Interviews with FMPSD trustee candidates

Article content

There are seven trustee positions for the Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD).

Advertisement

Article content

Fort McMurray Today asked 12 of the 13 candidates to discuss their priorities and concerns. Candidates discussed the division’s financial future and vision for public education in Fort McMurray if they are elected trustees.

Candidates Uno Monofi and Malcolm Setter did not provide answers. Candidate Philip Osborne was not invited to participate in these interviews.

Osborne has been banned from FMPSD properties, and has a court-order to not contact at least one former FMPSD employee. Osborne is also banned from speaking with some municipal employees following an alleged October 2020 incident where he was accused of ramming two police cars. The allegations are still being discussed in court and have yet to be proven.

There are also interviews with trustee candidates for the Fort McMurray Catholic School Division (FMCSD), and information on candidates running for mayor and council.

Election Day is Oct. 18. Information on how to vote can be found here.

vmcdermott@postmedia.com

1. Why do you feel you are qualified to be a FMPSD trustee?

Angela Adams: A board to be successful needs many voices that are willing to bring their voices and experiences to the table for discussion, keeping up with the ever-changing needs of the community and needs of students is important.

I am qualified to be a trustee, because of my prior experience and my familiarity with how a board operates would make me an asset to the board, I have studied the changes in the education system and will continue to help implement changes in the system as required.

Advertisement

Article content

Freya Fourny: I would have to say what qualifies me is a passion for my  children and their peers to have the best experience and support in school  that they can have.

I run a business out of our home with my husband, although my number one job is a stay at home mom to our four daughters aged 6, 9, 12 and 14. I have been involved in my daughter’s education for the last nine years in FMPSD. I am Chair of our School Council, and have been for a number of years.

I am a Networks representative for our School Council and value the discussions that the FMPSD and Board of Trustees are willing to have with parents; acknowledging that there is a very strong desire from FMPSD to hear from all of its stakeholders, parents, students and staff.

Jonathan Lambert:

  • I am just finishing off my term of being a FMPSD trustee and am putting my name forward again in hopes to be voted into the position again for another four year
  • I was a teacher at Fort McMurray Composite High School from 2005-2013 (8
  • I have taught in England, South Korea, the U.S. and in Canada (on an Indigenous reserve in Manitoba and in Newfoundland and Alberta)

Tarel Mehta: I’ve been a proud Fort McMurray resident since 2007. These past 14 years have allowed me to build strong roots within the community. As I have worked in the oil and gas sector, local business owner and strong volunteer, I feel that I can heavily relate to much of the struggles that others also feel within our community.

Now, I have two daughters. Both of them have grown up within the FMPSD system. As my eldest daughter graduated through the system and my youngest is currently in it. I believe that my strong roots and passion for better education is what makes me qualified for becoming a trustee. My overall passion is to serve the community where I can!

Advertisement

Article content

Linda Mywaart: I feel qualified to be a trustee based on the eleven years I have already served in FMPSD. I have devoted time, displayed passion, and proven my dedication to the work. I am still learning new things in this role, but I believe that the commitment I have demonstrated, along with my strong work ethic and the many relationships I have formed over the years, locally and provincially in education, position me solidly to continue doing what’s best for kids.

Imam Nazir: It’s an important question! I do feel I am qualified to be an FMPSD trustee because I believe that I have all those qualities that are needed as a trustee. Qualities including honesty, stability, communication, problem-solving, networking.

Along with financial experience and resolving issues so the positive image of the school board will remain intact towards the community. I am a good planner when it comes to finances. With my abilities in finance, I believe that FMPSD will be able to solve their budgeting problems.

For the FMPSD to succeed, we need to work together and listen to other people’s ideas when voicing their concerns. Whether they’re parents, staff, and especially students. I am capable of using my problem-solving abilities to find a solution that respects the FMPSD policy and the Alberta Education Act.

Tim O’Hara: Though I believe that anyone who has a passion for doing what is best for kids is qualified to be a trustee, there are certainly additional qualities that one can bring to the table. For myself, I come with a background of having been a trustee for the previous eight years. I have also been actively involved in student transportation management for roughly the previous 20 years.

Advertisement

Article content

Before moving to Fort McMurray about ten years ago, I had worked directly for two different school boards within central Alberta, one as their assistant director of transportation and the other as their director of transportation, and today I manage a people transportation company that provides student transportation on almost 100 buses daily, servicing approximately 40 different schools for five different school boards in northern Alberta, from Thorhild in the south to Fort McKay in the north.

Jason Schulz: As a former educator—internationally and in Fort McMurray—I have worked in post-secondary as well as all levels of secondary with both the Fort McMurray Public and Catholic divisions. I believe strongly in education. We have raised two children here with both receiving all secondary education in Fort McMurray.

I continue to serve Fort McMurray and northern Alberta. I am involved in a bursary program that supports northern learners, including Teachers, through my role with the Northern Alberta Development Council (NADC).

Our daughter is currently pursuing post-secondary studies in education and kinesiology at the University of Alberta, while our son is completing his final year of high school.

