New World Order

So, it seems that 10 years in as an elected official and I still am learning the ropes. Tonight, to my amazement and surprise, I was to learn that a board corporate can remove an elected trustee’s motion from the agenda by a simple majority vote, rendering their views silent to the constituents they were elected to serve and to whom they are accountable. To date, I was under the impression that democracy would not only allow but would demand that those whom the public has charged with representing them would grant a trustee the absolute authority to bring any issue into public board for discussion, regardless of views held, rational behind the motion or stance on a given issue. Apparently, this is not so or at least not with our board. This begs the question, am I wrong? If so, I would like to gain a better perspective of how such a process works to support ones elected voice in a society built on democratic ideology.

This leads me ponder a concept that I have often deliberated on. Many times in my capacity as trustee I have felt the need to have access to independent legal council, one that is removed from both school board administration and from the board itself. I believe that such a model would be the best avenue to promote a mechanism to access unfettered, objective legal advice. It is my opinion that in-house council is often put in a compromising position as they try to balance the wishes of an administration to which their employment is tied and that of board members. Similarly,  board members often find themselves with opposing perspectives from their colleagues, often with one perspective aligning more with administrative goals and objectives. Hence, this scenario has the potential to once again place in-house lawyers in a potentially uncomfortable and conflicted position. As such, I think boards and trustees across the province would benefit immensely if a system were put in place that would provide elected trustees full access and opportunity to consult with an independent lawyer(s) to garner legal perspectives pertaining to important governance, legislative and democratic principals. Additionally, such avenues would help to promote and ensure access to unbiased, and objective perspectives regardless of internal organizational dynamics. Along these lines…consider this my request to government to implement this as not only an important resource but a critical resource to strengthen and better empower boards to govern with authority; authority backed by law.

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Recommended Revisions for the new Education Act:

Elected Trustees are governed primarily through legislation defined in the School Act. Government is currently updating this legal document and is set to release a newer version, the Education Act, shortly. As final edits to the Education Act are still under way it is an opportune time to request any final additions and/or revisions that would serve to strengthen content that offer improved legal guidance for elected trustees.

Recently, some trustees found that the current legislation surrounding, “perceived conflicts of interest and conflicts of interest” as defined in the School Act no longer seem to be aligned with the general publics nor the Ethics Commission’s perceptions surrounding this matter. In fact, our board was recently provided two opposing interpretations on this matter; one from our boards in house legal bound to the content in the School Act and one from the Ethics Commission who is bound by other legal interpretations related to this matter. These mixed opinions, illustrate the need for this matter to be examined and rectified. Clarity and direction to abstain from voting would be explicitly stated in relation to this matter for trustees within the new Act.

As public opinions evolve so must legislation. Both perceived conflicts and conflicts of interest are of concern to both public and private sectors. Scrutiny and interpretations of the law are constantly subject to societal perceptions; perceptions that change over the course of time. As such, the new Education Act should be aligned with current business and publicly held interpretations related to perceived conflicts and/or conflicts of interest. The Government of Alberta would be well served in updating those sections in the Education Act that pertain to trustee voting in relation to both perceived conflicts of interests and conflicts of interests.

It would also be beneficial for the new Education Act to direct boards to engage in a mandatory practice of reviewing and discussing as a Board Corporate the contents of  Superintendent contracts. This would be for those years in which either a renewal of the contract is due or in years where a new contract is being voted on. As this is a critical function of boards, all elected trustees should be required to take part in this function and under no circumstances should this function be deemed unnecessary to preform as a Board Corporate. To be clear, this is not the same as having individual trustees look at the contents of the contract alone. This is a call for collective discussions on contractual contents. It will allow for trustee input and feedback, serving as an avenue to recommend additions and/or deletions in a formal process; one that yields the collective scrutiny over a critical board responsibility. Along these lines, a review of related policies should also support this action.

