Tag: EPSB

Trustee Janz selected as one of Edmonton’s “Top 40 Under 40″

Last week I was honoured by Avenue Edmonton as one of their “Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40″ for 2012.

You can read the full article here:

http://www.avenueedmonton.com/top-40-under-40/michael-janz

Thank you to the Avenue Edmonton Team, 3Ten Photo, Cheryl Mahaffy and the anonymous nominators who put my name forward to receive this award.

Are School Trustees Urban Planners?

Are school trustees urban planners? No.

Do decisions made by school board trustees impact city planning? Absolutely.

Twitter: Nov 7th 2012: “@michaeljanz: For the record- last tue at #epsb I argued to include new schools in our capital plan. There are kids in the SW #yeg who really need them.”

Part of the reason I ran for the school board was that I wanted to see a more integrated approach to how we build our communities– with the provincial, municipal, and school boards working together. Although it doesn’t get the same headlines as school closure related issues, I’m thrilled that our board has been working hard on many initiatives for kids like the anti-bullying work, special needs task force, and district priorities. 90% of my time I’m dealing with Education Policy related matters and hence why I’ve chosen to pursue a Masters in Education Policy Studies and not a Masters in urban planning!

I’m glad our board had the opportunity to participate in the community sustainability task force and I hope it leads to more collaborative planning in the future. I look forward to a more coordination and discussion in the future!

Like city council, we need to understand that a city is a complex organism and decisions made by one level of government have dramatic effects upon other entities. Political decisions made in isolation can trigger trickle-down effects that severely impact the work of other levels of government.

If the School Board decides to open a new school, change a neighbourhood school to a magnet site, move yellow bus service, or close a school, all of these decisions have urban planning applications for the whole neighbourhood. Conversely, if the city is going to make transportation decisions that lead to unsafe streets around schools, even though that decision isn’t the jurisdiction of school trustees, you can bet that they should speak up!

Edmonton’s growth plan (in practice) continues to be sprawl-baby-sprawl and has not made family and seniors-friendly infill densification a priority. There’s some nice language in The Way We Grow but in reality development continues outside rather than inside the Henday. Continuing to green-light more sprawl neighbourhoods creates enormous pressure on school boards to meet the educational needs of families who are living further and further away from existing schools.

In the short term, I do support new schools in areas of need. In the long-term, I hope that we will be able to incentivize more families to return to existing neighbourhoods where we have already paid for services. But this won’t happen overnight, and the buck stops with the city of Edmonton and the capital region board on growth decisions. Until then, wherever the children live in Edmonton, we have an obligation to ensure they receive a top-notch Edmonton Public education.

If the city changed its development priorities we could get more families back into our mature neighbourhoods, keep schools open, and save money. The school board could save on transportation and hire more teachers instead. It’s the fiscally prudent thing to do.

If established communities want to keep their schools open— Separate or Public—then we need to make it easy for the kids to live where the schools already are.

The Mayor is right, we do need a variety of housing choices in the city, but we also need a variety of housing choices in the neighbourhoods we have already built! We’ve already invested billions of dollars in the core of our city in our schools, playgrounds, parks, and pools, let’s not let it waste and crumble!

Helping life get better for LGBTTQ students, staff and families within Edmonton Public Schools.

In March the Edmonton Public School Board voted 8-1 to create a policy to create a policy that would help fight bullying and ensure safe spaces for all students, especially those who are (or are perceived to be) sexual minority staff, students, and families.

I voted to support the creation of this policy and am pleased to see our board taking steps to ensure safe and caring learning environments for all students, staff, and families of our diverse student population.

I have had the privilege of speaking to many students, staff, and families who self-identify as sexual minorities and have heard touching stories about how even just knowing that this policy is in creation has increased their families feelings of safety and security.

