Red Deer Public School District

Candidate Question & Answer - Week 1

 

* Candidates answers are published as submitted by the candidate.

Candidate Name

Question 1: How would you ensure that parents are informed and meaningfully engaged in their child's education?

Question 2: What changes should be made to the curriculum to best meet the needs of students?

Matt Chapin I would try to concate them in ever way possible. Have a booth at the farmers marker, have my email and phone number out there, if there is something going on use any and all media to get the word out This something I would like to work with the parents and teachers of the students. I am just one person and I dont want to say what changes should be made without everyones input.
Jason Chilibeck - Ultimately, parents need to take responsibility to be engaged – engagement is not something that can be forced or set upon someone else. However, my vision as a Trustee includes being a conduit with parents to receive questions and issues and help them find answers or solutions.
- As a Trustee, I would like to have a flow diagram created for parents to reference when resolving issues (Issue Resolution Process). In the past week, I heard of a case where a parent made a request and ended up feeling very belittled by school administration. Thankfully, the person followed up on some of the comments made and in the end one has to question where some administration staff think they have authority to say such things to parents. We need to ensure we are working with parents.
- As a Trustee, I would like to see a regular Board update added to the normal school mailouts that are sent electronically to parents. It doesn’t have to be much but something during the year would be great!
- As a Trustee, I would like to see all school communications copied to a general forum so everyone can see what's going on in the RDPSD. The process can be kept very simple.
- As a Trustee, I would also like to hold an open forum with parents to make myself accessible
- Not sure if a curriculum change is required but rather to highlight educational options available to parents and students
- Emphasis on sports: would like to see if there is an appetite to have a fun competition between schools. I feel such an event(s) would build school spirit and involvement. Depending on how it is put together, it may help build child confidence as well!
- Emphasis on technology & media: I would like to see computers used more fully in schools to even reach into the realms of programming. We have an opportunity to set children up for the future and just knowing how to use a program is not enough. Great to see some students using media tools to make some great videos. I would like to see more done in the area! Does RDPSD have a media room students and the public can use? Could we make space available Friday evenings and weekends? What a great way to get children involved in an activity!
- Does the RDPSD have a chart comparing the different styles/techniques used at the various schools in Red Deer?
Bill Christie There are many ways to keep parents & the Community informed such as: School Newsletters, encouraging parents to be involved in their School Councils and City Wide School Council, Community Forums and Townhall Meetings, Report Cards, Meetings with individual parents with concerns about their child, School Parent /Teacher interviews, News Releases, District Facebook and Twitter accounts to reach out to parents, teachers, students and the community, Surveys with feedback to Schools & Community, District online Q & A site, Provincial Reports such as Provincial Achievement Test Results, Diploma Exams.

Web-casting our Board Meetings may be of benefit and could be looked into. This would provide a method of parents, teachers, students and the community to obtain info. at their leisure.

Above all a Trustee must be willing to listen - I always ask students which School they attend, do they like or dislike it and what their interests are ie. academic, sports, drama, band, choir or ??? When they respond - I then tell them that I am a Trustee and value their opinion and would they like to add anything else? I do almost the same thing with parents - asking them what School their child attends and do they like it (if not why not and if yes why as well).

The foregoing are but a few processes that we follow - but by being open, approachable, transparent, concerned and willing to listen we should be able to ensure the same in our communication with our parents.
 
First off the Alberta Education System is not broken in fact it is one of the best in the World. However, that said, we have to ensure that we continue to keep up with changes and improvements so that our students will continue to be among the best in the world. Alberta's Curriculum is being worked on and upgrade/changes considered. This process started i the Fall of 2016 with an on-line survey to confirm direction and then Curriculum Working Groups were formed and Focus Groups.

The Spring of 2017 saw another on-line survey that will result in proposed learning outcomes being developed for the Fall of 2017. This process will continue through to December 2022 - SO THERE IS STILL PLENTY OF TIME TO GET INVOLVED!

In the past there was no common design to different curriculum so curriculum redesign basically is looking at a form of common design.

Parents wishing information can contact the Board Office or a Trustee or go on-line to education.alberta.ca/curriculum-development

Also a good place for a parent to start to get information on what their child should be learning in each grade is to go to this site learnalberta.ca then you can click on My Childs Learning a Parents Resource. Here you can go into each grade. There is also a resource there for Teachers as well.