Motion:

  1. I move that the Board of Trustees send a letter to the Government of Alberta requesting that changes be considered for the Education Act in relation to perceived conflicts and conflicts of interests. Specifically, trustees whose spouse or relative(s) hold district positions that report directly to the Superintendent should be excused from voting based on a conflict in the new Education Act.
  2. I move that the new Education Act will include statements that require all Board of Trustees to do mandatory reviews of Superintendent contracts. These reviews will necessitate that board corporate discussion on the contents within the contract itself take place prior to the renewal of any said contract or prior to the implementation of any new contract.

Future

Notice of Motion:

That the scope of powers of Ethics Commission be extended to include school boards.

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What is all the Hubbub about?

There seems to be some more internal discussions brewing and questions surfacing as to why I am doing a Master’s in Public Health. Let me be pointed for a moment. I am doing this for only one purpose, to facilitate my growth as a Trustee and to enhance my ability to lead policy to positively affect student lives and student learning.

I believe that the public has entrusted me, hence the term Trustee, to make the best and most well-informed decisions on behalf of their children. As stated in my last blog, Health and Education are intricately woven. One does not happen effectively in the absence of the other. Also true, is that we don’t get to decide what issues place students at the greatest risk. Sometimes these matters are touchy from a theological stance, but they require attention none the less. I believe that some may prefer that I attend religious conferences that don’t lead to more controversial policy matters, but this is not why I believe the parents elected me or why legislation calls for us to oversee education.

We have many issues that continue to plague our students as sighted through the many different Canadian data banks and registries. Obesity rates continue to soar. STI infections are at alarming historical highs, anticipated gains in mental health outcomes have not occurred. These types of health-related concerns bare immediate attention and demand policy and program designs that are built on evidence to help support meaningful and targeted implementation that yield cost-effective and substantive impacts. The more I learn the better I can become at facilitating policy and leading lobby efforts to support our students.

In designing policy at the Board level, we need to probe and ask essential questions. For example, with more immigrants coming into the system, how do we best serve their needs. Many suffer from pre-existing conditions that have resulted in significant mental and physical trauma. These students may require unique and targeted services. How do we support and design cultural and gender specific programming? How do we best deliver these programs and to whom to ensure that we deliver strong outcomes that will have greater impacts for more students. We must assess that which is effective and in which context versus policies that don’t work. This is what I am seeking to understand and this is specifically why I am in the Masters of Public Health.

As for the cost, the rumblings that I am hearing over the use of Educational PD perplexes me. It certainly doesn’t offer the niceties that come with attending many conferences. Dollar for dollar, I stand solid in my sentiments on this position.

Rest assured, I am not looking for a career change. If I were, I certainly have sufficient experience and education stemming from my other university degree and other substantive university course work to facilitate employment opportunities. The fact is, I embarked on this to enhance my abilities as trustee and the fact that I am running for re-election is illustrative of this. Further, and significant, should I not be re-elected any tuition covered beyond that of the date of my term would be, without question, reimbursed for the full amount. FULL STOP!

 ” Corporate Boards are highly functional while Public Boards tend not to be. The nuance difference is in the level of expertise  and knowledge board members come to the table with”.  (McKillop, I., 2017) As an analogy, if our board had a financial expert, we would likely see a difference in the number and strength of financial policy being put forward. Knowing this, should we not demand expertise in our Boards? Perhaps…another discussion in need of contemplation. 

ECSD PD policy link:

https://www.ecsd.net/BoardofTrustees/Reports-and-Resources/remuneration%20_expenses/Documents/governance/gp-11.pdf

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To PD or not to PD?

The intricate relationship between health and learning is indisputable. Gone are the days where education is solely about catering to the ABCs of learning. The connection between the determinants of health and learning outcomes calls for Educational Governance that is viewed in all its capacity, at all times, and in all realms, through the lens of health and well-being.

