School Closure Moratorium Committee Recommendations (Feb News)

Two very important information pieces regarding School Closures are on the radar.

 

  1. The EPSB Moratorium Committee Draft Recommendations:
    http://www.epsb.ca/board/january31_2012/item04.pdf

Last year when our board established the two year moratorium on school closures, we determined the need to investigate the causes of closures and determine recommendations that could help keep more schools open. The findings focus on actions that the EPSB district should take and actions that the Province and the City of Edmonton should undertake.  Many of the mitigating factors around a school closure (amount of maintenance funding we receive, the number of children in the neighbourhood) are more influenced by the City or the Province and not by well-intentioned school trustees.

These recommendations are being discussed at 2PM tomorrow at our Public Board Meeting. You can watch it online at www.livestream.epsb.ca

To see the information reports on the causes of closures, check out presentations on:
1. Urban Growth Patterns 2.            Aging School Buildings and Infrastructure Deficit 3. Instructional and PO&M Funding 4.            District Enrolment Trends 5.            Space Utilization 6.            Alternative Programs and Open Boundaries 7. Leasing 8.            Concluding public forum

http://www.epsb.ca/trustees/ClosureMoratorium.shtml

These recommendations if approved by the board will become the backbone or our advocacy regarding school sustainability.

Some questions I have…
– So what is the action piece?
– Do we need to prioritize the maintenance of existing schools over new schools?
– Do we need to establish which particular schools are at risk and need supporting?
– What will this work mean in future for our board and future boards in 10, 20, 30 years?
– What options are there for collaboration with the Edmonton Catholic School District?
– Are replacement schools something that should be referenced or considered when the cost of repair exceeds replacement?
– What do you think? [email protected]

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It gets better for LGBTTQ students, staff, and families

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 policyand 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 [email protected]. If you would like to share your thoughts just with me: [email protected]

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.


2010-2011 EPSB Trustee Highlights

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 [email protected] 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 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!


Outdoor Ed and EPSB

Recently I had a chance to sit down with a very passionate Outdoor Education teacher at an EPSB Junior High. We had a great chat about our board’s 2010-2013 district priorities, how a robust outdoor education strategy could support these objectives, especially Priority #1, increasing our high school completion rate, and the formative role that outdoor education played in our own orienting stories...

 

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Opportunity Rich Schools and Sustainable Communities

The good folks at the Cities and Schools Centre at UC Berkeley have published a report with seven recommendations for alignment between different levels of government and decision makers. I had a chance to hear from them when they were in Edmonton and I think their research is valuable in our journey to strengthen our community schools and the educational opportunities in our neighbourhoods.

I especially appreciate their cross-silo approach. It acknowledges that trustees, MLAs, City Councillors, bureaucrats, non-profits, community leagues– all members and interest groups contribute to the strength and health of our public education system and the success of our students depends on more than just their school trustees. As the saying goes, “it takes a village…”

To Download the report please click here:

http://citiesandschools.berkeley.edu/reports/ccs_wwc_%20report.pdf

Deborah L. McKoy, Jeffrey M. Vincent, and Ariel H. Bierbaum.
In 2010 the What Works Collaborative invited CC&S to examine the ways in which sustainable community planning could work with school leaders to foster positive educational outcomes.

The report illustrates policies and strategies at all levels of government are increasingly associating educational outcomes with community planning and housing. Challenges remain for local officials and practitioners trying to align these policy areas, including persistent spatial inequity and rigid institutional silos. Through the research, we developed seven steps to link education and planning policy at the local level.

We draw from a national scan of model activities, interviews with key experts and agency staff members, and the authors’ experience working with local governing bodies. The report identifies practical solutions that encompass assessing the current educational environment, engaging the community, strategic planning and implementation of investment, and institutionalizing successful innovations.


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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