Sunday, October 10, 2010

Interview With Ward 11 and 13 Public School Board Trustee Julie Kearns

This is a continuation of a series of interviews that I will post about local candidates that are running in the 2010 Calgary municipal election. I do not endorse any of the candidates necessarily, unless stated otherwise. The intent is to allow the candidates a forum in which they can share some of their views as I feel that the school trustee candidates often do not get the same amount of attention from the mainstream media as the alderman and mayoral candidates.

This interview is with Julie Kearns, who will be running for election as the Public School Trustee in Ward 11 & 13 this term.

Why are you running for the position of school board trustee?

I care about education. I care about democracy and the crucial role of local communities to govern their affairs. I am known as a visionary leader, and I have experience as an educator; community volunteer; parent & grandparent; knowledge of best practices in educational governance; expertise in measuring outcomes; sensitivity to the political dimensions of education; and belief in our capacity to change and adapt to the future.

My commitment, as the Public School Board Trustee for Wards 11 & 13 is to advance the vision of Inspiring Education, and I commit to:

• lead strategically

• modernize the role of trustees

• provide effective stewardship of resources

• respect teachers’ professional role as a key to a successful system

• seek new ways to engage the community in educational governance

Can you share some of your past volunteer, political and/or Board of Directors experience?
  I recently retired from the University of Calgary as “Senior Instructor Emeritus” where I was Director of the Student Resource Centre, Academic Development Coordinator for the Faculty of Continuing Education, Director of Continuing Professional Education for the Faculty of Social Work, and senior instructor teaching courses in Program Evaluation, Human Performance Technology, Organizational Behaviour, Leadership, E-learning, and Adult Education.

Living in the Oakridge community for my adult life, I am an active community volunteer and I have volunteered with the: Calgary Girls’ School, Calgary Glenmore Liberal Association, University of Calgary Faculty Association, Centre for Non-Profit Management, Chinook Educational Consortium, YWCA, Calgary Community Adult Learning Association, Calgary Birth Control Association, Delta West Advisory Committee, John Ware Junior High School Technology Committee, Central Memorial High School Committee for Healthy Living, Nellie McClung Parent Advisory Committee, University of Calgary Senate and CUSO. I worked on parent advisory councils during my children’s education journeys and have several years experience as a school board trustee through my involvement with the Calgary Girls’ School which is a charter school. As a Director, I participated in strategic planning, policy development, financial management, community relations and accountability processes.

What is your future vision of the education system in Calgary?

I share the vision of education to 2030 as expressed by Albertans and captured in the document “Inspiring Education: a dialogue with Albertan’s 2010.”

Education must move from an industrial model of education toward a 21st century learning model that includes: helping students learn to take control of their own learning; shifting our focus from schools to education; centering on the learner; moving from content to building competencies; and using technology to support the creation of and sharing of knowledge.

However, the call for educational transformation has dominated educational literature for the last 25 years, and the record of substantive change has been poor. Education is by its nature “political” and educational institutions are bureaucratic - resistant to change. The quality of a school system rests on the quality of teachers and instructional innovation. Teachers are typically isolated in their classrooms, and research reveals that school-wide improvements in student learning accrue in schools whose work cultures are collaborative. I believe the key to realizing the vision of “inspiring educations” is to stimulate and support innovation throughout the system by encouraging collaborative action research.

What do you think the future of School Boards are in Alberta. What changes would you make to the school board trustee model?

School board roles are defined by the Education Act but in recent years government actions along with public apathy have eroded the relevance of school boards. Indeed, on page 10 of the Inspiring Education document hints at doing away with elected school boards and says “governors could be elected, appointed, or recruited from the community.”

The current School Act is under review, and it has been deeply criticized as being highly prescriptive and prescriptive. I (and presumably most citizens) was unaware of the review, and I believe the new Act must establish an enabling framework that will provide:

• natural person powers to school boards

• local-decision-making

• financial flexibility to boards

• responsibility and accountability for results to local boards

At the local level, I would seek opportunities to modernize the roles of Trustee in the following ways:

• shift the governance model from a rules based or policy governance model to a “principles based” approach.

• shift accountability for learning excellence away from accountability to bureaucracy.• seek new ways to engage the community in educational governance.

If you could implement one radical idea to improve the school system, what would it be?
Closing schools due to low enrollment is a poor option, and instead I would advocate for changing the use of schools to become School-Community Hubs or Full Service Schools. Community Hubs exist within a number of municipalities in Canada, US, Australia and Europe

When a neighbourhood school closes, a hub is lost, and the community suffers, especially a disadvantaged one. More and more families cannot fully meet their children’s multiple needs critical to their academic success. Schools alone cannot overcome all of the barriers to learning. A School-Community Hub is both a place and a partnership approach that mobilizes an array of resources, services, supports and opportunities, leading to improved student learning, stronger families, and healthier communities. More efficient use of tax dollars is realized through the co-location of services into one publicly funded facility. As an example within 5 kilometers of the Oakridge/Palliser communities, there are offices for Alberta Child & Family Services, Family Resource Centre, Primary Care Network and numerous day care centres, fitness centres, senior citizen residences, and a Library. School-Community Hubs require school-level and municipal level of governance and decision-making, along with inter-governmental and intra-governmental co-operation. The recent revisions to the Municipal Government Act may facilitate this vision. For more information go to:

Julie Kearns, MEd,

Seeking election as Public School Trustee in Wards 11 & 13

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