As a seasoned Trustee I have initiated many motions and have celebrated their successful implementation knowing that on some level a difference has been made. The scope has been varied ranging from fiduciary matters to improved communication to health and wellbeing. Yet if I take a scan, the great majority of my work has centered on those matters that directly affect the health and wellbeing of our students and hence, learning.

More and more I find that my passion to see healthy happy students has played itself out in the form of motions, advocacy and policy changes that center on health prevention and promotion. This emphasis started early in my career as a Trustees with my first motion in 2007 addressing air quality in and around school zones. This led to anti-idling zones for all Edmonton Catholic Schools. Since that time, I have continued with my goal to drive change, seeking strategies to improve or save lives as evidenced by my calls for, fentanyl and vaccination awareness, motions for age appropriate training to support students in reporting sexual assault, mental health initiatives, and calls for a vaccination database. Of course, on the other end of the successes are those areas that will continue to need support such as programming and services for vulnerable LGBTQ and FNMI students. Still, I can’t articulate in words how grateful I am that my path has afforded me the opportunity to impact the quality of another person’s life.

Through the years I have sought to find meaningful professional development to support my goal to improve outcomes for students at a policy and governance level. One of the best experiences I came across was the annual mental health conference in Halifax. But these experiences I have noted are not always of a similar caliber nor do many conferences lead to substantive impacts in terms of new and innovative or evidence based policy development or programming designs. Of course, there are the perks of travel, nice dinners, down time poolside, and even tours of Disneyland all wrapped in the warmth and sunshine of the usual destination. One such example is the Religious Ed Conference in Anaheim, California. I myself have attended the conference in the past but have since abandoned it as a form of meaningful PD. No question, this conference was enjoyable and uplifting.  However, this conference has not resulted in concrete tangibles that I speak of as necessary to justify the expense.

Now, I don’t wish to discredit anyone who chooses this avenue to advance themselves personally. However, I would earge that reflection and scrutiny  in seeking PD opportunities be evaluated on the basis of what it offers in terms of rigor, academic depth and measurable outcomes. Professional development that has not led to concrete and visible outcomes at the Board level should be reconsidered. Further, and in light of current economic realities, including a $1.31 CDN to USD exchange rate, PD abroad should be seriously re-evaluated.

In searching for the best way to legitimately enhance my own skill set and hence, provide the greatest value back to the taxpayer I have determined that this is through education. It takes discipline, dedication and sacrifice but given the importance of our role should we give any less of ourselves? I think not.

I have asked myself where is it that I want to focus in terms of trusteeship and ultimately, what will best support me in achieving the desired outcome? Clearly, my passion takes me once again to health. So how do I continue to grow so that I can continue to advance the numerous health needs of the district? In contemplation, I made the choice to forego the trips. Instead, I have enrolled into the Masters of Public Health at the University of Waterloo as it offers the program online, allowing me flexibility in fulfilling my Trustee obligations.

Hands down this is the best thing I have ever done in terms of professional development. This program offers a broad and comprehensive approach to health prevention, including mandatory business management and policy development coursework. I can’t imagine what I could have done to better advance my skills given that this encompasses all the essential pieces to effective trusteeship ( business and policy) all within the scope of my greatest passion…improving student lives and outcomes through health promotion.

The learning curve has been fast and furious. Free-time has  been replaced by long hours poring over data banks, reading research papers, and contemplating their application to advancing health through varied designs. None the less, this has come to be a gift that is immeasurable. I would need a book to write on all the information that has been transferred into my arsenal in just a few short months. But suffice it to say, Public Health boils down to two words, health prevention.

As I continue to build in my own professional capacity, I am looking forward to bringing a new level of sophistication to my role as a governor and policy maker for students. Research skills yielding evidence based data will undoubtedly lead me to advance solid initiatives;  identify system needs and gaps; lobby for targeted programming and supports; and advance policy. All this is encompassed within a vision to improve learning and quality of life for this generation of students now and into their future.

