In my work as a Trustee over the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate how important collaboration is – both inside and outside of our District. It takes a lot of hard work to support the projects and initiatives we believe so strongly in. Every effort we make to reach out to our partners – whether they’re community agencies, educational organizations, the City or Provincial governments – works toward providing the very best education to our students. I’m especially proud of what we’re doing to connect with other metro school districts on joint advocacy issues like our growing infrastructure needs in new and mature neighbourhoods. As long as we share the same challenges, why not work together to solve problems and find sustainable solutions that benefit everyone in the long run? It makes sense to invest the time in finding where we share common ground and interests and where there’s room to move forward with a unified voice.
That’s at the heart of our goal in working with the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) right now. They’re set to respond to the Excellence in Teaching Task Force recommendations soon and we want to make sure our local perspective is reflected in their submission. As a District with over 4,000 teachers, it’s vital we do everything we can to share our thoughts about the need to support high quality teaching and professional development. I’m pleased to say we’re already making strides in supporting this commitment…
One of the things I’m excited about for next year is our new district calendar, which will take effect this September. The calendar is part of a two-year pilot project the District is undertaking with the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA). The Superintendent brought the project forward through a recommendation report he presented to the Board in March. We approved it knowing it will open the doors to a new chapter in professional development (PD) for our staff. It will provide for two extra PD days a year, bringing the total to five, and also mark a shift to common PD days. That’s a significant change that will allow staff from across the District to come together to share their knowledge and experiences. There are a lot of benefits to be gained by offering staff who’ve worked with a wide range of kids the chance to tap into each other’s wisdom. The core idea at the heart of this is to ensure we’re providing excellent PD opportunities that respond directly to students’ needs. I’m looking forward to seeing how this deeper collaboration supports our staff in their work to ensure student success!
Recently, I attended the National School Board Association’s convention in New Orleans. I was really impressed by the caliber of speakers and I heard about a lot of amazing things that are happening in schools across North America. The sessions were fantastic – truly inspiring and eye opening. The ones that resonated with me the most focused on schools that had incredible stories to tell about their journey as high poverty, but high achieving schools. I learned how they turned the tide in their favour – helping their students rise above some pretty significant challenges. Some of the tactics they used involved principals setting clear expectations for teachers – providing lots of motivation for them to do their absolute best in helping every student read at grade level by the end of the school year. I heard about their experience in doing everything they could, working with parents, to make sure kids were at school and learning every day as well. Consistent attendance was a must. This may seem like a simple idea, but for these communities, it made a huge difference. A few of the schools also set up a volunteer program for students in August that helped students get a head start by reviewing last year’s curriculum and getting a preview of the upcoming school year’s curriculum. And finally, full-day Kindergarten and food programs helped to strengthen critical developmental skills and provided young students with nutritious meals, so they could be ready to learn for the school day.
I’m proud of the fact that we’re already applying many of these strategies in our District. Our Board recognizes how vital full-day Kindergarten is and the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation continues to do phenomenal work to raise money to fund this program in communities that need it most. Our staff, parents and community partners also do a fantastic job in helping our students, from Kindergarten to high school and beyond, experience success. At the same time, it’s always valuable to look at new ideas and hear different perspectives from other school districts that face similar challenges. We have a lot to learn from each other. The conference was a reminder that hope and the will for affecting change lives everywhere – in our backyard, across borders and continents. We all share what feels like a universal goal for students – we want them to succeed and we will help them overcome challenges. By doing this, we will ensure that every student can fulfill their potential.