Edmonton Public Schools invited trustee candidates to answer four important questions about why they're running and what they bring to the role.
Why do you want to be a trustee on the Edmonton Public School Board?
What strengths and experience can you contribute?
How would you set and advance the Division's goals as Trustee?
What do you see as the three most important challenges facing public education and what do you believe should be done to address them?
Watch my video series called
'Ask me Anything'
Read my answers to
Vote 4 Kids - The Alberta Teachers' Association
Protect Public Education Alberta
Frequently asked questions
I've been receiving a lot of email over the last three months which I find exciting and reassuring; it shows that parents, teachers and other community members are paying close attention at a time when public education needs strong voices. As the election draws nearer the number of surveys and emails are increasing daily.
I'm sharing my answers to some of the most commonly asked questions in hopes that it provides more detail and context to the bullet points in my platform. Please feel free to email me if you've got additional questions.
I've 'edited' some of my responses; deleting personal greetings, identifying information and repetitive details. In some cases I've also combined multiple emails, and added to them as new information has emerged. The spirit of the response, and my message, remain in tact.
I start every email in pretty much the same fashion ....
While I am happy to share my position on a wide range of school related issues with voters, what is more important for me, is to hear about the needs, concerns and priorities of all education stakeholders. I believe students, families, staff and engaged communities are important education stakeholders. I am committed to listening to all points of view prior to decision making; to representing the wishes of the majority, while continuing to respectfully consider those of the minority. I believe that is the most important job of a trustee. I am very interested in hearing your perspective if you're wiling to share it.
While I have my own thoughts regarding the draft curriculum I've been reaching out to a wide range of people, from all political stripes, to hear their thoughts. The overwhelming majority tell me it's flawed and problematic. (I happen to agree.)
Parents are unhappy with both what the draft includes, and what it excludes. They feel it's not age appropriate and their children lack the life experience to relate to much of the material.
Educators have concerns that it's so content-heavy it will be very difficult to cover in a year, and that it fails to take into account the diverse needs and complex realities of modern classrooms.
Education experts have also been very vocal about a wide range of inadequacies and problems, most concerningly that it does not follow evidence-based research on how children learn.
This should be reason enough for Minister LaGrange and her government to start over, however many of the same consultants are already at work drafting curriculum for Jr and Sr High students.
On a personal note ...
As a parent and former teacher I have several issues with the draft curriculum (including, but certainly not limited to) the regressive content that does not reflect the diversity or values of most Albertans. It does not accurately depict the history of our First Nation, Métis, Inuit or Francophone communities, and it fails to respect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, specifically 62 (i).
As an education advocate, who has been fighting for improved parent, teacher and community engagement for years, I take issue with lack of adequate consultation. This process feels rushed. Ignoring all the feedback and pushing it through, in the midst of a pandemic, feels dismissive.
On COVID protocols
Our top priority this school year must be to keep our kids in school! The continual shift between at-home and on-line learning is not good for the well-being, or learning outcomes, for our children. Preventing outbreaks will be essential in keeping schools open. The evidence is clear - masking helps prevent the spread of COVID. I support all protocols designed to protect our students, families, staff and community: masking, distancing, cohorting, contact tracing, vaccines and mandatory isolation.
"Lockdowns" - I hope I'm correct in assuming that by 'lockdowns' you're referring to mandatory schools closures?
I think it's vital to keep schools open for reasons that extend far beyond the delivery of instruction; from socialization and maintaining relationships, to food security and the positive influence of our exceptional educators.
However, our schools and healthcare systems are inextricably linked; with the state of our healthcare system teetering on the brink of collapse. I believe schools have a roll to play in relieving some of the pressure on our medical system.
I stand behind the board's advocacy for test, trace, isolate and their recent call for a Firebreak under the conditions, and with the provisions, that they laid out. I know that decision was not taken lightly; I appreciate their foresight in establishing provisions to lesson the impact on our most vulnerable families.
I take allowing citizens their civil liberties very seriously. We are however at a point in time where we must prioritize the well-being of society as a whole. Trustees are not medical professionals and school divisions have limited financial resources; I would prefer to see those resources (including very valuable time) spent on teaching and learning rather than researching and debating the merits of public health protocols. I would prefer that the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services make these important decisions to protect the health and safety of Albertans.
In the absence of that leadership I support the board's call for mandatory vaccination of all adults in EPSB buildings. When a vaccine becomes available for children under 12, I will also be in favour of vaccines for students. Any requirement for mandatory vaccinations must leave provisions for the exemption of students and staff living with adverse pre-existing conditions who can not be immunized. Recommendations about immunization exemptions are best left to board certified medical doctors and / or specialists in consultation with their patients. I recognize not all students and staff are medically able to be vaccinated; in order for us to protect those individuals we must do everything in our power to achieve herd immunity and encourage all eligible Albertans to get fully vaccinated.
On reconciliation and
supporting First Nation, Métis and Inuit students
I believe reconciliation and anti-racism must be a focus of the work of the board. Reconciliation begins by honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action including advocating for a curriculum that incorporates Call number 62(i) in particular.
The curriculum is the foundation for all learning that takes place in our schools, and I will continue to fight for a rewrite that ensures our First Nation, Métis and Inuit students and staff see their history, culture and contributions depicted with respect and accuracy.
We must work in partnership with Indigenous communities to ensure our approach is respectful, and that it reflects their needs, desires, priorities and cultural practices. Engagement needs to take place prior to policy creation and implementation.
First Nation, Métis and Inuit studnets and families have expressed their priorities regarding connection to, and reclamation of, their cultures. There are several schools in the ward (and across the division) which offer programming for students who come from predominately Indigenous ancestry; from amiskwaciy Academy for junior and senior high students, to the awasis Program for elementary students, and several great nehiyawak language and culture programs. It is essential that we maintain and strengthen programs like these so that students are able to reconnect with traditional ways of knowing, language, culture and land-based learning opportunities.
We need to hire and recruit more First Nation, Métis and Inuit staff and educators and ensure they have dedicated spaces in schools to connect with Indigenous students and have opportunities to engage in cultural practices like smudging. Building relationships with elders, and inviting them to work with Indigenous and non-indigenous students, can provide the kind of knowledge and understanding that builds respect and empathy.
We can also ensure that we:
rename schools that currently bear the name of colonizers who created, aided and implemented the Residential 'School' System and other racist policies.
ensure we're dedicating adequate time to PD so that non-Indigenous educators feel comfortable delivering content and supporting our Indigenous students and families.
provide adequate resources and PD for Indigenous educators to support cultural and language learning.
continue to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and celebrate National Indigenous History month.
On the right to privacy and joining QSAs & GSAs
All students need safe environments in order to be able to focus on their learning; that extends far beyond physical safety.
They need the social and emotional support that comes with feeling welcome, respected and celebrated for their abilities, culture, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic background and lived experience.
Queer Straight Alliances | QSAs | or Gender and Sexuality Alliances | GSAs | (sometimes called Gay Straight Alliances) save lives.
I fully support every student's right to join a QSA/GSA, and to have the right to do so without the fear of being 'outed' to their parents. For some 2SLGBTQ+ students simply joining a QSA/GSA and having their family find out, presents a very real risk to their mental and/or physical wellbeing. Educators have an ethical obligation to protect their students. As a former teacher I am still committed to that principle.
It's also important to note that not all students who join QSAs and GSAs come from the 2SLBTQ+ community. Some students who join are there to support (or learn how to better support) their friends and family members. In cases such as these notifying parents that their child has joined a QSA/GSA would be misleading, and may inadvertently and unnecessarily put the student at risk.
On SROs - School Resources Officers
Providing safe and inclusive environments for all students and staff is vital in our schools. Students who feel respected in, and connected to, their school communities will have better social, emotional and learning outcomes.
Many of our students come from communities or situations where interactions with the police are, and / or have been, traumatizing. Some of those interactions are rooted deep in our history and the impacts are still experienced by students today. This is true for many First Nations, Metis and Inuit students, those from the 2SLGBTQ+ community and newcomers. I can not support having uniformed police officers in our schools, nor any other program that inflicts trauma on (or re-traumatizes) our children. I believe it goes against the board's goal of providing welcoming learning environments.
As a former high school teacher the parent of a grade 10 student, I realize that issues which require policing occur in our schools, and that we must support our staff and administrators in dealing with those issues; our students, families, staff and communities have an expectation of school safety.
Clearly this is a complicated issue which I believe we can address without having uniformed police officers based in our schools. I look forward to reviewing the data and feedback from previous programs, and engaging with all our stakeholders prior to the creation and implementation of a new policy.