I am proud that my work has already resulted in one tangible for the district since embarking down this path. ECSD has now started a BOK’s program at Frere Antoine School. In short, it is a collaborative between Reebok Canada, researchers at the University of Waterloo and school jurisdictions to introduce a morning/or reverse lunch/ exercise program with the potential to quantify the impact of morning activity on learning. This is important and aligns with a philosophy a trustee from another board once shared, “if three tangibles do not surface from a particular PD then it has not been a good use of dollars.” This comment has resonated with me, supporting my belief that it’s not the PD that matters as much as the path it will set you on, one proven by results.

Hoping to see a better return on the dollar, my PD amount has accrued over several years. As it would not be uncommon to see costs of $5,000 CDN for a 3 day conference, it has been my intent to direct these monies towards education; a direction I would like to encourage more trustees to take. Although it may not be possible for all to delve in at a Masters level given that one must forego taking another job and given the time commitment, however and arguably, coursework over conference style PD has proven to be more advantageous and should place high on ones PD priority list.

Of concern  is an Edmonton reporter who questioned the board over my decision to use PD for education. To this day I cannot wrap my head around a position that would see more value in conference PD over educational PD. Prior to this inquiry my PD for the first term of this program was approved according to policy with no questions asked. However, since her probing my PD request to have the remaining tuition for this year reimbursed was denied. I will resubmit on a term by term basis and hope that colleagues find this more palpable.

Based on some of research and data analysis that I have recently under taken I will be advancing matters related to sexual education, physical health and mental health. Data for Alberta indicates some troubling trends. There is much to be done if we are going to make inroads that improve student outcomes as they relate to learning, determinants of health and quality of life.

If you are a parent in my ward and would like to learn more about this program or what I am currently wanting to tackle in terms of student health and wellness, please join me at the Riverbend Second Cup on April 10th, from 7-8 pm.

Finally, a huge thank you to my constituents for allowing me the opportunity to serve you and your family.

Warmly,

Vice-Chair Marilyn Bergstra

 

 

 

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My Proposed Motion to add Mental Health and Wellbeing into Curriculum

One of greatest issues facing our population is the ongoing struggle to support mentally strong and emotionally healthy citizens. We must, with urgency, focus efforts towards prevention and the achievement of optimal emotional health. One such avenue is through education. Curriculum can serve as a mechanism to build a comprehensive understanding and a multitude of avenues to support mental health and emotional wellbeing. This can play a crucial role in relation to prevention, personal safety and overall quality of life.

Opportunities for gained proficiency by students to keep themselves or others emotionally healthy is key. Important to this understanding is the recognition that students are empowered when they fully understand what it means to need help, where and how to access support and methodologies for achieving positive outcomes. In kind, the accumulative result of knowledge, understanding and awareness lends itself to increased personal resiliency and strategies to facilitate improved mental health. Collectively, this serves not only the person but also facilitates avenues for students to support friends in need.

In keeping with all of the above premises, the optimal outcomes are achieved through a progressive curriculum that builds in its capacity over the course of a student’s education. Methodical design, in an environment that promotes safe and open discussions, also serves as an effective avenue for breaking down long-held misconceptions and the many stigmas that have historically plagued efforts to advance mental health and emotional wellbeing.

“While the specific content of lessons will be determined by the specific needs of the cohort we’re teaching, there should always be an emphasis on enabling pupils of any age to develop the skills, knowledge, understanding, language and confidence to seek help, as needed, for themselves or others.” (1)

Research suggest that puberty is a precarious time with enhanced mental health vulnerability. Being aware of strategies to offset emotional challenges increases one’s ability to reduce or even circumvent the onset of a mental health crisis. It is important to also note that although a significantly higher percent of mental health issues arise in during adolescence, mental illness and challenges with emotional wellbeing can and do arise prior to age 10. Consequently, the argument to introduce curriculum in the early years is further supported. In keeping with this notion, curriculum would be developmental in its design, supporting the abilities and understanding of the students as they advance throughout the K-12 educational system.

