Superintendent of Schools – Last week I spent three days in Edmonton – with all eight RVS trustees on Monday and Tuesday for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) fall annual general meeting, and then with a group of four trustees for the new trustee orientation put on by the ASBA on Wednesday. These ASBA meetings happen twice a year where trustees from across Alberta get together to discuss policy issues, as well as partake in professional learning. As a staff member, my role is to learn with our trustees and be there to support them as they have questions about the policy topics being discussed.
At the business session, there were four policy motions put forward from boards from across Alberta. One policy position was put forward from RVS trustees. The Board took the opportunity to bring up the topic of high school funding when they met with the Minister of Education last spring, but also decided to use the ASBA as a further advocacy approach. The Board wrote up a motion urging government to adjust the funding for high schools participating in Moving Forward With High School Design (MFWHSR). Many school divisions have embraced the approach of MFWHSR and are leveraging the pilot to create flexible learning environments for students. Alberta Education originally stated that high schools would be funded on a three (3) year rolling average (2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13 schools years) of the credit enrolment units (CEUs) earned by students. This rolling average funding model would recognize, via additional funding, schools that were able to help students achieve the outcomes of a course. If students generated more CEUs over time, then funding would be provided to recognize and support the provision of the additional learning opportunities. However, Alberta Education has since frozen funding at the 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/2013 historical rates and has not rolled forward the average based on the actual CEU earned by students in the pilot. For RVS, this means we are getting about one million less dollars each year because the grants do not reflect actual CEUs earned by our students since 2013. Providing these additional learning opportunities costs money and schools are having to revisit providing more opportunities for students as a result of the funding in the MFWHSR pilot not keeping pace with the credits students are generating.
Good news is that the vast majority of other Boards agreed that ASBA should urge government to update the funding model to reflect the original intent of a three-year rolling average. The ASBA can only urge / request government to make changes, but it is important to have the support of ASBA for proposed changes.
I just wanted to share an example of how our Board uses multiple advocacy streams as a mean to address issues.
Superintendent of Schools – Last week the Board of Trustees hosted school council representatives and school administrators at their semi-annual Joint Board/School Council meeting. The evening started with Ms. Jill Quirk from Heloise Lorimer School and her STEAM team of student leaders who work in the school to help with coding, robotics and more. We had Ms. Krista Wunsch, also from Heloise Lorimer, with four of her students who have been learning with Elders and Knowledge Keepers on the topic of Treaty 7. Lastly, we had Mr. Vernon Gray from W.H. Croxford in attendance with five students who shared their photography from the Visual Arts & Media Academy. It was great to get the event started with a focus on how we make learning visible and real in our schools.
The emphasis for the rest of the evening was digging deeper into a question we ask annually as part of our parent satisfaction survey. We wanted to hear from parents specifically about if they feel informed about their child’s progress and achievement, what schools are doing that is working to help inform them, and what strategies we could attempt in an effort to improve communication about their child’s progress.
We used on online polling tool where people answered questions on their mobile device and instantly their comments were collected and shared back with the group. The technology worked flawlessly and over about 45 minutes, we were able to collect some really good feedback. The results were interesting because for one person strategy X was a strength and for another person strategy X was listed as something we could do to improve. For one person strategy Z was seen as a positive, while someone else rated that same strategy as not really working for them.
We will take those results and see how we can use that information to improve satisfaction in that area. After collecting the feedback, we shared a brief presentation about how we are attempting to communicate student learning. We had hoped to dig into one other area from our satisfaction survey, but ran out of time. I guess we already have one topic for our spring meeting!
Thanks to all parents and school administrators who were able to attend and share their thoughts with us on that evening.
Superintendent of Schools – On Monday, Oct. 16, voters from across Alberta elected new mayors, councilors and trustees and the shape of local government changed. In RVS, due to ward boundary changes and incumbents choosing not to seek re-election, we were going to have a minimum of five new trustees on our Board of eight. A few of us waited up until the wee hours on Tuesday, Oct. 17 to see the final results. At that moment we had three acclaimed trustees and five trustee elects, and within those eight we had three veteran trustees (we don’t call them “old” trustees) and five first time trustees.
On Friday, Oct. 20, the results became official and our eight trustees were sworn in / affirmed at a public ceremony at our Education Centre on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Upon swearing in, the “old” Board finished their work and a “new” Board was formed. Congratulations to our new trustees and thank you so much to our former trustees.
