Monday, October 11, 2010

Interview With Ward 11 and 13 Public School Trustee Candidate Catherine Huggerud

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 Catherine Heggerud, 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 am running for public school trustee for two primary reasons:

I believe that public education is a fundamental right for all citizens of a democracy. Education strengthens the citizen; and an engaged citizen strengthens the democracy. All the years I spent at TELUS, I believed it was my responsibility to make the organization the best it could be. With my children in the public school system, I believe my education and experience can contribute to the CBE by building on its strong past and continually improve it. Like all parents, I want the best for my children.

Can you share some of your past volunteer, political and/or Board of Directors experience?

I was active in student government from junior high on. I served one term on an undergraduate student’s club, AIECSEC as Vice President, Special Projects. AIESEC (Association of Students in Economics and Commerce) is the world’s largest run student organization in the world with over 50,000 members and chapters in more than 107 countries. My term as Vice President saw the most successful Careers’ Day at the University of Alberta campus at that time. We connected a significant number of students with potential employers. While a graduate student at the University of Alberta, I served one term as Vice President, Communications of the Graduate Students’ Association. I am an active classroom volunteer with the CBE and find this to be an excellent way of appreciating what happens at the front line of teaching. The most recent significant volunteer project was the cumulation of a thirty year project from my elementary school. In 1980, we buried a time capsule in the school yard to be opened by the class of 2010. I was actively involved in 1980 as the lead of both the fundraising committee and a cultural artifact committee. Recently, this involvement focused on three components, raising funds for the class of 2010, locating a revolutionary teacher who gave up teaching in the early 1980s, and locating 18 classmates now spread around the world.

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

My vision for public education in Calgary rests on four key premises. These are:

• Flexible – the education system needs to be flexible to meet the constantly changing demands of the various stakeholders. The CBE has done an outstanding job ensuring flexible programming for students. We need to ensure our systems and processes are flexible as well to support parents, teachers and students as they navigate public education.

• Fun – the education system needs to engage students to ensure students believe that learning is fun in order to promote life-long learning. When I was a grade three student in the mid-1970s, we still memorized multiplication tables. Now my grade three son comes home every day and informs me of how much math “rocks”. We need to ensure students have this passion for life- long learning.

• Forward looking – the education system need to ensure it is looking down the road and not in the rear-view mirror. Historically the education system was designed for the manufacturing economy. We need to ensure our education system is designed for the information age and the creative economy.

• Fiscally responsible – the education system must remain fiscally responsible. We know funding grants are limited as are opportunities for revenue generation. We need to work with granting agencies to ensure we have a system that meets our needs now and in the future. Once we have funding dollars, we need to ensure we are using those funds prudently.

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

I think the future of school boards in Alberta is up for debate under the new Education Act. I suspect there is a movement to create one "superboard" for schools as we have done for healthcare. I believe the incoming trustees are going to need to have a clear position and a strong voice to navigate through the process. I am personally not convinced that a “superboard” model is best for public education in Alberta but I also do not believe the current system is perfect either. For example, across the province the ratio of trustees to schools varies widely. We need to clearly define the role school boards are to play. If trustees are to be elected politicians with constituency responsibilities, we must

ensure they have the resources to engage the community effectively. For example, if an expectation of the community is that the trustee will attend every parent-council meeting for every school (as is the case in St. Albert), it would be impossible to do in the wards I am running in. Wards 11 & 13 have over thirty schools, so with one parent-council meeting per night, I would need to be at a school every night of the week including the weekends. Therefore, we need to work out a community engagement model that meets the needs of the community.

If you could implement one radical idea to improve the school system, what would it be?

I believe one of the greatest challenges facing public education is the soon to be shortage of

teaching professionals. We are faced with increased programming options beyond the traditional core subjects and we are faced with the retirement of many boomer teachers. In order to address these issues, I would like to work with Alberta Advanced Education to ensure

we have professional programs available to certify new teachers. It is unrealistic to expect a mid-career professional automotive mechanic to take five years out of his or her career to become a teacher, yet we desperately require these skill sets in our high schools. Therefore, my

radical idea is to change the way we certify teaching professionals at mid-career points. This should allow us to open up the teaching profession to those professionals whose skill sets we require and allow us to address the baby-boom retirement challenge when it occurs.

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  1. I like the radical idea... I believe they already do this for certain fields of study in the Yukon, to address the shortage of teachers. Successful completion of a course in how to be a TEACHER would still be required, naturally - knowing the subject doesn't mean you have the first idea how to teach it to others - but she raises a good point about the mechanic being unlikely to take 5 years off to go to University so he can teach a Mechanics course at the local high school.

  2. I was at the candidates forum for 11 & 13. Catherine was the most professional and most prepared. Her answers were clear, concise and she has the experience in the corporate world to back her up.
    There are a couple of other quality people running, but there are also some wingnuts! Check out the candidates before voting!

  3. There is already a program in place for people with their journeyman ticket to earn a teaching certificate if they are sponsored by a specific school. This condensed university accreditation program is being offered at U of A. Perhaps the radical idea is for this program ia to be offered in Calgary, as current canidates are travelling to Edmonton for the program.