“According to data collected by the Nuffield Foundation, in 2013, 80,000 children and young people in the UK were clinically depressed; 10% of these were under 10 years of age. They also found that 290,000 children and young people in the UK had a diagnosed anxiety disorder, and one in three of these was under 10.2.” (2) Although the following data was attained via British research, one could speculate that findings across Alberta would be similar in frequency on a population basis. 8% of Canadian youth describe their mental health as poor.

It is well know that Alberta continues to struggles with soaring health care costs and limited access to mental health professionals. Thus, initiatives to prevent and improve mental health make sense on a number of levels. Be it quality of life or financial implications, a need for healthy productive populations builds a case for preventative mental health initiatives.

Through a curricular approach, students would gain an understanding of positive behaviors and associated strategies to incorporate into their personal arsenal to support them in the development of emotional wellbeing. Critical as well, is the ability to formulate healthy thoughts, behavioral patterns and strategies to facilitate the seeking of supports for either themselves or others. This gained knowledge and understanding equips the student for improved mental health and emotional wellbeing both now and long into the future. Swift action in implementing support through curriculum is urgently required in efforts to strengthen mental health and emotional wellbeing outcomes across this province.

 

I have attached a supporting document for your reference that may serve as a valuable resource to gain insight and perspective on my proposal (see attachment links on this site).

https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/curriculum-and-resources/resources/guidance-preparing-teach-about-mental-health-and

Footnotes:

  1. PSHE Association, March, 2015, Preparing To Teach About Mental Health And Emotional Wellbeing, https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/curriculum-and-resources/resources/guidance-preparing-teach-about-mental-health-an
  2. PSHE Association, March, 2015, Preparing To Teach About Mental Health And Emotional Wellbeing, https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/curriculum-and-resources/resources/guidance-preparing-teach-about-mental-health-and
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Public Board March 15th/2016-My Comments

There is no question that sexual orientation and gender expression has become one of the most prominent social issues of the decade. The struggles of those who don’t fit into traditionally accepted gender roles can be overwhelming at best. Much of their struggles stem from negative and critically held beliefs in this area. Public understanding and acceptance is still in need of reform and evolution. Pervasive myth, fear and a general lack of understanding continue to hamper efforts to love and embrace all on the basis of character rather than how one chooses to identify as.

This reality is evidenced by feedback I myself received from stakeholders. Sadly, some of the commentary I received was so over the top, so full of bias and hate that I questioned my own safety at times. I can only imagine that if people could go to such lengths to articulate such hate and ignorance towards me for supporting standalone Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policy, then how far they would go to express similar viewpoints with those who do not conform to their view of the world.

I was dismayed to see individuals and groups using platforms that I saw as exaggerating the intent of the government’s guidelines; guidelines solely designed to support vulnerable children and youth. Clearly, this extreme rhetoric has done nothing to help support our transgender community. Transgender youth need community dialogue that is fact based conversations rather than preposterous, melodramatic composition. Not only has such commentary hurt so many, it has been counterproductive in creating a more tolerant and informed society. Playing on fear is an attempt, at best, to accelerate ones agenda; an agenda lacking a foundation of fact and rational thought.

Education is knowledge and the road to compassion and understanding. Undoubtedly, more education is needed as it pertains to understanding sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) as it relates to our transgender community. Along these lines, I am glad that the issue has been brought to the forefront by government as it has led to much needed debate and conversation. Although societies tend to evolve slowly, it is only through dialogue that we create a knowledge base and begin to drive positive change that will challenge fears and the existence of pervasive myth.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and I would argue that it takes a team to support our most vulnerable students. A recent study by the ATA highlights that a majority of teachers feel that they lack the necessary education to fully understand the needs of our LGBTQ students. I am overjoyed to hear that our ATA is taking steps to address the concerns noted by their members in relation to needs of our LGBTQ students. Research suggests that in order to support students, staff require similar support. To this end our ATA local has started a GSA for its members. Our administration has hired staff to deliver diversity training, to support the formation of student groups and to provide other services to support students. We are moving in the right direction.

