Notes from the Campaign Trail
Every Monday, I share a quick update about our campaign engagement and conversations, along with suggested actions that we can take as a community to help our CBE public school system be even better!
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Monday, October 11, 2021
It is one week until Election Day!
In this last edition of Notes from the Campaign Trail, I want to revisit why I am running for CBE Public School Board Trustee for Wards 11 and 13.
This is a critical time in the history of public education. As CBE Trustee, I will advocate for greater student success and education outcomes for all students. I will be an active champion for constant improvement.
I believe in the excellence and possibility of CBE public schools. If you are a CBE parent, teacher, student, or staff member, it is very likely that you do too. CBE schools are the heart of each of our communities brought to life by people who collectively care about student success: our incredibly dedicated teachers, principals, school councils, administrators, school staff, parents and families and of course our amazing students.
When I read through CBE’s Operational Budget, Education Plan, Educational Results and Governance policies, it is evident that CBE is a great public school system that provides educational programming that meets the needs of all students. And, CBE students are successful. Most students often outperform the provincial average, and that is tough to do when you are the largest school board. Can we do better? Do we need to do better? Absolutely. Each and every student needs the opportunity to succeed. We need to focus on addressing educational and employment achievement gaps.
It is also evident, and has been confirmed by the Government of Alberta’s Finance and Governance Review, that the CBE’s overall financial health is in order. I am not running to “take back” or “take over” the CBE. I am running to give back and to work alongside CBE, which necessarily includes working alongside a newly elected school board, students, teachers, parents and community partners to strengthen an already excellent school system. School boards need to provide critical oversight, review, questions and community discussion. It is together as a community that we can support CBE’s mission related to the success of each and every student completing high school “with a foundation of learning necessary to thrive in life, work and continued learning.” Student success equals community success.
I want to take responsibility and leadership in ensuring that our priorities as a community are being met. I support the current Board’s priorities for student success: Achievement, Equity and Well-Being. I am excited and relieved to see that systemic issues related to equity, access (including transportation and school fees), diversity, inclusion, excellence and stakeholder engagement are being acknowledged and prioritized. We need to take further action and engage our community to help advance student outcomes by addressing the barriers to student learning.
We also need to advocate for a new curriculum development process that we can all trust and support. We need a modern and inclusive curriculum that prepares students for the future.
As CBE Trustee, I will use my past experience on the school board to successfully fulfill the roles of governance, representation and advocacy on behalf of CBE and Calgarians AND tackle long-standing problems.
I was surprised when I recently heard a current school board trustee share that they were not politicians. There is no question that the CBE Public School Board operates within the legislative authority of the Province’s education mandate. But CBE Public school board trustees are elected by Calgarians. CBE Public school board trustees make decisions and set expectations for student results and operational management. They are accountable for effective stewardship of resources. They are politicians, albeit ones that can be dismissed by the provincial government.
Local decision making matters. Elected boards matter. Governance, representation, and advocacy matters. I want the opportunity to fulfill all three roles and use my experience to tackle complex problems related to school board governance.
School closures is one complexity that needs to be addressed. Challenges related to school buildings — both new and old — remain. School closures shouldn’t be considered inevitable, and the discussions related to school closures create unnecessary divisions within our community. We need to start a meaningful discussion about who builds school buildings, who owns them, and who uses them. This discussion should be done in conjunction with discussing how best to maximize operational and maintenance funding. We need a community conversation about civic facilities and how best to co-locate schools, libraries, and recreation centres. Any proposed solution includes working closely with The City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta to ensure we see schools as the heart of our communities that can’t possibly be closed.
As CBE Trustee, I commit to using my knowledge, skills and ability to bring people together to help CBE become Calgary parents’ best and first choice for their children’s public education experience.
During my time in the Mayor’s Office, I worked on Calgary's Mental Health and Addiction Strategy, a community-based action plan that creates hope and strengthens support for individuals and families facing challenges related to mental health and addiction. It takes collaboration and community connection to address these big, complex problems.
The pandemic has revealed many cracks in our society and we know increased challenges related to physical and mental health are looming. We need to address the grief, pain and uncertainty we all feel as a result of the pandemic. Each of us are affected by the pandemic, and that certainly includes children, teaching staff and families.