Our board took a strong stance to support the diverse needs aboriginal learners, fight racism with our multicultural policy, and now we are taking action on the disturbing research surrounding the bullying of sexual minorities.  Hence, the recommendation:

RECOMMENDATION

That the Policy Review Committee develop a policy that affirms the District’s commitment to providing a welcoming environment, free of discrimination and harassment, for all students and employees who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual/transgendered and queer (LGBTQ). The Committee shall look at LGBTQ policies of the Greater Victoria School District and Vancouver School Board as examples, and seek input from students, staff and members of the public.

Moving forward: The policy was drafted and posted for extensive public consultation. In June and September the Policy Committee then met to review the policy and determine if the policy fulfilled the direction of the board.

The recommended policy is now being brought forward to the Board Meeting on Tuesday, November 8th at 2PM. Our meetings are open to the public and webcast on www.livestream.epsb.ca.

The board is now debating whether the proposed board policy fulfills the direction given by the motion we passed in March. Some of the questions I’m thinking about as I review this policy are:

  • Does this policy support creating a welcoming environment, free from discrimination and harassment? What else should be included in this policy?
  • What changes might help strengthen this policy?
  • Will this provide clear direction to administration about how we can provide a welcoming environment for all students in our schools?
  • Will this policy help prevent the bullying of “straight” kids too? (research has shown that many victims of homophobic bullying are actually straight students!)

If you would like to speak to the policy, please call 780-429-8080. If you would like to contact your trustee or email the board with your feedback please email trustees@epsb.ca. If you would like to share your thoughts just with me: michael@michaeljanz.ca.

If you would like to read the full text and learn more: http://www.epsb.ca/board/november08_2011/item10.pdf

Here is the proposed Policy:

PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATION STATEMENT

The Board is committed to establishing and maintaining a safe, inclusive, equitable, and welcoming learning and teaching environment for all members of the school community. This includes those students, staff, and families who identify or are perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer or questioning their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Board expects all members of this diverse community to be welcomed, respected, accepted, and supported in every school.

All members of the school community have the right to learn and work in an environment free of discrimination, prejudice, and harassment. This right is guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Alberta Human Rights Act, and Alberta School Act. These rights shall be supported, and enforced so that all members of the school community may work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation for individual differences. The Board will not tolerate harassment, bullying, intimidation, or discrimination on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

The Board believes that all sexual and gender minority students, staff, families and same- sex parented families have the right to:

be treated fairly, equitably, and with dignity and respect; have their confidentiality protected and respected; self-identification and determination; freedom of conscience, expression, and association;

be fully included and represented in an inclusive, positive, and respectful manner by all school personnel;

have equitable access to the same supports, services, and protections provided to heterosexual students and families;

have avenues of recourse (without fear of reprisal) available to them when they are victims of harassment, prejudice, discrimination, intimidation, bullying, and/or violence; and

have their unique identities, families, cultures, and communities included, valued and respected within all aspects of the school environment.

The Board is committed to implementing measures that will: 1Define appropriate expectations, behaviours, language, and actions in order to prevent discrimination, prejudice, and harassment through greater awareness of, and responsiveness to, their harmful effects.

Ensure that all such discriminatory behaviours and complaints will be taken seriously, documented, and dealt with expeditiously and effectively through consistently applied policy and procedures.

Improve understanding of the individual lives of sexual and gender minorities and their families, culture, and communities.

Develop, implement, and evaluate inclusive educational strategies, professional development opportunities, and administrative guidelines to ensure that sexual and gender minorities and their families are welcomed and treated with respect and dignity in all aspects of the school community.

The Board understands that institutional and cultural change occurs over time and believes that the provision of an annual report at a public board meeting on progress related to the strategic directions and benchmarks identified in this policy will ensure accountability and demonstrate the District’s commitment to supporting our diverse communities.

EPSB Board Highlights 2010-2011

Edmonton Public School Board Highlights 2010-2011

Click to enlarge and view 2010 EPSB Priorities

Please take a look at the attached .jpg containing some of our highlights from the 2010-2011 year.

As the board reconvenes tomorrow for our first fall meeting, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what we have accomplished since November and look ahead at the year to come. I feel on many issues our board has made significant headway, but there is still much that I would like to accomplish.

