Fiscal Accountability *Strong Governance *Community Representation *New Schools *Improved Educational Outcomes *Health & Well-Being *Safe & Caring Spaces *Priority Spending for classroom *Teacher Supports *Childcare
Motions I’ve moved and advocacy in last term (2013-2017):
1. New School Constructions
Over the past two terms I have been tireless in lobbying government for new school builds to address the tremendous growth that we have experienced in the SW sector. I also relayed this same message of urgency at our board table. These combined efforts ensured that priorities were aligned with needs and that the community of Ward 76 was given appropriate priority for new school construction.
In moving forward and having developed strong and respectful relationships with government officials, I will continue to effectively advocate for additional schools for our community. In considering construction time lines, it will also be crucial that we closely monitor population projections for high school students as well.
2. Comprehensive Provincial Vaccine Database
After articulating my concern related to gaps in Alberta’s vaccination database, Dr. Bob Turner, MLA for Whitemud, took my concerns to caucus. This helped to support the formation of a new legislative Bill calling for the creation of a comprehensive vaccine database for the province. This makes Alberta the first province in Canada to house this valuable information. In addition to providing immeasurable value related to disease surveillance and health promotion, the existence of such a database is critical to providing schools with a sufficient avenue to implement disease outbreak legislation. As the legislation states, in the event of disease outbreaks, unvaccinated children are not permitted to attend the school system. Consequently, prior to the existence of this database, schools and public health officials lacked an effective and efficient mechanism to identify unvaccinated children should quarantine measures be enacted.
3. Education Series for Families and Proposed Mandatory Vaccinations to attend Public Schools in Alberta (see home page)
Following the development of vaccinations, countries around the world could prevent disease for which vaccines were administered. Consequently, vaccinations have saved millions of lives and led to the eradication of small pox. Vaccinations are the only safe and effective treatment to combat the following childhood diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella and polio. Vaccinations work with the body’s immune system to build up antibodies against viruses. When a sufficient number of people within a population are vaccinated, that population develops protection from that disease. This is known as herd immunity. Depending on the disease, 85-97% of the population must be vaccinated to maintain herd immunity to prevent outbreaks that can lead to unnecessary suffering, debilitation, death and tremendous healthcare costs. Alberta is currently below required threshold levels to prevent outbreaks.
A host of policy interventions have been applied around the globe to improve and sustain minimum required threshold vaccination levels to prevent outbreak. Most efforts have been insufficient in achieving the necessary rates of coverage to provide herd immunity. This has resulted in continued and growing numbers of epidemics on a global scale, including numerous recent outbreaks in Alberta (measles, mumps & whooping cough). To combat falling vaccination rates in the population, government, health-authorities and public-school officials must adopt new measures as part of an on-going multifaceted approach to the problem. Policy alternatives that include: enhanced provisions to increase public awareness, mandates that require students in public schools to be vaccinated, and tax incentives need to be examined and evaluated.
4. Financial Literacy Curriculum (see home page)
The economic and psychosocial impact of poor financial management, at both the individual and population level, is tremendous. We cannot afford (pardon the pun) to leave another generation of youth graduate without a sound grounding in financial literacy given the life-long implications of poor financial decision making. We must successfully impart within all students the importance that money management will play in their lives. Financial literacy must be incorporated into the new curriculum. It is a modern-day solution to a profound and prolific modern-day challenges.
5. K-12: Age Appropriate Curriculum to Support Children in Reporting Sexual Abuse
It is estimated, that in Alberta, one in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Adding to the complex and often confusing nature of these crimes, most of this abuse will be by a trusting adult. It is critical that children and youth be provided with age appropriate skills to assess and report such crimes. Failure to empower children only results in the unintentional empowerment of perpetrators. A provincial strategy to reduce these crimes is sorely overdue. I am proud to say that my efforts to protect students resulted in this motion being provincially adopted across all Alberta Schools.
6. K-12 :Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being Curriculum
As children move through the educational system it is important that we create environments that support the development of strong emotional health. This means increased understanding of what healthy relationships look like, awareness of emotions, ability to identify constructive criticism, how to neutralize inappropriate behavior, how to support one’s self and others in the promotion of good mental health etc. Education such as this provides a mechanism to prepare students for future success. It is essential that these skills be develop and honed to support citizens that are emotionally strong. Emotionally strong populations enjoy improved quality of life, enhanced job opportunities, reduce health care costs and contribute to an economically sound system. Consequently, we want to ensure that skills taught lead to greater understanding of emotional health and that persons are better adept in promoting emotional well-being within the self and towards others. Although this type of curriculum would be a newer concept in Alberta, it is well developed and incorporated into many curriculums around the world, including that of many European nations. (This motion has been also been provincially adopted in by all Alberta Schools)
7. Sex Education Reform: Health Professionals Advocate for Improved Education to Reduce Epidemic Levels of Disease and Injury
All persons have the right to fully understand their bodies and understand options that can help protect their health; both physically and mentally. Current gaps in the sex education curriculum have the potential to place students at unnecessary risk. Knowledge is the key to prevention and thus to strong physical and emotional well-being. A lack of information can lead to severe consequences from both a health and legal stance. I believe that we have a duty to present students with both theological teachings and scientific fact-based information pertaining to sexuality.