While the eight officially were trustees on Oct. 24, the work had already started. Emails were flying around 1 a.m. on Oct. 17 as I congratulated them on their elections/acclamation and asked them to book a bunch of dates in their calendar. We had two orientation type events prior to the election date for all candidates. We had our first official orientation session on Thursday, Oct. 19 where we spent time getting to know each other, walked through the orientation plan, dealt with some of the required paperwork and forms, got them setup with technology, and walked through the swearing in ceremony.
Our second full day of orientation was on Tuesday, Oct. 24 where we discussed topics such as: trustee code of conduct, conflict of interest, organization meeting, how board meetings are organized, their role in emergency school closures related to inclement weather, how to do their own timesheets/expenses, and previous motions from the past couple of years. Then they had pictures taken. It was an incredibly busy day and we ran out of time so some other topics will need to be rescheduled.
The third orientation day was Thursday, Oct. 26 where the Board and myself spent the majority of the day with Dr. Leroy Sloan. The focus was on discussing what makes effective governance and clarifying the roles of trustees, the corporate Board and the Superintendent. Leroy connected the legislative framework that boards operate under along with a governance framework. A number of key policies were discussed, all intermixed with a bunch of interesting stories from Leroy. Trustees were also introduced and had a brief “meet and greet” event with Education Centre staff late in the day.
The orientation work continues with three days of Alberta School Boards Association work in late November followed by specific orientation meetings in December and January. We also integrate at least one orientation item after every Board meeting starting on Nov. 16 until April.
Being a trustee is tough work and, as staff, we work hard and spend lots of time early in the term to help trustees get off to a great start.
Superintendent of Schools – Noun – ad·vo·ca·cy \ ˈad-və-kə-sē \ – the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.
Let me start by saying I am not an elected official. I work for the Board of Trustees of Rocky View Schools and have an employment contract directly with them. At the same time, I have a long list of statutory requirements in the School Act that I must comply with. In my role, I work closely with our trustees to support them in their advocacy efforts. I might provide them background information, discuss strategies, share what I am hearing about the topic through my circles, draft letters, and countless other tasks.
Over this past year, I am consistently impressed by the work our trustees do to advocate for students, staff and communities. The advocacy takes all different forms – meeting with the Minister of Education; meeting with MLAs; meeting with local government officials; meeting with other trustees from around the region; working as a collective through the Alberta School Boards Association or the local zone; writing letters to the Minister on topics such as capital needs or transportation funding for French Immersion students; providing feedback on potential legislative changes; attending consultation sessions to provide input on a wide variety of topics; and meeting with parents and other stakeholders in a wide variety of settings, including school councils.
RVS’ advocacy efforts are often focused on influencing potential changes or decisions being made by government. Board of Trustees are heavily influenced by laws of the land and associated regulations. Boards do not have complete autonomy to do whatever they want to do.
Recently, I was able to spend two days as part of an RVS contingent at an Alberta Education consultation for our region. Trustees, senior staff members and parents were in the room discussing a wide variety of topics related to potential legislative changes. The sessions included group work, but also allowed individuals to provide direct comments to Alberta Education through online tools. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these topics and provide input rather than reacting to them once they are enacted. Having table discussions with people from different school divisions and from different roles helped me understand the issues from different perspectives.
While advocacy efforts take time, and may not have immediate results, I believe those efforts are worth the time and energy.
Superintendent of Schools – Last week the Board hosted its second of two annual meetings with School Council executive members. Rocky View’s Board of Trustees values the contributions of its School Councils. School Councils can enhance student learning by engaging parents, staff, and community members to advise the Principal and the Board on matters concerning school improvement planning. The Division views each School Council as a means for parents and community members to work together with the school to support and enhance student learning. These joint meetings are opportunities to network, support the important work of our School Councils, and gather input. Trustees try and attend as many school council meetings in their wards throughout the year as possible.
In our administrative procedure about School Councils (AP110), it highlights a number of important functions and roles. Among many duties, the School Council will have an opportunity to provide advice on the development of the school’s: mission, vision and philosophy; procedures; annual education plan; annual results report, and budget.
In the fall, the joint meeting focused on hearing from Alberta Education staff about the curriculum refresh currently underway. The spring meeting included sharing with School Councils the recently completed three-year capital plan and a showing of the movie Screenagers, an award-winning documentary on mental health, which focuses on the challenges families face given social media, video games, and the internet. Screenagers offers solutions to empower kids to navigate the digital world and maintain a balance between home, school and academics.
We appreciate everyone who joined us for the evening. We know people are busy and have very full schedules. There was plenty of table talk after the movie that was a good sign that people were engaged and found the topic and content of the movie interesting. I know as a parent of a 15 and 11-year-old, some of the parenting strategies we have implemented were reinforced and I learned a few things by watching the movie.