Student learning is directly connected to physical, spiritual and mental well-being. This year is going to be hard and it can also be the year that we all need. We need to build an inclusive, anti-racist community together and we need to address the impact of trauma, food insecurity, poverty, and mental health needs because all of these situations create barriers to learning. Each and every child deserves to be successful. We can each build a life of dignity and prosperity and live the best possible life.
Community-serving agencies already work well with students to address their barriers to learning. We can be even more effective in coordinating these efforts. An associated idea would be to help identify opportunities for high-impact volunteering and mentorship. Let’s find an effective way to direct volunteers to challenges and community-based projects that improve student success. Let’s inspire community-based projects and solutions based on informed decision-making and data.
In summary, I know what the role is and what it isn’t and what it could be!
There are a lot of complex decisions related to CBE that the newly elected board will have to address, including COVID protocols, the draft K-6 curriculum, supporting the TRC Calls to Action, mental health and well-being of students and staff alike, becoming an anti-racist school system, addressing the needs of special education students, school building utilization rates, school closures, and the continued lack of provincial funding for operations and maintenance.
Elected school board representatives can strengthen their influence and impact through engaging students, parents, families, teachers, staff, community, and community partners (including The City of Calgary). Involving our broader community in school board decision-making and meaningfully engaging collaborative partnerships to address barriers to student success will support CBE’s success as the best choice for Calgary families.
Being an elected school board trustee certainly isn’t easy. I believe our school board needs strong advocates with experience, knowledge and compassion to advocate for students. I would be honoured to be your choice for Wards 11 & 13 on October 18.
Monday, September 27, 2021
We are entering the last three weeks of the election campaign!
I want to thank the many people who are volunteering and donating to the campaign. Your support has made it possible to get a brochure to almost every household in Wards 11 and 13! This is a huge accomplishment. AND, on top of that, we’ve been installing lawn signs throughout the Wards.
My favourite part about sharing my platform, values, and stance on the issues is how it has ignited such great conversations with all of you. We’ve talked about the importance of a public school system; the necessity of removing the draft K-6 curriculum and starting with a process that we can trust and support; the importance of detailed, thoughtful awareness and support of the TRC Calls to Action; and the need for further action to create an inclusive, anti-racist, and welcoming school environment so that every child feels safe and accepted.
And, of course, we’ve had many great conversations that all return again and again to the importance of neighbourhood schools — such as pedestrian safety and the ability for students to walk or bike to their community school.
Insightful conversations are the start of meaningful advocacy and action. I am excited, inspired, and grateful that so many of us are talking and taking action in support of the CBE and public education. This is what we truly need at such a critical moment in the history of public education.
Throughout this campaign, the one constant for me is the reaffirmation of the importance of student and community success. CBE's mantra is #weareCBE — we are in this together and we are not alone.
Next week, you can safely and conveniently cast your ballot during advance polling from October 4 - 10. Of course, you can choose to wait to vote on the official Election Day on October 18! Learn where you can vote at www.electionscalgary.ca.
Thank you all for your support and taking part in the conversation. I truly hope that each of you are staying safe and well during our fourth wave.
I can easily be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 403-470-0379
P.S. Here’s the brochure if you haven’t had the chance to see it!
Monday, September 13, 2021
One of the reasons I am running to be elected as the Ward 11 and 13 representative on the CBE Public School Board is to bring the community and The City of Calgary into CBE’s decision-making processes. While we are effectively engaging School Councils, staff, and many community partners now, I just think we can do even better.
CBE public schools should be the best choice for Calgary families. We make that a reality by working together as a community. There are many of us who know the importance of publicly funded public schools and public education. Broad community support for the CBE ensures it is an effective system of public schools that welcomes all students.
At the doors, we are asking citizens to share any accolades or concerns they have about public education, about our CBE schools. It is amazing how you can easily have in-depth, caring conversations in a matter of minutes. People care and they want to be engaged.
I want to share just two examples from the doors this week. Both inspire and motivate me to support local community engagement and decision-making. One involves the lovely smell of lemon poppy seed cake baking in the oven.
- A young professional shared her frustration in driving on her street in her community during school arrival/dismissal times because of the congestion of parents driving their children to school. The volunteers I was with had first-hand experience in organizing parent parking patrols in their own neighbourhoods, and we discussed how that worked and didn’t work. We talked about whether she had shared her frustration directly with the school--she hadn’t. But we did notice the No-U Turn street sign so it was obvious that safety was a topic of discussion for both the school and for the community. As we continued to the next door, one of the volunteers asked “Why aren’t kids walking and biking to school?” Exactly! The City of Calgary and community organizations like Youth En Route or Ever Active Safe Schools are focused on improving active and safe routes to school. We all know that increased physical activity improves both learning and mental health. At the school board level, we should include these issues in policy expectations and engage our community to support action.
