Happy New Year!

I love this time of the year. Much like the start of a new school year, the beginning of a new calendar year is filled with promise and opportunity. With those prospects in mind, I dare to dream and plan about what’s possible in the coming 12 months.

One of the things I dream about and think about is how we can support our students, and how our work as school board trustees is a privilege and an opportunity. Our deliberations, our meetings, our decisions – everything we do as trustees and as part of a school board helps create the foundation that makes possible a vibrant future for each of our students.

As a school board trustee, I love the work that I do with my own division on behalf of students – we all do. Whether we serve as a representative or on Executive Committee for this Association, our heart is for our community first: we always want to improve conditions and opportunities for students in our own divisions.

As President of the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta, I have incredible opportunities every single day to help raise awareness about the importance of our work, and why we’re so passionate about it.

I’m often asked about what it’s like working on a provincial level. For me, it’s just a great feeling at the end of each day, knowing that the work we do provincially and the ability to bring forward issues and challenges – and talk about solutions – will benefit our individual divisions too. Being able to reach out have a conversation with the Minister of Education and other MLAs, all of the great speakers and professional development that we get – all of this we can bring back to our own communities to make public education even stronger and better.

As President, I’m really thrilled about being able to meet with all of our member boards and get to know each of our members. I leave every meeting with a greater appreciation for their goals and passions, as well as a better understanding of their division and their priorities. For me, this has been one of the real highlights of the past year and I look forward to getting to know more.

I’ve also really appreciated meeting with our non-member school board colleagues. We share a commitment to public education and a dedication to diversity, inclusion, choice and respect. Of course, in support of our work plan, I also share with them the benefits of belonging to PSBAA, and how we can strengthen our relationships and achieve our common goals by working together.  

We have a work plan – designed by our members – to which we are committed. We also have an ambitious campaign to get public education front and centre on the agenda of all the political parties as we head into a spring provincial election. We want to raise more awareness about exactly where our education dollars are going, and that’s one of the biggest goals for me.

We want to hear from you, too, over the next 12 months and beyond: what’s important to you, why you support public education, and how we can work together to strengthen our educational system and communities for the benefit of all students. This is precisely why we launched the Together for Students campaign – to start a conversation about the future of education in Alberta, and what that future should look like. I’ll share more thoughts on this in my next blog post but, in the meantime, please visit the togetherforstudents.ca website to find out more.

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Democracy

Democracy.

A word with so much depth and meaning and today, we feel the value of that word more than most days.

Yesterday, people from across our province went out to their communities halls, school gymnasiums and recreation centres to cast their ballot for the person they felt would best represent their community.

Each and every person who walked in to one of those centres and put an “X” next to their choice candidate had a say. Whether their candidate won or lost, their voice was heard. If you stop and reflect on that, it is incredibly powerful.

Our Association’s beliefs are deeply rooted in democratic values.

To our Members, democracy doesn’t just mean the “X” citizens place on their ballot every four years, but rather the opportunities for members of our communities and schools to have a say... each and every single day. It means respectful dialogue at the boardroom table, the consideration of perspectives and ideas in the classroom, and collaboration within our local communities.

We want to congratulate all who will now be representing their communities for the next four years. We can’t wait to see what inspiring ideas you bring to the table as we take further steps to shape our future together.

 

It's Nomination Day

Every four years when the leaves start to change from green to gold and the air gets that special “crispiness” to it, the signs start popping up and there’s no turning back: it’s election time, and today marks an important day in election “season”. Today is Nomination Day.

Alberta truly is a unique province. The triumphs and challenges that communities in the rural north face are not the same as those in the urban central, or even the rural south and because of that we need local people who know their communities, to help navigate those waters.

The Members of the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta believe strongly that local autonomy is one of the most critically important elements to having a successful democracy. Not only do local people understand their communities best, but local people display a different level of passion and commitment to influencing positive change in their communities.

So to everyone handing in their nomination form today, thank you.

