Issues



General Issues:

Fiscal Accountability * Strong Governance * Preservation of Catholic Schools * Community Representation * New Schools * Improved Educational Outcomes * Health & Well-Being * Safe & Caring Spaces * Priority Spending for Classroom * Teacher Supports * Childcare *Student needs * Infrastructure * Early Learning



Pressing Issues re: campaigning feedback:

Recess for all Elementary Students *Mental Well-being of Staff * Hiring Practices * School Boundaries * Inclusion * Safe & Caring Environments * Needs Based Staff PD



What does this all mean?

Fiscal Responsibility & Funding

We need transparency and accountability in the use of public dollars.  With Provincial Government budgetary restraints impacting funding, we need to work hard to ensure that sufficient funds are available for all our programs and that spending is controlled and in accordance with the priorities of our District.  We need to advocate for our students, assess spending, redeploy funds where needed.

In order to make a strong case with the Ministry that more funds are needed we must be able to justify how dollars are allocated. This means that priority spending sees dollars directed to the classroom.

One recent example of my fiscal diligence were my requests to have the board re-negotiate terms within the Superintendents contract, including salary discussions (note that this was not reflection of performance, rather a function of governance duties). Unfortunately, this request was not accommodated prior to the date of the public meeting to renew the contents within the contract. It is for reasons such as this, that it is imperative for trustees understand basic concepts related to contracts that include setting guidelines and limits such that salaries are kept reasonable and  in-line with job descriptions. This is necessary to avoid the runaway costs that we are now subject to. (In the end I voted no to the renewal of this contract. This given that it now exceeds $400,000).

Student Health

In pursuing my Masters in Public Health and as per a life long interest in student/population health, I am keenly committed to continuing to take a lead role with respect to student comprehensive health.  I am passionate about this and believe that, in order to maximize potential, it is imperative that students be given information crucial to leading healthy lives.  This means that they develop skills and attitudes that create lifelong patterns for healthy dietary choices and physical outcomes.  At the Board level we must ensure that all students be provided access to implement what they have learned.  This will be accomplished by increasing opportunities to participate in physical activity, including afternoon recess for all elementary students; improved access to nutritious meals and snacks in environments that support mental health.

Along these lines, I continue to seek policy that will see shifts in attitudes and outcomes for students struggling with mental health issues.  Unfortunately, stigma and a lack of knowledge and understanding of the numerous mental health issues continue to hamper efforts to deal with mental health on a number of levels. I am diligently working with numerous stakeholders to make improvements.

To highlight some of my most recent work:

  • Made recommendations MLA Dr. Bob Turner that saw the creation of a vaccine database for Alberta. This became a provincial Bill, making Alberta the 1st province in Canada to house such information.
  • Motion to revise sex education curriculum.
  • Motion to incorporate mental health and well-being skillsets into the curriculum. (this based on a global scan of best practices)
  • Called for district-wide information sessions on mental health and on the dangers of fentanyl for students and families.
  • Called for mandatory vaccinations against major childhood preventable diseases to attend public schools; this in response to vaccination rates below levels that protect all persons from outbreaks.
  • Called for curriculum to teach all students, in an age appropriate way, how to identify and report sexual abuse.
  • I identified and encouraged the adoption of a  partnership with Reboks Canada and the University of Waterloo, to facilitate more physical activity programs in our schools. 

These are just a few health related initiatives that I have brought forward to enhance outcomes for students. To learn more, go to the “my work to date” link in the menu on the home screen.

Students Needs

The strength of Edmonton Catholic Schools can be measured by the quality of our graduates.  As such, we need to provide quality resources for our students.  This includes: up-to-date resources and technology, teachers who teach in their areas of expertise, teachers well versed with the latest technological tools, and appropriate class size and composition. These are areas where continuous improvement must be the norm to keep our education system relevant, and effective.

I believe education is integral to our society and economy. Without this investment, Albertans and their children will continue the roller coaster ride associated with our current resource based economy. Education must be tied to a long term vision/plan as part of a strategy to diversify and transition Alberta into a knowledge based economy.  Trustees must advocate for and illustrate to government the net benefits of education to society when children succeed.   Every child must be given the opportunity to meet his or her potential.

