work of school boards and the Alberta School Boards Association in comprehensive school health similar to anti-tobacco initiatives already supported by school districts.

Extensive research supports the conclusion that, when it comes to disease prevention and health promotion, it is important to address nutrition as well as physical fitness. Many health advocates are suggesting that in order for us to make tangible improvements in health promotion in our society, a combination of price pressures and consumer education are needed. An October 2014 brief by Professor Timothy Caulfield and Senior Lecturer Nola M. Ries Obesity Policy: The Way Forward for the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has been provided (Attachment IV) as additional information in support of the recommendation.

The ASBA seeks to work with provincial partners to support healthy students, healthy families, and a healthy province. The ASBA also continues to advocate for adequate, predictable, sustainable funding for public education and supporting this measure could support comprehensive societal health and assist in resourcing further health promotion work in public education. While it may seem unconventional for school boards to advocate on behalf of a specific Provincial revenue tool, this recommendation would be complementary to many other close-but-not-core-to-mandate initiatives that boards have supported such as reducing child poverty, comprehensive school health, early learning, community revitalization, and many others.

Recommendation 2 – Rationale

This is a timely issue given that the Province is currently considering possible additional revenue sources. Having the policy position brought forward for discussion at the Spring General Meeting as an emergent issue rather than at the Fall General Meeting would allow the provincial government additional time to develop implementation of this initiative. ASBA process allows boards to submit any proposed emergent policies to the ASBA for consideration at the Spring General Meeting by May 1, 2015.


 

From the APCCP: http://www.abpolicycoalitionforprevention.ca/press-room/171-mediareleasejan202015.html

The Time is Right for an Alberta Levy on Sugary Drinks EDMONTON – A provincial coalition of prominent health groups is calling on the Premier to establish a levy on sugary drinks to reduce consumption of these unhealthy products and generate revenue for the province.

Sugary drinks, which include soft drinks and energy drinks, are unlike other food and beverages because they offer virtually no nutritional benefits, are empty calories that don’t fully satisfy hunger and are linked to serious health problems such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes (1-6). “Sugar-loaded drinks are placing an enormous burden on our quality of life, our economy and our health care system,” said Rachel Prowse, Registered Dietitian and PhD student at the University of Alberta. “The need for action to reduce consumption of sugary drinks is clear.”

Placing a levy on sugary drinks is a win-win for Alberta. “Not only will a levy reduce consumption of sugar-loaded drinks, it will also generate much needed revenue,” comments Kate Chidester of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and member of the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). “Decreased sugary drink consumption has major benefits for Albertans, such as reduced risk of chronic disease, improved quality of life, increased productivity and academic performance for students, as well reduced health care costs.”

In terms of revenue generation, a 50 cent/litre consumption levy could generate approximately 158 million annually for the province, assuming a 20% reduction in consumption from taxation (7, 8).

The APCCP recommends using a portion of the revenue generated from the levy to establish a Wellness Foundation, which would provide sustainable funding for health promotion programs in Alberta. “When the province faces a budget deficit, vital programs aimed at promoting Albertans’ health and wellbeing often risk being cut,” notes Kate Chidester. “A Wellness Foundation would help ensure these programs are available for Albertans when they need them the most.”

According to a recent 2014 survey of the Albertan public, a majority of respondents (57%) support taxing soft drinks and energy drinks.

 