If you wish to become actively involved go to the sites that I have mentioned above for background information then contact; a Trustee, your Principal or the Superintendents office to find out how you can become more involved.
Dianne Macaulay As a Trustee we are liaison to 3 or 4 schools every year. The schools change every year. As a Trustee we need to attend school events and school council meeting. These are great places to talk with parents, students and staff about what the district is doing and to hear what their wants and issues are. I attend as many schools events as possible and I value the interactions I have with everyone at the schools. I also look deeply into the surveys the district does and ask questions to get clarification on specific items of concern. That information needs to be shared on the same level between the school , the district, and the parents. I believe a trustee needs to listen more than to be heard. I am so excited that the curriculum is under review. Some of the subjects have been the same for over 30 years. Our society has changed so much over the past three decades. The curriculum needs to keep current and our teachers need to have the supports to teach these changes. Coding is a subject that needs to be part of the curriculum. It will provide the basis for many areas of technology. We need to teach the kids in different ways that will give them success. What works for one child may not work for another. With that we need to provide the educators the support they need to achieve this in their classrooms. I would like to increase learning support teams in each of our schools, and to do this it will take more funding.
Bev Manning Teachers are the frontline workers and the first face that most parents see. We need to continue to support them in the amazing work that they do in our classrooms each and every day.

We also need to continue to support our school councils. They provide an avenue for meaningful involvement for some parents. Red Deer Public has purchased a membership in the Alberta School Council's Association, and I would continue to support doing that so that all of our schools can be members of that organization and participate. Our City Wide School Council has been a tremendously active and great group to work with, I also think they need support and participation from Trustees.

I have always believed that parents are the first teachers of their children. Those first years are so critical - I think we need to catch those kids before they enter school. We need to make connections at pre-K and before. Schools should be welcoming places for all - even before your children get there. This provides an easy transition and better communication in the long run.

I believe our power school, report cards, teacher and school websites all continue to make valuable information available to parents at their fingertips.
Curriculum needs to be relevant, meaningful and accessible. It seems to be a very "slow moving vehicle" when the government gets involved in changing it.

I don't think this is a simple question to answer, and we need to work closely with our teachers to help us understand how our curricula meets our students where they are at.

I think that long periods of time pass before things change in this area, and we need to be able to respond better.
Patrick O'Connor It is well known that parent involvement in a child's education is a huge contributor to a child's success in school.  It is vitally important to strengthen the connection between the child's school and home.  School staff, trustees, and parents need to work together to support the learning and development of every student.

Many parents are not comfortable in engaging. Therefore it is imperative that schools be open doors and take the initiative to invite parents into the school. Having frequent and a wide variety of opportunities for parents to become involved, allows for the diversity in all parent comfort-levels of engagement. Connecting with, and building positive relationships with parents, and making sure the school is a welcoming and pleasant place for parents to come, is critical in developing strong links between the home and school, and for promoting parental engagement.

As a trustee, we need to maximize parental involvement. I would strongly advocate for the board meetings to be changed from the current 1:00 pm to a more suitable time that working parents can attend. Being approachable and connecting with parents at every opportunity is important. Building relationships and connections with parents by attending school functions, being active in the community, and engaging parents at every opportunity will improve the involvement of parents in the education process of their child. I believe in empowering parents to have a voice.
Alberta Education has started the process of curriculum redesign. There have been many opportunities for involvement from the public, including parents, students and educators. I believe this is long overdue and am very pleased that it is being completed.

Most importantly, we need to develop students who are fully connected and globally ready. The knowledge and skills to be successful in this modern world have been identified by The Partnership for 21st Learning: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, technology literacy, and socio-emotional development. Providing our students with the P21 competencies ensures they will flourish in an ever-changing world where lifelong learning is essential. Early learning is imperative in developing these skills, as this is a time when brain development is at a critical stage. I am a strong advocate for pre-kindergarten programs, where these early childhood experiences affect the brain development, and have long-term outcomes which impact the success of the child.
Cathy Peacocke 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.
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.
Angela Sommers Teachers communicating our children’s educational progress is very valuable, especially at the elementary level where early prevention and correction can greatly influence a child’s life. I’ve always had quick and positive responses from teachers that I have initiated contacted with. Unfortunately, the parent teacher conferences are very short and the student lead conferences do not provide opportunities for private dialogue with teachers. Middle schools use Power School to help track academic grading, but this requires the marks to be posted in a timely manner. I realize our teachers’ time is taxed to the limit. Teachers need assistance. If we parents expect better communication about our children’s progress; this will take money to secure aid. I have researched how to secure new sustainable funding while costing taxpayers and parents little, if anything. If staff, parents and relatives of the RDPSD harness their purchasing power for basic necessities such as electricity and natural gas into co-ops, the RDPS district could benefit from sustainable sources of funding. This is a new initiative, one adopted by smaller municipalities at present.

