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 [email protected]


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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What will happen after the school closure moratorium expires

How do we support public education in mature neighbourhoods? Today, and 20 years from now?

As former Trustee Sue Huff asked on her blog, if the outcome is school closure, is there ever a process that the community will support?

Here is a copy of the administration recommendation that passed unanimously this evening.

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Federal COVID funds must go to PUBLIC not private schools

The federal government recently announced $2 Billion pledged to support school reopening funding.

Alberta's share is $262.8 Million, but there has been no word from the UCP how they plan to allocate the funds. (https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/alberta-government-still-quiet-on-distribution-use-of-federal-back-to-school-fund)

My concern is that, much like the broken UCP funding formula, it won't adequately help public schools. Instead it will be allocated to fund their supporters and donors in wealthy, elite, or religious private schools for families who have opted-out instead of public classrooms who need the most help.

We must ensure 100% of this new federal funding goes to public schools, especially those with the highest covid risks and economic need. While our public schools languish with class sizes of 40 or 50, private schools are bragging about their small classes and ability to withstand the pandemic. Ninja and trampoline schools are making headlines as private interests seek to profit from and fracture our public schools. Now is the time to focus any dollars on our fragile public education system at our desperate time of need. 

We must say no to corporate welfare and the misuse of our public taxes. Imagine if they took our tax dollars allocated for public libraries and gave it to religious organization or private business to subsidize a bookstore. This is an equally similar egregious misuse.

In Ontario and other provinces, zero public dollars are spent on private schools: by definition, they are private and are 100% self-funded. Alberta has the highest subsidy to private schools in Canada. As we look to balance the provincial budget, $300 million in cash is spent subsidizing private schools, many of whom are posting multi-million dollar surpluses. If the Minister allocates federal funds, the subsidy to private schools will only increase.

On September 8th at our next Edmonton Public Board Meeting, I'm going to ask for a waiver of notice of motion to ensure this money is shared only with public schools and not private schools. We must take a strong stand immediately to make sure that the funding is allocated to the Public, Catholic, and Francophone system, not the private or charter schools.

From the ASBA Choice in Public Education policy position:

Did you know?

  • Alberta funds private schools at a higher rate than any other province, in addition to being able to charge tuition.
  • The public education system in Alberta is widely recognized as being among the best in Canada – and the world.
    • Alberta performs third highest globally in science
    • Alberta performs third highest globally in reading
    • Alberta performs eighth highest in globally in math
  • The public education system offers a variety of program choices to meet the needs of a diverse student population, while remaining accountable to the public through publicly- elected trustees.

Alberta School Boards Association believes:

  • In the public education system comprised of the public, separate and francophone school boards in Alberta.
  • That all students across the province deserve equitable, accessible, inclusive education.
  • That every child deserves the opportunity to achieve their full potential, and this potential is best achieved within a strong public education system.
  • That choice exists in the public education system, and offers a variety of programs based on the needs of students and their local community.

In order to build a viable, sustainable, equitable public education system, public funding should only be spent on public education.

 

 


Supporting active transportation and Edmonton Public Schools

Last night the board voted to support moving forward with promoting active transportation initiatives for our schools.

I moved a motion to support active transportation based on the responses I have heard from parents and community members. Student health and wellness continues to be a priority for our board and I look forward to seeing more work in this area moving forward.

For more information on the research supporting active transportation, check out: http://www.epsb.ca/board/march13_2012/item05.pdf

Progress in this area requires the support of many partners. I hope that other levels of government will increase their commitment in this area moving forward.

September 26, 2012

Board encourages active transportation plans for all schools

Yesterday, the Edmonton Public Schools Board of Trustees called on all schools to have active transportation plans in schools, supporting safe and healthy transportation options for students.  This decision reflects Edmonton Public Schools’ commitment to promote health and wellness for all students and staff.

Active transportation refers to any form of self-propelled (i.e., non-motorized) mode of transportation that uses human energy, such as walking and cycling. These modes may also be combined with public transit for trips to and from school, work and other community facilities.

Active transportation plans have several benefits, including, but not limited to, improved safety of all students travelling to and from school, more students walking and/or cycling to and from school, reduction in car volume, congestion and traffic concerns around schools.  Thirteen schools in the District already have formal active transportation plans in place.

“Our Board encourages school communities to come together to find ways to support student health and wellness,” says Board Chair Sarah Hoffman. “We are committed to providing schools with information on how they can develop and sustain active transportation plans.”

 

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Elected EPSB Vice-Chair

Last night was the first board meeting of the 2012/2013 school year. I was honoured to be acclaimed EPSB Vice-Chair by my colleagues.

As Vice-Chair, when our new Board Chair, Trustee Sarah Hoffman, is unavailable for board business, it is my job to step forward and support the district. Trustee Heather Mackenzie will replace me as chair of the Conference Committee, a position I held for the last two years.

I will also be serving the district through work with the Alberta School Boards’ Association and the Public School Boards Association of Alberta. I will also be serving on our Advocacy and Audit Committees.

It is interesting to note that the three chairs are under 35 years old. I just turned 28, Conference Chair Mackenzie is turning 30, and Chair Hoffman is 32.

There is much on the agenda, and I look forward to the year ahead.

http://news.epsb.ca/2012/09/edmonton-public-school-board-selects-board-chair-2/


It is past time to rename Dan Knott and Oliver Schools

MOTION: That the Division rename Dan Knott and Oliver Schools following a process where we seek input from the community, following a process similar to the naming of new schools. (Vote: September 8th, 2020)

Renaming conversations are an educational opportunity for all of us. They challenge our perspectives about who we celebrate, what blinders we may wear to the lived experiences of others, and provide us an opportunity to define better representations of who we aspire to be.

Symbolism is powerful, but it is important not to mistake renaming as a substitute for real action that makes material improvements in the lives of Black Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC). Later in the post, I'll discuss more of the actions we are undertaking as a school district.

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