Red Deer Public School District

Candidate Question & Answer - Week 2

 

* Candidates answers are published as submitted by the candidate.

*Posted in Random Order.

Candidate Name

Question 3: How would you ensure that resources are most effectively and efficiently allocated across the District to meet the diverse needs of all learners?

Question 4: What is your position on policies related to sexual orientation and gender identity?

Matt Chapin

Talk to everyone! I would go to both the teachers and parents to what is needed. If I feel it is needed try to work with Edmonton to get more money for the budget.

I feel for people who go throw this. I know some will hate me for this and some with will love me for this but I want to work with the kids going throw this so they feel okay in their own bodies. How one feels is not their falt. I would also help them with their families cas I know it is for all of them.

Jaelene Tweedle

I think one of the most powerful things we can do, to ensure that we meet the needs of all learners, is to assure we have adequate staffing in our classrooms, to support all of our students. To me, this needs to be a priority. Yes, it costs money to hire teachers and EA’s, but we simply can’t expect our students to achieve their best, if we don’t even have enough “boots on the ground”. And we can’t be surprised, when we see our teachers burnout, because they are being stretched to the limit. So for me, first off, I think we need to ensure sufficient staffing in all of our schools. I believe staffing, is not just limited to teachers and EA’s, but to counsellors and mental wellness personnel as well. Next, I think we need to prioritize having adequate learning resources, and materials and we need to have the necessary individual supports that students need- whether it be for visual / auditory needs, developmental disabilities, or physical limitations. Once we make sure that ALL students are provided for, to give them the best possible chance to achieve their own personal definition of “success”, I think it’s only then, that we should look at spending money on the “bells and whistles”. When we’ve assured adequate staffing and learning materials are available for all of our students, then we can look at the extras- such as extra activities, and equipment that enrich our students’ learning experience, even further. And we can’t have schools that are haves and have nots- where the determining factor in whether they have “access” to these extras, is based on the fundraising capabilities and financial status of the families, that individual schools serve. We are fortunate that our District doesn’t span a huge geographical area, so that sharing / pooling of resources between schools, is a very viable option. And it’s also the pooling of knowledge, expertise, and connections that are made, that go a long way in serving our students.

I fully support the RDPSD Policy, in regards to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. I’m proud to say our District took initiative to create a policy, before it was mandated by our Government.

The policy addresses not only students that are a sexual and gender minority, but also staff, and families of students. The intent is to create and ensure a culture, where any of these individuals can walk into our schools, and be treated with dignity and respect, and not be subjected to harassment, or discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. A fact that can’t be ignored, is that LGBTQ students face a much higher risk of bullying, discrimination, and judgement, and are at greater risk for mental health issues, self harm, and suicide. The District’s policy doesn’t give extra, nor exceptional rights to our LGBTQ students, staff, and families, but it does make it clear that the District cares about the students they serve. Part of the policy is in relation to GSAs / QSAs. And on this topic, I am once again proud to say that our District was the first within the province to ever have a school form a GSA- at Lindsay Thurber, in the 1990’s. It troubles me greatly, that these “clubs” which are no different than any other club, sometimes get painted with a brush, of being a sort of scandalous place for children to congregate. They are merely a place for support, inclusion, and quite likely, a game of checkers now and then! They’re also, not just for students who identify as LGBTQ. They’re for any student who just wants to take part, become informed, and provide support for their peers. It’s important to note that the right of students to be able to form a GSA within their school, is provincially protected. Individual schools don’t have the right to simply opt out of such guidelines, nor should they. And just as we don’t require parental consent for a child to join a Chess club, I don’t believe that consent should be required to attend a GSA either.

Cathy Peacocke

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.

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.

Laurette Woodward

The district’s goal should be to ensure equitable funding and opportunities for all children. Two issues I see in this area are inclusion and fundraising.

Inclusion is a great model in theory. It means that children of all walks of life, and with all different abilities and challenges, get to learn together. I have seen my children grow because of those experiences, and so appreciate that opportunity.

