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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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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Trying to save Westgate Spanish

Way back in 2012, the Calgary Board of Education asked the parents of Westgate School what they thought of the CBE’s plan to try and alleviate the overpopulation problem. We were engaged, we went to many meetings, and then we waited. A lot. And, heaven help us, we told them to make up their minds.
A week ago today, they told us. And we didn’t like the answer. Not remotely. It wasn’t worst-case — it was worse than that: it was an option never previously hinted at, and while it did address some of the things that the parents had been asked for, it was wrapped up in a big ribbon of stink. In short, the Westgate Spanish program was going to be taken away.
I suppose this is a lesson in “be careful what you wish for”.
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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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2009, A Year in Review

The year past was one of the toughest ones I can remember. It’s been a year of extreme highs, some pretty darks depths; my share of awesome joys, mixed with an unhealthy dose of stress. And that’s not when you consider the economy, I might add — things are even worse when you roll all that in.
The year closed out on a more sombre note for me, in many ways. Much quieter, and I got to spend a lot of time with my family (which I cherish now, and cannot regret in anyway), but the future is a little less certain. I’m less concerned about that fact than I thought I would be, however.
On with the year that just was… Continue reading “2009, A Year in Review”

On your first days of school

Hey kiddo! I know I haven’t written to you since your first birthday. That’s not good for me to do, but sadly your father has been a very busy person in the last few months. That’s not an excuse — there is no excuse for not communicating with you — it’s just a very sad reality.
Today you’re on your second day of school — your first was just yesterday. Your Mom and I were a little worried how you’d handle school. For the last near-18 months, the only people you’ve really known are us, and you’ve seen us nearly every day of your life. And certainly, you’ve seen your mother far more than I.
And that’s what I want to talk about, actually.
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Misconceptions on learning Spanish

I remember when I was back in university. As part of my English degree, I was told that I had to take two languages. Literally, different languages, not just something that was culturally different (a couple of friends not in English got away with courses about the French language’s cultural impact, rather than having to learn French, for example).
At the time, I signed up for French. I figured I already knew enough that I could ace the course and not worry about it. The other language was harder. My advisor suggested Latin, mostly because the one instructor he said I should have had a simple rule: ace all the weekly tests, you get 100% and you don’t have to take the final. I liked that plan.
Sadly, the plan didn’t work exactly as planned. The French teacher was an absolute bitch.
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