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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?

 

Youth Faith Day: Public Board Meeting Comments

ECSD is considering the possibility of hosting a Youth Faith Day in February 2016.  Here are the comments I made at the Sept. 9, 2014 public board meeting in regards to this event:

I appreciate all the work that has gone into providing our trustees with this information. I like the idea of a Youth Faith Day and supported the motion at the April 29, 2014 public board meeting to request our administration to research the possibilities of hosting one.  Even though I like the idea of a Youth Faith Day, I don’t like the idea of it costing $100,000 – $113,000 to host a 3 ½ hour event.

Though I think the administration has done well to save money by piggy backing this event with the Faith Development Day for teachers, I believe that this event is too costly and the money could be better used to hire additional aides for our special needs children which would provide additional supports for our teachers with special needs students in their classrooms.  This issue was raised by the teachers involved in the C2 committee and so we know that this is an important issue for teachers.  If we have $100,000 let’s spend it on hiring 3 more aides.

We also have a meal program at Ben Calf Robe School which I know is short of money due to increased enrolments.  $100,000 would go a long way in feeding the FNMI students attending this school.  I believe that by being an example of how we care for our most vulnerable students, we will be inspiring our junior high students as one of the report’s goals states:  “to be empowered to make a change within themselves and into the world”.  We will as a leadership team evangelize our young people by showing them how we live out our faith in Jesus by taking concrete actions to improve the lives of our hungry students.

What I am saying is that I like the idea of the Youth Faith Day but I can’t in good conscience agree to spend $100,000 on it.  I am also one who believes in compromises.  I would suggest that if we believe it really has to happen then let’s find ways to scale it back a bit by holding the event in a large school gym for a smaller group of students but which is streamed to other sites using our own equipment.  If it absolutely must be held at the Shaw Conference Centre, then let’s look at whether we really need to spend $59,000+ dollars for technical needs.  I am sure that the students would get just as much of the message with a couple of microphones.  With the money saved, let’s devote it to those students who most need it in our district.

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