The main challenge I see with inclusion is having enough resources. I know more than a handful of teachers who are tired from meeting the diverse needs of so many children in their care. Even if you are the best teacher in the world, your abilities and energy can only stretch so far. We need to be careful about the resources on the front line. If elected, I would support as much money going into the classroom as possible. Also, I support lobbying for sustainable and predictable funding from the province. Another issue I have heard discussed is fundraising. When schools have families with higher socio economic conditions, there are larger amounts of funds raised. When schools are populated by students with families of more modest means, fundraising can be limited. In this way schools who raise more also can afford to do more things like field trips or build playgrounds, etc. – things that are not funded by the jurisdiction. I am not sure what the answer is. I have heard a ‘fundraising tax’ is one idea, or of sharing all funds that are raised. Personally, I would like to see the City wide school council discuss this challenge to see if there are other options. Maybe a few city-wide fundraising events each year? I think parents are pretty smart, and they will have some good ideas.

 

All students including LGBTQ+ students have a right to attend school in a safe, caring and respectful environment. If elected I would not advocate to change Red Deer Public’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy.

At the same time I would like to ensure the way the policy is carried out promotes connection with parents and families wherever possible. I believe this is in the best interest of all students including LGBTQ+ students.

LGBTQ+ youth need space to explore their own identity, without fear of negative consequences from family members. Sexual orientation and gender identity are very personal to each individual. Thus the district’s references to confidentiality and privacy in policy.

Research also says family support is critical for LGBTQ youth. One study conducted for the Trans PULSE Project pointed out Trans youth are at high risk for suicide without parental support – a 57% risk. With parental support that risk dropped to 4%. 75% of Trans youth suffered depression without family support. With support that dropped to 23%. When a parent is unaware of what is happening with their child they are, by default, unsupportive.

Research also shows that contrary to what was previously expected, many parents will be supportive. “A proportion of families respond with acceptance, and more with ambivalence, to learning about their child’s LGBT identity – and not with uniform rejection as had been previously assumed.” Also, “Rejecting families become less rejecting over time and access to accurate information is a critical factor in helping parents, families, and caregivers learn to support their LGBT children.” (Ryan, C. 2010 Engaging families to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth: The Family Acceptance Project).

We need to talk about how to form a bridge between school and home. LGBTQ+ youth must be ready for any conversation and not forced into it. With confidentiality in place, then let’s explore the good that most parents can provide.

 

Chris Woods

A lot of funding is currently allocated based on a per student basis and this remains the most fair and equitable way to allocate them. However, there are many grants that are to be used for specific purposes and these funds need to be fully utilized to the benefit the students’ needs and teachers supports. I think it is important to continually review administrative overhead to ensure that we are not overlooking more cost effective options. Aside from the actual funding, I think it is just as important that we make sure that the specialized services and supports for students are delivered in a timely manner; that the providers are engaged as well as meeting expectations; and that there is a monitoring process for success and accountability. As well we need to be very focused with our spending on professional development making sure that it is serving the needs and important issues of teachers and parents. Finally, I believe we need to have a plan in place to use the current accumulation of surpluses of over $12,000,000 whether it is for capital or operating purposes.

I understand and support the need for policies that create a safe and inclusive learning environment where students are supported and teachers are properly trained to support the students through what can be a difficult part of life. There seems to be a lot of controversy surrounding what the parents vs. student’s rights are surrounding sexual orientation, gender identity and participating in a Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) or Queer-Straight Alliances (QSAs). As a parent I want to know what my child is going through and what extra circular activities they are involved in but I believe the responsibility to know what is going on in the student’s life is the parents and not the onus of the school to share. I would never want to see the schools be required to share information that can be personal, private and confidential such as sexual orientation, gender identity and participating in a Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) or Queer-Straight Alliances (QSAs) which could put a student in an unsafe environment if they do not have the support of family which is the main reason for these policies and not to keep information from involved parents.

Angela Sommers

This year, the RDPSD incurred a $300,000 deficit due to recent legislation shortcomings; the provincial contribution of $780,000 was not able to meet all needs. With certainty we can say there is no extra money to meet staffing requirements; this is especially pronounced when reviewing the diverse needs of all learners. Much can be done to improve our situation starting with making the best use of our dollars. In the short term:

We can hire the most qualified Educational Assistants, those with specialized training. Resources like busses can be shared between schools. We can create a donation website where parents, staff and friends can donate used children’s equipment and clothing. From my construction business experience I could contribute to evaluating construction and other projects to ensure we are getting the best value. Centralizing fundraising to focus on large district wide events like festivals, swap meets, spell-a-thons, art-a-thons would eliminate the constant nickel and diming we parents endure. These funds could then be distributed to the schools and students that need it most.