- And now the story about the lemon poppy seed cake! Imagine walking up to a screen door, the door already open, and a lovely senior welcoming us onto her porch as we stood physically distanced and masked but still smelling the lovely aroma of her baking. (Just an aside, she was baking because it was her birthday the next day and she wanted to be able to offer family and friends a slice of cake. Of course she invited us to come back the next day!) Her story about public education included her activism, her persistence, and her passion in support of starting a kindergarten program at her local school in 1973! I had tears of delight in my eyes when I met this wonderful woman at her door. She exemplifies all that is good and great about community, and I am so grateful to have knocked on her door.
Community! It is an important touchstone that we need to highlight and talk about. We can make a difference together. We can improve public education together!
Monday, September 6, 2021
I am an introvert, so one would think I would not enjoy campaigns or door knocking. But nothing could be further from the truth. Campaigns matter. Elections matter. These are our best opportunities to listen and discuss important issues that matter to all of us. Public conversations, either in-person or online, are our chance to talk about how to improve student success. I am most grateful for people opening their doors and talking about public education and the choices they make to support our students and our community.
The draft K-6 curriculum from the provincial government has been on a lot of people’s minds this week. Whether families have children in public schools, private schools, or no longer have children in school, no one likes the draft curriculum. Our community and our students deserve better. As the provincial government moves forward with this draft curriculum, school boards and citizens will need to continue to advocate for change and for a collaborative and inclusive curriculum development process that we can trust and support.
If there is a silver lining to this conflict, it is that the dislike for the curriculum has given us the opportunity to talk about what we already have and what we might need in a modern curriculum. Critical thinking, understanding our history, physical activity, the arts, mental well-being, languages, and (of course) the ability to read and to do math are focus areas that come up in every conversation about the kind of curriculum we need. Most important: our children need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed in this uncertain and fast-changing world.
Given the interest at the doors on this issue (including discussions about the importance of learning a second language or Indigenous language) I am intrigued and excited about having a community discussion about what the best elementary school curriculum could be for our children. Do we already have it in all CBE schools? How can we make it even better for all students?
These types of discussions, at the school board and community levels, will engage so many of us in supporting student success. Just imagine every student answering the question “What did you like best about school today?” and having “recess” no longer be their first answer... but just one of their answers!
I know this is a critical time in the history of public education. Ensuring every single child in our city goes to an excellent school is the foundation for our community’s success. My commitment is to make Calgary a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, and I know that CBE can provide that choice for Calgary families.
Thank you, again, for your support and for your questions. I can easily be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 403-470-0379. There will only be moments during the day when I might not be responding because I am finding time by myself to re-energise - because that is what introverts do. But, I don’t shy away from the tough conversations, I welcome them because our success depends on our community being engaged in our public school system.
Monday, August 30, 2021
I have had many thoughtful conversations this week, and most of them have been about CBE’s mask mandate (which is just part of the plan for a safe return to school during this fourth wave of COVID-19). I have received emails from parents who want to end CBE’s mask mandate. I have also heard from parents who are worried about sending their younger, unvaccinated children back to school.
We need to support one another to reduce the risk of COVID transmission in our schools. On balance, all of us wearing masks while indoors, at the start of this school year, will help keep our schools open. And, going to school, in my opinion, is the best thing for everyone's mental health and well-being. I support the CBE’s mask mandate. I also believe we should consider doing even more to keep our children safe during these difficult times. This should include providing families with more information so they can make decisions to support their children’s safety. These are important issues that elected representatives need to discuss and act upon.
All conversations this past week, whether by email or in-person, have reinforced my decision to run for CBE Public School Board for Wards 11 and 13. I know I can use my previous experience as a school board trustee—along with my experience for the last 10 years in Mayor Nenshi’s office supporting files on poverty, homelessness, mental health and addiction, civic engagement and community relations—to support our community to take action and improve student success. The last ten years have reminded me that local decision-making matters; school boards can be incredibly effective through leadership, advocacy and representation.
After all of these important conversations, I always return to a place of hope. I so appreciate a tweet I read today:
“So… let’s breathe in the optimistic wisdom of E.B. White.