The RDPSD has a responsibility to all parents to communicate what resources are available to parents and children. The provincial and city agencies continually provide free classes and opportunities that many parents and children would attend if they were aware.

Power School is a secure web-based student management system designed to strengthen communication between the school and home. It provides parents and legal guardians online access to their children's progress in school. Parkland School Division http://www.psd70.ab.ca/PowerSchool.php
The curriculum is provincially mandated; the school boards are our front lines to the provincial government. I have always looked to the professionals – teachers and principals for leadership. I would engage these experts with regard to curriculum changes to forward to the provincial authorities. My family has had negative experiences when changes were made to the delivery of math. The discovery method is a wonderful idea in trying to reduce the anxiety so many students have with math, but if the teachers aren’t confident with how to deliver any new approach, the student, teacher and parent all suffer. If the fundamentals are not learned - everyone becomes frustrated in addition to compromising future educational efforts. I am currently paying a tutor to teach foundational math basics for my child because of the fore mentioned change to the math curriculum.

I like the “Growth Mindset”, where students are taught they can get smarter and do better by trying. Such an environment fosters students to exert the extra effort and in doing so they become the best they can be.

I would love to see aspects of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” incorporated into the curriculum, or at least in part be adopted by the whole RDPSD. The cultivated life skills would be an enormous benefit to all.

Growth Mindset is: “When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.” https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems… Covey reveals a step-by-step pathway for living with fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity―principles that give us the security to adapt to change.

https://www.amazon.ca/Habits-Highly-Effective-People-Powerful/dp/1455892823
 
Bill Stuebing
There is no question but that parents have the right to be fully involved in their children’s education and that Red Deer Public Schools must provide a full range of opportunities for that involvement. The real key to this question however, is that that parents must be informed and engaged, meaningfully!

The primary connection between the school and the family is the child’s classroom teacher and a variety of opportunities, both formal (“Meet the Teacher Events” and Parent/Teacher Conferences) and informal (school social or activity events, specially requested or accidental meetings, unscheduled occasions) exist for consultation and discussion. In addition, the district provides a PowerSchool utility on line so that parents can follow their child’s attendance, marks and progress daily as well as other relevant information (see PowerSchool for RDPSD Parents on YouTube).

Should parents have particular issues or concerns at any time, initial contact will normally be with their child’s classroom teacher and, if the concern persists, subsequently with the Principal and the Superintendent. The school too may also initiate consultation with respect to emerging concerns. Depending on the issue, this may be undertaken by the teacher, by a school administrator, by one of our Counselors or Community Liaison Workers, or by some other member of the school’s Student Support Team. If additional assistance is required, the district has a variety of program and behaviour specialists on its staff together with links to other relevant community services. We continue to try and expand the range of assistance and opportunities for our students. This year, in conjunction with Alberta Health Services we will begin to offer mental heath services in our schools.

Our intention is that every student enjoy the most complete range of educational opportunities together with appropriate and necessary resources and supports.
Parents should always be our full partners in this endeavour
Curriculum change is a very difficult question. In a time of increasingly rapid social and technological change, our continuing quest for a fully acceptable, rigorous and .relevant curriculum is complicated by an increasingly diverse community reflected in greater diversity and inclusion in our classrooms. At the same time, our students come to us with wide ranging differences in their needs, interests and abilities which are reflected in the diverse expectations of their parents.

At the same time, Red Deer Public Schools has embraced the important value of equity, which recognizes that there are no disposable children as we seek to respond to the unique needs of each and every student. We cannot employ a cookie cutter approach to curriculum where all students are given the same thing.

For that past three years, our first priority as a district has been a concern for student Literacy but our children learn reading and writing in a variety of different ways. So while at one level we might have a common curriculum, in the classroom there is a need for differentiated instruction which responds to the different needs of our students. It is to the credit of our staff that we have been successful in improving literacy across the district. This year related concerns have led the Board to add Numeracy to that important first priority, thereby increasing the demands on those who deliver curriculum to our students. There is no “silver bullet” in curriculum change, no simple answer to an exceedingly complex question.