Lorna Spargo: As a newcomer, I wouldn’t say that I am qualified to be a trustee, yet. But, what I bring is a passion for education, a history with the community and the division, and a passion to serve and make a difference.

Advertisement

Article content

My family moved here in 1974 and, except for three-years to complete my B.Ed, I have lived here ever since. I graduated from Composite, later taught at Westwood and Greely Road Schools, and sent my children to the FMPSD’s schools. My visits to FMPSD classrooms encouraged me to self-publish my children’s book.

I have participated in school councils and fundraising societies and the division’s Networks Committee since my children started school. I sat, for approximately six years, as a Director for the Alberta School Council’s Association. At each step of the way, I have advocated for a strong education system to empower our children to reach their potential.

Naju Syed: I was raised in Fort McMurray and attended three public schools within the division. I am a direct product of the different trustees that have come and gone throughout the years. My mother is a CUPE member and my father is an ATA member which gives me unique perspectives on public education.

I currently work as a tutor within the community and have seen first-hand the effects of the public education system and the challenges some students have faced. I am also currently serving as an elected councillor for Athabasca University for over 25,000 students and constantly having to balance and deal with multi-million-dollar budgets.

The division needs an individual, such as myself, to strongly advocate for the unique needs of our students, our educators and our community.

Advertisement

Article content

2. What would your priorities be as a FMPSD trustee?

Angela Adams: One of the biggest priorities as a trustee will be keeping the division on an acceptable financial path, while ensuring the students are getting a well-rounded education, while being fiscally responsible is important.

Freya Fourny: With so many moving parts in the education system we need to maintain strong advocacy for our students, families and staff; assuring that decisions of the Board consider community values and represent the interests of the division. I would like to make sure that school and program reviews are adequate for the needs of our community.

Jonathan Lambert:

  • Ensure the highest quality of instruction and education for all students in
  • To ensure that all students are attending schools that are inclusive of all students and where they feel welcome and
  • To ensure all FMPSD staff feel respected, appreciated and valued.

Tarel Mehta: I’d prioritize respect and efficiency within our system. Making sure that everyone is treated with respect is the base for a good school division. I believe we need respect to allow further development within our school systems.

Secondly, being efficient is crucials for our boards success. We must be efficient with our time, budget and how we face both current and future challenges.

Linda Mywaart: Providing an excellent educational opportunity for the students is top priority. One of the ongoing challenges to doing so is funding and the budget. Reviewing, discussing and voting on the budget is a major piece of work for trustees.

Advertisement

Article content

It is critical over the next term that we prioritize the further exploration of ways to balance our budget, without compromising the services, supports and opportunities for students. At the same time we must continue to press the government for adequate funding that will fully provide for the diverse needs of our students.

FMPSD budget decisions must continue to be informed by comments and questions received from all of our stakeholder groups through meaningful engagement and consultation.

Imam Nazir: 

  • BudgetingI want to make sure each school has the budget that allows them to get the resources they need and to fund the programs they have. I want to make sure the Public School Division implements an annual budget.
  • COVID-19, Health and Safety Concerns: It is very important to me that we keep implementing the guidelines given by Alberta Health. I also think it’s important to educate both students and educators about the virus and especially about the vaccine. In the case of returning to online, we must provide the students and the educators with the same if not more support. Many students and educators did not feel prepared and comfortable during the switch, so it is important that the environment of learning stays in with an atmosphere of comfort and support. Education and implementation are the only ways we can put this pandemic behind us.
  • Diversity and Inclusivity: I plan on promoting the awareness and importance of diversity and create an inclusive environment in the classroom. Especially for the students with special needs.for the kids that have special needs. As we are living in a very diverse community it is really very necessary to understand  the importance of diversity, which is a strength, not a weakness. My priorities revolve around ensuring that everyone is being respected, no matter their differences. I believe that the indigenous people deserve all respect in all aspects of their life, especially in the education and learning environment under FMPSD. I also have the same feelings of respect and care for all LGBTQ members on the basis of humanity. Their needs should all be met.

Advertisement

Article content

Tim O’Hara: My first priority as a Trustee has always been to ensure that every decision I make is in keeping with doing what is best for students.

Given the current state of affairs in the world, it is also important that we continue to ensure that our students and their families continue to see every one of our schools as offering a safe and caring environment.

Beyond this I will continue to lobby our Provincial government to ensure that there is adequate funding flowing to schools for education, supporting services, and operations and maintenance.

Jason Schulz: As a trustee it is important to champion and align the needs of learners, educators and administrators in Fort McMurray.

It is important to provide feedback to government while recognizing some of the local challenges in the region. Given reductions in funding, it is important to maximize dwindling resources to enhance positive learning outcomes while recognizing budgetary limitations.

I would emphasize the importance of balancing an inclusive learning environment while focusing on fiscal prudence and limited resources.

Lorna Spargo: My priorities as trustee will be finding ways to support students and staff through the everchanging requirements for dealing with the pandemic, mitigating the loss as we deal with the inevitable funding cuts, and helping staff adapt, in the most supportive way, with the new curriculum.

