October 6 Public Comment to CBE Board of Trustees

I am here today to talk to you about parent voice in transportation and traffic safety issues.

In 2013, Ecole Sam Livingston’s school council realized that school traffic safety is a key issue involving multiple stakeholders.  We reached out to others at a CAPSC meeting, and learned many other schools face the same challenges. Working with CAPSC, we organized a stakeholder meeting involving school, police, city and provincial stakeholders. Most importantly, this meeting involved parents. It was collaborative and productive.  We were able to increase awareness of what traffic problems around schools looked like from ground level and for stakeholders.  We also began the process of adapting municipal and provincial law to improve safety for our children.

For some time, I have been aware that transportation issues are affecting families on the same fundamental level. Quality transportation is a very basic need. Many factors now get in the way of parents’ ability to get their children to school safely and themselves to work every day.  These issues profoundly affect family life, the future of students, and have echoing effects across the city. All stakeholders need to be included in a conversation about how transportation is working, and what makes the most sense for the future. Several of those stakeholders joined us in our walk to this meeting.

I thank you for recognizing that communication between decision-makers at the CBE and parents broke down in regard to recent changes. I am delivering this petition to help ensure that upper management hears what parent voices have to say. Parents continue to request consultation on this subject.

Speaking as someone who has been involved in school councils for some time, I’d like to note that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel to improve communication. Parents and school boards already have a communication system in place where discussion about this kind of issue should occur. In Calgary, our tools include school councils, Council of School Councils, CAPSC and ASCA. Used effectively, this network can be a cost-effective way to test ideas and gather feedback from parents. We have these forums in place, but two-way communication isn’t happening. Before dedicating more funds to improving the relationship with parents, I ask the Board of Education and Trustees to consider why the systems in place now aren’t working.

  • What can be done to make the school council network more effective?
  • How do you ensure that parents feel information being passed to principals or trustees is being heard and addressed?
  • Why don’t parents understand more about and trust the decisions being made?
  • How do you incorporate good ideas and thoughtful commentary from the general public, and from other stakeholders?
  • Finally, how can you harness the considerable and often free efforts of parents to help make public education stronger?

Please begin this process by involving parents in a frank discussion about improving communication. We also want to have true conversation about the impact transportation has on our lives. I believe that we accomplish more when working together, and I know the well-being of the children we serve depends on it. Thank you for listening.