A district wide publication where businesses could advertise would generate revenue in addition to serving as a community communications tool to promote educational articles, and upcoming events. School as an inclusive community could be celebrated where student and teacher achievements could be acknowledged.

Longer term goals like energy co-ops where staff, parents, relatives and friends could pool their purchasing power for basic needs such as electricity and natural gas into co-ops. These pooled efforts would be modeled on initiatives in Turner Valley and Olds.

The sheer number of people directly involved in the RDPSD is a great opportunity! Our RDPSD community is the key to our financial success that will meet the needs of all learners.

I can only speak to this from my heart. I’ve seen very close people go through confusing and difficult times during adolescence.

As a parent it is terrifying not knowing what is happening in my children's inner world. These unknowns during this time of a child’s growth is a reality I have to accept, and I work to make it well known I’m there for all conversation topics.

I understand the reason for the provincial government to pass the new legislation with regards to QSA/GSA groups and the privacy of these children, is to provide a safe environment for them to feel connected, accepted, respected and loved. The very sad truth is the suicide rate for adolescents who identify across the LGBT, Two Spirit and non-binary spectrums, is higher than any other group of teens.

In this case, opinions means little, if anything, the only thing that matters are the precious young lives that need support.

My hope is that a child / adolescent that chooses to engage with these school led groups would be given the language, education and support to help communicate with their parents.

I am an advocate for children and parents, and the very best thing for any child is a strong relationship with their parents. I would always support this goal, even if it takes time to eventually materialize.

I also suggest we adopt such strong protection for our First Nations students.

LGBT, Two Spirit and non-binary spectrums are gender identities

Jim Watters

As a trustee we are aware of the big picture concerning budget. The Superintendent of Schools report budget information to the Board of Trustees quarterly. Associate Superintendents are responsible for their specific departments. School principals develop a site-based budget to meet the school’s needs. I believe that this is a good mechanism because site-based decisions are made with individual school needs in mind. This year schools received $5384 of the provincial per-pupil allocation of $6680. Schools also receive additional allocations from centralized funds.

Revenue coming to the district in the form of per pupil grants, as well as other specific grants such as the class-size initiative, socioeconomic needs, inclusive education, is examined at the district level to make sure that certain expenditures are supported centrally and within Alberta Education parameters. For example: district administration cannot be more than 3.6% of the budget. Red Deer Public’s administrative spending is approximately 3%. Centralized dollars are allocated to schools to support diverse educational needs in a variety of forms, such as Literacy Coaches, Learning Assistance Teachers, Educational Assistants, Community Liaison Workers. As a trustee we discuss new initiatives, such as those I just listed and I believe our input is valued.

I believe that our district continues to meet the needs of diverse learners, although limited provincial funds make this challenging. Specific provincial grants are welcome but we do not always know if they will be continued on a yearly basis. This makes sustainable funding a constant issue. One of my frustrations is that the per-pupil grant has not increased for approximately five years.

I fully support Policy 19, the Red Deer Public School District Policy on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. This policy was developed after a long thoughtful process. The Superintendent of Schools presents to the Board of Trustees a proposed policy to be discussed. The next step is to send the proposed policy to the schools. At the schools, the school administration discusses the proposed policy with the staff and with School Councils and asks for feedback. This policy is also discussed at City Wide School Council meetings, where they have an opportunity to provide feedback. Members of the public had an opportunity to provide input through the district web site. All the information was gathered and shared back at the board table. This feedback process was completed and the policy was approved well before the March 2016 deadline given to boards by the Education Minister. I believe that Policy 19 is necessary for the respect, dignity and emotional well being of LGBTQ students and staff. I am proud to have had a part in the creation of this policy.

Nicole Buchanan

I think it is important that the allocation of resources is fair among all schools across the District. All students should be given equal opportunity and support to succeed. With that being said it is important to recognize that some students will require different needs than others and should receive that support regardless of what school they attend.