Naju Syed: Placing importance on the students as well as the teachers and support staff in the public schools. They should always be the number one priority.

Advertisement

Article content

Many students often get overlooked in the education system due to overworked teachers and educational support staff. The division’s motto is “Doing What’s Best for Kids.” Therefore, the needs of the students and staff should always be heard and recognized so no child gets left behind. Students deserve more access to academic opportunities and extracurricular activities as they are crucial to their long-term development and success.

I believe in the continued support for early childhood development and success for all students through high school completion and beyond.

3. What are your thoughts on the Alberta government’s proposed revised curriculum?

Angela Adams: I was not a supporter of the proposed curriculum when it was first presented and the division did form focus groups on our staff to give recommendations on the curriculum, there should be a lot more public consultation and more educators involved in this process. Until more work is done I would not be comfortable utilizing it with our schools.

Freya Fourny: I feel that the government needs to have more educators as part of a curriculum review now and always.

The ATA has over 43,000 members; the Alberta website states hundreds of educators have had their say, which is hardly enough when trying to change out the K-6 curriculum.

The trustees are the voice of the parents around them, the board needs to continue to hear from parents, staff and students on what they support or do not support so that the voices are represented from our community.

Advertisement

Article content

Jonathan Lambert:  I believe there is much more work that needs to be done to ensure the revised curriculum is at the high level that all Alberta parents want to see for their children.

It needs to be reworked as upon review from our highly qualified teachers in FMPSD, it contains mistakes, plagiarism, is sometimes not age-appropriate, and lacks diverse perspectives, particularly lacking Indigenous perspectives.

Teachers have told me that it does not support critical thinking as it relies heavily on rote learning. Our government should do better to ensure all students are getting the highest education possible within Alberta.

Tarel Mehta: I believe that the curriculum is trying to head towards the right track, however, it needs to be improved. If we want to embrace our diversity and knowledge we must do it in a more efficient manner.

Linda Mywaart: It is unfortunate that some good work previously done on the curriculum was shelved and I am concerned that parts of the proposed curriculum halt advances previously made.

So in the face of impending change I will continue to ask the government to listen to the voices closest to where the learning occurs, that is, the teachers, parents and even the students themselves. I am not a curriculum expert, but I know that here in FMPSD we have many who are, so as a trustee I will also rely on their expertise with content and other details.

I will carry, to the provincial association (Alberta School Boards Association) and government, the many voices who want, need, and deserve to be heard. I support ongoing conversation and review on curriculum.

Advertisement

Article content

Imam Nazir: Well, there are lots of things wrong with the curriculum. You probably know, 99 per cent of teachers voted against it.

Firstly, the curriculum in early grades is not age-appropriate. The curriculum was designed without teacher input. So the panel was unaware of the learning capabilities of children. The content itself was too broad in scope for the development of children. The concepts were nowhere near what children could accomplish.

Secondly, the methods of teaching were very traditional. Memorizing information for dates and facts.

Thirdly, the sheer amount of content that was expected to be covered would be virtually impossible to do in 9 months. The student would have to do between 2/3 hours a night to get through it. Fourthly, the exclusion of diversity in our country including FNMI was diluted. LGBTQ2+ was also completely excluded.

The curriculum decided to focus on colonialism’s achievements with a focus on American history instead of Canadian.

Tim O’Hara: I will be the first to admit, that I am not an “expert” on the curriculum. Therefore, I rely upon the feedback from our “experts.” As a division, we have asked, through the superintendent, for feedback from our internal “experts”; those being our Senior Education Staff and teachers.

I have also listened to what the ATA and other consultants have had to say. Based on everything that I have read and heard, I do have concerns with some aspects of the curriculum as it is currently presented.

Advertisement

Article content

For instance, the curriculum is written from a very Eurocentric/American point of view and doesn’t take into account our social diversity, including different religious beliefs, backgrounds and socioeconomic differences.

Though I believe that curriculums should be reviewed regularly to ensure that the material is relevant and current, I also believe that those reviews should be completed by subject matter experts, including teachers who will be responsible to instruct the material.

Jason Schulz: With any change there are opportunities and challenges. Given stagnant performance in many key assessment areas I can understand the desire to challenge the status quo. Having said that, as the curriculum is rolled out and piloted it is imperative that performance benchmarks are revisited to monitor performance in key learning areas.   

From a personal perspective, one of the key areas that should be stressed is financial literacy, including budgeting, debt strategies, wealth management and retirement planning. 

In addition, I would like to see age-appropriate programming to introduce topics that include Indigenous History, Treaties and Residential Schools.

Lorna Spargo: Regarding the new curriculum, I have concerns on two levels.

First, as a parent involved in each phase of curriculum reform since the concept was introduced by then-Education Minister Hancock (when my adult children were in elementary school), I have not felt that there was adequate public consultation with this new rendition. I do not feel that Alberta parents were adequately consulted or heard.

Advertisement

Article content

Second, I am concerned that the new curriculum is not developmentally appropriate. I have always been of the mindset that we need to focus on key learning skills and concepts and allow students time to engage with them in order to gain greater proficiency and expertise.

