Board hears District Infrastructure Strategy to address student population growth and aging buildings

At its regularly scheduled meeting on December 3, the Edmonton Public Schools Board of Trustees were presented with the District’s Infrastructure Strategy, which addresses the issue of growing neighbourhoods and includes the District Accommodation Plan for New and Developing Neighbourhoods. Its purpose is to look at which schools are full or almost full and offer some options to solve the problem.

“Our schools are doing amazing work to help students succeed. I’m incredibly proud of how our schools are maximizing every dollar to ensure students reach their potential,” says Board Chair Sarah Hoffman. “Having said that, the District continues to be challenged by ever tightening budgets and overcrowding in new and developing neighbourhoods. Both issues need solutions.”

Board Chair Hoffman encourages the public to fill out an online survey found on the Space for Our Students site, which gives an overview of the plan and includes background information; the schools and neighbourhoods being looked at in the accommodation plan; and a list of options being considered. Stakeholders can find the school or area where they live and provide input and feedback on the options that have been developed, as well as suggestions. The survey will be open until January 17, 2014.

“We’re committed to ensuring every student attends school in a high quality learning environment,” adds Hoffman. “We’re working closely with parents and community members on options for these growing areas of the city.”

The Board also unanimously approved the recommendation for the Edmonton Public Schools’ Combined Three Year Education Plan and Annual Education Results Report, which the District will now submit to Alberta Education. Board Chair Hoffman acknowledged and commended the administration for their work on the report and plan.

Bill Comrie pays it forward

At the launch of the full-day Kindergarten at Calder School, Edmonton Public Schools Foundation Director, Sandra Woitas announced Bill Comrie has donated $500,000 over the next five years to support a full-day Kindergarten class at one of the high needs schools. Bill is well known in Edmonton for not only his business accomplishments, but his giving back to the City.

“I am excited about helping make a difference in the lives of young children in Edmonton, “says Bill Comrie. “What I’ve learned through Sandra Woitas is that full-day Kindergarten can make all the difference in ensuring disadvantaged students have every opportunity to succeed now and in the future. It’s all about putting them on a level playing field with their peers. I’m not only proud to be part of that; I challenge others in the community to support the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation.”

The school site where the Comrie Family Learning Center full-day kindergarten program will be offered will be determined in the new year.

The Edmonton Public School Foundation was launched February 10, 2010 to spread the word about the great things happening in the public education system and to support Edmonton Public Schools across Edmonton. They do this by offering opportunities for improved learning such as full-day Kindergarten through financial, in-kind and human resource contributions.

“We know investing in children today means investing in their future, our communities and our society,” explains Foundation Director Sandra Woitas. “Every child deserves the best teachers, resources and learning opportunities to help them blossom as they transition into Grade 1 and get ready for life.”

Edmonton Public Schools to recognize top students

The Edmonton Public Schools’ Board of Trustees will recognize 92 outstanding students at its annual Student Awards Night celebration on Thursday, October 17 in the Eva O. Howard Theatre, Victoria School. The awards honour Grades 10, 11 and 12 students for their academic, athletic and artistic achievements, entrepreneurial skills, and demonstrations of leadership and citizenship during the past school year.

Elle Surgent from Jasper Place and Stephen Gust of Strathcona will both receive the Grade 12 Highest Honours Standing award after having achieved a 97.8 per cent average in their Grade 12 year. They are both currently enrolled at the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Science. Elle is majoring in honors neuroscience with a career in medicine in mind while Stephen is specializing in pharmacology with the goal of pursuing a career in pharmacological research.

The prestigious Michael A. Strembitsky Award of Excellence will also be presented. Gold, silver and bronze medallions will be awarded to students who have achieved excellence in personal, social and academic endeavours and demonstrated outstanding co-operation, innovation and leadership. Each high school in the District nominates one student for the award.

 

Celebrating 24 years of READ IN at Edmonton Public Schools

Edmonton Public Schools is proud to be a part of the 24th annual READ IN taking place October 7 to 11 – an annual weeklong event that promotes literacy awareness and encourages everyone in the community to get excited about reading.  READ IN also hopes to instill in students a passion and love of reading they will carry throughout their lives.

