How to fix the Calgary Board of Education

I’ve been wrestling with the Calgary Board of Education for a couple of years, now. And it’s not for anything complicated. To be honest, all I have is a simple hope: to have my children go to a school where they don’t have to worry about if they’re staying in the school, or if there will be a school at all. Note that this is a “hope”, not anything more concrete…

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize a few nasty things about how the public education system works in this city. The internals of the CBE are highly secretive (finding out who is actually in charge of certain things is about as easy as learning the inner workings of CSIS), and so intensely political that decisions appear to be made utterly at random, against student interests. None of this seems to go through check-and-balance because … well, there’s no accountability to anyone, nor does anyone take responsibility.

As a result the CBE, as a whole, is failing. And that needs to change.

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What Canadian politicians have forgotten

[It should go without saying that this is an opinion piece: my opinion. It may not be yours. Politically, I’ve been centre most of my life. Today? I genuinely don’t know.]

Alberta has entered another provincial election, our fifth since the beginning of the millennium (that’s every three years, on average). And in Alberta, a province of wealth and entitlement, that means the old guard fending off competitors who dare lay siege to the castle, replete with feces-slinging (we’re well past mere mud), ethically-laden promises, and scare tactics, from all sides.

Canada is also heading down the road to a federal election, which by schedule we will see this fall. We will likely see the same slinging and fearmongering, not only because the same mentalities are at play, but because we’ve been witnessing the preamble for several months, now.

And all of it has shown one thing: that our politicians have forgotten about Canadians.

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Selling the awful to the angry

Yesterday evening, my family trucked down to 96th Ave SW, invited by the Calgary Board of Education (along with the other families in the Westgate School Bilingual Spanish program) to view the “new” school, Eugene Coste Elementary. It was supposed to be a chance to see the new location, and ask questions of the CBE Area IV director, as well as the Planning & Transportation folks.

I emphasize the word “supposed” — that was the CBE’s perspective. They thought they would get a lot of interest, and a lot of people who were genuinely happy that a solution had been found for the accommodation woes at Westgate School, which is at over 90% of its rated capacity.

But, funny thing, there weren’t many happy people.

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Calgary Board of Education: we need a decision on Westgate Elementary

Hi, CBE? I’m a concerned parent. Yeah, I know you’ve heard from a lot of us in the last year regarding what you want to do with Westgate Elementary. You’ve heard so much, you’re not listening to us anymore, which I can understand — there’s only so much you can hear before you’ve heard enough.

But we — that’s you as the Board, and us as parents — have a problem: there’s no decision. The school is still over-populated, and despite having pulled another grade out, there’s going to be too many students for next year.

So … what’s going on? We need an answer. And preferably now, and not at the end of this school year.

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Back at the (new) Calgary Farmer’s Market

On Thursday, a few months behind schedule, the Calgary Farmer’s Market finally re-opened its doors at their new location near the corner of Blackfoot Trail and Heritage Drive in Southeast Calgary. It’s been long-planned and long-awaited by many — especially the Monkey, who wanted to go back to the “jumping castle”.

But if you’ve read by blog, you know that the jumping castle is no more, and Mike the Balloon Tycoon is no longer a figure at the market. Many things have changed, actually, all of them affecting the market we once knew and loved. It’s definitely not the same market anymore, and rings more of The Forks in Winnipeg, or Granville Island in Vancouver.

I can’t yet say if it’s a step up or down, but it’s definitely a step forward.

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An argument for wired city council

As little as a hundred years ago, North Americans lived (generally) in towns and (much smaller) cities, where it was possible to know your elected representatives personally, meet with them, and have a person-to-person chat. In the years following, our representatives have been accused more and more of being “disconnected” and “out of touch” from their constituents, as the towns and cities grow, and the number of people in a given district rise well past the point of “manageable” by a single person.

The biggest problem is not really the number of people — it’s the time councillors need to connect with them all, while still doing the job for which they were elected. In a physical sense, it’s nearly impossible. Some have turned to the internet to help bridge the gap, using technology to connect.

Allow me to show you an example, which I experienced today…

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Our last day at the Calgary Farmer’s Market

On 23 December, the Calgary Farmer’s Market will close its doors in the old CFB Calgary lands forever. It’s a dark day for the Sowrey family, as the Calgary Farmer’s Market has been a fairly significant part of our lives for the last few years (Costa Rica notwithstanding).

Shortly before Alex and I were married, we moved to a house a mere 10 minute walk from the Market, so we visited frequently. After our return from Costa Rica, going to the Market became a weekly event, to the point where we got to know some of the Market vendors fairly well.

Because we fly out to Abbotsford tomorrow, today was our last day. We just about cried.

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You can never go home again

When I was a kid, I heard the phrase “you can never go home again”, but never understood it. I mean, I went home every day after school, so what was wrong with that? It wasn’t until I went to university that I started to appreciate it — I was regularly amazed at how much my hometown seemed to change whenever I was away at school.

When my father died in 2002, the term gained a whole new meaning for me. Suddenly, I couldn’t even go home. My home was where my family lived, which was now only in the past. When my mother moved away, my home became a sightseeing stop.

Then I moved home from Costa Rica, to a house we own. Man, talk about change of perspective.

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