Naju Syed: The fact that no major school districts/divisions have chosen to pilot the new curriculum speaks volumes. In theory, the new curriculum seems great, yet it becomes apparent in practice that the proposed curriculum is problematic.

The language used in the new curriculum seeks to rewrite history by describing early colonization as “good relationships” with Indigenous peoples. In parts of the draft, the language used is problematic, take this snippet from the Grade 2 Social Studies learning outcomes, “Enslaved Blacks were brought from Africa…”

Many of the new learning outcomes rely on several contextual levels of thinking that even post-secondary students struggle with. In past curricula, junior high focused on ancient civilizations, such as the Aztecs and Mayans, while now these are being forwarded to kindergarten students.

No child in Grade 1 can accurately absorb the complexities of Athenian Democracy, additionally teachers simply lack class time to properly teach the information.

4. After the April 2020 flood and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, how can FMPSD meet the emotional and mental health needs of its students and staff?

Angela Adams: FMPSD realized prior to the flood and pandemic that there were shortfalls within the education system. We have allocated extra resources to the mental health areas, through programs and specialized staff to help build more resilient youth. We recognized that supports for family, students and staff were important to education the whole person.

Advertisement

Article content

The board has during this past year advocated with community and government for additional supports. I feel the mental health of students is an important piece and directly related to a students achievement and will continue to support in what is needed for healthy staff and students.

Freya Fourny: Emotional and mental health is something that needs to be addressed constantly, this can be made worse with events such as the flood and a pandemic.

We need to have the available resources for students and staff. With those resources we need to make sure that the budget allocates for these resources to be  there.

The children in the FMPSD have undergone so many traumatic experiences, the schools need to have councillors and support for those that need them.

Jonathan Lambert:FMPSD can continue their strong efforts at both a district level and at a school level to ensure the emotional and mental health needs of its students and staff are met. These two needs are at the forefront of what FMPSD is focused on currently.

The district has provided much funding to ensure our schools can deal with these needs of the students to ensure they can learn without the many stresses our students have had to endure over the past few years.

In addition, the FMPSD trustees have been and should continue to put pressure on the government to provide the much needed funding and resources so the district can continue meeting the students’ needs in the future.

Advertisement

Article content

Tarel Mehta: By having good partnerships with mental health agencies within the community we can make sure that if our staff and students need anything, we can provide them with sufficient support.

Linda Mywaart: We can meet the needs by offering, and continuing to build, the wide array of supports and services for students and staff that have proven to be needed, i.e. counsellors, therapists, and psychologists.

Having our own FMPSD Mental Health coordinator has been very effective, but in order for that position and others to be sustainable we will have to find new and perhaps creative funding streams.

Mental health funding for our division is not keeping pace with the demand caused by lingering effects of the wildfire, now compounded by the flood and pandemic. Advocacy for dollars for mental health supports must continue.

Imam Nazir: FMPSD can facilitate the organization of different inter-school basketball, hockey, badminton, volleyball and soccer tournaments. Competitive events can help the students to maintain physical and mental health.

We can keep our students busy with different technology-related programs. They could have a chance to interact with their friends. We can use the technology to increase the students’ interest in innovative programs.

FMPSD should support restarting the debate club, art club, tech club, and spelling bee. Even the addition of General knowledge quiz competition as the basis of regular extracurricular activities. Providing a different array of activities will help students who suffer from mental illnesses, to cope. It will reduce their stress, and as we know, stress only increases the strain on their mental health.

Advertisement

Article content

We can also hold assemblies to destigmatize mental illness, opening a way for discussion. For the staff, FMPSD can facilitate the skill development program and inter-school study tour program regularly.

Tim O’Hara: Let’s be honest, the last five years have been a true test of the resilience of every resident of our region. From the Horse River fire in 2016 and economic downturn to the floods of 2020 and the ongoing pandemic, we have all been put through the ringer at least a few times.

FMPSD is a part of a regional collaborative services delivery team that has had great success in being able to support the emotional and mental health of students since the fires of 2016.

I will continue to lobby government to continue to fund our regional collaborative services delivery team, as I truly believe that this delivery model has been very successful in our region, and will continue to be the best way that FMPSD can meet the emotional and mental health needs of its students.

Jason Schulz: I believe it is important to be supportive while recognizing coping and healing vary across individuals. Having been personally impacted by the fires and experiencing a total loss, it was a challenging time. As a family, each of us were impacted and recovered much differently.   

Flooding and Covid may introduce trauma—or potentially elevate it for those continuing to recover from the 2016 wildfire—to individuals. As community members, it is important to remain cognizant and respectful to the unique needs of those impacted. It is important to be empathetic while being aware of internal and external supports available to those on their healing journey. 

Advertisement

Article content

Lorna Spargo: Mental health is a topic near and dear to my heart. I know that the division has amazing staff working to support students. I believe that staff also has some support. While I don’t have all of the answers to this question, it is a topic that I hope to learn more about regarding what is in place to support staff.