I want to relay that as the board worked through this inclusive policy, GP #14, it was done through a lens that focused predominately on issues relevant to our transgender community. In terms of an inclusive policy, I believe it is a good one but it is by no means sufficient, in my opinion, as a replacement for standalone policy. Also, my concerns presented previously on this issue continue to exist; that being the challenges that arise when we try to be all things to all students. Simply put, this is not always possible or realistic. Given this, then what do we do? It is my position that we must support those who are in greatest need. Equitable must preside over equal. To this end, we must do all that we can to support those members of our LGBTQ community, particularly in relation to sexual orientation and gender expression as they are a highly vulnerable group. One need not look too far to view statistical evidence to support the harsh reality for those who fall outside the norm in relation to sexual identity and expression. In a recent study by the City of Edmonton, 50% of Edmonton’s homeless youth are LGBTQ. Additional research suggests that suicide is as high as 57% for individuals in the transgender community.

It is my opinion that:

Given the vulnerability of our transgender youth, given that inclusive policy cannot serve two opposing positions at any given time, given that inclusive policies are proven less effective at reducing bullying for LGBTQ students, given that this policy does not, in absolute terms, adhere to the full intent of the government’s guidelines, given that it does not provide teachers with clear, consistent direction and hence protection, given it does not guarantee the fullest measure of protection and privacy for our transgender youth and given that this is intended to replace a standalone policy that could address all the afore mentioned shortcomings… I will vote against this motion.

 

 

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My responses to the Alberta Teachers Association Questionnaire

1. Please provide a brief personal biography.
Marilyn Bergstra grew up in Edmonton and St. Albert. After graduating from St. Albert Catholic High School, she obtained a Bachelor of Science at the University of Alberta and worked as a research assistant for several years at the University of Alberta Department Of Medicine. Marilyn then entered the Faculty of Education where she obtained her BEd. Her education experience includes several positions both in and outside of Canada including a position as chemistry instructor at NAIT where she was nominated for an Excellence in Teaching Award.
Currently Marilyn is working towards obtaining a Masters in Client Phycology. Marilyn is passionate about student comprehensive health and is working on the sidelines to build teacher capacity in this area. Also, of significance and related to this issues is the wellbeing of our staff. In this next term, Marilyn is looking to make a real and significant contribution to staff and student mental health and will be looking to government to seek new ways to increase services, reduce system duplications and costs, reduce teacher and student stressors, and to reduce the stigmas associated with mental health.

Over the years Marilyn has participated in a range of volunteer activities such as tutoring, the Eucharistic Ministry at St. Thomas More Church, motivational speaking, and in government policy development.
Marilyn has two grown sons who have attended a number of Catholic Schools from Elementary through to High School including St. Stanislaus, St. Mary, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, St. Rose, and Archbishop MacDonald. The Eldest is starting his Masters in International Business and the younger son is working towards a BSc in Physics with the hopes of attaining his Ph.D in the field.
Marilyn has resided in Ward 76 in Edmonton for over a decade and attends St. Thomas More Church.
Marilyn’s current hobbies include running and swimming. This includes participation in local community Triathlons and half marathons. Her newfound love is to cycle through the many beautiful trails in Edmonton.

2. What are the fundamental attributes of Catholic Education?

The fundamental attributes of public education are to ensure that we prepare each child to maximize his/her potential. This includes preparing youth to be active participants and stewards of their community. It also means that students are challenged and given access to a strong curriculum that will prepare them for entry into their community, which in turn allows this generation of youth to mold and influence our future economy, making it sustainable over the long term. It demands that our students are prepared to be flexible, collaborative and above all innovative. It also requires that teachers be provided the necessary human supports and resources to accomplish these goals. Further, it means teachers are given access to a variety of quality professional development opportunities and are supported in their goals by colleagues, administration and community.