Thank you for stepping forward to be the voice for your community and for believing in our democracy.

We know that it takes a lot of courage to sign on the dotted line of that nomination form but in doing so, you are taking the first (formal) step in helping to shape the future of your community. I think we can all agree, that is something you should be proud of.

Best of luck to all of you.

 

Editorial response: catholic education is inclusive and cost effective

This editorial from the Public School Boards' Association of Alberta was written in response  to the editorial opinion Catholic education is inclusive and cost-effective as published in the Edmonton Journal in April 2017.


We recently saw an editorial position in the Edmonton Journal defending Catholic Schools. The editorial stance presents the case for Catholic education, funded by Albertan taxpayers. This perspective is presented as a choice of parents and as a system with religious values and a faith-based experience.

We would like to pose some simple questions to you:

  • How does having multiple publicly funded school systems appropriately manage the dollars from Alberta’s taxpayers?
  • Shouldn’t our tax dollars provide equal opportunity?
  • Don’t we want our children to study together, create together, perform together, debate together and work together?
  • By supporting one faith-based system, what message are we sending to other religions when Canada prides itself on being a cultural mosaic?
We do not want to see an end to Catholic programming in schools, we just know that separating our students... isn’t the answer to creating a more inclusive and loving future.

The Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta (PSBAA) has a very clear goal: to create a system that serves the student. We do not want to see an end to Catholic programming in schools, we just know that separating our students into different buildings based on what makes them different isn’t the answer to creating a more inclusive and loving future.

It is the position of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA) that land can be shared, but not classrooms. “The ACSTA and its member boards oppose the joint use of school buildings with public school boards in any manner that has the effect of undermining or interrupting the full permeation of Catholic values and beliefs.” We believe that we can and should share instructional spaces and model that which we want for our children: inclusive and collaborative relationships.

There is academic and experiential evidence that a richer personalization of learning is the right course for students. The Public School system believes in accepting students for who they are and working to achieve the child’s best interest. Public Schools welcome all children with open arms.

We wonder if Albertans would create the two systems if the Education System was designed today. We do not believe we would favor one religion over others. While some may suggest there is little expectation that every child's needs in education will ever be fully funded, we still have an obligation to be effective with every dollar collected from taxpayers.

Competing school systems are costly and unfriendly to the idea that we can learn together. One funded and inclusive system can accommodate the Constitutional rights afforded to minority faith rate-payers and align with the values of Albertans today and tomorrow.

Many are aware of the recent decision in the Theodore School case in Saskatchewan. Justice Donald Layh has provided a common-sense description of original and continuing understanding of Catholic schools. He says, “If separating students was the essential reason for separate schools’ existence, I fail to see why the minority would simultaneously seek a right to admit children of the majority faith from whom they took deliberate action to separate. One act belies the other. Like it or not, the defendants must accept the foundation of their case: separate schools were meant to separate students. From this fact, the defendants cannot escape and from it they must advance their argument.”

We will say this again, the goal of the PSBAA is not to end faith-based programming, we just don’t believe that we should be separating students to provide them with these learning opportunities.

We believe that creating one single, publicly funded school system is the best way to support Alberta’s students. We also believe that this is the most economically responsible approach to allocating taxpayer dollars and we know that this is the best approach to help create a more inclusive and loving society.

Arlene Hrynyk
PSBAA President

Our number one priority

As a Public School Trustee, few things have made me more excited than to see Albertans engaged in discussions about the future of Public Education. I think we can all agree that over the last few months, we have seen many discussions around the topic of Public Education.

The PSBAA Member Boards have worked tirelessly to identify and address the challenges in Public Schools in Alberta. In 2015, they developed a three year Work Plan with the number one priority being to “Promote the formation of a new single Public Inclusive Education System in Alberta.”