As we face more cuts, mental health support will be even more important. We may not be able to avoid the hardships that I anticipate we’ll be dealt, but we need to find a way to handle them in the most thoughtful and kindest way possible.

Naju Syed: The most essential thing to do in these scenarios is to listen and seek to understand. Listen to the staff and students about what they want and their struggles.

One’s emotional and mental wellbeing should always be a top priority especially in terms of education. Trained mental health counsellors and resources need to continue to be supported at each of the schools.

As well, we need to destigmatize accessing and reaching out for help. The well-being of staff and students needs to be supported both at and beyond the Board level. These connections need to continue with our community.

5. With so many students coming from Indigenous backgrounds, how can the FMPSD promote reconciliation?

Angela Adams: Education, education and more education on this subject. Firstly, we cannot promote reconciliation if we as a society do not understand, we can not reconcile what was done if we do not listen to the circumstance of how someone has been brought to the place they are today. We must recognize that each was affected differently and start responding to those needs.

Advertisement

Article content

Most of all we must first listen, then acknowledge what happen, and then we can change and build a better system.

Freya Fourny: For the FMPSD to  promote reconciliation we need to continue to acknowledge the past.  We can not change what was done, but we can do better for the future.

To better understand the needs of the families with Indigenous background the Board needs to consult with our Indigenous communities to understand what they need, and learn how we can help facilitate what those needs are.

Indigenous students need acknowledgment, healing and support from our community.

Jonathan Lambert:  I am a true believer in doing things in an authentic manner, not just to “check a box.”

Although things like making dreamcatchers and installing teepees serve a purpose in the education of our students, true authentic education of our students regarding Indigenous people, their culture and their history needs to have more substance to it and should be ongoing.

Things like incorporating Indigenous language into school signage so the general student body are exposed to the Cree, Dene and Metis languages, ensuring Elders are included when community consultation is done by schools to hear their perspective and reconstructing the current CALM course, that all high school students must pass to graduate, to ensure there is a major component that teaches students about regional Indigenous history, culture, sport and traditions.

Advertisement

Article content

Tarel Mehta: By continuing to address the Truth and Reconciliation commission calls to action, we allow our students to become more educated on this subject. As well as making sure we embrace diversity and inclusion within our school system.

Linda Mywaart: I believe reconciliation starts with me. Over my years as a trustee I have attended trustee development, local professional learning days, blanket exercises, and participated in various trustee development opportunities.

Recognizing that I still have much to learn, I recently enrolled in the University of Alberta course, Indigenous Canada, to increase my own understanding and leadership capacity towards reconciliation.

I have had the privilege of attending the FMPSD Elders Council at various times during my trusteeship, in essence being a student of the knowledge keepers and story-tellers so I can learn, first-hand, about the Indigenous ways, cultures and traditions. The connections to community members are necessary for reconciliation.

FMPSD’s first land-based learning took place this past year, and from my brief attendance at one camp, students, staff and leaders were equally excited and enriched. I am supportive of ongoing land-based learning opportunities for students in FMPSD.

Imam Nazir: First, we have to accept the truth of what happened to the indigenous people in the past, so we can not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Then reconciliation comes after the acceptance of the truth to rectify our mistakes.

Advertisement

Article content

FMPSD should not just speak of reconciliation, but actively show their efforts when it comes to reconciliation. We can reconcile by giving them respect and value to their culture. We can organize events, seminars to promote their culture and heritage.

We should help them to organize their festivals and bring them into community services to make them feel valued as they are and should be. FMPSD should provide more books and creative activities related to their culture that will help to promote the awareness of  Indigenous culture.

Again, I am emphasizing that diversity is a strength. Not a weakness, I believe diversity is a beauty of Canada. FMPSD has made efforts, but the job doesn’t end here, and we should urge for the continuation of these efforts.

Tim O’Hara: I believe that FMPSD can best promote reconciliation by continuing to do, and expand upon, what it is already doing. FMPSD is already very active in providing Indigenous Education and in incorporating indigenous traditions, culture and history into the classroom.

All schools have First Nation, Métis and Inuit liaisons, and the Division has a First Nations, Métis, Inuit Student Advisory Council. Many schools already teach the seven sacred teachings, invite local elders in to meet and share with students and so much more.

I believe that FMPSD can also promote reconciliation by being an example to, and sharing our successes with, other school Divisions within the province.

Advertisement

Article content

Jason Schulz: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) outlines 94 Calls to Action to achieving reconciliation.   

Education is one of those that can further champion the journey to reconciliation through classroom learning opportunities and community involvement. Through providing an overview of TRC while aligning classroom–age-appropriate-learning and cultural opportunities, the FMPSD can further promote reconciliation at the organizational level.  

The FMPSD can further promote reconciliation through participation in community and cultural events such as local Treaty Days, NAABA Events, and RARA Awards, among other opportunities. On Sept. 30, the FMPSD should recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

Through introducing classroom learning that focusses on TRC and leading by example the FMPSD journey toward reconciliation can continue. 