As I wrote in my first blog post, our mental concentration can be like a flashlight beam. If you don’t focus your efforts and energies on the big issues that matter most, you can get derailed by administrivia and smaller, less-pressing matters.

What most needs doing?

I pose the question to you and encourage you to email me michael.janz@epsb.ca with your own suggestions and priorities. If you haven’t signed up for our Ward F newsletter, click here.

EPSB Board of Trustees

2010 – 2011 Highlights

The previous school year was a productive one for Edmonton Public Schools’ Board of Trustees. Trustees focused on engaging with Edmonton communities and ensuring all students have a safe and caring learning environment.

• Developed the new District vision, mission and set of priorities

• Introduced live webcasting of public board meetings (www.livestream.com/edmontonpublicschools)

• Imposed a two-year moratorium on school closures and initiated the formation of a School Closure Moratorium Committee to explore ways to keep schools open

• Created a Special Needs Task Force that provided recommendations to promote an inclusive learning environment for students with special needs

• Participated in the Community Sustainability Task Force

• First Board in Prairies to approve the development of a board policy on sexual orientation and gender identity to ensure a welcoming environment for all students and staff

• Established an Anti-Bullying Advisory Committee that provided recommendations to prevent bullying

• Re-prioritized capital plan to place a high priority on modernizing existing schools

• Continued work with all orders of government and other partners to advocate for adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for education

Ward F Back to School Pool Party & Ward F Gathering Sept. 21st

Many of you know I’m passionate about swimming and saving Scona Pool and I’m passionate about parties! This ward gathering will bring together our schools and communities– but with a fun twist for the whole family!

You can grab a hot dog and your kids can party in the pool while you meet and mingle with other passionate education supporters, community leagues, elected resources and much more.  I hope this makes it just a little bit easier for busy families to attend as there will be plenty of things to do for the whole family!

Download the PDF and send it to your communities: 2011Ward F Public School Trustee Michael Janz invites you to

Stop in for a visit, or come for the full two hours! And if you can’t make it, there are great Scona Pool activities happening all week!

Event: Sept 14th Ward Gathering Discussion: the New Education Act

I am pleased to announce that Trustee Ripley and I are co-hosting a discussion on the New Education Act on Wednesday September 14th from 7-9PM with special guest, The Honourable Dave Hancock.

The School Act is the master document that sets all direction for education in Alberta. From the age that students graduate to the regulations surrounding bullying, this document lays out the guiding principles for all school districts around the province, Public Francophone, and Separate.

I would encourage you to RSVP 780-887-1002 and come and partake in the discussion. It is a great opportunity for all citizens to come and give their feedback about education in Alberta. It is also a great time for us to talk a little bit more specifically about some of the implications of the act on our neighbourhoods and on our schools.

If you have questions or comments please don’t hesitate to call me: michael@michaeljanz.ca

** Once you RSVP you will receive a backgrounder with more information about the act, the event, and a brief summary of the discussions so far**

***Trustee Ripley has posted a few links and thoughts to her blog: http://catherineripley.ca/education-act/ Check it out!***

“Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities.” ‘NSTEP, and student health in the summer media

Do you know how many sugar cubes are in one “Big Gulp?”    Answer at the end of the post.

Did you hear about this kid? CJ is a 10 year old fitness guru.

Healthy schools, healthy communities…

When I think back to high school, I know I was in the best shape of my life, and I know the school environment played a significant role in reinforcing healthy living and healthy eating.

I’m pleased to say that wellness is one of our five district priorities #4: promote health and wellness for all students and staff.


Health and Wellness is a topic I hope to be writing more about over the next few months, especially as the subject of my next Ward Gathering will he “Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities.” (The last Ward Gathering was on attracting more families to our neighbourhoods. Click here to read the summary.)

Details are unfolding but this event will likely be in the south portion of our ward in November, and will be a joint gathering with Trustee Ripley who represents the neighbourhoods south of us. With so many events going on in the city, we want to make these gatherings as effective and efficient for all of our community and school leaders!