The Alberta Department of Education has embarked this Fall on a 6-year plan to redesign the entire K to 12 curriculum (see Alberta Education online ) What is required is a process that will realistically incorporate the input of our stakeholders, our teachers, our parents and local community, a process that provides for reasonable local autonomy and the flexibility to adapt curriculum to our local needs.

We need to be part of the process.
Jaelene Tweedle
I think there are two different areas to address.
First, to ensure that parents are informed, I would make sure I stay meaningfully engaged with the public. School Trustees are in a position of Governance. But I don’t feel you can adequately govern from a distance. Trustees need to be an approachable and recognizable face. They need to be present in our schools, outside of mandated meetings, and standing up to wave at Christmas concerts.
I would “introduce” myself to the school communities that I am a liaison for. I would want families to know that they can contact me with questions they have. I’d ask schools if they would like me to attend events such as Meet The Staff Night, so parents can put a face to the name, and know who I am. I would ask the schools that I am liaison for, if I could have a voice in their monthly newsletter- letting families know what I , and the Board have been up to. I would also gladly attend School Council Meetings ( if that’s the school’s wish- because trustees should never be an intrusive presence ). The value of parental and School Council input, can not be underestimated. I would provide regular email updates to anyone wishing to “sign up”, as to what the Board has been doing, what is coming up. A Trustee must never forget that they were elected by, and are accountable to, the public.
Parental Engagement, I believe is a separate issue. You can’t MAKE anyone be engaged. But, you can help give them a reason to be engaged. One of the things I stand for the most, is empowering parents to be engaged in their child’s education and school. And one of the simplest, yet most powerful things you can do to achieve that, is let parents know you VALUE their input. Let them know that you are on the same team as them, and that they can make a meaningful difference. You need to actually “hear” what people have to say. And we need to make sure that Administrators in our schools, create a culture, that values and supports parental engagement.
As we enter a period that will see our entire curriculum rewritten, over a number of years, I think we need to be careful to do it, in a meaningful way. As changes are made, we need in ensure that they are ones that will serve our students well, now, and also in the future.

We’re living in an everchanging world, and must make sure that our school curriculum, will not see our children left behind, on a global level. They are growing up in a time, where their possibilities and opportunities reach far beyond the small corner that they call home. In order to support them, we need to make sure that we have necessary and adequate resources available, and make sure our educators possess the knowledge and skills required, to lead our students in these studies. There have been some questions arising lately, about whether there is a need to have a “coding” component included in learning for younger students. I believe we run the risk of our children falling behind, if we leave these skills until junior high and high school options courses.

I’m a big fan of Discovery Learning and Project Based Learning. I believe it introduces students to skills, that will be essential to their success in life, not just in school. We don’t need to teach children “what” to learn. We need to teach them “how” to learn- we must teach them how to be inquisitive, and engaged, to look for validity in information, and to search for their own solutions to problems. We need to teach them tenacity, resiliency, and perseverance.

I believe that we must broaden our content of character education, and increase our focus on a student’s entire well being. Our schools need to be a place that values compassion, empathy, and integrity just as much as they value the academic success of their students. We can never lose sight of the fact that we are sending HUMANS, not just “test scores” out into the world. Our entire community benefits, when these humans are kind, and empathetic.
Jim Watters There are numerous ways for parents to be informed and engaged in their child’s education. The district website is a wealth of information and links to other sources of information. Parents or students can connect to Alberta Education for curricular material, find out about specific programs, locate school contact information, etc. Schools also have a combination of sources such as websites, newsletters, agendas and remind 101 for general or class specific notices. Being a member of a school council is both rewarding and informative. Being a school council member provides parents with a direct line of communication with schools administrators and first hand knowledge of school goals, funding/budgets and school decisions. Bi-monthly City Wide School Council meetings allow schools an opportunity to communication with other schools in our district; as well as Board of Trustees, administration and the community. Throughout the year parents and students are provided with an opportunity to complete a survey. The responses from the surveys are used at both the school and district level to set priorities.

In my opinion, the most important way to be engaged in your child’s education is by developing a relationship with their teachers. Attending conferences, conversations through email, phone calls, etc. can help make positive connections so that parents are involved. Progress reports and/or report cards can provide specific understandings about your child.