It was an honor to serve the Edmonton Public Library

Sadly, May 2015 concludes my service as a Trustee on the Edmonton Public Library Board. For the past six years (a two-year term renewed to a maximum of three consecutive terms) I have served as a community member in supporting policy governance for one undoubtedly one of the finest libraries in Alberta (Canada? The world? The cosmos?) and institutions in our city. You might say that it is the end of my renewals and it is time to lend the book to another trusted patron.
As you likely know, the City of Edmonton has numerous opportunities for citizens to engage with our institutions (See the 25 Agencies, Boards, and Commissions and Task Force Opportunities: http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/city_organization/agencies-boards-commissions.aspx) In 2009, I was one of the citizens who was fortunate to apply and fill one of the vacancies on the board. The commitment included monthly board meetings (dealing with the fiduciary, strategic, and generative governance aspects of the library) committee meetings, budget meetings, community events (Freedom to Read is my favorite) and phenomenal professional development opportunities.
Six years later, my time serving on the Edmonton Public Library Board has been one of my most rewarding and personal growth experiences. I have treasured our Tuesday evening discussions and the brilliant citizens and senior staff who have shared with me their wisdom and their mentorship. Service to EPL has been an incredible personal development opportunity— both in terms of formal professional development offered through service but also through the lessons I’ve learned about being a good board member and a contributor to a team. You have a chance to think strategically about the big-picture of a multi-million dollar organization while balancing different competing values, interests and mitigating factors. Through the creation of good policy we were able to move ahead together through many tricky conversations— intellectual freedom, library access, marketing and advertising, equity, fund development, library locations, fine policy, membership fees, and many more complex issues.
The Edmonton Public Library surpasses expectations and definition of what a library is or should be. From the video games and digital content to the important social services that our community librarians offer daily, the EPL Team is constantly brainstorming how they can engage all Edmontonians — learning, engagement, and possibility. All of us ought to support the library with our time, talent, or treasure.
For those of you thinking of putting forward your name, without reservation I encourage you to do so. Here are some of the other highlights I experienced in my journey:
A supportive City Council: EPL has been well supported by civic leadership who “get it”. They understand that the livability of a community is just as important to the attraction and retention of labour as many other conventional dashboard indicators. They understand that literacy is the backbone to success for our city and that this is an area that makes economic and social sense and cents. I hope that this support continues in future budget cycles.
Access for all (free memberships!): Waiving the minimal membership fee has made a significant, quantifiable impact in making the library more accessible to more Edmontonians. Being part of a board and administration that drafted a plan to do so in a cost-neutral way that found efficiencies and increased fundraising revenue was a wonderful 100th birthday present to Edmontonians that I hope we can sustain in the future. We need to continue to remove barriers to access and this fee was more than a symbolic victory about the importance of the library as a public good—(which it is and I fundamentally agree with)— but it has already resulted in more material shared for our civic buck.
Re-conceptualizing the potential of the modern library: Service to the EPL Board has enlightened me to many of the fantastic functions of the modern library. Library operations are complex and fascinating. Community librarians. Makerspaces. Capital planning and open-space library architecture. Service to new immigrant communities, language minorities, aging citizens, urban aboriginals, and sexual identity and gender minority patrons. Holds and hardcovers were once the meat and potatoes, but EPL is constantly innovating to serve our ever-growing and diverse city in unique and creative ways.
Collaborating with amazing citizen leaders: The other volunteer board leaders I have had the privilege of working with are phenomenal individuals who I consider to be good friends and passionate advocates. They come from a wide array of backgrounds and each brought a unique perspective and contribution. I have learned so much from each of them.
Inspired EPL Staff: The EPL Staff are incredible. From the senior management to the front line staff, I found my interactions to be fascinating and I learned so much from their enthusiasm and passion for sharing. They are the backbone of our library and make every branch a welcoming and special space.
Linda Cook: I cannot say enough kind words about our outgoing CEO as she transitions to new adventures. She has been pivotal in building EPL and she has left behind an incredible legacy. She is a national leader, teacher, and visionary. Read more about her acomplishments as a nationally (and now internationally recognized leader) recognized leader here: http://www.epl.ca/Linda-Cook-Retirement
ALTA: Working with the Alberta Library Trustees’ Association (and the Public Library Branch with Punch Jackson and Diana Davidson) was a fascinating learning experience about libraries throughout Alberta. Libraries are the cornerstones of our communities and crucial to sustaining quality of life in our province.
The EPL Centennial: What a fantastic celebration. Rick Mercer? Mary Walsh? Free memberships? Cake? Wow. http://www.epl.ca/100/events
Library of the Year: This is a major award. This is an incredible honor that must be given its due. Wow. Library experts from around North America (including many other cities with much bigger budgets) have rightly recognized our city and our library. Well done. http://www.epl.ca/libraryoftheyear
Library Fundraisers: EPL Is an amazing public resource but we can really level-up our contribution to the community with the generosity of those who can share even more: http://www.epl.ca/support I support the library with my time, talent, and treasure. I encourage you to do the same.
Verdict: 
Get involved and apply today. Not just for the EPL board, but every board that piques your interest! Next Gen, the River Valley Alliance, the Police Commission— Get involved in your city today and help champion important causes in your community!
And remember: generously support EPL: http://www.epl.ca/support

I need your advice- Come to our Dec 3rd Ward F Gathering!

Who: Ward F School Council Chairs, Interested Citizens, Community League Leaders
 
What: Ward F Community Gathering: Looking Back/Looking Forward
 
When: Wednesday, December 3rd, 7:00-9:00PM
 
Where: Strathcona High School School Library
Why: Your public school trustee is your community voice in Edmonton Public School Board decision making and your advocate to other levels of government. You are invited to assist in brainstorming issues that you would like your trustee, Michael Janz, to champion while getting to know other education and community leaders.
The school year is almost halfway through. Let’s celebrate our successes and identify big issues for the second half of the year.
Refreshments will be provided. The event format will be casual table conversations following a brief presentation from Trustee Janz.
Due to space constraints RSVPs are required by December 1st.

There are many important issues on our horizon:

  • How should the district move forward with low-enrollment schools or programs and aging infrastructure?
  • How is your school engaging with the new career pathways initiative?
  • After three consecutive tough provincial budgets, how can our district be an effective financial steward?
  • How can we ensure that all students in our district have equitable access to amazing learning opportunities?
  • What partnerships should be explored at the school or district level to help all students be successful and transition to the world of work?

 

RSVP HERE: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1IOIYjpccGLy90m8P1mVge9WRy7TEV7V-BGF0iV5dy74/viewform?c=0&w=1

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