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EFCL leaves sector review process

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  • EFCL leaves sector review process

    The president of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues explains why his group will no longer participate in public engagement activities designed to support school closures.

    We feel our resources would be better spent looking for ways to help schools remain open and viable rather that try to determine the best ones to close. Consequently, the EFCL has decided not to take part in any more of the school board’s sector reviews.

  • #2
    We’re working with Edmonton Public Schools to engage the community in a meaningful discussion about how to make best use of available resources in order to ensure all children have access to vibrant schools and quality programming. Sector planning has a number of different possible outcomes, one of which might be that some schools close. Others might be consolidation, reconfiguration, programming changes or status quo.

    It’s admirable to have a goal of no school closures, however, we would really encourage EFCL to engage in discussion with parents, community members and other organizations about the complexities related to community and sector planning. Like any complex issue, with a wide variety of diverse viewpoints and perspectives, the best results can be achieved if everyone makes the effort to share what is important to them AND to learn what is important to others. We really appreciate the passionate input of many community leagues to date in this public engagement process, and encourage EFCL to take an active part in this democratic discussion. There is no easy answer to this, but there are better possibilities if everyone participates in a meaningful way and works to understand all the issues and perspectives. Edmonton Public Schools administration has made a commitment to understand and consider the views and perspectives of the public in development of recommendations to be presented to Trustees. We welcome your understanding of the engagement process and activities, and your input on the issues.

    We’ve sent EFCL lots of information for distribution to community leagues and residents about the sector planning process and wonder if the lack of response means that EFCL has determined that those residents also don’t want a voice in this discussion? We’d really like to discuss this.


    • #3
      Hi Steph,

      The EFCL made its decision after discussions with the acting superintendent and the board chair, who clearly stated that allowing schools serve as community hubs is not an interest of the administration or the majority of trustees.

      As noted in a report to the board presented last Tuesday, the last round of sector reviews eliminated so much space that children redirected to Delton will no longer have access to after-school care on site. The Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation (E4C) is struggling to find a way to continue providing hot meals, now that the basement lunch area at Delton is being divided to create new classrooms, and students will eat in shifts, sitting in hallways.

      There's no room for food preparation. One idea E4C is exploring is setting up a nearby camp kitchen.

      In additional to E4C and the EFCL, groups opposing the closure of half of inner city schools included the Muttart Foundation, Multicultural Health Brokers and every affected community league and parent association.

      None of what they said had any apparent influence in the final result. The closures all went ahead as recommended by the administration. Even when the city highlighted a Capital Region Board scenario showing a doubling of the number of children living in the CCEP area over the next 15 years, the EPSB showed no flexibility, no interest.

      Public engagement is not a democratic process when the decisions are already made: there will be closure on a massive scale, and all that's left to be determined is which buildings.

      I can completely understand why the EFCL would not be interested in a process centred on picking winners and losers.

      Many communities are choosing to participate in the discussion of best use of school space outside of the EPSB process. Riverdale, for example, is distributing its own workbooks which focus on keeping schools open, not closing them.

      In the Dialogue Partners report on the mood heading into this round of sector reviews, your agency characterises efforts to keep schools from closing as a "militaristic" mindset. That kind of rhetoric, which diminishes a valid point of view because it doesn't match that of your client, is incredibly discouraging.

      Another way people are getting involved is the upcoming school board election. Based on the surveys completed (on behalf of the EPSB) by Ken Chapman, Edmontonians are opposed to closures as a primary option, and instead want various levels of government to collaborate on revitalization initiatives. Respondents were also very clear that they value schools as community hubs, unlike the majority of current trustees, and that disconnection can be fixed on Oct. 18th.

      The EPSB is asking Dialogue Partners to try to find public support for policies which most voters (again based on the work completed by Cambridge Strategies) reject. Until your client is willing to bring into the discussion the question about whether closures on such a large scale are even necessary, what's the point? People would rather put energy into imagining a better city and a better education system -- and good for them for focusing on positive solutions and opportunities.

      Best regards,

      Christopher Spencer


      • #4
        Hi Chris – Thanks for your comments and views. I think your thoughts confirm for me that this conversation is richer if those who are interested and affected have an opportunity and choose to participate in the discussion.

        You raise lots of issues and concerns, and I think it would be good if we could clarify some of them. With an issue as complex as sector planning, I think that a wide variety of information is relevant to fully understanding the issues.

        I’m sorry if you thought our analysis of the 400+ survey responses was inaccurate. We abide by a Code of Ethics for public participation (posted on the sector review website at ) and we are neutral and without a stake in the process. Our job is to make sure that ALL voices have an opportunity to be heard. There is a wide variety of views and perspectives about these issues. Some people are concerned and upset and focused on saving their school. Some people are anxious that schools will be pitted against each other and want to have a different conversation. That is just the reality of the situation – and both views, and all those in between, are valid and important.

        I agree with you that those who attended the Trustee meetings on closure in CCEP and Greater Hardisty areas were opposed to closures. However, there were many people involved prior to those meetings who had a wide variety of views, ideas and opinions, and they weren’t all the same. We are almost finished the evaluation of the link between public input and recommendations and subsequent decision for these two areas, and we’ll share this information as soon as it is done. This engagement process in Central, South Central and West 1 sectors will document that link in the recommendations.

        You reference how important it is for the City and EPSB to work together. While it isn’t the mandate of EPSB, they understand how important this is to people. As part of sector planning, they have been meeting with City administration, and with the province as well to discuss these issues. In addition, EPSB is hosting a conversation with the community, City, province, and organizations to discuss how (and on what) to work together going forward. The convening of this meeting is an acknowledgement of how important this is to people and a step to bringing people together to talk about it. I’ve heard you say many times how much you’d like to see this happen so I hope to see you there!