8. Information Series to Provide Families and Students Critical Information Pertaining to the Dangers of Fentanyl
Given the deadly nature of fentanyl and in response to a growing crisis across Alberta that has resulted in thousands of deaths, I felt that it was crucial to impart as much education related to this opioid drug with families and students. Unlike other drugs, minuscule amounts of fentanyl will result in overdose and often death. It is crucial that families understand the multiple mechanism by which this drug is absorbed into the body (even handling a grain sized amount of this drug without skin protection can result in death). Facts such as this, along with emergency response that requires the immediate administration of Naloxone can save lives. As such, I led the charge to have this and other related information imparted to families and students.
9. Review of the Superintendents Contract
Boards across this province are charged with the hiring and retention of district Superintendents. They are also responsible for negotiating contracts to retain these individuals. When these contracts are up for renewal, it is the duty of boards to re-examine the contents within these agreements prior to any public vote to renew the contract in question. As such, I made a request to have our board meet prior to the public meeting date to have a fulsome discussion surrounding the Superintendents contract. This meeting would have offered our board a mechanism to prepare in advance for this important discussion along with an opportunity to meet as a collective group prior to the date of the public motion to review terms within the contract. In doing so, it would have provided that opportunity to negotiate new terms. Unfortunately, upon me making several requests for such a meeting, no provisions were made to do so. It is for this reason that I felt I had to vote against renewal of the contract given that a fulsome board review of contents did not occurred. The contract was renewed in public board by a 4 to 3 vote.
It is crucial that the public understand that my requests to embark on this process was by no means a reflection of our Superintendents performance. In fact, I think that our Superintendent does a good job. However, as part of due diligence, keeping terms relevant and salaries appropriate for the job description can only happen when terms are negotiated on an on-going basis. This process is one of the more crucial mandates of trustees to perform and part of proper board governance.
10. Requested that ECSD Foundation Provide a Business Plan Prior to Board Transfer of 1Million in Funding.
11. Partnership with Reboks Canada and the University of Waterloo to deliver a morning physical activity programming to schools within out district.
Research is showing an association between morning physical activity and improved learning outcomes. Additionally, this type of innovative programming supports improved physical and emotional health that is associated with active lifestyles and strives to improve outcomes related to the youth obesity crisis among Alberta students.
Here are a few motions I’ve moved from 2007-2013:
Adolescents have amazing energy, passion and a unique ability to think outside the box. They are intimately connected to the education system and know where the strengths and weaknesses lie. From this vantage point, students are well positioned to provide meaningful input. This motion brings real opportunity for students to collaborate, discuss and present information to the Board that will lead to stronger policy, aimed at enhancing and increasing relevance in learning and improving school environments.
When students are provided meaningful opportunities to contribute and actively engage in decisions related to their environment, learning outcomes, self-esteem and social relationships are all positively impacted. All of these qualities are immensely valuable to each student as well as to the general atmosphere within the district itself. I strongly believe that students have the capacity to be active contributors to the system and in doing so reciprocal benefits emerge.
Anticipating many potential benefits, including shorten ride times, a reduced environmental footprint and immeasurable cost savings it only makes sense to look to partnerships of this nature. Although there will be logistical challenges as we unveil this new initiatives, we need to continue to seek fiscally responsible service delivery models. Along these lines, I will continue to push for partnerships such as this in other areas as well. One such example would be to centralize purchasing between the two districts
My work in this area has led to the creation of a Memorandum of Agreement between the two educational institutions; Edmonton Catholic Schools and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Consequently, we now have the ability to offer Business courses to our High School Students Access to varied subjects helps students to discover future potential paths, increases engagement and heightens learning.
This Memorandum allows students opportunities to explore potential career interests and gain college credits while still in high school. In 2013, it is very difficult for students to acquire meaningful and long term quality jobs without some form of post-secondary schooling. Initiatives such as this can help motivate students towards this path.
Due to a restructuring in Board Business, committees of the Board were dismantled. However, it was apparent that in order to fulfill our mandate this motion was necessary. As Trustees, one of our primary roles is to Govern. This is accomplished through the Policies and Administrative Regulations that we review, revise and create. In doing so, we increase efficiencies, mitigate risk and improve outcomes and services for the students and families in which we serve.