Lorna Spargo: Reconciliation can only happen if we, as the system, openly and honestly engage in dialogue with our Indigenous community members to create a relationship that is mutually respectful. By implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations that are within our control, we will begin to move towards creating trust and understanding

Naju Syed: By not obscuring the truth out of Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples, and by learning to listen we can do better. These voices have often been ignored or relegated to secondary status.

Advertisement

Article content

We need to celebrate FNMI culture, language, and experiences. Indigenous works should be implemented within the schools, with several of the readings needing to be from FNMI writers. Indigenous forms of education should also be explored, with schools offering classes in traditional Native languages.

Continually, the First Nations, Métis, Inuit (FNMI) Student Advisory Council should be continued and expanded. We need to actively support diversity in the staff with active encouragement to seek out and support local FNMI candidates.

6. What can be done to help 2SLGBTQ+ students feel welcome in FMPSD schools?

Angela Adams: FMPSD was the first division to have an inclusive policy recognizing that we needed to do more, all students need a safe place to learn and grow, they need the resources to help them understand who they are, as well as a surrounding, where they can continue to express themselves.  If re-elected I will ensure we continue this path and work to make sure we are responding to the needs of all students.

Freya Fourny:  I asked my own children  this question as they are in the school system and I am not; I can not see what they see. We collectively agree there needs to be less social stigma and judgement, we need to let all students learn in an environment where they feel safe and supported.

Feeling welcome in FMPSD schools means that there is a safe and caring environment for all students to learn in. The board needs to hear from students, staff and families to understand what will give these students more support in their school setting.

Advertisement

Article content

Jonathan Lambert: Schools need to ensure that all students feel welcomed, accepted and safe in all areas where students interact including classrooms, bathrooms, common areas and outside on school grounds.

The general student body and staff need to be exposed to the fact that students have differences and that is OK! Race, religion and sexuality should not be things that divide our schools. In fact, they should be accepted and celebrated when appropriate to do so.

Many 2SLGBTQ+ students come from homes where they hide who they are or even worse, are punished for who they are; we need to ensure that these students feel that the school staff and their fellow students accept them for who they are and not feel pressured to be someone who they are not.

Tarel Mehta: The most crucial thing to make them feel safe is to make sure that these students are heard! By having ongoing education on these topics, we allow for people to be educated and knowledgeable about the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

We plan to ensure that both our students and staff are safe from discrimination by making sure that they feel included and well heard.

Linda Mywaart: Safe, caring, welcoming and respectful needs to be the lived experience of our students and our staff, all of whom deserve to feel safe and secure in our school Division. We must continue to provide various supports and opportunities for students.

Imam Nazir: It’s really very important for FMPSD schools to be welcoming places for all students. FMPSD can facilitate the teachers to ensure LGBTQ students feel safe, welcome, and included in their classrooms.

Advertisement

Article content

Teachers or school administration can designate their classroom a “safe zone” through stickers or posters on the classroom door. This lets students know that they are LGBTQ-friendly, and are willing to challenge anti-LGBTQ language or harassment.

In addition, the school administration should make sure those safe zone stickers let students know that teachers, counselors, and administrators are “open to discussion of LGBTQ issues in the context of class work or just in conversation.”

Moreover, FMPSD can stand up against homophobia and integrate LGBTQ Topics into the Curriculum that could be helpful for them to pursue a professional and skills development.

Tim O’Hara: It is imperative that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, beliefs, socioeconomic status, gender identity and sexual orientation, be able to feel that the school they attend is providing them with a safe and caring environment. FMPSD needs to provide these students with a safe space, be supportive of those students who “come out,” and respond to anti-2SLGBTQ+ behaviour.

Jason Schulz: It is important to recognize inclusive learning environments that are beneficial to all learners.  One simple way to ensure 2SLGBTQ+ can feel welcome would be through gender neutral washrooms and changing areas.  

In addition, school clubs that promote a safe space where kids can engage with teachers and peers about such experiences could be beneficial. There may be a larger role for the community to play by bringing in community leaders that are part of the LGBTQ2+ community to discuss their experiences.  

Advertisement

Article content

In closing, schools could also put more emphasis on celebrating pride week and pride month.

Lorna Spargo: I know that GSAs exist to help empower 2SLGBTQ+ students to feel welcome and supported at school by the students and the staff. I am under the understanding that the FMPSD staff strives to support students in whatever way is needed. I am not fully versed on what other aspects students need to feel welcome and empowered to reach their potential, but I am open to hearing how students can be supported, heard, and validated.

Naju Syed: Schools should always be an inclusive environment for all that enter. No child should ever be afraid of who they are. Teachers and other educational staff interact with children during their most formative years; therefore, staff should maintain an aura of supportiveness and inclusivity.

FMPSD should seek to hire qualified and easily accessible counsellors and implement other mental health-related resources to counteract 2SLGBTQ+ youth facing bullying, discrimination, and violence in their day-to-day lives.

7. Everyday, students arrive at school who are being bullied, have behavioural issues or come from troubled homes. Other students must cope with emotional and mental health issues. How can the FMPSD support these students?

