Red Deer Public School District

Jaelene Tweedle





* Candidate profiles are published as submitted by the candidate.

Phone  403-754-2501 
Website and Social Media Pages Facebook

Background I've been a stay at home Mom, since our eldest was born, 15 years ago. My husband, James and I, have 3 amazing kids, and moved to Red Deer with our eldest finishing her last two months of kindergarten, here. Our kids are currently in Grades 10, 8, and 2. From those first days, I had a strong desire to be involved. I started out volunteering, wherever I was needed, and eventually made my way into my first School Council Meeting- and I was hooked, from the very beginning! I've always valued the opportunity to have meaningful engagement with administrators, teachers, and fellow parents. My second year on School Council, saw me taking over Treasurer duties, and the year after, I became Chair of School Council. As part of my duties, I began attending Citywide Meetings, for RDPSD. I can honestly say I've loved these meetings, the last 5 years. We're so fortunate to have the opportunity, to engage with parents from across the District, as well as Administrators, and Trustees. I have the fondest memories, of the 3 years I served as Chair, of Grandview Council, and it lit a fire within me, to be involved in our schools, as much as possible. Since then, I've carried on my involvement, as my children have moved to other schools. I almost ran for Trustee, in the 2013 Election, but felt I needed some more experience, first. The last 4 years alone, have seen me attend the ASCA Conference, every year. In these 4 years, I have served 3 consecutive years, as Vice Chair of Citywide Council for RDPSD. Last year, as I served my third year as Vice Chair or Citywide, I also served as Chair of two School Councils at once- Ecole Barrie Wilson Elementary, and Eastview Middle School, and served on the Hunting Hills Equity Committee, as well. After all of these experiences, over the last nine and a half years, I feel truly reading to serve as a Trustee- a Trustee who truly cares about EVERY Student, and would fulfill their duties with Integrity, Empathy, and Accountability.
Why are you running for Trustee? My 3 children attend Elementary, Middle, and High School, in Red Deer Public; so I care deeply about every grade level, not just one certain area. But I don''t just care how well our system is serving my children- I honestly care about how well we're serving EVERY Student. And we certainly aren't succeeding, if we don't have all our students feeling that their school is a welcoming, and accepting place for them to spend their days. I care about the kids in our schools, and not just them- their families, and the staff who work with our kids every day. It's not enough, just to care about those who are like us, and those who we can easily identify with. I strongly believe the current makeup of our board is incomplete, without a Parent ( with children currently attending our District's schools ), as a piece of the puzzle. I feel I can offer a very unique perspective- both from all of my experience in our District, and from the fact that I am on ground zero with parents, who have children attending every level of our schools. I see my children's faces every day. I see what's working, and what needs improvement. In addition, I'm actively involved in our schools, and see what other students, families, and staff, are facing. I believe we have current board members, who don't spend enough time in our schools, to truly understand the day to day state of our schools. When you combine that, with the fact that they aren't parents living within our system on a daily basis, I truly feel they can not make the best possible decisions for our Students. And when I look at the Citywide Meetings, that I have attended myself as a parent, over the last 5 years- with 30 meetings held in that time and I can count on one hand, how many of those 30 meetings I have seen particular Trustees at is simply not acceptable, to me. I believe a Trustee needs to have a sincere passion for our students, and needs to be willing to be an active, and committed presence.
What are your priorities for Red Deer Public Schools?
In recent years, we have seen the District spend more money on student wellness. The addition of Community Liaison Workers in our schools, has been a great asset. But I feel we need to prioritize Mental Health Initiatives even more. We have far too many children who are suffering. We want to provide our students with the best possible learning resources at school, but we can't expect a child to learn, if they're coming to school with emotional trauma, or a broken spirit. Would this likely mean spending extra money- Yes, but we can't afford to fail our students. Without accessing money though, there are some measures that can be taken, to further student wellness, right now- I believe all of our schools need to place value on the culture that exists within their schools- one of acceptance, compassion, and empathy. A culture that promotes looking out for, and supporting each other. As we venture further into our priority of Inclusion, we need to be sure that we're doing it right. Inclusion is not simply about physical proximity. A classroom is not a success, if we don't see every child receiving the supports, that they need. Whether a child needs supports for learning, emotional, developmental, or physical needs, it's never a one size fits all solution. And we can not neglect students who may be classified as gifted, and may require extra challenge, and enrichment. And just as we need to support students, we need to support our staff. We need to ensure classrooms are staffed sufficiently, and that staff receive adequate resources, training, and support. If we fail our Teachers, we fail our Students- and to me, that is not an option. We need to make sure we don't have, Have and Have Not schools, in our District. Access to extra resources and opportunities, shouldn't be determined by the fundraising potential of individual school communities. We will win, or lose, as an entire District, and our whole community benefits, when every one of our schools thrives.
Question Week 1 - September 26

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

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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

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.

Question Week 3 - October 10

Are you in favour of one publicly funded education system?

Yes I am. There are only 3 provinces that have publicly funded separate school boards- Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The UN Human Rights Commission, even found that Canada’s separate school system is discriminatory. I have two issues with funding 2 systems, through public dollars:

1) I believe to my core, that EVERY decision we make, should be in the best interests of students. In a time where dollars are stretched increasingly thin, we need to spend every penny to it’s maximum. Having two separate systems, results in so much unnecessary spending: increased number of facilities needing to be built, separate transportation systems for students, two school boards and, two sets of Senior Administrators. All this money could be so much better spent on our students: think of all the extra teachers and EA’s that could be hired, and all the extra learning resources and materials, that could be bought. Every publicly funded dollar spent, should be in direct relation to what’s best for Students, and we are failing to do that, the way our current system stands.

2) Division- We’re living in a time that seems to be facing more and more division, and pitting one group against another. Our students shouldn’t be seen with a dollar value on their head, to fill seats in a classroom. If religion is to be brought into curriculum, in one publicly funded system, let it be an overview of the various religions people follow, but let students know that everyone has their own beliefs ( or no religious beliefs at all ), and let them know than no religion is superior to another. I believe strongly in character education- Empathy, Tolerance, and Acceptance- but I don’t feel it needs to align itself to a religion. I have no issue with someone wanting to educate their child, in a religious setting, but I don’t believe it should fall under the umbrella of public funding. Public dollars should be about a universal system, and should not give special privilege to one individual religion.