2. What are the essential responsibilities of a Catholic school trustee?
In Action:
The primary role for a Catholic Trustee is to live according to a firm commitment to Catholic values and this is done best through action. Our faith component and the qualities of character that accompany it are what must differentiate Edmonton Catholic Trustees from neighbouring public board Trustees. It gives us that base from which we operate. This Catholic foundation and the messages of the Bible create the opportunity to live through action, where students, staff and community are valued. Leadership through Christ must include respect for each other, that we are good stewards of the earth and our environment. We need to demonstrate our faith as it naturally lends itself to providing a strong moral compass to deal with daily aspects of education. Trustees must use their Catholic faith to guide decisions in dealing with the issues of today. Also, this faith component must be reflected in policy particularly on issues such as bullying, health and wellness, and staff and student equity.
Further to this, the primary fiduciary responsibility of Trustees is to the community we serve. We must operate by building bridges between this community, our teachers and our administration to achieve our goals in creating a superior faith based education system. Everyone needs to feel respected, valued and seen as contributing members. In turn, all three parties deserve a role in molding the future vision for our district.
In policy:
Trustees drive change through governance based on policy development and this is the primary role of the Board of Trustees. Policy must reflect the needs of the community, respect the autonomy of the teacher in the classroom, build and support best practices in teaching, and provide safe, clean, and respectful working environments in the classroom and through the District. Governance is about respectful leadership.
Each decision in creating policy should be hinged on the following principles:
– “Is this going to benefit our students?”
– “Is this going to build trust in my community?”
– “Is this a responsible use of our funding?”
– “Is this going to improve our outcomes?”
These questions are guiding principles, congruent with effective Trusteeship.
Further, it is essential that Trustees understand and continually strive to develop and re-evaluate policy as the needs of education evolve. Decisions must be built on sound and relevant research of facts so that any redirection of policy has the desired outcomes. Ultimately, Trustees should strive to maintain policies that are proactive rather than reactive, that put quality education and safety of our students at the forefront, and provide the flexibility for maximum student exploration and growth.
On Budget:
Fiscal accountability is a critical responsibility of the Board of Trustees. Through responsible allocation of dollars we provide avenues to implement and achieve our goals. Responsible spending is of utmost importance, particularly given the recent recession and the corresponding shortage of funds and maximizing outcomes in the classroom must be our primary goal. It is only here that we can meet student outcomes by ensuring that each the classroom teachers is provided supports such as special needs teaching assistants, resources, access to technology and opportunities for professional developments.
In the tough economic times I must continue to put forward new ideas that save dollars without impacting the classroom as did my joint transportation initiative with edm public and my work to bring free professional development to the district to build teacher capacity in the area of mental health did
Along these lines I will continue to work with administration to explore collaboration with other jurisdiction with respect to technology, infrastructure efficiencies, staff faith formation and professional development.

Trustees must have a broad vision for education. One that includes developing and providing services to students that are external to the classroom. As the Minister has repeatedly stated,” too much has been down loaded onto teachers”. We must make use of other institutions and Ministries to alleviate both the cost of providing services to our students and to alleviate the stress that many teachers experience on a day to day basis.
Trustees must continue to push for sustainable reliable funding. It is only through longer term funding commitments that can we be effective in delivering on our vision to continually evolve as a superior educational jurisdiction.