@parisreview ‘Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net.’ —E. B. White”
So many of us are anxious these days. The normal jitters of children returning to school are compounded by the times we live in. But I know one thing to be true: we’ve got this, and we are in this together.
Thank you again for your support. Let me know if you have any questions or comments that you want to share. I can easily be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 403-470-0379.
Monday, August 23, 2021
We continue to be busy planting lawn signs, receiving generous donations, and knocking on doors—all while talking about the importance of public education. Together, we can ensure that CBE schools are the best choices for Calgarians.
I am so grateful for such an amazing team of volunteers. Campaigns matter, and they don’t happen without the support of a lot of people. Thank you!
I’ve had so many insightful conversations face-to-face and through emails and FB posts. Here is some of what I heard and my thoughts on these topics:
- The draft K-6 curriculum is still top of mind for many people. While curriculum revisions are a provincial responsibility, community advocacy and school boards' decisions to not pilot the draft have contributed to MLA Tracy Allard recently writing her letter to the Education Minister outlining parents' concerns. We need to keep this conversation front and centre in the upcoming election, and school boards need to vocally address and represent the concerns of Calgarians. Together, we can have a curriculum development process that people can support and trust.
- I support CBE’s decision to have masks in place for the beginning of this school year and their intention to review the decision at the end of September. While there is some disagreement about this CBE decision, I know that we all want to “get back to normal” as soon as we can--we all want to experience the freedom of not having to wear masks, to be able to see our whole faces smile when we are in conversation indoors with colleagues and friends, and to volunteer in our children's/grandchildren's schools. Ensuring a safe start to the school year will help us get there soon.
- The lottery system for enrolling in some of CBE’s oversubscribed alternative programs for neighbourhood school parents doesn’t make sense to me. For me, the higher order value is to have kids walk or bike to their neighbourhood school. Neighbourhood parents should have first dibs--that is equity to me.
- Some issues, I don’t yet know the answers to. For example, does CBE teach cursive writing? And, if not, why not? As a trustee, I will help parents to get these answers and advocate for reasonable changes as required.
- I have also heard concerns about literacy results for elementary students. I know that this is a focus for CBE, and I wonder if COVID has reduced the ability for parents, and school councils, to share more information about how CBE schools are focused on literacy.
- Trustees need to visit schools. Of course they do! This was my most favourite thing to do when I was previously on the school board. It is a great way to get front-line feedback on what is working and what isn’t. It is also a wonderful way to celebrate student success.
- Class size and provincial achievement exams continue to be hot button topics.
- Mental health continues to be a topic of conversation.
I so appreciate the opportunity to engage in many thoughtful conversations with Calgarians. People are engaged and talking about public education!
It is so important to keep our focus on how we can make CBE even better so that every student has the opportunity to succeed in life. Listening matters, campaigns matter, elections matter.
If you have any questions or comments about my campaign to be CBE Trustee for Wards 11 and 13, please share them with me. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 403-470-0379.
Monday, August 16, 2021
Six days ago, I submitted my nomination papers to run for CBE Public School Board for Wards 11 and 13 in the October 18 municipal election. I am deeply grateful for the kind support of so many people. We have already planted lawn signs, received generous donations, and had over 100 supporters sign up on our website.
Yesterday, a small but mighty crew of us tested out our door knocking process. As hot as it was, and as smoky as it was, we all wore masks without comments about them at the doors and had some great conversations about public education. I have also been responding to Facebook posts and emails and here are some notes and highlights from the past week:
- People care about public education and support the CBE.
- Many people share my concerns about the draft K-6 curriculum, about its content but also about who has been and who has not been involved in developing the proposed changes.
- Parents are relieved that the province has extended COVID-19 restrictions for six weeks, but understandably are still worried and uncertain about their children being safe at school.
- School closures are top of mind for some communities, and we have had thoughtful conversations about the need to rethink who builds schools, who owns them, who uses them and who closes them.
- Mental health has also come up in conversation. And, in particular, online learning and screen time has been mentioned as not only contributing to increased diagnoses of myopia or shortsightedness but also the isolation of online learning has contributed to anxiety levels. A great suggestion was made that students need to get outside and be physically active.
We have had a great start to the campaign—thank you again for your support! I look forward to sharing Notes from the Campaign Trail on a weekly basis. It is so important to keep our focus on how we can make CBE even better so that every student has the opportunity to succeed in life.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments that you want to share. I can easily be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 403-470-0379.