Mayor Stephen Mandel will kick off READ IN on Monday, October 7 from 10 to 11 a.m., at the Arnold Guebert Library at Concordia University College of Alberta, 7128 Ada Boulevard. Mayor Mandel will officially proclaim READ IN Week on behalf of the City of Edmonton and Concordia students, faculty, and staff will deliver choral, drama, and dance performances.

This year’s READ IN theme is READ. You will go far! and was inspired by the idea that reading a good book can transport you to faraway lands where adventure awaits. Schools have invited many special guests to visit classrooms and share their love of reading throughout the week with students.

For more information about READ IN, visit http://www.readin.ca/.

READ IN Edmonton partners include the Centre for Family Literacy, Concordia University College of Alberta, Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord, Edmonton Catholic School Division, Edmonton Public Schools, Grant MacEwan University, The King’s University College and the University of Alberta.  

Student designers take over Kingsway Mall at Ready to Shine 3: Student Fashion Show

The Edmonton Public Schools Foundation, in partnership with Kingsway Mall, is introducing Edmonton to some of its brightest young designers. Ready to Shine 3: Student Fashion Show and Gala will highlight the creative design talents of Fashion Studies students from seven high schools including: amiskwaciy Academy, Harry Ainlay, Jasper Place, L.Y. Cairns, M.E. LaZerte, Ross Sheppard and W.P. Wagner. The students have worked for months to create a collection of three garments (a casual top, career skirt and black tie event dress) that will be modeled on the catwalk by students and local celebrities.

“The Ready to Shine design challenge is becoming a highlight of the Fashion Studies program for our students,” says Sandra Woitas, Director, Edmonton Public Schools Foundation. “The experience of creating artistic fashions based on the Kingsway Mall competition criteria is exciting, but fitting the designs for local media celebrity models certainly added to the fun.”

In addition to encouraging, mentoring and challenging students to put their design skills to the test, the third annual event is also raising funds to support full-day Kindergarten programs. Last year, $22,000 was raised through Ready to Shine and the Hang-A-Garment campaign. This year, the goal is to raise $100,000 through this event and others.

Board votes against endorsing proposed agreement

At yesterday’s regularly scheduled board meeting, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to advise the  Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) not to endorse the proposed agreement between the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

“This deal is not good for the District or our students,” said Sarah Hoffman, Board Chair. “We are being asked to approve a deal we cannot afford.”

The Board is concerned it will not be able to provide the current level of service to students and that the cost of the agreement would likely result in staff reductions.

The Board is also concerned that two committees, the Exceptions Committee and the Teacher Development and Practice Committee, could potentially erode the decision making power of locally elected school boards.

“Our main priority will always be to act in the best interest of our students – to maximize the dollars we have and to minimize any impact on their education,” continued Chair Hoffman.

The ASBA asked individual school boards to give them direction on whether or not they should endorse the proposed agreement.

The full effect of the proposed agreement on district operations is still being considered. The Board is confident the ASBA will convey its concerns to the Government. Individual boards have been asked to ratify the proposed agreement by May 13. The Board of Trustees is hopeful its concerns will be addressed in the coming weeks, so it can revisit the agreement prior to the ratification vote.

Rutherford School reaches finals of national competition

Rutherford School has made it to the finals of the Majesta Trees of Knowledge™ Competition and is in the running to win a $20,000 outdoor classroom. The school’s outdoor classroom project was selected as one of 10 finalists from across Canada. Rutherford is the only school in Edmonton, and is one of only two Alberta schools, chosen for the final round of competition.

Built over 100 years ago, Rutherford School is located in the established French community of Bonnie Doon. It serves the communities of Bonnie Doon, Strathearn, Idylwylde and Cloverdale. The school community is embarking on a revitalization project by creating an outdoor classroom complete with interlocking timbers for seating and climbing, new trees and shrubs, their very own “ranger station” with rain barrel, relief map of Alberta, and a chalk board. A new trail system will connect all of the natural elements of the school yard together. Students are looking forward to enjoying nature and learning in this unique setting. The classroom will be used to enrich learning experiences and foster an appreciation for the environment.

