Red Deer Public School District

Laurette Woodward

 

 

 

* Candidate profiles are published as submitted by the candidate.

Phone  403-346-9447
Email woodwardlaurette@gmail.com
Website and Social Media Pages

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Background Hello! My husband and I moved to Red Deer in 2001. We are happy to be raising our family here. We have 3 daughters. One is grown. Two are currently attending Red Deer Public Schools. For the past 6 years, I have loved working with youth in the role of teacher and music director at Cornerstone Youth Theatre. I so enjoy being around young people, and being a part of a team that encourages each to rise to their potential. I have a B.A. in Communication. I started my career as a TV reporter in Saskatchewan and then in Lethbridge, Alberta. As a reporter, my favorite stories were always in education. I also started “From the Hip”, a program that provided students at the 3 local high schools a turn to produce a 2 minute news segment each week. When I moved to Red Deer, I began working for Chinook’s Edge School Division as the Communications Officer. I enjoyed working with and learning from administrators, educators, and trustees to increase engagement with parents and the community. Over those six years, I had many opportunities to come to understand the work of a school board, and the value it can bring to children. In 2007 I became a freelance communications consultant. This choice allowed me to spend more time with my children while also staying active in my career. During the past 10 years I have provided strategic communication support to variety of organizations in and outside of education. I have delivered professional development, advice and communication content for: Clearview Public Schools, Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools, Foothills School Division, and Peace River School Division. Since 2009, I have been the editor of “Communications Now”, a monthly newsletter circulated to all of the province’s school jurisdictions by the Alberta School Boards Association. Throughout my career, my passion for and interest in collaboration and engagement with community and parents has increased. I have learned that when we work together, we can achieve great things.
Why are you running for Trustee?

Top 3 reasons I am running for school board.

1. I have children currently in the system. My daughters currently attend Red Deer Public Schools. I have a vested interest in the success of our students and the schools that serve them. I recognize the valuable contribution of trustees whose children are grown, and believe our students will be well served if Red Deer re-elects some of the current trustees. I also hope voters recognize the value of electing some candidates with children currently in school. Those trustees will be able to provide important and unique insights.

2. I believe education is critical. I have spent a large part of my career working with school jurisdictions, because I love education. But also, because I believe the labour that trustees, administrators and educators do together is some of the most important work on the planet. Our schools, in partnership with parents, ensure every young person can confidently reach for a bright and successful future. I would like to be a part of that.

3. Parents and families matter. Of all the hats I wear, the ones I feel most deeply connected to are: ‘wife’ and ‘Mom’. I love my family. I know you do too. Even when there are challenges, our families matter so much. Research over many years and in multiple studies have proven the incredible impact that parents and families have on children. When parents are engaged in their children’s education, the results are huge. They include improved: attendance, academic results, behavior, self-esteem, attitudes about school, and social skills. I believe the power of parents and families could be better utilized. I would like to have conversations as to how to better engage parents and families. As a school board communicator for 15+ years, and as a Mom, I believe I have the skills and the interest to do that.

What are your priorities for Red Deer Public Schools?

Priorities for Red Deer Public School District

1. Parents as partners – strengthening the relationship between school and home.Teachers make an incredible difference for students. Parents and families are also critical in a child’s education. When parents are involved, kids achieve better academically, socially and have better self-esteem. Yet, I believe that sometimes, parents are sometimes underutilized. If elected, I would like to explore how we might be able to strengthen relationships between parents/ families, students and educators.

2. Literacy and Numeracy. These basic skills are key for our kids. I fully support the district’s focus on literacy. Also exciting was the addition of numeracy to the district’s plan in the spring. I also fully support that focus.

3. Strengthen mental health supports. We all know that children are not going to be able learn well if their mental health is at risk. My personal observation, and from talking to educators, is that there are MANY mental health needs. Red Deer Public, in partnership with Alberta Health, is placing more mental health professionals in schools this year. I think that’s great. If elected, I will continue to support efforts that support mental wellness.

4. Engage with the community. Not everyone has children in school. But everyone relies on the outcome of the district’s work, and we all pay taxes. Regular citizens, as well as specific stakeholder groups should be engaged regularly to ensure our school system reflects community values.

Although I have listed these as priorities, I recognize there are many other great focuses and worthy goals for Red Deer Public. For instance, high school completion and transitions, ensuring our schools are inclusive and welcoming for ALL students are also important. The bottom line is, I am eager and anxious to lend my support, focus and attention to helping students succeed.

Question Week 1 - September 26

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

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.

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

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.
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?

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.

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

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.

 
Question Week 3 - October 10

Are you in favour of one publicly funded education system?

I am in favour of parents having choice in how their children are educated. Therefore I do not support a move towards one publicly funded system. However, I am in favour of a more even playing field between the Catholic and Public systems.

If you are interested, I have written a detailed article about this on my blog: www.laurettewoodward.ca. In summary:

The arguments in favor of one publicly funded system are largely based around resources and fairness. Because school jurisdictions are pushed for resources, it is prudent to explore ways to share. It is frustrating to hear that ecclesiastical leaders can determine whether the Catholic system will share resources, especially considering that all Alberta tax payers fund both the public and Catholic systems (not just property taxes as many people believe). There are other inequities to consider too. I am in favor of making changes to address the inequities.

However, in this discussion, I am not in favor of eliminating choice and flexibility for families. The proposed move to a single education system represents a huge change to the educational landscape in Alberta. Surely that should precipitate discussion about the full impact on students and families as well as schools. Would such a move also eventually cause the elimination of private, charter and home schools? What about choice of alternative programs within districts?

I know many families that rely on the flexibility that exists. For instance, a child that has special learning needs which are not being met in the public system and parents choose to home school. Or, a child in a class that is not a good fit for them. I have seen administration unable to make changes for individual students because of constraints in the system. It is the existence of other choices that helps these families.

I am very open to making better use of tax dollars and ensuring fairness, but while doing so also ensuring flexibility and choice continue to exist for families.