Thank you! – October 22nd, 2013

I wanted to say thanks very much to all the people in Wards 3 and 4 who exercised their democratic vote and supported me in the school board election.  Thanks also to my small but dedicated group of election volunteers. I am honored by your continuing support and trust. I will continue to work hard so that we have the best public education system and our students are offered the learning opportunities and support they require to achieve success. I look forward to working together and hope you all know that I am always available to listen to your concerns about our school system.

Posted in CBE

Class size update – October 18th, 2013

CBE posted its latest on class sizes yesterday.  The formal report will come in November. Here is the link:

http://www.cbe.ab.ca/Media/news/2013-2014/20131017_01.asp

This spring’s provincial cuts to school board funding have clearly had an impact on some of our schools.  In April in the provincial budget, CBE’s funding was cut in the following ways:

  1. ELL funding cut from five to seven years which meant a $5.3 million reduction;
  2. Loss of fuel price contingency funding for a reduction of $2.3 million;
  3. Clawback of $4.6 million of the administrative cap when CBE was already below the cap and spending those dollars in our classrooms;
  4. Plant operations weighted funding for students with severe disabilities removed;
  5. AISI funding completely eliminated;
  6. Equity of Opportunity funding decreased from $156 to $101 per student.

Here is the link to more budget information: http://www.cbe.ab.ca/trustees/Budget/13-14_Budget_Assumptions_Report-FINAL-ATTACH_I.pdf

CBE’s budget directed as much funding as possible to classrooms to minimize the impact of these cuts on student learning. School boards need predictable, sustainable three year budget cycles to do long term planning to ensure that our students have the necessary resources and supports for the learning environment in which they learn best.

Posted in CBE

Setting the Record straight on Transportation – October 17th, 2013

There seems to be a great deal of misinformation out there. CBE transportation fees to parents did not increase this year.

Here is a link to how CBE transportation fees are calculated : http://www.cbe.ab.ca/Parents/pdfs/How_transportation_fees_were_calculated.pdf

Transportation of students is subsidized by provincial grants that allot funding based on a distance of student residence being 2.4 kilometers from the community school. Given CBE parental expectations of levels of service and access, the costs exceed the provincial grants. Even with all the efficiencies introduced, in terms of dual routing, congregated bus stops for programs of choice, walk zones, and the use of transit for junior high students, CBE is still facing an $8.7 million shortfall between its grants and actual costs.

The provincial budget this spring removed the fuel price contingency funding from transportation which was a loss of several millions of dollars from CBE’s transportation budget.  The shortfall between service costs and provincial subsidies is covered by charging transportation fees.

Based on an extensive community engagement process two years ago, the CBE has several filters that influence the transportation budget:

  1. Provide central waivers for families who cannot afford the fees;
  2. Provide some transportation access to programs of choice;
  3. Each student utilizing the service will pay the same fee;
  4. Limit the use of instructional dollars to subsidize transportation.

The provincial government held a review of the 25 year old metro transportation formula with a promise of updating it to reflect current reality. They decided they needed to collect data to inform the decisions – that was five years ago. I have consistently raised this issue at provincial meetings and with several Ministers. In a perfect world, CBE should not have to charge transportation fees for students. What needs to change is the provincial metro transportation formula which was promised several years. We need a different formula that recognizes current needs and expectations.

If the formula does not change, the question becomes two-part: what kind of service level does CBE provide to students, and what fees are parents willing to pay for their student to be bussed to school?

Posted in CBE

Dollars focused on students – October 10th, 2013

Thank you for contacting me with your question about CBE budgets.

The 2013/14 budget saw for the second year a total redesign of CBE’s central services. The expense for the administrative portion of the budget is now 2.8%, instruction is 79.3%, operations and maintenance 11.9%, transportation 3.7% and external services 2.3%. External services includes things like international student services and adult learning.  Administrative services include central services that support schools and student learning as well as governance costs.  In the same spirit, CBE Trustees voted to reduce their own salaries, cut out their parking allowance and reduce their professional development funds. I don’t know of too many corporations the size of our large school system with 230 sites that operate on such a lean administrative budget.

