News / Calgary

Calgary: It's time to start caring about school trustee elections

Every three years (soon to be four) we get the chance to make a difference in the future of our cities, towns, and, yes, school systems. And it’s the only time we get a stab at a change in leadership.

Given recent events at the Calgary Board of Education — approving raises for “exempt” staff (though freezing senior leadership salaries), a decision to increase busing fees (revoked shortly after), shutting out the public from conversation at board meetings (also revoked) — and that most of its votes go 5-2, 5-2, 5-2 (Carol Bazinet and Sheila Taylor against), it’s time to pay attention to your school board leadership.

So few Calgarians are involved in the actual school-trustee elections, yet a 2011 Environics survey showed education as the third most important issue for Albertans.

In 2010, over 52,000 ballots were cast for alderman in wards 6 and 7 combined. In the combined Ward 6/7 school-board vote, only 32,000 total votes were cast. Other wards saw similar voting disparity.

Decisions at the school board aren’t sexy: We’re not talking secondary suites, snow clearing, transit or red-tape reduction. But we are talking about the governance of the organizations that are educating our kids.

There’s an obvious disconnection in the issue of education when it comes to being important enough to raise a stink about, but not yet important enough to get involved in.

It would be nice to change that. It would be great to get new faces, new voices and perhaps a new vision.

And when these new faces arrive (on the backs of the throng of voters who came out to vote), we can only hope they’ll be touting those key words of transparency, accountability and due process — and then stick to it.

You can see gurgles of public discourse already. Popular Calgary radio host Buzz Bishop responded to our education reporter, Jeremy Nolais, on a tweet about CBE trustees’ lack of response to phone calls. Bishop said he’s at the point where he might consider a run for trustee. He thinks the situation has gotten that bad.

We need more people thinking like Buzz Bishop; more people putting their name forward because they care about the state of education in Calgary.

There are seven months left before we go to the ballot box, Calgary. Is your child’s education important enough to get involved?

Be a candidate for trustee. Volunteer on a trustee’s campaign. Or simply take the time to learn about the candidates, and then vote for one.

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