Red Deer Public School District

Dick Lemke



* Candidate profiles are published as submitted by the candidate.

hone  403-302-9429
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My background is that of an educator and I have many skills and experience working in this area.   My philosophy is simple in that I believe each and every student is important and unique.  Every decision must be based on what is best for the student.

Thus, the Red Deer Public School Board fits my background and my philosophy of students first and students matter.

Why are you running for Trustee?

I am a retired public school teacher and administrator. I am a three term public trustee.  I am a parent Of three Red Deer Public School graduates and have many grandchildren in our school systems.

I have been involved in the Red Deer community in many areas.  I was a member of the Red Deer Food Bank Board for many years.  I am presently a member of Sunnybrook United, the Royal Canadian Legion and a member of ACT/UCT.  I am a director and plant chair for an environmental organization called Pheasants Forever.  I act as governance chair for the Central Alberta Coop Board. 

I am zone 4 representative for Alberta School Board Association and chair of the Red Deer Public CUPE negotiation team.  I am the First Nations Chair for Zone 4 ASBA and the First Nations Shining Star Award evaluator.

What are your priorities for Red Deer Public Schools?

My priorities for Red Deer Public include many areas in which we can strengthen our educational delivery.  I am very proud of what Red Deer Public has achieved and the small part I played in it. 

We now have about 240 educational assistants which is a tremendous help with the concept of inclusion.  The theory is that unique students do better in a regular classroom and educational assistants help make this possible.  Research shows the benefit of this type of educational setup.  Learning assistant teachers, help develop appropriate curriculum for these classes.  The classroom teacher is no longer alone with this and other types of aid.  Student services have changed with the addition of community liaison workers who now act as a bridge between the school and the home.  This bridge alone with school councilors make for a progressive intervention team.  Now, a new layer of support in the form of mental health professionals will be working directly in our schools as an additional student service.  All of these educational additions have helped make our deliveries more effective.

I agree with our district priorities of literacy/numeracy, student’s success and equity.  Improvement has been shown on our provincial achievement tests in literacy and numeracy.  Strategies involving fluency, background knowledge, work recognition and comprehension appear to be working.  Our reading college program in the summer is a welcome addition. 

Student’s success and completion is always a concern.  One out of four students does not complete graduation in three years.  This is unacceptable and the reason for this is as varied as the individual student.  It is going to take a series of programs to make a dent in this statistic.  The finish line program that encourages students to come back to finish a course or two is a great success.  Student mentors by educators are another worthwhile effort.  Red Deer Public’s alternate program is now keeping many students in school.  The flex program in schools where students have a choice of general interest courses is proving to be a success. 

We must sell the student body on how important a high school diploma can be.  It is one of the necessary stepping stones in life.

Equity is perhaps the most interesting and exciting idea.  Equity assures fairness for all students by having support for students, reduction of barriers and obstacles and excellence in instruction to achieve their educational potential.  This difficult priority means treating each student as unique individuals.  One has to wonder if we will ever achieve equity but we can and are getting closer to this concept.  A pyramid of support is the key with more educational difficulties receiving more support for the individual.  The refresh model builds specific teacher capacity to help these unique students.  Our First Nations and students with English as a second language are now well over 10 percent of the student population.  These students need special support in developing their academic, emotional, social and behavioral wellbeing.  Equity allows us to have the time and capacity to make these students education a success.  I believe that each and every student is important and unique.  Our educational methods and staffing should reflect this.  Every decision a board makes must be based on what is best for the student. 

Question 1  September 26

How would you ensure that parents are informed and meaningfully engaged in their child's education?

Insuring that parents are involved in the school system in a meaningful way is very difficult.  Red Deer is a resource based town and parents work all over the world in many different shift configurations.  The internet material in the form of school website, individual student profiles and progress reports are paramount.  Many of our middle and high schools have staff mentors with as few as six students in a group.  Now students have a mentor and often a friend in these large schools.  Parents now have a contact person to discuss student progress and life situations.  This can be done over the internet at great distances if work requires. 

The second stage that elementary schools are very good at is parental involvement in the schools.  Schools should not be just a building but the vocal point of social interaction.  This can become community for the family and not a school but their school.  On Saturday an ex-student came up to me and said his junior high years were the best of his life, and he often thinks back to these days.  To this student his junior high was his community.

