Better Communication for Spruce Grove Parents

How can we be better engaged with Spruce Grove parents and residents? Here are my ideas and why I think they are better some of the other suggestions. Also, these things I can do immediatly. They do not require a policy change by the School Board and it is the proactive approach that parents have liked so much. Join In and Vote Adam McArthur for School Board Trustee-Spruce Grove.

Inclusive Education

We have to get Inclusive Education right. The Board needs to set the tone for it. At the recent candidate forum, I think some dropped the ball on the Treaty Six acknowledgement.

These are my thoughts. 

Join In and Vote Adam McArthur for School Board Trustee-Spruce Grove

Breaking News: We are Spruce Grove.

Have you ever stayed quiet and wish you hadn't? I couldn't this time.

For our family, Spruce Grove is the slogan: The Community of Choice.  We knew the first time we drove through the city, before we knew much about the city, that this was the place for us. That we had the chance to live in Spruce and that we choose to come here in 2014 is the best decision we made as a family. 

I recognize and am thankful that the majority of people we have met have been kind, caring and generous. I also know that for many people, you can join a community and it takes a long time-often several years before you feel you fit in. New school, new jobs, new neighbours; we all adjust in due time.

This week, was one of the only times I was truly disheartened. Maybe it shouldn't have stuck with me but it did. If it happened to me I suspect something similar has or could happen to you. Not all slights are epic, not all shade is that dark...but you know the message when you hear it.

It is no secret that I am running as a candidate for Trustee for Parkland School Division representing Spruce Grove. I am darn proud to do so.

I was approached by another candidate while walking from one stretch of houses to another knocking on doors and trying to raise the profile of the School Board race. This other candidate, whom I only met once briefly, let me know that how I was choosing to run my campaign is "not how We do it around here". 

I stand up for myself. I spoke to this person about my choices about my campaign and that I know I am doing what I think is best.  Folks, I am working my tail off in this campaign and I know that anything worth doing is worth doing well. This person and I spoke for a few more minutes, both in a cordial manner, and then went our separate ways.

But I remember the words that were chosen: "not how We do it around here."

You know what? I haven't lived in Spruce Grove for thirty years. I bet I will have before it is all said and done, but I have not yet. We moved to Spruce in 2014. I have knocked on doors and talked with people that have lived here since the 60's and I have knocked on doors and talked with people that moved here last week.  What year do we get to be part of the 'We'?

'..not how We do it around here'?

My family walks to the school bus together in the morning. We watch our kids do gymnastics and learn to skate. We fund-raise at the bingo hall. I volunteer on the City of Spruce Grove Public Library Board. My wife started her own business. We have taken our daughter to a Saints game. I love the farmers market. We keep a sharp eye out for photo radar on 16A. We want great schools for our children. We care!

'...not how WE do it around here?'

Guess what? We are Spruce Grove.

This community is what we make of it. All of us. Joined together. Whether you have been here for 1 week or 1001 weeks, once you are here, as far as I am concerned, you're in. So if you are working to make it a little better today and a little better tomorrow, I'm with you. Keep going. We got this. 

Adam McArthur-Candidate for PSD no. 70 School Board Trustee-Spruce Grove

 

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Meddling: It is what the Province does.

http://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/eggen-vetoes-st-albert-public-bus-fee-20170916

 

The link above is to a story out of St. Albert that shows what the problems are with Bill 1. 

In a nutshell, although I think that there are many problems with the actions of the Province and the Minister of Education in this example, the issue is that the legislation gives another opportunity for the Province to take action that in a largely arbitrary decision to rebate fees to parents and leave the school board looking like they took money that the shouldn't have and create an increased budget deficit for the school board that is not likely to ever going to be put on the Province to account for.

The timing of the decision also results in plenty of hard work and effort for the school board to craft a fee for bus service and and it is largely a wasted exercise as the Province decides that the fee for bus services can not go up by the amount the Board decided it needed to charge. 

We have to demand better. We have to stand up together. We need to stand up for local autonomy. I do not know why so many remain quiet about this matter. This is not the way our community institutions should be run. I am proud to push back. I am not afraid of what the personal political consequences are for standing up. The meddling will not stop if all we do is sit on our hands.

Adam McArthur

Before I Knock on Your Door

We have a copy of the black and white photo below in our home. It is titled, 'The Sky is Now Her Limit'. It was created in 1917-within a year of most women gaining the right to vote in Canada and the United States. It depicts a young women yolked with water and each rung of the ladder is another rung in society-so to speak. I sometimes think it is an optimistic image, other times a negative one. As a student of history, i know that it is a true image. 
On the right, in full colour, is my daughter. I wanted her to have a copy of the suffrage era photo to look at as she grows up. She also likes to come door to door with me; not every night and not every door. When she is there, she is patiently on the sidewalk, always watching with at least one eye. I like to think she is learning: about her neighbours, her community, why we try new things and why we have to grow and get better. 
I also want her to know that there is no easy climb. For some people, it will be harder than others. For some, the ladder is built with the hope that it will keep them from even trying to climb it.
I will make sure that my daughter knows that her ladder will be made just a little easier because of the women who came before her. I will do my part by making sure she gets to the chance to share in experiences that hopefully make her not worry about how daunting the next rung might be but know that there is no step too big for her to take. 
That-in an instant-is what I think about before I knock on your door. 
The future is intently watching.

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A Penny Saved is More Than a Penny Earned

"Today I will do what others won't so tomorrow I can do what others can't." 

                                                                       Jerry Rice, NFL Hall of Fame Wide Receiver

I have to ask the question: how many times do you leave free money on the table?

Today, according to Knowledge First Financial Inc, I learned that only 1 in 6 parents in Alberta are using Registered Educational Savings Plan to help save for their children's post secondary education costs. I will not get into the gritty details of the RESP program but I will say that it is terrific vehicle for parents/grandparents/guardians AND students to save for their long term education.