3. Are there any programs or initiatives that you would propose, support or eliminate to improve Catholic education? Outline how you would bring about the program or initiative.
Support: I fully support early childhood education and programming supports for English Language Learners. However, given current shortfalls in funding, boards across the province must lobby government for full funding in this area. Included in the lobby efforts is educating our MLA’s, highlighting the long term benefits in literacy and numeracy for students as seen in research literature in addition to our responsibility to allow each student to maximize their potential. Over the long term, this is a cost effective investment in our society.
Eliminate: There are several programs that I recommend for review based on a cost/benefit criteria. One is the IP Program. While the District has had have some success with IB at some schools, it may not be viable in every case. We also need to examine and clearly understand how programs offered at one school may negatively impact another school within our district. We should try to avoid internal competition for our own students and for this reason I recommend a review of this issue.
Propose: We must move to a model of “true inclusive education” for our special needs students. This means that we welcome all students into their local school. It means that we provide opportunity for all to enter the regular classroom. But it also means that we provide opportunity for specialized programming where needed, and that teachers are given the necessary support, including Special Needs Teaching Assistants, access to a variety of specialists, resources and professional development to accomplish the goals as clearly set out by the Ministry through Setting the Direction. We must ensure that the government takes full responsibility for financially supporting this initiative for our implementation.

4. How do you plan on supporting schools in mature neighbourhoods?

A solution to this ongoing problem is long overdue. I believe the answer is simple in that all levels of government and other stakeholders need to work together to develop neighborhood sustainability plans. The burden of maintaining costly infrastructure cannot be shouldered by the school system. When student populations shrink, boards must assess infrastructure efficiencies, curriculum choices and staff workloads and take the necessary measures to rectify the situation. In the event of closure we need to work together at the grass roots levels to ensure the continued growth and health of our older communities.

Most would agree that schools are the hub of any community. I believe that Municipal and Provincial Governments need to collaborate and seek ways to fund and support existing infrastructure for continued community use if and when deemed feasible. Of course, this would be hinged on a number of factors including things such as, the condition of the facility and community needs in relations to its demographics and existing services. Thoughtful planning for these facilities will have a significant impact on the quality of life for the residents.

5. Describe the oversight role of a trustee in regard to the District’s leadership, planning, budget and programming.

As Trustees and as outlined in the School Act, we are responsible for the quality and care of our students. This is accomplished through our governance. Therefore, Trustees must develop policy and set expectations for District administration that support these outcomes.

Good governance means that Trustees take a leadership role, challenge commonly held beliefs, inquire and ask tough questions, and seek new and innovative ways to lead change. It demands that we seek out knowledge, listen to stakeholders and maintain cooperative and respectful dialogue with colleagues and administrators. It is a fine balance where policy is driven from the top down and its evolution evaluates the strength of past practices while integrating new ideologies and information. For me, Governance is about the development of strong, innovative policy that serves its stakeholders in an effective and productive way, and at its core maintains a defined strategic direction that results in leading edge practices.

It is about the responsible oversight and allocation of monies. Programming must be examined in relation to cost versus benefits. Please visit my website http://www.marilynbergstra.ca to see the many motions that I have proposed and seen passed that support the many dimensions of effective Governance.

6. What steps would you encourage the Board to take to ensure that teachers have an adequate religious and spiritual formation?
First and foremost, Trustees must set the tone at the top in ALL that they do including leading by example. Policy must ensure that our staff accepts the teachings of the Catholic faith. It is important then, that these values are lived through action. Nothing is more destructive to faith than hypocrisy of the very people that claim to be devout.
Trustees must encourage teachers and administration to set guiding principles within their school community. Trustees can and should acknowledge in a meaningful way those individual teachers that strive to make the school community a place of love, kindness, generosity and other qualities that reflect the actions of Christ. I would love to visit my schools and acknowledge these gifts of love emulated by our teachers.
As a district we should also continue to support teachers and administration who wish to pursue faith development.

7. How can the school board most effectively influence financial and policy decisions made by Alberta Education?

Lobby, lobby, lobby one on one, collectively as a board and in conjunction with Trustees from around the Province. We must also harness and organize the power of community in doing the same. Finally, we must show effective stewardship in spending the dollars we are responsible for.

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