What is a Trustee?
What is it that you are protecting or entrusted to defend?
There is the organization, Edmonton Public Schools, but there is also the whole institution of public education that we all benefit and derive value from. Over 80% of the community at a given time do not have school-aged children enrolled in the district, but they still benefit either as alumni or from having a broadly educated populace.
When you defend public education you are defending the fundamental idea of a democracy -- the idea that a democratic society is built and can only function with a healthy and educated populace. We all benefit from being stronger together. We all benefit when we collectively prepare the next generation of civil society for a life of dignity and fulfillment.
Not me, but we.
Conservatives such as Margaret Thatcher or Jason Kenney or Adriana LaGrange fundamentally do not support public education. They see education as a private good whose purpose is to enhance an individual’s chances in life, not a public one where we all invest and all benefit. They believe the “choice” and burden to pay individually for this private good is not only fair but should be supported with tax dollars. They support "private" education where schools can accept and reject students based on their whims. They would rather see more bookstores than public libraries (more on that here).
Who benefits most from public education? Those whose families could never afford to pay privately for quality schooling. Who benefits the least? The ultra-rich who have opted out and shipped their children to posh private schools such as the elite 15.
The Public School Boards Association of Alberta (PSBAA) holds that public schools are inclusive, diverse, supportive, welcoming places that are equally open to all students, regardless of ability, income or background. Here are our seven belief statements:
- Public schools are the first choice of our communities. We believe all children can learn and live the values of democracy together, reflecting our hope and commitment to shaping the future of our communities.
- Public schools are intended to be the first school built in any new community.
- Public schools are governed by democratically elected trustees, accountable to communities and the province.
- Public schools offer world class education through innovation, diversity, and equitable learning experiences.
- Public schools nurture each student’s education and well being within a supportive learning community.
- Public schools support cooperation and collaboration among all provincially funded school systems, to best serve all students.
- Public schools most closely reflect, embody, embrace, and promote the diversity within today’s Alberta.
There are many other belief statements that I would add to the list, but I think that is a really great start.
So how can you ground yourself in the state of education in 2021 in Canada?
I've started compiling a suggested reading list of posts or commentary that I've found very valuable or provocative over my 11 years. I have found that I have learned the most from people I disagree with or from content that makes me uncomfortable.
This is a living list and I will keep adding to it, to help you prepare for the road ahead. Is something missing? Please email it to [email protected]
What is Public Education:
- I suggest reading here. Former Education Minister David King wrote about our education system in Alberta here. What are public schools? What are separate schools? What are private schools? What does choice really mean? https://www.ouridea.ca/start
The Trustee Handbook: What are you getting into?
The first document you want to read at your local school board is the EPSB Trustee handbook.
- What are you signing up for?
- When are the meetings?
- How much is your honorarium?
- What are your commitments and meetings? Time commitment (part-time plus?)?
- Role? Power/authority? Governance Model?
This is the agreed upon conventions that the Board votes to amend, review, and change each term. We will be doing so again soon, so if you have feedback, please let me know.
Each school board has something similar, so I would highly recommend starting with your local equivalent.
Where are you getting into it? (Pick your ward)
The new boundaries have changed and they take effect for the next election. So that means you want to look at nomination signatures from that area. The same goes for if you are running for the Catholic board or in another community.
Why should people support you?
Who are you? What do you believe? What do you have to contribute? These are fundamental ideas that you will be trying to communicate through your election campaign. You will need to adjust your message to your local context and community. For example, as background my page and my work: trustee.michaeljanz.ca
- The "about page" has my campaign material from 2017. I'll try to post my 2013 and 2010 material.
- I created a pamphlet which I will try to find a digital copy of and post here.
- The first time I ran in 2010 I created three pamphlets - the first was an introduction piece to me, the second was an issues piece, the third was a get out the vote piece. This was likely overkill and before the time of Tiktok. Tactics change as times change.
The main questions you should expect to answer are: Why you? Why now? Why here? From there, you can expect much more specific questions such as your positions on
- the performance of current government or MLAs, programs of choice, neighborhood schools, teacher salaries, the militarization of police forces, vaccinations, GSAs, and much more.
- What is public education? How do we ensure improved results amid constraining budgets?
- How can we build more schools and take care of the ones that we have?
- If / when we should look at school closures or replacement schools?
- To what extent should EPSB continue to offer Christian programming?
- What international partnerships are appropriate?
- What would you like to see in the new provincial curriculum and how will you advocate for it?
- What is the appropriate delegation of authority for school boards, what is the role of the trustee, and how do we evaluate our processes?
- Your plan or focus for your particular school district and the distribution of resources?
- The difference between "working with/working for" - other orders of government, administration, partners
What is the state of the district?
If you haven’t already tuned into an EPSB meeting, they are available live on YouTube on Tuesdays at 2PM and the video is posted as well. You can watch us debating everything from school resource officers to literacy results?
A few key documents to review are our:
- Capital plan: https://www.epsb.ca/ourdistrict/results/capitalplanning/
- District budget: https://epsb.ca/ourdistrict/budget/
- AERR or test results: https://www.epsb.ca/ourdistrict/results/testresults/
- 2016 Student Demographic Forecast: https://epsb.ca/media/epsb/ourdistrict/boardoftrustees/boardmeetings/2015-16/june14/07-StudentDemographicForecast-ExternalConsultant.pdf (This is especially helpful if you are in mature neighbourhoods)
- EPSB Climate emergency readiness: https://epsb.ca/media/epsb/ourdistrict/boardoftrustees/boardmeetings/2019-20/january282020/08-EdmontonPublicSchoolDivisionClimateChangeReadiness.pdf
- First Nations, Metis, and Inuit results: https://epsb.ca/media/epsb/ourdistrict/boardoftrustees/boardmeetings/2018-19/may142019/05-StrategicPlanUpdate-FirstNations,MetisandInuitStudents.pdf
- Edmonton Social Planning Council: School Resource Officers and the School Resource Officer Pipeline: https://edmontonsocialplanning.ca/2020/11/12/factivist-feature-article-school-resource-officers-and-the-schoool-to-prison-pipeline/
- Public Interest Alberta - 51,540 children in poverty - https://www.pialberta.org/childpovertyreport2020
- ESPC Race-based data: Confronting Racism with Data: Why Canada Needs Disaggregated Race-Based Data: https://edmontonsocialplanning.ca/2021/02/24/feature-report-confronting-racism-with-data-why-canada-needs-disaggregated-race-based-data/
- Public School Boards Association of Alberta: President's Blog: https://public-schools.ab.ca/blog/
- Alberta NDP Safe School Reopening Plan: https://www.albertandp.ca/safe-school-reopening-AB15
Support Our Students:
People For Education (Ontario, but great comparisons)
From the Public School Boards Association of Alberta: