Red Deer Public School District

Cathy Peacocke





*Candidate profiles are published as submitted by the candidate.

Phone  403-342-6043 
Website and Social Media Pages Twitter
Background Serving as a school board trustee for the Red Deer Public School District has been an honour and an incredible privilege. I began volunteering in the school district when my children started in kindergarten and I became the chair of five school councils. It is that involvement that led me to running for the school board. As a result of my work in the district I was pleased to be awarded the Red Deer Public Schools Friends of Education Award prior to becoming a Trustee. I was later presented with the President’s Award from the Alberta School Councils’ Association for my involvement in developing and supporting more effective school councils here in Red Deer and across the province. I was elected to the school board in 2007 and have served as our board vice-chair since 2013. In 2014 and again in 2016 I was elected by trustees from Central Alberta school boards to represent them at the provincial level in the role of the Zone 4 Director on the Board of Directors of the Alberta School Boards Association. I believe in the importance of community service and have volunteered with a number of local organizations. Some of my previous involvement includes serving on the Boards of the United Way of Central Alberta and the Crisis Centre as well as Chairperson on the Boards of Special Equestrians and the Lifelong Learning Council of Red Deer. I am an advocate for people with disabilities and worked for an agency that provided support to people with acquired brain injury. Born and raised in Nova Scotia I moved to Alberta after graduating from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Mathematics. I served in an infantry unit in the army reserves where I achieved the rank of Lieutenant. This position included leadership training and I learned the importance of working together for a common purpose. I see that unity of purpose displayed throughout our District as both staff and school board trustees focus on meeting the needs of each student.
Why are you running for Trustee? Providing an excellent education to our children is essential to ensuring that students have the opportunity to reach their full potential. To do this I believe we need to focus on their emotional and physical well-being in addition to their learning needs. School Boards exist to ensure that students receive the best possible educational opportunities. As a locally elected Trustee I am responsive to local needs and circumstances and am committed to serving the residents of Red Deer as well as our children. Student learning is enhanced when there is positive communication between home, school and community. Parents are their child’s first teacher and I encourage parents to continue as partners in their child’s education. It is a priority for members of the school board to ensure teachers have the resources and support they need in the classroom. As a trustee I place great importance in ensuring all staff members feel their work is essential in providing a positive learning environment and having an integral role in students’ success. With my mathematics background I am by nature an analytical thinker and I seek diverse opinions to challenge my thinking when I make decisions at the Board table. I believe respectful and thought-provoking dialogue leads to wiser solutions. Sitting for three years on the Board of Directors for the Alberta School Boards Association representing Central Alberta school boards has increased my understanding of education issues facing school districts and boards across Alberta and provided the opportunity to meet regularly with representatives of Alberta Education. This broader perspective has strengthened my abilities and knowledge as a trustee within our district. I am eager to use the broad experiences I have had as a trustee, my commitment to excellence for all students and the responsibility I have to our students, families and the Red Deer community to return to the school board and work to ensure success for each student.
What are your priorities for Red Deer Public Schools? I support the development of lifelong learners striving for academic excellence in a nurturing, safe and vibrant school community. Recognizing that each student comes to us with their own unique needs and circumstances has led Red Deer Public to provide supports within the District and the classroom to bring out the best in each student. This mandates provides equity for student learning and development. I believe equity must be foundational to our education plan, and we will build our goals on this foundation. We must ensure that all students feel connected to their schools and peers. The lack of connections is one of the significant challenges that inhibits students from being successful and increases the likelihood of them dropping out of school. We need to celebrate diversity, ensuring that all students feel welcome, including but not limited to their cultural background, financial or family situation, sexual orientation, newcomers to Canada, appearance, religion or gender identity. Schools and school districts are called upon to provide an ever increasing list of services to students and families. The requirement for support in Red Deer is growing. While we try to meet as many needs as we can, there is a limit to what we can do. We are stretching our staff’s capacity and resources and we require additional resources to continue to attempt to address as many needs as we can. There has been a startling and significant increase in the number of students dealing with mental health issues. The Red Deer Public District has made mental health wellness a priority, and we have also developed Community Liaison Worker positions with staff who work closely with families as well as students. I feel a responsibility as a trustee to keep these needs in the forefront of the priorities of our community and provincial government. Supports we can invest now for students will have tremendous pay-off for their futures. As a trustee I am an advocate for students and education.
Question Week 1 - September 26

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

Students whose parents are involved in their child’s education are more likely to be successful in school. With that in mind here are some suggestions to engage and inform parents:

• It is important that parents feel valued as partners throughout the school years. This starts with providing welcoming school environments where parents as well as students feel comfortable and respected.
• Start the school year with an early meet the teacher event.
• Set up opportunities for parents to meet other parents in their child’s class.
• Ask teachers to personally invite parents to be involved. This will help parents feel connected and committed to the school.
• Build a sense of community.
• Provide opportunities for volunteering. For parents who can’t be at the school, offer ways they can do volunteer work from their own homes or around their own schedules
• Develop engaging, friendly school councils that present useful information on what is happening at the school. Include effective principal’s reports and discussions on enhancing student opportunities. Encourage a social atmosphere, and limit or eliminate discussions on fundraising.
• Offer parent education sessions at the school. Survey parents for topics of interest.
• At the high school level assign a teacher to be a student’s advisor throughout their high school years. This teacher then becomes a contact person for parents so they can connect with a teacher who comes to know their child well.
• Work to reduce possible cultural divides at the school so diversity is welcomed.
• Teachers can send positive notes home to parents about their child.
• Build relationships that demonstrate equal value in the distinct role of teacher and parent in student success.
• Identify informative and timely ways of communicating with parents.
• Hold school events that bring parents and children to the school together. Maintain a culture at the school that places a priority on keeping parent engaged and informed.

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

Alberta Education is updating the curriculum so discussing what changes would best meet the needs of students is timely. Curriculum issues to consider include:

• Prepare children to be successful in their future.
• Enable them to be global and citizens and feel connected to their world.
• The present curriculum is too full, with too many outcomes. Teachers in Red Deer Public are advised to focus on the essential outcomes.
• Keep a focus on learning the basics in mathematics but also enable students to apply math in real world applications.
• The updated curriculum will be digital, so it will allow for much easier updating.
• Some of the curriculum has not been updated for thirty years, it needs to be kept more current.
• Embedding competencies within the curriculum. These skills include issues such as problem solving and managing information. With information at their fingertips, students need to be able to evaluate information found online for its relevance and validity.
• Maintain the fundamentals of mathematics, reading and writing.
• Enable teachers to teach the same outcome across various subjects.
• The curriculum needs to allow students to be informed on ways to focus on their own well-being. Mental wellness needs to be part of the learning.
• Students must feel the information they are learning is relevant and useful to their future.
• Must be designed to allow teachers to differentiate their teaching based on a student’s learning needs.
• Designed to be respectful of diversity within our communities and the world.
• Curriculum that helps further develop ethical citizens over and above what children learn within their own families.
• Provide context to our past and shows how it connects us to our future.
• Indigenous people need to be better served by the curriculum, inclusive to their history and respectful of their culture.
A strong curriculum will provide students with the most effective start to life-long learning and develop critical thinking skills.

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?

Each year consult extensively in the development of the Three Year Plan. Establish priorities for student learning needs and determine strategies. The Learning and Student Services departments will identify the essential supports. Issues to consider:
• Equity will be foundational to all District decisions.
• Determine staffing positions and placement.
• Staff’s professional development will build capacity.
• Allocate specialized staffing positions-some of these positions will be shared among schools.
• Utilize specialized adaptive equipment for students.
• Ensure all students feel valued and included.
• Have food available in all schools for hungry students by utilizing community support.
• Work with Regional Collaborative Service Delivery to assist students with complex needs.
• Continue the excellent roles of Learning Assistant Teams, Counsellors and Community Liaison Workers (CLWs). Increase the CLWs’ role in working with the family as a whole.
• Advocate to increase the number of Alberta Health mental health specialists in schools.
• Assign Educational Assistants (EAs) as needed.
• Provide extra staffing position at schools that have additional challenges.
• Partner with appropriate government departments (example Alberta Health) and community agencies (example Aspire).
• Create specialized areas in schools such as sensory rooms.
• Provide Bright Beginnings programs in as many elementary school as possible.
• Be inclusive of all staff members so everyone appreciates their role is integral to student success.
• The School Board increases its advocacy for students who face barriers. Keep education in the forefront of concerns for our community and provincial government.

The Three Year Plan drives the budget. It takes careful consideration, hard decisions and balancing of the multiple requirements in operating the District to ensure funds are carefully and wisely allocated. In this way we will most effectively meet the diverse needs of all students.

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

I believe that the Red Deer Public School District’s policy on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity provides a compelling statement in regards to the significance the Board of Trustees places on being an inclusive and welcoming school district. Our District researched and consulted for nearly a year in the development and as to the specific wording of this policy which encompasses LGBTQ students and staff. The Board began the process well before the Minister of Education brought forward the government’s guidelines in this area as it became clear to us that a stand-alone policy was appropriate.

Many school districts and private schools have included sexual orientation and gender identity in their broad policies on safe and caring schools or under regulations. Multiple studies however show LGBTQ students are at higher risk than the general student population of being bullied and victims of violence as well as increased likelihood of depression, suicide and substance abuse, among other challenges. With that knowledge I believe the need to provide specific support, welcoming environments and protections to LGBTQ students necessitates a specific policy, such as the broad and detailed policy we have in our District.

Question Week 3 - October 10

Are you in favour of one publicly funded education system?

On a personal level I am in favour of one publicly funded education system which would operate under locally elected school boards and offer choice within the system. Such a change would require an amendment to our Constitution, which falls solely under the authority of the provincial government.

Notwithstanding my personal opinion, as a candidate running in a school board election I do not feel it is appropriate for boards to take a position supporting one system. It is essential that all boards across this province can work together in a positive and productive manner on issues affecting students. To do this effectively we need to maintain respectful and trusting alliances with our fellow trustees.

We must recognise that all trustees in Alberta are elected by their communities for a mutual purpose: to act in the best interests of students, both in our local jurisdictions and across Alberta. I believe that a school board taking a public position supporting one publicly funded system is divisive and may harm relationships with non-public school boards. Trustees on the Red Deer Public and Catholic Boards share the responsibility of being advocates of education in our community and thus we must retain a positive and collaborative relationship by recognizing the legitimacy of each other’s Boards’ roles on behalf of students.

With that in mind, it is important that we be respectful of the realities of our current education system which consists of public, francophone and separate school jurisdictions.

In my opinion if a school board takes a public stand against our current system, it causes division amongst Boards across this province, thus hampering our collective ability to be strong and focused advocates for students. I believe that for school boards to work most effectively on behalf of students that we need to focus on what unites us, rather than on what divides us, therefore allowing us to work together in harmony.