Saturday, October 9, 2010

Interview With Ward 8 & 9 Public School Trustee Candidate Laura Shutiak

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 Laura Shutiak,  who will be running for election as the Public School Trustee in Ward 8 &9 this term.

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

  I watched with interest the budget debate in June. Trustees were presented with a budget that had a $29 million deficit and the loss of 292 school-based positions. Only 5 trustees had questions, and most of them, only had one question. Then, when they "debated" the budget all but one trustee just blamed the province for not giving them enough money. There was no oversight. No one asking really tough questions. I felt that the board was falling down in their duty as governors of the system.

The $285 million Education Centre Lease, which was approved by trustees months after the deal was signed, is just the most outrageous example of spending on administration that is out of control. We must put our priority on schools and children. We need trustees who represent parents and voters, engage in a meaningful dialog with the community and act as governors of our $1 billion investment in education.

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

  Since my oldest child started school eight years ago, I've been an active member of two school councils and constant volunteer on a range of school committees, from fundraising, to events to traffic safety. I've also been involved on the executive of the Calgary Association of Parents and School Councils, the last three as president. As CAPSC president, I helped introduce a new website and online newsletter and organized opportunities for parents to connect with key decision-makers, including a January meeting with the Minister of Education and a dozen Calgary MLAs.

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

I dream of a system where every child loves school and learning and feels they are part of a school community, where parents and communities are welcomed into schools and have a vital say in the decision-making that impacts their children.

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

  Public input is the foundation of a strong public education system. The link from the public to the board is through the trustee. I'd argue that in Calgary, that link is broken. Our trustees are so tied to administration that you can't tell the difference. (When the Education Centre Lease was reported, our elected trustees deflected all questions to Administration. The Chief Superintendent was on the radio this morning defending the lease.) Where are our elected officials.? That is who we task with overseeing the system. They must be held accountable for their actions. I think we need to look strongly at the governance model to ensure trustees are empowered to oversee the system and budgets, and can plan for the long and short term, and have the ability to do the generative, system changing work that is needed to improve our schools moving forward.

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

Let's take away curriculum, so kids could learn about what interests them. But since curriculum is a provincial matter. I'd better go another way. Let's get kids/parents to be able to pick the teachers they want. (Now, I know this could cause problems, because everyone may want the same teacher . . .but wouldn't that shake things up at schools and make teachers think a bit differently about what they do? ) My other idea would be to give first year teachers smaller class sizes - it's not very radical, but it hasn't been done yet.

Laura's website is at

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