‘NSTEP: Nutrition, Students, Teachers Exercising with Parents

A few weeks ago I had the chance to take in a joint presentation to Alberta Health, Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools representatives from the N’STEP program. ‘NSTEP and other programs like it are simple, practical, and can not just improve the lives of students, but can also help bring healthy living home for the whole family!

To learn more about ‘Nstep, check out this video and their website:

Healthy Schools in the Media:

Considerable discussion has been happening in the letters section of the journal about childhood obesity.

Nationally, the student health issue has been attracting some concern and is seen by many as a proactive investment to keep our health care costs down.

Ontario report examines new and better ways to improve health care system while ensuring accessibility and affordability; urges government to expand or introduce mandatory nutrition and physical education programs for students in grades 1 to 12.

Also in the Globe & Mail:  Why aren’t our kids out playing?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/fitness/exercise/fitness-trends/schools-out-why-arent-your-kids-out-playing/article2083582/

Locally, check out these letters for two different points of view about the role of the school in the wellness of our community:

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/schools/5142714/story.html

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/opinion/letters/More+phys+better+learners/5177348/story.html

Got feedback? Please leave a comment below!

What do you think about the importance of health and wellness in our school system?

What partnerships do you think should be emphasized between Alberta Health Services and our school system?

How can our communities do more to support health and wellness?

What can we do to reclaim our public spaces and encourage citizens of all ages to just get out there and play?

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Oh and that Big Gulp? 53. 53 Cubes of Sugar. The good folks at  ‘Nstep taught me that. Yikes.

If you read one book this summer: The New City by John Lorinc

The New City by John Lorinc: How the Crisis of Canada’s Cities is Reshaping Our Nation

I picked up THE NEW CITY by John Lorinc about two years ago and I still find myself referencing it once or twice a month. So many fantastic books on urban and city policy are American in scope, but this book examines everything through a uniquely Canadian lens. From aging populations to immigrants to crime to transportation issues to productivity– you name it– Lorinc touches on all of the pressure points affecting our communities and makes a convincing case that the future of our nation sinks or swims with our large urban centers.

I was immediately magnitized to his focus on LEARNING CITIES and the important role that public education plays in building strong cities. His LEARNING CITIES chapter gives an excellent synopsis of pressures facing public education– English language learners, school closures, growing urban aboriginal populations, lack of local control of funding, and much more.

His writing is as enjoyable to read as it is informative.

Learning Cities

If healthy neighbourhoods are the building blocks of cities, strong public schools are the glue that holds diverse urban communities together. Besides their core educational function, the public school system remains the only institution in our society where children, teens, and adults from vastly different cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds can come together in a non-comercial environment for extended periods, during which they’ll learn at least as much from one another as they will from their teachers. Their parents may be set in their views, comfortable with their prejudices, and redesigned to their limits. Not so for their children: Canada’s urban schools are social combustion chambers brimming with the energy that has long typified the cosmopolitan culture of international trading cities.

Nor can their role as public spaces be underestimated. School playgrounds and sports fields double as local parks. Community associations, ethnocultural organizations, and adult education programs will use the facilities in the evenings for their own programs. Youth groups rent their gymnasiums and swimming pools. Some school libraries provide public internet access. Parents form networks, webs of casual social relationships that exist somewhere between friendship and nodding acquaintance. (It was a network of outspoken parent activists, People for Education, that played a pivotal role in toppling the Mike Harris regime, with its stridently anti-public-education policies.)

Schools bring neighbourhoods out for fun fairs, concerts, musicals, sporting events, cleanup days. Local businesses proudly sport signs showing that they’ve donated to a school fundraising drive. Children gather in the auditorium to listen to a local police officer, firefighter, or public health nurse.

In short, a lot goes on in and around big city schools besides schooling and their well-being is intimately connected to their surrounding neighbourhoods.

