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 Malik Amery who will be running for election as the Public School Trustee in Ward 12 &14 this term.
Why are you running for the position of school board trustee?
I am proud to say that I am a product of the CBE and depiction of its success. My mandate is simply to contribute back to a system which brought me up; resurrect it back to a system which all others are measured against and then safeguard it for future generations. I am running for School Board Trustee to work towards rectifying the numerous deficiencies plaguing the public school system. I believe that the principal stakeholders (i.e. students, parents, educators and community) have been misrepresented for several years. The current Trustees have become disconnected from the principal stakeholders and have failed to recognize who exactly they are representing.
Consequently, I have elected to run for Public School Trustee with the hopes of utilizing my educational background in Economics and Accounting and my professional experience in finance with a focus on operational budgeting and collective bargaining labour analysis, to ensure that limited resources currently available are allocated as fairly and efficiently as possible. I would also immediately work towards re-establishing the medium of exchange necessary to seek the consultation of principal stakeholders and incorporate foresight in how we plan to meet the educational needs of students.
I have spent the majority of my life attaining the skill set necessary to adequately and effectively serve a Public School Trustee. I come from a family who are devoted to the enhancement of public education and who are intimately involved in provincial politics (one is a MLA here in Calgary). Utilizing both the educational and professional experiences in conjunction with the instilled importance of education from my family, allows me understand the important issues of the public school system and their direct impact on the resources of the educators and the student experience.
The quality of public education can only be secured with the continuous engagement of its principal stakeholders; the students, parents, educators, community and government, working in conjunction with strong representation which will listen to their concerns, addresses their issues and deliver on their mandates. To achieve this directive, my priorities will be explicitly aimed at increasing transparency, sustainability and accountability in the decision making process for all parties involved. Working attentively with the community, parents and students; I will demonstrate the leadership, determination, integrity and commitment necessary to ensure long-term financial sustainability and enhancement of the public education system.
I understand that students within the public education system are an extremely diverse group with very individualistic educational needs. It is fundamentally important that educators are provided with the resources to address these needs and to foster our student’s educational growth.
It has become explicitly clear that the current Trustees no longer seek stakeholder consultation; rarely employed a long-term planning perspective and do NOT have the qualifications critically needed to govern the educational system. As such, I have elected to run for School Board Trustee.
Can you share some of your past volunteer, political and/or Board of Directors experience?
I am currently involved in the resurrection of the McKenzie Towne Farmers Market, as I believe this happening promotes family interaction, fosters communication and creates a positive community atmosphere. I have also had the privilege of volunteering on several occasions for Canadian Blood Services and The Mustard Seed. I have extensive educational knowledge in provincial politics. Concurrently, I also come from a family who are advocates of the enhancement and sustainability of public education and who are intimately involved in provincial politics.
What is your future vision of the education system in Calgary?
A public education system which would meet the individualistic learning needs of ALL students and seeks the engagement and participation of all principal stakeholders in the entire education process serves as the foundation of my vision for public education in Calgary. Adequate resources would be made available to ensure that educators have the educational resources, professional development programs and support mechanisms necessary to meet the needs of all types of learners. My vision entails an education system which endorses transparency, sustainability and accountability in the decision making process for all parties involved. It is a system which provides adequate infrastructure in developing communities and maintains infrastructure in mature communities. It is a system which ensures the standardization of educational programs with all students receiving the same quality and accessibility to education no matter where in the city they live. My future vision of Calgary’s education systems comprises the incorporation of more technology in the classroom, not only as an alternative or supplement to traditional teaching mechanism, but more importantly to encourage innovation in today’s students. The digital deficiency plaguing CBE classrooms must be addressed immediately to solidify not only the successful future of today’s learners but also to secure the social and economic prosperity of all Albertans. Finally and most importantly, it is an educational system which not only develops life long learners, but cultivates life long LEADERS.
What do you think the future of School Boards are in Alberta? What changes would you make to the school board trustee model?
I do believe that independent School Boards MUST (and will) continue to exist in order to ensure the individualistic needs of the communities are identified, understood and rectified. Independent School Board sustainability is paramount to ensuring the incorporation of the ideologies, recommendations and suggestions of the principal stakeholders (i.e. students, parents, educators and community). School Boards and the School Board Trustee model MUST incorporate foresight and instil new mechanisms of how we approach education. School Board Trustees must be instilled with the legislative authority necessary to foster the autonomy of the independent school boards, ultimately enhancing their ability to respond to local concerns and address local needs. School boards must be given natural person powers; to ensure decision making authority is equivalent to those enjoyed my municipalities.
To be effective, any revisions to the School Board Trustee model MUST mitigate the barriers plaguing their ability to properly represent their communities. The re-establishment of who the Trustees represent (i.e. the principal stakeholders) is critical. Concurrently, it is fundamentally important that any changes to the current Trustee model allow for autonomy pertaining to the following areas of concern:
• Infrastructure; primarily explicit identification of how a collaborative effort could be established to provide school boards with the resources necessary to ensure adequate spaces for students.
• An unambiguous mandate which identifies the responsibilities of the school boards
• Employment provisions pertaining to the school board’s ability to hire, manage and discipline staff.
• Reinstatement of the schools boards authority to access some portion of the provincial tax base, systematically allowing them to raise funds from their communities to support local priorities and bridge funding shortfalls.
• Removal of the provision dictating school boards seek authorization from the Minister of Education when appointing Superintendents and negotiating their contracts.
If a new School Board Trustee model is to be constructed, it is critical that it provides Trustees with the resources and legislative influences needed to foster and safeguard the collaboratively determined vision, values and principles of the independent School Boards which they represent.
If you could implement one radical idea to improve the school system, what would it be?
A radical (yet realistic) mechanism that I would explore to improve the school system pertains to the consolidation of non-instructional “backstage” organizational departments, (i.e. Human Resources, Payroll, Insurance, Finance, Legal and Accounting) within ALL school districts to capitalize on synergizes and gain economies of scale. What must be made explicitly and unequivocal clear is that the savings achieved via the consolidation would be re-invested into attainment of additional classroom resources; the development of new infrastructure and the maintenance of existing infrastructure. It is a basic business practise which has been successfully employed within other government departments and throughout the private sector. Non-instructional service consolidation MUST occur with open communication and with the consultation from all principal stakeholders; ensuring the shared services achieve a balance between flexibility and accountability.
Plagued by a cyclical economic climate and a myriad of other issues, the provincial governments funding for school boards has become nearsighted and erratic. To fulfill budgetary commitments, the public school board has opted to remove educators and resources from the classroom or “front stage”, rather than to seek organizational efficiencies from within the “backstage” non-instructional service departments via consolidation, certainly a vehicle worth exploring.