I see curriculum as a road map. Teachers provide learning opportunities for students to get from one place to another, so curriculum needs to be current and relevant to our changing world. Curriculum changes therefore need to be made by the people who are knowledgeable in specific curricular areas and using data to guide these decisions. So our provincial government needs to ensure that knowledgeable voices are heard when curricular changes occur.

I feel that our curriculum needs to be a careful balance of core subjects and options. Students have strengths in various areas and I feel our curriculum needs to promote these skills.
Chris Woods I believe we should be providing information to parents through the many technologic methods available. We should be looking at apps or web portals for parents to login and see their child’s individual progress and outstanding assignments. We should be utilizing social media and text messages for school activities, events and notices (bus cancelations, closures, etc.). We should put together community events for parents, student and teacher to be able to interact with one another. In order to get parents engaged we need to provide as many opportunities as possible for parents to connect with administration and teachers. Any of the tools we use to inform the parents need to have the ability for the parents to communicate back and we must promote the awareness of these tools. I think the curriculum should be continually updated and redesigned to facilitate education that is meaningful, engaging and supports the students learning needs. We should shift from traditional teaching methods and look to support the professional development of more modern teaching techniques that can captivate the student’s attention. With a new generation of students that can get the answers to everything at their fingertips we need to show them in the real world how it is they will use their education. We need to encourage and support our educators to be flexible in their learning plans and let them choose a delivery method that best fits the classroom. The more they can tailor the learning environment for the students and provide real life examples of education being used in society than hopefully the more accepting the students will be to stay engaged.
Laurette Woodward
Research shows that when parents and families are engaged in their children’s education, children do better. Not just in academics, but also with attendance, behavior, self-esteem, and social skills. Also, they have better transitions to school. http://www.learningliftoff.com/how-parental-involvement-benefits-the-entire-educational-process/#.WP5cW_nythE

Research also tells us what kind of engagement matters most. While volunteering at school is a good thing (my hat goes off to many of my fellow school volunteers), what actually matters most is what happens at home. A few examples of meaningful parent engagement include: reading at home, talking about school, creating an environment that encourages learning, and encouraging a good attitude about school.

http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/how-does-education-work/parent-and-school-council-resources/training-and-resources/helping-children-succeed-the-parent-engagement-toolkit/

There are also many potential barriers to engagement. Parents are busy, teachers are busy, there are economic challenges, and communication breakdown, etc.
If elected, I will advocate for the district to explore what could be done to strengthen parental and family engagement. There are potentially many strategies to consider. I would want to ensure that both educators and parents joined the conversation before deciding which are a fit. I would hope the discussion might include:
1. Standardizing communication tools (powerschool, texting, email, websites) to make it easier to get information;
2. Ways to support meaningful interaction between parents and their children at home; and
3. Examining how reporting progress to parents could increase parental engagement.

I don’t know all the answers. But I am confident that we can work together to find ways of better harnessing the incredible power of parental and family love and strength, to help children succeed at school.
The primary responsibility for curriculum is held by the province. Government leaders, working with educators, subject experts, and other stakeholders can either re-write or re-design curriculum.

School trustees are responsible to ensure each student has the opportunity to achieve their potential. Each board uses multiple tools including the curriculum and a partnership with educators. A board can also approve the use of Locally Developed Courses (LDC) when the community and / or educators see a need. These must work in concert to achieve individual student success.

What should be in a curriculum? I believe it should be based on a strong foundation of knowledge and basic skills (literacy and numeracy). It should also support students as they prepare for life in our modern world. The abundance of knowledge online means greater accessibility than ever. As a result, the skill to evaluate the credibility of information and the ability to think critically is essential. Also, curriculum should be unbiased (not present one political view point as better than another).

In 2015, the province adopted the Ministerial Order on Student Learning. I appreciate the description it contains about its goal for each graduate. It describes having: “engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit”. And it names specific skill sets: being able to know how to learn and gain knowledge, to think critically, manage information, and innovate.

In education, there are sometimes opportunities to ‘try new things’. This can be, at times, controversial. I believe a jurisdiction’s approach must include:
• Engaging with teachers, parents, families and community to understand local priorities
• Trusting the expertise of educators to choose approaches that are grounded in research and focused on student success
• Building supports to ensure success
If elected, and when changes to curriculum are being discussed, this is the perspective I would bring to the table.