Page 82-83.

http://www.amazon.ca/New-City-John-Lorinc/dp/0143056042

As Trustees, we must seek to understand and work with other municipal partners and agencies to try and address the plethora of factors impacting student performance and achievement. The challenges and pressures that come with municipal and provincial socio-economic pressures in our changing city have significant impacts on our public education system.

During my November results review, I met with a Principal from a school in a poorer area of the North East. I asked her what might help the kids in her school succeed. She indicated that they were from a “harder” part of town with more substance abuse, more violence, and learning was often the last thing on their fragile minds.

Little things she said, like making sure the kids had breakfast that morning made a significant difference. It was a stark reminder that there is often more behind the achievement test scores than gets reported.

John Lorinc nails how strong schools and strong communities go hand-in-hand and anyone concerned with the future of our city, province, or nation should read this book.

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Of course I welcome other reading suggestions. Leave them in the comments below!

Recap: Conversation with Mayor’s Task Force on Community Revitalization

July 13th Meeting of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Revitalization

Last night I attended the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Revitalization meeting at Mckernan Hall. For a meeting on a hot July evening, the meeting was very well attended with 37 chairs being filled by my rough count. It was a reminder to the committee members and myself that the mature neighbourhoods and communities are still very concerned about what might happen to their schools and interested in helping revitalize and re-energize their communities. Official feedback was tabulated with each group tabulating priorities and I believe all of this information was presented to the Community Revitalization Task Force.

For information on the community league input, see the May Workshop Notes (click here) and an EFCL article summarizing the input from several meetings (click here) .

The discussion was wide-ranging from municipal collaboration to crime prevention to provincial underfunding.

I was impressed with the diversity of community voices that came from all quadrants of the city. There was an energy in the room and a commitment to building the kind of vibrant Edmonton that I want to live and raise my children and grandchildren in. This kind of long-term, collaborative thinking must be fostered and encouraged!

Capital Plan: We need to address our deferred maintenance deficit

The board approved our one year contribution to the District Capital Plan this evening. I was pleased to see our board make investing in infrastructure renewal and deferred maintenance in our existing schools a top priority. As we heard at our last moratorium committee on deferred maintenance and infrastructure deficit, our district is facing a $243 Million dollar deficit in our existing schools – asbestus abatement, renewals, and modernizations are all included. If you look at our capital plan list you’ll see our board prioritizing our asks.

There are no guarantees in this provincial climate that if we “ask we shall receive” but I think this capital plan makes an important statement that we as a district need to invest in the preventative maintenance that can keep our schools in lasting shape for years to come.

Many excellent comments were made during debate including the overall sustainability of our capital strategy. Currently as the city has sprawled, the district has continued to build more and more schools in the outlying areas. This strategy is not only expensive (as we have to build more and more schools) but also it has led to continued pressures to close more schools in the core to move staff and resources to the outlying areas.

The expectation that every new neighbourhood gets a school is very tough to manage. What’s more, we are in a tough position of having to manage expectations with residents who might have been told by a realtor or a developer that a new school is on the way! The reordering of the list passed last night should send a clear message from our board that the students who are currently studying in our buildings are our priority and let’s focus on fixing the buildings we already own.

This “build and close, build and close” negative feedback loop is unsustainable for schools, and we are missing out on huge opportunities for fiscal and environmental sustainability by supporting a more compact, livable city with mixed uses of housing in every neighbourhood. The challenges of growth and aging infrastructure are not unique to Edmonton Public Schools. CivicCamp Calgary is starting to talk about the financial sustainability of Calgary. Edmonton is starting to explore the true costs of sprawl with a report that is on the Council Executive Committee agenda for today.

Everything is connected.

Here is my rough attempt at reproducing non-verbatim the ammendment that passed this evening:

“That the District Three-Year Capital Plan 2012-2015 be amended to prioritize infrastructure

adding language that will identify the urgent need for funding to maintain and upgrade our aging

schools in mature neighbourhoods.”

Here is a link to view the full capital project list and plan:

http://www.epsb.ca/board/may10_11/item03.pdf

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