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Parish and School Visits 2014

I have been working hard to get in touch with my Ward 71 constituents by visiting parishes and schools. So far I have managed to visit St. Edmund Parish, St. Philip Orthodox Church, St. Andrew Centre and Parish, St. Vladimir, and Shepherd’s Care Kensington.  I will be visiting Holy Rosary parish Sept. 27 and 28, Sacred Heart Parish October 5, St. Charles Parish November 8 and 9 and Our Lady of Guadalupe (no firm date set as yet).  I have been fortunate to speak at some of these parishes and at least hand out my Report Back to the Community which gives an outline of some of the things I have done since being elected.

I have also managed to visit St. Basil, St. Pius X, St. Angela, Katherine Therrien, and St. Mark schools where I handed out over 300 Report Back flyers to parents attending the Meet the Teacher/Welcome Back BBQ.  One parent thought I was at the school because I was seeking election!  I thought that this was very telling:  that the only time parents see their trustee is when there is an election!  I hope to change that by being more available to parents so I can hear their concerns.

The public needs to know that trustees are not permitted to drop in on schools at any time.  The district has a policy that trustees are only allowed on school property if invited by the principal.  Because of this policy I suggest that if parents wish me to attend school events, that they request the principal to extend an invitation to me.   In the mean time, I will make every effort to be available on the sidewalk at the front of the school when school events are on in order to meet with my constituents. Another way to get in touch with me is by phoning my cell at 587-879-5612 or by email at patricia.grell@ecsd.net.

An Important Note about Notices of Motion and Requests for Information

It is important for the public to know that when a trustee makes a Notice of Motion at the end of a public meeting or requests information from the administration, these go to an “Agenda Setting Committee”.  This committee is comprised of the Chair, Vice Chair, Superintendent and Board Secretary.  This committee decides whether the item is of value or not to the rest of the Board and if it is, then it gets on the public board agenda.  If they deem it is not of value, it will not be placed on the agenda.  I have a concern with regards to this committee because 50% of the membership is held by people who are not elected — namely the superintendent and the board secretary.  I believe that all of the trustees should have a vote on what makes it on to their agenda for their meeting.  Certainly, we should consult with the administration whether they believe the item could be addressed in another manner but the final say of what goes on to the agenda should be made by the trustees who are elected by the public to represent their views.  Please be assured that I will be raising this issue as we revise our Board policies in the upcoming months.

Community League Day, September 20, 2014

We had a perfect day for Community League Day, 2014 — plenty of sunshine, blue skies and warmth!  There are 21 community leagues in Ward 71, 14 of which had an event on September 20th.  I managed to make it to 7 of the 14 community leagues this year:  Westwood, Prince Rupert, Sherbrooke, Carnaervon, Calder, Athlone and Mayfield. I was so impressed with the number of volunteers who came out to celebrate and support our community leagues!  Where would our communities be without you?

It is very important for me to get out into the public to connect with my constituents because it gives me a chance to hear what is on your mind. I was elected to represent the concerns of the public and so I really want to hear from you — how can I serve you?  Going out into your communities gives me a chance to see where you live and what challenges and opportunities you have where you live.  I knew for example that Athlone had a new development called the Bellweather but received more detailed information by visiting the community.  This development will have 4 storey apartments and 3 story walk ups in the core of the development, with duplexes around the outer perimeter. Apparently this development will eventually house 1,000 people — a great boon to nearby St. Angela school.

I learned as well of the fabulous collaborative efforts between the Prince Rupert Community League, Terra Association and the Thai Community to build a new hall in Prince Rupert.   It is wonderful to hear how the City of Edmonton is bringing groups together to share facilities to the benefit of all involved.

Thanks to everyone who fed me and made me feel so welcome in your communities! I had a very productive and pleasant day and enjoyed meeting all of you!

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Notice of Motion: School Fees for Sports Academies

I placed this Notice of Motion at the September 9, 2014 Public Board Meeting:

I move that our district provide both full and partial subsidies to students who are unable to pay for these academies to ensure that our district encourages students of all socio-economic backgrounds to participate in these academies.  I move as well that these subsidies be well advertised so that parents are made very aware that there are no barriers for their children to participate in our academies.

Rationale:

Our district is a publicly funded, Catholic Christian district which provides sports academies for elite athletes.  Some of these sports academies charge parents $2,300 per student per year for the privilege of their children to attend the academies.

Notice of Motion Re: Teacher Workload Update

After the last round of contract talks with the teachers the Ministry of Education initiated a committee that would study teacher work load. The committee produced a report titled “Towards a More Effective Classroom:  Enabling Teachers to Focus on Student Learning” and the ECSD received it at the end of October 2013 from the ATA Local 54 C2 Committee.  The 4 priority issues identified by teachers were:  inclusion, teacher time, supervision (e.g. lunch time supervision), and report cards.

My Motion:

The Administration provided a report to the Board in regards to the C2 Committee’s recommendations in April 2014.  I recommend that the Administration provide a progress report to the trustees on the implementations of the C2 committee’s recommendations at our October 2014 public board meeting.

Once we receive the update, I will post it here on my website.

Notice of Motion: Introduction of a Catchment Area for Archbishop MacDonald High School

This is a Notice of Motion that I put forth at the September 9, 2014 public board meeting:

Considering that we are a publicly funded, Catholic Christian district, I move that our Administration create a catchment area around Archbishop MacDonald and amend their entrance requirements to allow Catholic students who reside in nearby communities to attend their neighbourhood high school.

Rationale:

Because Archbishop MacDonald lacks a catchment area and requires a 75% average for students to attend their regular English program and a 65% average to attend their French Immersion program, not all Catholic students from nearby neighbourhoods can attend their neighbourhood high school.  Some of the communities surrounding Archbishop MacDonald have a higher than average number of low income families whose children must take costly public transportation ($55/month) to attend Catholic high school far from home.

It is interesting to note that EPSB attempted to create entrance requirements for all students attending Victoria School for the Arts – even those students residing in the communities surrounding the school.  This plan was nixed at a public board meeting in January 2013 due to an outcry from the surrounding downtown communities which agreed that their students ought to have access to their community high school.

 

 

Request for Information Re: Designated Schools and Catchment Areas

At the September 9, 2014 Public Board Meeting I requested the following information.  It was determined by Superintendent Carr that this information would be shared at the Annual School Review which takes place in November.  The Annual School Review meeting does not take place in public so I will post the results of my inquiry on my blog once this information is shared with me at that meeting.  Here is my inquiry:

Could the administration give a report on how principals are implementing our policies regarding catchment areas, open boundaries and designated schools?  Could this report be prepared by the next public board meeting?

Rationale for Request:

According to our district website’s School Designations page, each of our elementary schools has a designated junior and senior high school.  St. Paul’s designated school for example is St. Rose and St. Vincent, Our Lady of Peace and St. Pius X’s designated school is St. Mark.  Could the administration explain how this list of designated schools on our website relates to open boundaries?

In regards to catchment areas I am learning that these are being implemented to lesser or greater degrees depending upon the principal.  I have learned that in some cases principals implement the catchment areas in the interest of not taking students away from other schools nearby.  It is a way to reduce competition for students between schools.

On the other hand I know of schools which are taking students outside of their catchment area to the detriment of other schools nearby.  Many students for example who live in the St. Mark catchment area and are designated to St. Mark are accepted into other junior highs in our district.  Could the administration give our board the number of students who could be attending St. Mark given their catchment area and designated school but have been accepted into other junior highs in our district?

 

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