Special Needs & English Language Learners

Government funding for Special needs continues to present challenges for Boards across the province.  In order to support the recommendations that resulted from governments review of Special Needs Education, funds must be adequate such that resources and supports are available to both staff and students.  If each student is to achieve his/her full potential then dollars must be earmarked toward this effort.  Along these lines, I will continue with ongoing advocacy to see this happen.

Also essential, is supports for new immigrants who often suffer language and cultural barriers and in some instances emotional trauma.  These individuals, given the right supports, will contribute to the future success of our nation.  If not, we run the risk that they fall through the cracks and suffer disproportionally from poverty.  We cannot afford as a society to not harness the potential value and contributions these individuals can give to their community.  The first step is ensuring that adequate language supports are in place.  As boards were hoping to see an extension of funding for language supports, instead we were hit with cut backs.  If we are to increase our success, we must see funding  increased to allow for programming that research has proven effective. I will continue to advocate with the Ministry on this matter.

Protection & Support for LGBTQ+ Students (Answers to key questions)

Do you support gay-straight student alliances in schools? I support GSA’s in our schools. Further, I support them for both teachers and students alike. Simply put, GSA’s save lives and improve outcomes for the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, GSA’s are known to improve outcomes and safety for entire school communities. It is also important to note that GSA’s should be named accordingly so that students are aware that this is a support group specific to them. Pressure to call these groups by more innocuous names should never be imposed but rather chosen.

Do you support human rights and full accommodation for transgender students and staff? Absolutely. Persons are persons regardless of sexual affiliation. It boggles my mind, that in 2017, that the LGBTQ+ community continues to face struggles rooted in fear, ignorance and bigotry. These challenges highlight the need for protection that human rights extend to persons. Identifying as LGBTQ+ is NOT a “condition” or “choice”. Hence, it is time to move beyond labels. Society must recognize that although we are all uniquely different, so too, we are all the same; having similar wants, hopes and dreams. As such, all persons are entitled to live in peace and harmony and deserve full access to all rights and benefits societies offer. Human rights must apply to all, for as the name suggests, rights are for humans and no one person or group should be exempt. 

Accommodations guided by self-expression are also essential and should be self-determined by the individual and no one else. Accordingly, accommodations should not be open to public discussion or debate nor require the permission of another for determination. By having this decision decided by the individual, rooted in free choice that is built on personal expression, as opposed to a decision debated and imposed by others, one’s right to anonymity, personal protection and dignity is upheld.

Research is clear, without accommodations our LGBTQ+ community members are unsafe. Sadly, it is reported that an LGBTQ+ person is beat or murdered every 3 minutes in the United States. This is alarming and tragic.

Do you support “outing” LGBTQ students without their express permission? Absolutely not. Children are not property. They have a right to think and act for themselves along with the right to determine what personal disclosures they wish to make and to whom. Further, I will not support “outing” a child as consequences are sadly chilling, leading to increased physical/mental abuse, isolation/shunning, youth homelessness (that bares additional tragic consequences), or even death. When a person is ready, they can disclose the details of their life. Until this time, no one has a legal right to unfettered access to another’s thoughts or feelings, not even parents. When families are safe and supportive and when youth want to share, they will!

Do you support age-appropriate curricular inclusion of LGBTQ topics in the K-12 curriculum? I do. Tolerance is bred through understanding. Given the continuation of hateful rhetoric surrounding our LGBTQ+ community among Albertans, it is obvious that much of the public continues to be misinformed. Additionally, persons seem to think that any deviation in gender identity/expression beyond the black and white thinking of heterosexual male or female is not a “normal” condition. Education is required if we are to impart increased understanding, tolerance and acceptance. Only through education will society come to realize that gender identity and sexual preferences fall on a spectrum for each and every person.

In my own calls for sex education reform, I have gone on the record stating, “that a dire need for sex education specific to LGBTQ+ persons is sorely overdue”. As a participant in a student lead conversation on sexual orientation at the University of Alberta, it was highlighted that current sex education classes serve little to no value for students who identify as LGBTQ+. Like all students, it is vital that these individuals are provided information that allows them a greater understanding of their bodies and issues that would pertain to their orientation.