My position is very similar to Red Deer Public Schools - Board Policy on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

"The Board will provide an environment for all members of the school community to work and learn, free from fear, discrimination, and harassment, while also promoting pro-active strategies and establishing guidelines to ensure that sexual and gender minority students, employees and families are welcomed and included in all aspects of education and school life, and are treated with respect and dignity."

I think all students should feel safe, respected and supported and be given the resources they need to be successful. Someone's sexual orientation or gender identity should not impact or change that.

Jason Chilibeck

What a great question!

The easy answer to this question is to flow provincial pupil funds and additional program adjustments on a per pupil basis. However, there is an Administrative component that needs to be considered, to ensure programming is consistent within the District, along with municipal development planning (referring to infrastructure/facilities) and as a result, the easy option is not realistic.

However, are special program funds/supports (additional monies provided by the Provincial Government based on identified needs) flowing in their entirety towards the identified programs/individuals? If not, I would like to find out why and based on the response look into proposing such funds follow the programs/pupils in need so we can ensure they receive their supports, to the fullest extent possible. As the funds in the this area are identified, we should not reduce their amounts or slide portions into unrelated areas or to a general account.

As a reminder, there are limited funds available to the District. It's funny to say that as the budget is $120 million but just like other forms of government, RDPSD needs to ensure core activities are met (and done at an excellent level of competency) before we bring in additional programs or services that will affect overall program delivery. It's great to say let's bring in xyz program but where do those funds come from and how will such a program be supported in a sustainable fashion?

Ultimately, plans have to be made and once made, set priorities to ensure resources are deployed effectively and efficiently.

Very good question - thanks for asking! Please remember to vote Jason Chilibeck on October 16!

Honestly, I am surprised at the number of sexual orientation and gender identity questions being raised.

Nonetheless, I am very happy to live in a democratic country like Canada where every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. (Point 15-1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms)

When it comes to RDPSD Policy #19 - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the policy seems to follow Alberta Provincial Government legislation and is consistent with the direction of RDPSD to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all. Also, as previously mentioned, people should be able to manage their lives as they see fit without fear of harm or persecution.

As a result, and because it is policy, I will support it and deal with issues as they arise.

If you would like a copy of RDPSD Policy #19, please send an E-mail to info@Jason4RedDeer.com.

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By the way, thank you to the RDPSD Election Committee for putting together a booth at the Farmer's Market Saturday morning. However, it was too bad there were a few incumbents who chose to have their own booths as it did not show a very united/team approach...

Bill Stuebing

This question speaks directly to our mission: “Striving for excellence by inspiring learning and nurturing hope in every student.” (emphasis added) This requires all district resources be effectively and efficiently allocated to serve the many diverse needs of all learners, an audacious effort for a district with almost 11,000 students.. This undertaking is a process, not an product, and requires on-going consideration. One way to think of this would be as a kind of “never-ending relay race.”

As the Board cycles through different stages, our foundational priority of Equity means that this will be a very complex activity. It begins with an on-going consideration of the current reality of Inclusion and Diversity across the District, particularly the identification of individual, group, and district-wide issues that can be seen as emerging concerns. Early in the year, the informal review is collected through consultations with teachers and staff, school administrators, students, parents, and the general community. Their ideas are carefully recorded and collated as input to the Board at its planning retreat in February, together with ideas brought by Trustees and Senior Administrators. The retreat also reviews the current status of the District’s operations.

This all results in a rough draft of our new 3-year Educational Plan and a set of principles to guide the development of the budget for the next school year. This is a challenging activity as there is usually compelling reason for new and expanded initiatives in the face of funding that has not expanded. In recent years however, careful planning has allowed the establishment of effective new initiatives such as Learning Assistance Teachers, Community Liaison Workers, and Mental Health Workers in schools.

The Education Plan and the Budget receive final approval in June and the Board reviews the status of the budget quarterly In this and everything we do, we are always seeking the very best for all of our students.

Key provisions of our District priority of Equity require us to recognize the diverse needs and circumstances of all of our students. No student should ever be excluded, discriminated against, bullied, or be subjected to hatred or contempt by reason of gender or socio-economic status, race or ethnicity, physical or intellectual ability, culture or religion, or other similar reason.