Angela Adams:  As a division we have many programs in place for student, one important one   that comes to mind is leader in me, it helps student find their voice at a young age,  it helps build on the values that children bring to us, how to treat each, other how to talk to each other are a couple of the values that we work on. 

We also have specialized bullying packages that are highlighted throughout the year with pink shirt day as well as others. We also have a counselor available at all of our schools to have specialized time  with students that require it.

FMPSD recognizes that every student is different and strives to adjust to those needs, a position I would continue.

Freya Fourny: Again I stress that school needs to be a safe and caring place for all students. I think that after 18 months of a pandemic these concerns are going to be far greater than they already are.

We need to give students support with programs and personal support.  Educational Assistance are crucial roles in the FMPSD they are support for our vulnerable children. We need to ensure that there is adequate staffing and training available to meet the emotional and mental health needs of those students that require more.

Counsellors are also a highly essential part of the support system that these students need, we need to make sure that all schools have councillor resources available to all the students.

Jonathan Lambert:FMPSD has to continue providing the supports needed to help those students who are bullied or come from troubled homes. At a school level, a focus on a true “zero tolerance” program for all students is a must.

Partnerships with community groups and behavioral specialists can help provide our students with what they need to order to learn and live in a safe environment. In addition, school leaders can try to make connections with parents to let them know there are resources in our community that can help them as well if needed.

Finally, trustees can lobby for more funding and resources for FMPSD to ensure the needs of these students are met.

Tarel Mehta: By making sure that mental health awareness is raised to the best of our abilities. It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t just a school problem. This is a problem that our community must solve together.

Now, by forming great partnerships within our municipality and making sure our provincial government is providing all sources to raise awareness, we can succeed in supporting these students.

Linda Mywaart: FMPSD can support these students by continuing to hire qualified staff, by providing professional development for staff, and through the ongoing work with community partners to provide a broad range of quality, professional supports for individual students.

FMPSD works diligently with partners, to meet the needs of students and equip them with strategies and actions to strengthen their physical, mental and emotional health.

Imam Nazir:  We should encourage an atmosphere of trust and comfort between the students and staff. It’s easier to resolve the issues if we know what those issues are. The only way to achieve this is if the children  feel comfortable in sharing their problems with a trusted staff member.

We must also step away from a victim-blaming mindset, expressing the fact that it is not that individual’s fault, and they do not deserve to be put in situations like that.

Additionally, we must promote an emotional connection between the educators and the students. This will increase the child’s confidence in themselves and will be able to tackle the situation, by themselves and with support from their staff and educators.

Tim O’Hara: Again, I believe that FMPSD needs to continue to ensure that students see their schools as a safe and caring environment. Regardless of where they are coming from and what they are dealing with, the school needs to be seen as a safe place for them.

I believe that our staff are already doing a great job to ensure this, and that FMPSD also already has many supports in place through the Regional Collaborative Services Delivery Team to support students who may require additional assistance.

Jason Schulz: In order to address bullying, it is imperative to hold the bully accountable. Without recognition of the problem and in the absence of any meaningful consequences, it becomes challenging to implement any reduction or mitigation strategies. 

For the victims, they need to feel any complaints will be recognized and there will be no recourse for reporting such instances. This will have a ripple effect that encourages other students to identify experiences of bullying.

It is critical to have teachers and staff that recognize the problems and lingering effects caused by bullying while demonstrating empathy when tackling the root causes. Awareness programs that highlight causes and effects of bullying may prove useful in raising awareness and discouraging such behavior. 

Further to this, it is important to recognize the causes of bullying are dynamic. Bullies that have behavioural issues or challenges in the home may require additional supports. Behavioural improvement plans may need to be implemented and monitor the situation and minimizing repeat patterns. 

Lorna Spargo: Anything that interferes with a student’s ability to focus on their education, regardless of its source, needs to be considered as an obstacle that must be explored so that the student can succeed. We have staff in place who may need more supports and/or systems to help assess or combat the issues. Not having experience on the board, I don’t know what those are, yet. But, when I do, I believe in working to resolve as many issues as possible so that students can attain success.

Naju Syed: A big thing that does not occur in the division is that few can actually listen to the children. Bullying has evolved, no longer does it occur with small jests here and there, nowadays the vast majority of it is being conducted online through various social media platforms.

Students need to be educated and made aware of the harmful and often serious impacts of bullying and social media. Bullying is a learned behaviour, and children need to be taught that it is wrong and given the accurate help they need.

Our school division needs to institute proper resources for these students to receive adequate help as well as supporting the current ones in place, and constantly advocating for mental and emotional health development.

Current support should be made accessible and available throughout all times of the day for students in crisis or those just needing someone to listen.

8. What are some other major challenges facing the FMPSD and its educators, and what can be done to prepare for them?

Angela Adams: Along with the normal issues that are ongoing, funding stands at the front of the line as divisions in this province have been utilizing reserves to operate for some time. Working with the division stakeholder to highlight what is important within the division, finding creative ways to continue programs thru grants and community donation would be priority.

