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....

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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 yearsand 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....

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Ward F Pool Party: Sat Oct 6th, Scona Pool

I’m excited to announce our second annual back to school Ward F Pool Party!

1030-1230, Saturday October 6th. Scona Pool.

Click here to download the invitation: Oct6WardFPoolPartyInvite2012

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.

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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.


Michael Janz

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


Suppor banning corporate and union donations and municipal campaign finance reform

On 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.

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:

Advocacy for anti-racism in the new provincial curriculum

We need the provincial government to make explicit anti-racism outcomes in the new provincial curriculum.

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Fairness and Equity for Alberta Public Schools

UPDATE MARCH 21st: The EPSB Approved my motion below unanimously and we sent a letter to the minister of education.

On Tuesday March 6th I moved the following notice of motion to be debated at our March 21st meeting.

Be it resolved that the Edmonton Public School Board advocate to the Government of Alberta to develop a framework to ensure Public schools get a fair and equitable share of schools, modernizations, portables, and capital project spending. 

  1. All schools, portables modernizations, and capital funding to Public and Catholic schools are  awarded by the provincial government.
  2. We lack transparent policy from the provincial government how schools are prioritized and awarded between different school districts.
  3. Public students and families across Alberta– especially in Edmonton– need their fair and equitable share of capital funding– especially for new schools
  4. Despite only 25% of Albertans being Catholic, the government appears to provide them an unfair and inequitable amount of school dollars, sometimes between 30-50%.
  5. Fairness and equity in transparent, defensible provincial decision-making would prevent unreasonably advantaging one group over another.
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New Schools Should be Energy Neutral

New schools should be energy neutral, public school board says

Newly constructed Alberta schools should be "net zero," Edmonton public school trustees believe — equipped to both conserve energy and generate it from renewable resources. 

On Tuesday, public school trustees approved a motion 7-to-1 to ask Alberta’s education minister to make future school construction projects energy-neutral by equipping them to generate at least as much energy as they consume.

Trustee Michael Janz, who proposed the idea, said the province should embrace more environmentally sound public buildings to avoid contributing to climate change, to dodge the risks of rising fossil fuel costs and to give students tools to learn about conservation and renewable energy.

“As stewards of our climate and our community, we need to make sure that our young people have an education that’s rich with teachers, not just energy bills,” Janz said Tuesday.

Technology has evolved to bring the cost of constructing net-zero buildings — which could use geothermal, solar and wind power — nearly on par with a conventional building, Janz said.

Trustee Ken Gibson, who is also the executive director of the Alberta Construction Association, said he’s seen studies indicating net-zero buildings can be constructed for about three-to-six per cent more money than a typical building. Achieving parity in those costs requires consumers to increase demand, and the industry will respond, he said.

Gibson also said Alberta’s construction industry likely has the expertise to do net-zero builds well.

‘We need to focus on our needs’

Although they liked the idea of building schools with a lower environmental impact, a couple of trustees questioned whether lobbying the education minister was the best approach.

Board chairwoman Michelle Draper asked whether the board should instead decide to build all future Edmonton public schools as net zero, rather than sending yet another request to a cabinet minister.

Draper said the board should save its provincial advocacy for priorities such as a new high school constructed in southeast Edmonton, without which the city’s public schools will be facing a critical space crunch for teens by 2022. The board has also been asking for help with a $768-million backlog of deferred maintenance on older schools and more in-school mental-health workers.

“We need to focus on our needs, our priorities,” said Draper, the sole trustee to vote against the motion.

Trustee Nathan Ip also questioned whether asking for higher-cost net-zero schools might affect how many school construction projects government approves, if the builds are pricier. The district has a lengthy wish list of construction projects it wants to complete.

Janz said the government is already funding solar panel installations on schools, and “are ripe for a nudge in this direction.”

The Alberta Council on Environmental Education wrote to the board in support of Janz’s proposal, saying net-zero schools have the potential to reduce the district’s carbon footprint and save money in the long run.

“We believe that Net Zero schools represent an excellent opportunity to foster student learning around energy efficiency and renewable energy, learnings that students can then take out into their community and homes,” senior education adviser Marie Tremblay wrote. “Indeed, schools are uniquely positioned to be roles models of sustainability for the communities in which they are embedded.”

Partnership in Action: EPSB Kindergarten students to receive free EPL cards!

As many readers know I’m a passionate supporter of EPL and a former 6 year Edmonton Public Library Trustee. So you can likely imagine my reaction to this exciting collaboration between EPL and EPSB!

I’m overjoyed by the fact that we are working together to improve early literacy and help even more kindergarten kids get free library cards!


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