The priority of equity requires that the Board, and by extension the School District as a whole, to go beyond simply responding to discrimination, by providing supports for students likely to be so affected and to reduce or remove any barriers to full, equitable, and unthreatened participation in our schools.

For these reasons, the Board unanimously adopted our policy on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) after extensive consultation with our many interested parties including staff, students, parents and the community as a whole. In enacting the policy, our intent was stated in the preamble: “The Board will provide an environment for all members of the school community to work and learn, free from fear, discrimination, and harassment, while also promoting pro-active strategies and establishing guidelines to ensure that sexual and gender minority students, employees and families are welcomed and included in all aspects of education and school life, and are treated with respect and dignity.”

Red Deer Public Schools SOGI policy represents our effort to ensure that LGBTQ members of school communities and their families are welcomed, accepted and included in all aspects of education and school life.

I strongly supported, and participated in, the creation of this policy, and I continue to staunchly support it today. To my thinking, this is essentially a matter of equity and human rights; there should be no other alternative.

Bill Christie

Initially consider the funds that the District will be receiving to fund Education in Red Deer Public. Prioritize funds for programs in Schools across the District for: staffing, facilities, maintenance, IT and other operational costs. Consider the District Education Plan with emphasis on Equity & wellness. This is where planning is provided for to meet the diverse needs of our learners. I support the Pyramid of Support and Refresh which helps our teachers in planning & assessment of students. This will help the District provide the programs and supports that individual students would need to be successful. Part of the Equity section is Wellness - where staff also consider our students mental and social well being.

Looking into supports the School can provide and also partnering with Alberta Health Services to bring Professionals into our Schools to assist students and their families. This is crucial as quite often some of these families are not able to access this help on their own.

I would want reports back to the Board showing how our students are progressing and do we need to move resources to other areas?

The District has placed professionals ( LAT's, ED's, CLW's, and also Mental Health Practitoners in Schools to help meet student needs. I supported these placements and will continue to do so.

Inclusive Education is one area that the Provincial Government does not fund 100% - in fact most Districts have a shortfall in this area of a minimum of about $2-$4 million. This is an area that I would work on to Lobby Alberta Education to adequately fund.

I believe and support the rights of all students and staff to be able to be in our Schools free from any; harassment, bullying, discrimination, cyber bullying, intimidation. To me these actions cannot and will not be tolerated.

This Board and District as stated in policy is committed to "supporting inclusion of all students & staff in all aspects of school life, irrespective of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity" and I wholeheartedly support this as well.

We also have to keep in mind that we are also guided by legislation such as; Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Human Rights Act which take precedence over other legislation and we as a District are obliged to adhere to.

I would like to see another policy that would provide for: First Nations, Metis and Inuit, ethnicity, religious beliefs, physical & mental abilities or disabilities, race and others. The District has the LGBTQ+ Policy but I would suggest that there are other areas of concern that should also be addressed in policy to ensure all of these students and staff are also treated with respect and dignity.

Dick Lemke

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.

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.  

Dianne Macaulay

Let's start with the advocating for proper funding and resources to help our students succeed. Trustees do that on a few levels. First we have conversations with our local MLA's and the Minister of ED to inform them of our needs here in Red Deer and where money funding is needed. Next we also set policies through the Alberta School Board Association to advocate for funding on certain issues. Then we get to the local level. We receive funding on a per pupil base. A large portion of it goes towards staffing. With the remaining money we look at each school individually and check what resources they need to help with student achievement. This involves many conversations with staff and parents. We have many check points throughout the year to update the board and to ensure transparency to our community. This is where Equity not Equal comes into play. Some schools need more and we can help in their requests. 

I have a love / hate emotion with the policy at RDPSD. I love the stories and hugs I have received from students and staff that were so happy our board was taking a stand and showing publicly our support for this issue. I heard so many stories of bullying and harassment because of a persons gender or sexual orientation. It was an honour to be part of this. I hate , and yes that is a strong word, that a policy like this even had to be made. When you come to that point where you need a policy to try and make people behave nice and act like descent caring human being it just breaks my heart. What gender or sexual orientation a person is is no one else's business and discrimination  because of that is a against a persons human rights.