Second languages are critical in enhancing learning outcomes and developing student appreciation for culture. Language also improves and increases access to employment opportunities both at home and aboard for our graduates. With an ever expanding district, it is imperative that we bring voice to this large sector of families to help set direction that is meaningful, and serves the needs and wishes of parents to the best of our abilities. Several factors need consideration when a district this size seeks to deliver effective language programming. The goal is to maximize accessibility, meet a variety of family needs and balance those preferences with cost and infrastructure pressures. Parents must have a voice in this process and be given opportunity to provide input, explore options and express concerns.
The complex nature of any organization requires ongoing analysis and assessment of efficiencies, productivity, and risk management. As a Board, we are responsible for over a 300 million dollar budget and it is critical that we be vigilant to ensure that departments are effective and productive.
Part of the duties of the Board of Trustees is to operate an audit committee. Each member of the board is represented on that committee and is responsible to ensure that financial statements are accurate, balanced, and make good fiscal sense. This is one of the most important responsibilities of Trustees and for this reason I brought forward a motion to include an external and independent member with financial expertise to sit on this committee. This individual has the expertise to ask pertinent questions of our Chief Financial Officer and of our auditors and to provide feedback to the Board. Following my motion, our Board became one of the first Boards in the Alberta to take this direction, a direction supported the Auditor General.
Transparency at Public Board: I recommended that more Board business be discussed at Public Board meetings, rather than at internal planning meetings which tend to be confidential in nature. Standard practice would dictate that only issues relating to land, labour, or law need to be considered confidential, and therefore, all other aspects of school board policy and operations can be discussed in an open forum. To document the effectiveness of this change towards increased transparency, at my request, a review of this practice was added to the Board self evaluation process so that the progress could be evaluated after one year.
I am pleased to see that my continued efforts to move Board business into the public realm have come to fruition. As a strong advocate for transparency and commitment this move was paramount. Several of my motions including this one that has seen the district live stream board business supports this belief.
Community engagement is of utmost importance to the overall success of any school system. The convenience of webcasted Public Meetings offers community easy and effective alternatives aimed at improving communication and allowing for easy access to Board activities.
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 continues to hamper efforts to deal with mental health on a number of levels. I am diligently working with numerous stakeholders through Alberta Health Services to make improvements. Further, I am working on a proposal that I intend to present to the Honorable Fred Horne, Minister of Health and Wellness, to improve and coordinate communications between families, mental health workers and the classroom teacher. Additionally, I am working with one of Edmonton’s leading Psychiatrists who is committed to providing free professional development for staff. This initiative will help enable teachers to better understand, assess and respond to vulnerable students.
I am passionate about this and believe that in order to maximize student potential, it is imperative that children and youth be given information, tools and opportunities that support good health. I am committed in continuing to take a lead role with respect to student comprehensive health. This means policy supports the development of 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, improving access to affordable nutritious meals and snacks and creating environments that support mental health. In fulfilling this commitment, I will continue to actively participate on local and provincial committees in the area of student health to bring voice to this important issue.
I requested an evaluation of the Edmonton Catholic School District’s nutrition policy, to enhance nutritional education of our students and their families. In addition, I proposed to investigate the potential to increase the level of healthy food choices in school cafeterias, food kiosks and vending machines.
Fraud is one of the most difficult crimes to identify. My intent here was to have an avenue that is discrete, private that allows employees or community members to report activities that may be questionable in nature. It is important that individuals know that their concerns will be investigated without concerns of retribution or harassment. Purposeful fraudulent behavior has not been an issue at Edmonton Catholic Schools, however, as part of good sound governance and risk management, all organizations of our size need to have a mechanism to address such concerns in a safe and private manner.Motio
It has been well documented that areas of high vehicle density can lead to elevated levels of toxic exhaust gas emissions in the air of surrounding buildings, in this case, our schools. And this air quality is especially important for small children. For this reason, I led an initiative to educate our parents on the advantages of establishing idle free school zones. Through this initiative, parents can be made more aware of air quality related to unnecessary car idling, and can be encouraged to turn off their vehicles while waiting to pick up children.
I requested a new policy in this area for two reasons. Long term assignments are paid according to a pay scale which means that retired teachers working as substitutes represent a higher cost to the system. In addition, teaching as substitute teachers provides employment opportunities for recent graduates, helps them develop their essential and practical skills, and provides a mechanism towards obtaining a full time contract. In addition, substitute teaching helps ensure that recent graduates from the Faculty of Education stay in the profession rather than seek employment elsewhere. Demographic data for Alberta indicates that within the next ten years there is going to be a teacher shortage, and providing near term opportunities as substitute teachers is one more way to help retain our trained young teachers. This policy change has resulted in improved equity for our young teachers as well as reducing school operating cost