Red Deer Public School District

Jim Watters




* Candidate profiles are published as submitted by the candidate.

Phone  403-340-9392
Website and Social Media Pages N/A
Background My name is Jim Watters and I have lived in Red Deer since 1989. I am retired after 37 years working as a Customer Service Technician for ATCO Gas. My wife, Glenda, and I have four children and five wonderful grandsons; three of which attend a Red Deer Public School. In 1993 I became involved with supporting the public education system by joining the Pines School Council. I continued as part of this council until 1998. From 1997 - 2002, I was a Director for the Eastview Community Association. It was my experiences with Pines School Council that led me towards running as a trustee in 1998. I have served as a Public School Board Trustee from 1998 - 2010 and once again from 2013 - present.
Why are you running for Trustee? I am running as a Red Deer Public school board trustee because I believe that education is crucial. As a grandparent of five grandsons, three currently attending a Red Deer Public school, I am personally invested in working to ensure that Red Deer Public Schools continue to promote quality educational practices. I believe in learning from our community because it is important to make informed decisions. That is why I am visible at schools and school council meetings. I am proud to have been part of a school district that promotes inclusion and equity, leading students towards their goals.
What are your priorities for Red Deer Public Schools? One of my first priorities is the need for students to complete high school. This looks different for individual students. I want students to leave school knowing that they have opportunities and choices. This is not just the job of high schools but a process that begins as early as Pre-Kindergarten. Therefore, I believe in early educational opportunities. Another priority that I believe enhances completion, is optional courses such as mechanics, cosmetology, music, etc. These courses are necessary to student success. An inclusive school district also encourages success. Students that feel they belong and are valued will accomplish amazing things. One of the district’s priorities has been equity. Equity refers to the concept of providing students with what they need, rather than making every opportunity equal. I feel that this has been an excellent priority and one I fully believe in. Our future as a society will be stronger if we find ways to strengthen the education of those who struggle. That is why literacy has been targeted. As students begin school they are “learning to read”. This process is more than just learning the letters and sounds. Students need to understand and be able to discuss what they are reading because soon they will be “reading to learn”. If they have difficulties, they will struggle in so many areas. That’s why the district has provided so many supports to schools and staff. Numeracy is also becoming a focus area. As the world changes, we need to find innovative ways for students to learn numeracy skills. Another area that I am pleased to support has been the work that RDPSD and AHS has been doing to provide easier access to mental health services. Mental Health counsellors will be working in some school settings so students have fewer barriers to receiving appropriate supports. One last priority for me is communication. Communication is necessary for understanding. Agreement can not always occur but discussion and debate are important.
Question Week 1 - September 26

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

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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

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.

Question Week 3 - October 10

Are you in favour of one publicly funded education system?

I am in favour of a one publicly funded education system. It is my opinion that our current system is not financially viable because of duplication of services. Some examples of these services are transportation, staff and facilities. I also believe that one public system can support and represent the diverse values of Albertans.