Vote daily at www.majesta.com from March 18 to April 26 to help to place Rutherford in the top spot. Voting is open to all Canadians who have reached the age of majority

Watch the school’s promotional video here. 

The Trees of Knowledge™ competition was launched in 2011 by Majesta, in partnership with Tree Canada and Focus on Forests, to help teachers and students experience the benefits of being outdoors. Each year through Trees of Knowledge™ one eco-conscious school is awarded a complete, customized outdoor classroom, valued at $20,000.

Board expresses concerns over budget and proposed agreement with teachers

At a media availability on Friday afternoon, Sarah Hoffman, Board Chair of Edmonton Public Schools, communicated the Board’s perspective on the budget and the tentative agreement between the Government and the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Edmonton Public Schools will face a revenue shortfall of at least $3 million for the remainder of this year and $29 million for the 2013-2014 school year, based on the reductions to revenue and with no changes to enrolment.  On top of the revenue shortfall, the District will also be facing increased staff costs. For teachers, these costs will include annual increments and benefits, which are not funded as part of the proposed agreement. This revenue shortfall, when combined with increased fixed costs, will have a significant impact on the services the District is able to provide students.

“By all accounts, this shortfall is a conservative estimate, and could end up being far worse. We know this proposed agreement will only exacerbate the financial difficulties we face and we will not be able to sustain our current level of service,” continued Board Chair Hoffman. Unlike the December agreement proposed by the Minister, through which the Government would have funded all of the cost increases, school boards are now being asked to shoulder more of the costs.

“We certainly have some serious concerns about the proposed agreement,” said Board Chair Hoffman. “We have no guarantee that the Government’s commitment to fund staff cost increases will materialize.  Our Board does not find this very reassuring, so we need to be prepared to cover all of this cost ourselves.”

The Board also considers the agreement to have a long term negative impact on the ability of parents, community members and school boards to ensure decisions reflect local concerns. As well, the agreement brushes aside more than a century of local decision making and the role of school boards in reflecting the needs of local communities and students.

“Our Board is worried that we have been put in a position that we cannot possibly hope to fund or fulfill the agreement we have been asked to support.”

 

Students share their story through Aboriginal art project

Twenty-two students from schools across Edmonton gathered at the Centre for Education this week to learn about traditional Aboriginal art methods from artist-in-residence Holly Yuzicapi – a Native Cultural Arts instructor from the Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation in Southern Saskatchewan.

The goal of the workshop was for First Nation, Métis & Inuit (FNMI) students to have an enriching artistic experience guided by a recognized Aboriginal artist. Students used acrylic paint, mixed media and traditional arts to create panels that shared their story. Holly also integrated activities into the workshop that targeted self-esteem building, acceptance, honesty, respect, values and beliefs, traditional First Nations storytelling and humour.

The work created during this workshop will be shown at the Stanley A. Milner Art Gallery in June.

Check out the student’s amazing creations in the slideshow below.

A sea of pink sweeps across Edmonton Public Schools today

Edmonton Public Schools is participating in Pink Shirt Day today – a day to help raise awareness around bullying. The national anti-bullying campaign started several years ago after a Nova Scotia high school student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The next day, many of his classmates showed up to school wearing pink shirts to take a stand against bullying. The grassroots movement has since spread across Canada and last year, 6.4 million Canadians took part in committing to a bully-free lifestyle.

Here are some of the activities taking place at Edmonton Public Schools on Pink Shirt Day:

• M.E. LaZerte: An assembly will take place from 11:15 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. with a keynote and student speakers. Students and staff will be wearing pink and taking a pledge against bullying. An aerial photo will be taken at 12:15 p.m. with more than 800 students wearing pink shirts.

• Winterburn: The entire school will be wearing pink.

• Lillian Osborne: Students will be wearing pink and student-made buttons. There will also be a movie night hosted by the Grad Council.

• McNally: The Grad Council is holding a pink bake sale and raffle from 11:48 a.m. to 12:33 p.m.

• W.P. Wagner: The Grad Council will be handing out pink candy and cards.

• Centre for Education: Staff will gather in the Atrium for a “pink dot” photo at 12:50 p.m.

For more information on Pink Shirt day, visit: www.pinkshirtday.ca.