In line with that priority are the following goals:

  1. Encourage the Government to explore the creation of a new single Public Inclusive Education System and work to influence and promote Legislative changes to support one Inclusive Education system;

  2. Have Albertans believe that this new single Public Inclusive Education system is best for all students;

  3. Have Albertans advocate for this new single Public Inclusive Education system;

  4. Celebrate and grow the support for choices that will exist in the new single Public Inclusive Education system.

We have been proactive over the last many years working towards our goals which has included shaping the yet to be proclaimed Education Act and accompanying Regulations to incorporate positive changes to support our priorities.

We continue to encourage an education system that serves children rather than a system that serves systems.

We witness daily in our public schools how the continued fragmentation of resources means less and less dollars benefitting kids in classrooms. If  the intention of Public Education  is that each and every Alberta student is afforded an equal and equitable education that will arm them to contribute successfully to our societal fabric, why wouldn’t we want to explore a system that would keep their interests first and foremost?

As Trustees, and Members of the PSBAA, we are extremely excited to see Albertans joining us in the work in which we have been performing on behalf of Alberta’s children and families. It is not light work, but it is important work, and I am thankful that together we are exploring the possibilities for Alberta’s children.

We invite you to join in on the conversation and to share your views with us. While we understand one inclusive Public Education System to be the best way to serve our children, we know that there are differing opinions and we would love to hear your perspective. Never hesitate to reach out to us - for we know that together, we can and will do great things for kids!

-Arlene


What does Diversity mean to you?

Diversity.

When you hear the word diversity, what does it mean to you? How does it make you feel? For our Members and our Association, it means something very real and guides us as we move forward in our work.

To us, diversity means learning options for our students in classrooms. It means teachers having the flexibility and option to teach their students in responsive ways that enable their students to understand the concept at hand.

Diversity means embracing the personal experience that each educator and student brings with them.

Diversity is democracy , the variety of experiences and ideas Board members bring to the table so that we can be confident that we are making the best, informed decisions for our students.

When we come together because of shared values, when we focus on that which bonds us rather than that which makes us different, that is when diversity shines.

Diversity in a Public School system means choice. It means respect. It means opportunity.

That’s what diversity means to us.


A Fresh Start...

When you work in Public Education, there are two beginnings each and every year: the beginning of a new school year and the beginning of a new calendar year.

With the beginning of a new school year, we see goals, focus and a fresh start (and new non-marking gym shoes 😉)  but with the beginning of a new calendar year, we see things a little differently. While we’re only a few months into the school year, so much has already happened and we have the ability to see things a little more clearly so typically, January means a reflection and refocus leading to a renewed commitment to our goals.

Here we are, at the beginning of February in the year 2017 and I am so looking forward to refocusing on this blog and starting fresh with it once again. So, with this short, but necessary post, I say, here’s to an amazing 2017, to fresh starts, and to doing our best for kids!

Warmly,
- Arlene


I have been following, with much interest, the recent debate and discussion surrounding the development of policy to support LGTBQ students and staff of a separate school system.   My interest is largely because, I believe, as an individual elected by the Public, to make important decisions for children, it is my job to stay in the know regarding all social and educational matters.

You can also appreciate that this topic is now at the centre of many conversations.  I have personally received many calls and questions from those who know me as a strong advocate for children, families and community, and as a long serving, locally elected Trustee for public school education.  I appreciate the views that have been shared with me for they assist me in performing my role.

The one thing that is astoundingly clear to me, is the lack of understanding regarding LGTBQ issues, as well as the difference between publicly funded and public education. In a blog post, written by separate school Trustee Patricia Grell, a clearer understanding of this is expressed. 

It is critical that at all times, we are listening to our public and that they know their voice is necessary and valued by their public school board.

I also know that we simply cannot please everyone in our decisions, however our ultimate priority and concern must always be based on what is best for our children.

In saying that, we must challenge ourselves to grow our understanding of each and every matter.  We must set aside our personal opinions to ensure at the very minimum, our actions are reflective of supporting and protecting our youth, while modelling the values that will strengthen our society long after our period of influence.

We may not always agree on matters, but we must always do what is right for our children. Our children are watching and they are counting on us.

-Arlene