The most important asset that a division has is its people, I will continue to advocate for the well being of our staff, education is the bedrock of our society and it division staff that make that structure sound, this past couple of years have been hard on all of us, but our staff faces it two-fold not only taking care of their student but also a family at home. I hope to continue to find the resources to make sure their needs are taken care of. Without healthy staff we will be hard pressed to have a healthy system.

On Oct. 20, I humbly ask that you to vote Angela Adams to bring the voice of the community to the               board table for the 2021-25 term. Thank you.

Freya Fourny: FMPSD has a high turnover rate for teachers, often it is due to spousal job changes. With a younger generation of teachers our division has a lot of maternity leave as these teachers are starting their own families and producing more FMPSD students.

Staffing needs to be addressed throughout the year and promotion of the region to make teaching positions desirable. We need teachers to come to our region, but we also need teachers to stay in our region.

Jonathan Lambert: Proper funding from the government continues to be a major challenge facing FMPSD.

We know that class numbers are too large for our teachers to instruct and meet our students individual learning styles.

We know more support staff and resources are needed to meet the ever changing demands placed on teachers.

We know that the students in smaller schools are sometimes not able to experience the same opportunities as students in larger schools such as academic courses and extra-curricular opportunities.

We know that aspects of staff compensation such as salary freezes and COLA continue to be items of stress on our school staff. Insufficient funding from the government to our district is the reason for these issues.

Trustees, along with the general public, need to continue to lobby the Alberta government to ensure proper funding for FMPSD to meet the needs of our students and staff.

Tarel Mehta: Currently, the two major challenges are Covid-19 and teacher attention. Lately, many of our staff members are feeling neglected and that their voices aren’t being heard. Bringing attention to our teachers and their needs is crucial for overcoming these challenges.

I also believe that Covid-19 will have lasting impacts for at least the next few years to come. We must make sure that we handle Covid-19 correctly within our community to allow no further challenges.

Linda Mywaart: I think one of the challenges facing FMPSD (and other school Boards across the province) is mandate creep and how to stretch the education dollars further and further, at times for use beyond the scope of education.

Expectations for what takes place in our schools has risen and with increased expectation comes increased cost. The demands and expectations are increasing disproportionately to the funding received. It is a challenge to keep classroom dollars in the classroom.

Imam Nazir: One major challenge that I’d like to discuss is the budgeting aspect. I want to make sure that each school should have a budget that allows them to get the resources they need and to fund the programs they have.

I want to ensure that the FMPSD implements an annual budget. This includes the revision and following up with the implementation of the 2021-2022 financial planning and budget, along with the Masters Facility and Capital Plan 2021. Moreover, another challenge exists in the funding of new programs.

I believe we should actively attempt to find sponsorships to assist in the creation and facilitation of new programs that match the needs of students and educators.

Our city is very dynamic and has many different groups, this is a blessing, but also a challenge. I believe we should hold discussions around stakeholder engagement and how we should be collaborating with all communities in our city.

Tim O’Hara: I believe that there will always be new challenges around the corner, but I am hopeful that we can work through the ones we already have in front of us before we are presented with the next challenge.

Our division continues to provide mental health support for students who have been affected by the fires, floods and now the pandemic.

We are working through being able to fully grasp the truths about residential schools and to work through reconciliation.

We are continuing to struggle to get through another school year during a pandemic.

We are trying to provide the same quality of education and services while the provincial government tightens the funding belt.

I think one of the biggest challenges that FMPSD might face in the immediate future is that we will not see the increase in funding that will be necessary to support the growing number of students and the rising costs of services.

Jason Schulz: The FMPSD has strong and growing enrollment based on the young population represented in the region. Given strong enrolment trends and reductions in funding, resources will likely continue to be thinly stretched across multiple competing priorities.  

Covid has introduced a learning environment that relies on technology and potentially increases anxiety, while planning to re-integrate students into a traditional learning environment at some point. The challenges of integrating learners and staff into the classroom will surely continue to play out for the short-to-medium term. Covid, combined with the recent flood and 2016 wildfire, will continue to cause challenges around mental health.   

Budgetary constraints will continue to cause challenges given the ongoing need for operational costs, building and grounds maintenance as well as potential for wage pressures in future collective agreements. 

Lorna Spargo: I’m not sure what else is coming other than a problematic new curriculum, the cuts to budget, increasing mental health issues related to the pandemic, flood, and fire, embracing marginalized and/or vulnerable members within our community, not to mention the fractured society that we live in when people are at each other’s throats.

All I can say is that if we are willing to work together, honestly and respectfully, and keep the success of the whole student as the forefront of our focus, we can empower FMPSD students to reach their potential.

Naju Syed: Currently, classes are being filled up causing many children to be left behind or glossed over by the education system.

Further than that, teachers are also being overworked with many losing their preparatory class blocks, which causes delays in how students can receive feedback and their marks on classwork. Class sizes need to be extensively examined to ensure that this practice no longer continues.

As well, FMPSD needs to continue to foster and expand its initiatives to address the impacts of poverty that both students and staff face, such as breakfast programs and school supplies drives.

Advertisement

Source link

Sign in

Sign Up

Forgotten Password

Job Quick Search

Cart

Cart