        I guess I continue to believe that people can do exceptional things when they come together to discuss complex issues that are important to them, but they have to be willing to share their views and also hear and understand views that are different from their own. I understand your perspective, but I continue to hope to see you at these meetings in conversation.

        All the best


        • #5

          Time to get all the contractors and consultants out of the arena.

          The Trustees need to stand up and be held accountable for their positions and defend them.

          The sad part is, generally, people pay little attention to the election of trustees in the October election and we are likely to see most of the same players back.

          If parents and concerned citizens really wish change this is the year to be very pro active in the election of our school board representatives.

          I know I will be.



          • #6
            Originally posted by Green Grovenor View Post

            As noted in a report to the board presented last Tuesday, the last round of sector reviews eliminated so much space that children redirected to Delton will no longer have access to after-school care on site. The Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation (E4C) is struggling to find a way to continue providing hot meals, now that the basement lunch area at Delton is being divided to create new classrooms, and students will eat in shifts, sitting in hallways.

            There's no room for food preparation. One idea E4C is exploring is setting up a nearby camp kitchen.
            Hi Christopher,

            You have raised some interesting points and concerns we have heard voiced by others. I would like to take this opportunity to provide some additional information, which I hope helps clarify some of your concerns.
            Delton School currently has a before and after school care on site. This will not change, as a result of the additional students it is receiving through school closure. It is also important to mention that none of the space used by the before and after school care provider has been removed to create additional classroom space.

            The topic of the lunch space for students at Delton School has also been raised. Delton School has not been part of the hot lunch program. It has had an enhanced snack program sponsored by E4C. With respect to the lunch space available to students, there is currently an open area hallway space on the lower level. This area is currently a lunch area for students. This area will not be impacted by the construction of additional classroom space and will be expanded to provide additional student lunchroom space. An enhanced lunch preparation area will also be available for E4C to support either a snack or hot lunch program.

            As mentioned, E4C is currently assessing its ability to provide hot lunch programs across the city. This review is unrelated to school closure, and has more to do with the funding challenges they are facing. You may have seen the May 25, 2010 Edmonton Journal article which outlines some of these challenges.

            I hope the information above offers greater clarity as we move forward. Thanks again for raising these questions and providing the opportunity to share this information.

            Ann Parker
            Supervisor, Program Distribution, Planning
            Edmonton Public Schools


            • #7
              Hello Ann,

              Thank you for participating in the Connect2Edmonton forum. I'm pleased that officials from the planning department are engaging in this opportunity for discussion.

              My source for child care and after-school care likely not being available in some CCEP schools is the administration's response to Board Request #301, page 2, second paragraph. The specific note is that these services "will not necessarily be available in the school attended." Perhaps that means children might start their day at a "closed" building before heading off to classes at one that is open. After school, they'd return to the closed site.

              I hope you can clarify that situation. By definition a wraparound service is not a wraparound service if it is housed at a different location.

              Children at Eastwood School currently are provided lunch through the charitable works of the Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation. Closure redesignates them to Delton. Will they continue to receive the same level of support, when their receiving school does not have ready lunch preparation facilities? Talking to E4C representatives, they say the logistical challenges are considerable, and that the issue isn't just funding. I recall reading during the sector review that 94 per cent of children attending Eastwood are considered to be "at risk."

              One of the main obstacles to learning for students from troubled backgrounds is not having access to proper meals. That makes malnutrition an educational issue. I hope supporting student health is a priority for the EPSB and not something it considers to be outside of its mandate.

              Of course, that mandate is rapidly changing. Yesterday's Inspiring Education report calls for learning to be embedded in the community:

              "Provide a range of community services through the school building, including library, professional, recreational and child care."

              "Establish the school as a community learning centre that is accessible to all people within the community."

              "A broader role for the school in the community will develop stronger networks especially among different agencies and services."

              "The school is the centre of the community, the hub of the neighbourhood."

              Partnerships are no longer "extra" things. They are essentials. That fundamentally changes the sector review process. Just because a space is not being used directly by the district for instructional purposes doesn't mean it isn't being occupied in the service of the children. During the Inspiring Education press conference, the co-chair specifically brought up that infamous coded phrase, "corporate interest," and said districts are not to act in that way any more. The guiding priniciple in Alberta henceforth is to "meet the needs of the whole child."

              The space calculations the EPSB is using are no longer meaningful, useful or valid. We need to look at all services provided within a building as part of a wholistic learning system. There is not as much "vacant" space in Edmonton's schools today as there was yesterday. Closures on such a broad scale as the initial sector review round (half of schools) can't be justified under a system where collaboration and parternships matter.

              I suggest the next step is to look at use in the broad context. Where in fact are there empty classrooms? How can we measure that excess capacity? What partnerships are available with "library, professional, recreational and child care" providers to help fill vacant spaces? Experiential learning is a critical part of Inspiring Education. How do we deliver that in schools?

              Once we've done that work, it will become possible to evaluate provision of the needs of the "whole child" within the sector. We can talk about other uses for buildings that are surplus to the new learning mandate.

              I believe this approach would be realistic, reasonable and ethical. Perhaps I've become too cynical, but my guess is the direction today at One Kingsway is entrenchment. Getting beyond ACU and ACOL will be rejected because the district, like most institutions, resists change and won't want to let go of the K-12 silo. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

              We can do better for our children, and the best way to do that is through community. Let's get rid of our baggage (me too) and start over, using Inspiring Education as our guiding light.


              Christopher Spencer