Many elementary schools are very good at this.  Two examples of schools I have been associated with, that do a great job in this field are:  Aspen Heights and G.W Smith.  

Micro Society at Aspen Heights encourages parental help and involvement.  Parents help with sale items and purchase finished products on sale days.  Of course they are in the schools interacting with staff and students to do this.  Award day at Aspen Heights is an exciting time.  The students are generally excited to win an award and the parents fill the gym.  It is a great way to get parental commitment and meaningful engagement in the school.

G.W. Smith has many activities going on every month.  Some involve minor fundraising so the school community can provide the extras for the students.  I know swimming and cross country skiing are funded in this manner.  Some of the events include, pancake breakfast, hot lunches, skating parties, dances and a wind-up barbeque.  These events are very well attended and a definite bond between the school and parents definitely exists.

What changes should be made to the curriculum to best meet the needs of students?

The designing of curriculum is an interesting question because generally it is not designed by the district or at the local school board level.  It is mandated by the Provincial Government so any real change would have to come by influencing the political party in power.  Both the NDP and UCP are taking positions on curriculum redesign in their party platform for the next election. 

My viewpoint is influenced by having designed curriculum in the past as an educator.  Much of our present curriculum configuration is over 20 years old.  The NDP Government has a plan that they are presently working on to revise it.  They want to start with kindergarten and by 2021 finish with the high school subjects.  This is a huge task with large cost implications.  Many different interest groups want to influence this revised material.  Adding or emphasizing new material sounds easy but when you add something you must take another thing out.  The subtraction of material is the difficult part.  I personally think that Canadian history needs to be strengthened as one should know your own country first.  However, I would have to think long and hard at what I would remove.

Forward to yesterday no longer works.  The world is moving fast and we must keep our students competitive.  The basics are important but only the start of the learning curve.  Alberta ranks high in comparative education systems around the world.  We must insure that we give our students the very best foundation and opportunities that we can.

Question Week 2 - October 3

How would you ensure that resources are most effectively and efficiently allocated across the District to meet the diverse needs of all learners?

My philosophy that each student is important and unique can influence budgets.  Equity means that some students need more resources to develop their educational potential.  Thus, education could be considered fair but not necessarily equal. 

Our budget of around 20 million I try to evaluate to how it fits my philosophy.  We must rely on our professional administration to designate monies with this in mind.  Red Deer Public has some of the best people in this area.  Schools get $5,384 per student to run an educational program.  Our schools even make slight adjustments and in some cases take less to help schools with greater needs.  We are allowed 3.6% for administration but use about 3% to remain fiscally responsible. 

One of our biggest problems is sustainable and predictable funding.  We simply don’t know from year to year of the amount we will receive.

Fairview School runs a program of hot meals for everyone.  Red Deer Public also has a mental health initiative of having professional staff in our schools.  These are government programs that progressive school systems can obtain.  I complement our staff for putting in the extra effort.

As a trustee, I must vote on whether the budget is acceptable.  However, I must rely on our administration to suggest the best mode to do this.

What is your position on policies related to sexual orientation and gender identity?

I am all for diversity and inclusion in our schools.  I would expect any schools or school divisions accepting public money to comply.  Playing the devil’s advocate one would wonder what would happen if we outed certain students within our school systems.  One of the strengths of Canadian society is that everyone has a chance to be educated to better themselves.  Gay/straight alliances are within our schools; in fact we have three of them within our schools.  The support networks help promote healthy environment for gay, queer, transgender, bi-sexual and lesbians and their allies.  These groups are allowed and supported by school staff.  Many members do not fit these categories but are simply there as a support system.  I certainly agree with this practice.

I can live with the proposed legislation to stop students from being outed; however, I would hope these situations could be handled by professionals within the system who could evaluate each individual case.  

Question Week 3 - October 10

Are you in favour of one publicly funded education system?

My focus as a trustee will always be on the students.  I try to evaluate each policy on what is fair for our student population.

I believe one publicly funded education system is not in our mandate.  The Alberta Act of 1905 allowed for a public and a catholic education system.  This is part of our constitution and a constitutional change is beyond the scope of a school board.  Constitutions can be changed but it is difficult, expensive and time consuming.  A political party might decide this is important and make it part of their political platform.  Thus, those trustees who want a change can join and influence one of these political parties.  Our focus must never change as a school board, and that is the student being paramount.