Do you support standalone comprehensive sexual orientation and gender identity policies, which support LGBTQ students, staff, and families as a mandatory requirement for all school boards in Alberta? Not only do I support it but it must be meaningful. I watched boards across this province water down these policies by splitting hairs and incorporating discrete nuance language for the sole intent to provide loopholes. As such, these policies are open to interpretation and do little to advance the needs of our LGBTQ+ community. Strong policy is required to ensure that this vulnerable group is protected. It is also essential to providing assurance that districts stand behind equality and human rights.

In my own efforts to see meaningful policy to support the LGBTQ+ community, I have been accused of having a personal agenda beyond the issue; this stemming from my impassioned demands for meaningful policy. Sadly, this commentary reflects one’s inability to understand the power policy holds in protecting vulnerable populations. Still, more alarming is the fact that it highlights just how little one understands the day to day struggles and plight of the LGBTQ+ community along with a need to be protected.

Infrastructure

As our population continues to boom in the South sector of Ward 76 it is critical that new schools are built to accommodate student enrollment.   I am proud that I was able to get Windermere moved to number one in priority on our Capital Plan.  This was no easy feat as other Trustees also feel the respective need for schools in their communities as well.  I believe,  that in doing my homework and seeking data from a number of sources, which included: the City of Edmonton, Stantec Developments and our own, “in house” team, gave me the knowledge, understanding and facts needed to successfully articulate our community’s dire need for schools in the South to my colleagues.  Coming armed with facts and knowledge is the only way to accomplish what is needed in Education, regardless of the issue.

With respect to our existing facilities, shortfalls in provincial funding for infrastructure continues to put pressure on the district.  With a diminished capital reserve that has resulted from ongoing funding cuts, school Boards across the province are struggling to properly maintain and operate our schools.  As our capital reserve continues to be diminish, it is imperative that your Trustee work closely with MLAs and sister boards to articulate the importance of restored funding in this area.  Further, we must articulate to government that funding must meet industry guidelines that supports renewal.  It was at the Alberta School Boards Association that I amended a motion to see this 2% industry standard for maintenance incorporated into provincial policy that is now used to lobby Government.  Further, having a great working relationship with the MLAs in my ward, we have maintained ongoing dialogue on the issue and are working to present our concerns to caucus.  This is crucial, as government must collectively understand the issues clearly and know the priorities when trying to allocate precious dollars.

View highlights and a snapshot of my position and passion on schools for new communities:  Metro News

Responsive & Responsible Governance

Principles of responsive and responsible governance will guide my work as your trustee. In doing so, it means that I will take a balanced approach to policy development and decision making that affects students. This means that I consider input from a multitude of sources including, applicable legislation, theological perspectives, community input, administrative information and other researchable data. Once information is attained, due diligence demands that I thoroughly review and weigh all the evidence against intended outcomes. This process ensures that sound, informed and unbiased decisions are made; ones that best support learning outcomes and that take the needs of each student into consideration.

Additionally, community voice is essential to proper representation. I will continue to provide mechanisms for you to communicate your concerns and opinions regarding the education of your children and the operation of our school district.  Your voice, from Ward 76, has been and will continue to guide my work.

As your trustee, I will discuss current programs in our system with the community and will work cooperatively with board members, teachers, and parents to assess those programs and develop goals and strategies for change and improvement.

Early Childhood Education

Another of my key program priorities will be full implementation of the Junior Kindergarten programming and fully funded all-day Kindergarten.  The success of early childhood education during the formative years has been well documented since the 1980’s.  This does not take away from the value of the nurturing environment of the home, but rather compliments early development through educative play.

Certainly, the advantage to high risk and socio-economically disadvantaged children cannot be overstated.  This program will require additional funds from the Province, and as Trustee, I will continue to take on the challenge of securing these necessary monies.

Effective and Accountable Representation & Communications

Beginning with my first campaign in 2004, I have made substantive progress in hearing the concerns of Catholic School Supporters in Ward 5 (now Ward 76) by knocking on doors and through on-going and open lines of communication.  Through this process you are getting your concerns recognized and discussed at the Board table.  As we continue to deal with rapid population growth in the south of ward 76 along with other matters, your views on issues such as new school construction, school fees and implementation of programs for special needs must be communicated.  It is absolutely critical that we hear the community voice in order to avoid the usual difficulties associated with rapid growth.

I will continue to request invitations to attend School Advisory Councils at each Ward 76 School to ensure that your voice is heard during decision making processes and that the Board and I can respond to your concerns.

 

 

 

 

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