As a result of all of the above, CBE was able to give to schools directly a 2.0% increase in their budgets to try and minimize the impact of the provincial cuts in funding on students and classrooms. I know that most schools needed another 2.1% to maintain status quo given cost increases caused by projected enrolment growth, negotiated salary increases for unionized employees, grid movement for unionized employees, and  inflation. When almost 80% of the budget is teacher and support staff salaries and benefits, these costs form a huge budget allocation that is directly related to students in classrooms.

A significant portion of CBE expenses are non-discretionary and this creates a challenge which limits the options available for cost reductions. Administrative expenses include a higher proportion of non-discretionary costs like fixed costs such as insurance and a higher proportion of increasing costs, than other parts of the budget.

Cost reduction requires long term planning if done well. It is difficult to do this when school boards are denied predictable budget cycles. The province originally promised school boards a three year cycle of 1%, 2% and 2% increases. In last spring’s provincial budget, the 2012/13 year’s 1% was clawed back by the elimination of the fuel price contingency fund and AISI funding. This year’s cuts eliminated the promised 2% increase.

The goal of the school system is student success and as a trustee I want to utilize resources in the best ways possible to ensure that each student is offered the opportunity of a learning environment in which they learn best. This is a tremendous challenge given the unpredictability of funding. It is a testament to the learning environment created by dedicated teachers , staff and focused leaders that in recent test results, CBE students outperform the province at almost every subject and grade level.

Posted in CBE

What is VOICE? The ability to express one’s opinions and to influence the decisions of others. – September 29th, 2013

Calgary is a large growing city with many diverse voices.  As a trustee, I am here to listen, analyze what I hear, and then make decisions that I believe are best for student success. I gather this information from a wide variety of sources – for example, talking with parents at school councils, or at school and system events, or by e-mail and phone, at aldermanic ward meetings, at community association meetings, at partnership and agency events,  at provincial committee meetings, professional development opportunities, with thought leaders in the community.  Internal voices come from board reports, provincial government reports,  and visits to schools and principals.

What I hear from parents:

I want my child to be understood at school for her individual needs.

I want my child to wear a uniform at school.

I want my child to be able to express himself through a variety of ways.

My child can’t walk to school because the winter climate is too cold

I want a school in my community so that my child can walk to school.

I don’t like the new principal but I love my kid’s teacher this year.

I don’t think I should have to pay fees to send my kid to school.

What I hear from communities

Can we have free access to the school to teach children our heritage language?

Please do something about parents always driving their kids to school. The traffic congestion is terrible.

The school is the best thing about this community.

There’s always graffiti on the walls of the school.  The community looks terrible. Can you talk to parents and the police about those kids?

What I hear from students

I want my teacher to respect me as a person, to listen to my opinion.

I want my teachers to understand that I learn differently than other people.

My classroom’s cold especially by the windows.  Can we fix them?

I want to be involved in helping make decisions that affect my learning.

Some kids are mean on the playground.

I love my school. Everyone is nice to me. I want to come here every day.

What I hear from seniors

I don’t have kids in school. I don’t understand why I am paying taxes to support schools.

I walk my grandchild to school every day. I just love the chance to talk with people in the playground.

I don’t have kids anymore. Parents should pay fees to help pay for their kids’ bussing.

What I hear from employers

We want people who show up for work on time, dress for respect and know how to work together.

I want someone who can assess a situation, step in, show leadership and think on their feet.

We need kids to make up their minds early what they want to do so they can be trained at school and ready for the workforce.

Things are changing rapidly.  I need people who can adapt their skills to new technology.

 

It is important that as I do my job, I engage with as many of these diverse voices as possible and bring that experience back to the board as part of our decision making process. Together, the Board of Trustees works hard to make sure the public school system has the best people in place to support student success and then monitors student progress regularly.

Posted in CBE

Welcome to Lynn’s blog – September 21st, 2013

Edgemont 35Anniv3

Despite rumors to the contrary, I have decided to run again for re-election and today is the launch of my new website. For those I’ve talked with in the last few months, you will know that my dad died and my mother’s care needed reorganization.  With those issues resolved, I am committed to another term as your trustee and pledge to serve the Calgary Board of Education students and schools in Wards 3 and 4 utilizing all my knowledge and skills.

Congratulations to the wonderful volunteers who organized the Edgemont 35th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday.  The joint site of Edgemont School and the Community Association was a great outdoor space for families and friends to gather to enjoy activities and cultural presentations.

Mayor Nenshi and Lynn