The Parkland School Division should encourage new ways to help bring attention to these opportunities for families in our community.

The cost of post secondary education has and appears likely to continue to grow. As such, the importance of planning early in a child's life about how to prepare for these costs is becoming more and more important. Like any journey, postsecondary makes more sense if you try to plan your route before you get to your destination. The main ally on our side is time. But it is the type of ally that will turn on you if you do not use it wisely.

I think the best benefits of the RESP program are twofold: Matching contributions and tax deferred growth.

The Federal Government will match contributions into the RESP account up to 20% per year to a maximum of $500.00 and up to a lifetime maximum of $7,200.00. That is free money. No other way around it.

The growth on the money in the RESP-interest, dividends, capital gains...accumulate in a tax deferred status. So, if your child attends college or university, they report any income withdrawn and pay the tax. I won't go any further into the tax portion, as I am not an accountant. There are not many better ways to gradually build an education fund than an RESP.

If only 1 in 6 parents in Alberta are taking advantage of the RESP, it means that many households are not accessing the available funds to build toward the long term educational goals. 

As a perspective School Board Trustee, I find it difficult to imagine we would know of such an opportunity being wasted and not try to grow the numbers. Imagine a community where 50% of the families were using the best vehicle for long term educational savings? What about 80%?  Imagine the optimism about so many families working toward being as prepared as we can be to send our kids to post secondary. Imagine the satisfaction in starting early and knowing that we have a plan. Imagine the reduction in STRESS when out kids are finishing up high school? 

I look forward to the opportunity to encourage families to connect with professionals to assist to tools such as the Registered Educational Savings Plan. This would fall into one of my 'Big 3' ideas to help connect our schools to other community groups and businesses within our community to help build our knowledge and cultivate our skills. The sooner we begin, the greater the opportunity for our students to have more options for their future.

Adam McArthur-Candidate for Parkland School Division Trustee-Spruce Grove

 

The School Board Profile Matters!

Anonymity for elected public servants should not be an option but it seems to be the reality in certain Wards when it comes to School Board Trustees.

After recent conversations with constituents, the underwhelming profile of Parkland School Division No. 70 Trustees has started to come into focus.

Spruce Grove and the surrounding region would be better served by having a stronger connection to and a higher profile for PSD no. 70 Trustees. 

I have heard from folks that wonder why the candidates vying to represent their Ward do not appear to be undertaking a door to door campaign. I think as of September 1st, less than six  weeks until the start of early voting, that is a great question. It's hard to speak to every resident in a short period of time, but if you aren't knocking on doors now, when are you?

An alternative method to connect to residents is through a digital effort. I think it is a complement to a face to face chat, but it helps to break down barriers such as different work schedules, not wanting people coming to your door, not having an easily accessible house (think 4th floor apartments) or other reasons. Digital components to a campaign, such as a website and social media are very common in most places. If candidates make them optional, they are limiting their ability to connect with residents. At this point, digital outreach from Candidates has been limited. I would very much like to learn more about other PSD no. 70 Trustee Candidates through digital channels. So would many residents.

Lastly, I have heard from residents, with kids in PSD no. 70 that do not know who is running in their Ward and do not know their current PSD no. 70 Trustee and do not know that the current term for the PSD no. 70 Trustees is not over. This is a symptom of the School Trustees needing a higher profile in their Ward. Some residents will show more interest and some less in the activity a given elected body, but knowing who is your representative is an important element to building engagement.

Raising the profile of the School Board would have several positive benefits for our community.

First, a higher profile will help parents find information that is important to them faster and with fewer headaches. If you know who your Trustee is, you have a chance to get to know them. Even if it is just a little bit. You may not have an issue for which speaking with them is critical but if you were to reach out you would find people that are happy to listen and make sure your concern is heard and appropriate action is taken, if required.

A higher profile will create a demand for innovative ideas and an expectation of improvement delivered by the School Board. A low profile governing body is one that often does not face scrutiny from residents on a regular basis. Certain issues will draw attention, like the redrawing of the attendance boundaries in Spruce Grove did in this previous term. Others will not. They will simply pass by. Coverage from media outlets is limited, forums with all Board members in attendance are infrequent, individual engagements activities by Trustees are not prominent and this is why you can end up not knowing who your Trustee is after almost four years.

Conversly, a high profile School Board can come with significant upside. Student and staff achievements can be better recognized when Trustees have a better connection with their community and can share the successes with more people in more ways. As well, a School Board with a high profile that achieves positive outcomes will have more opportunities to be recognized as being a strong asset to Spruce Grove and the region covered by Parkland School Division. Imagine the prospective of a family or business that is looking at our region and considering relocating here. The better the reputation the School Board has, like any significant organisation in our community, the more likely we are going to continue to be a desirable destination for that family or business. 

The profile of the School Board matters. Residents are better informed with more engagement from Trustees and the School Board is held to a higher standard when it is one of the more visible and accessible entities on our community.

 

 

 

 

 

A Call to Civic Action

I will never discount the power of simply showing up.

I do not advocate for showing up without a commitment to make an impact but my belief is that the majority of success starts when you start. How can you get started? Well, how about:

Start putting up your hand. Start sharing your view. Start helping. Start asking for help. Start!

Showing up, the starting step, is greater than just the first step. It often is the biggest step. Showing up is the most common link for getting something important done.

I will briefly share my story about one of the first times I learned the importance of showing up.

I was seventeen years old and there was a municipal election in my home town of Niagara Falls. I liked politics. I did not understand enough of it but I liked it. I knew that the work of elected government mattered.

So I showed up. I volunteered for the re-election campaign of incumbent Mayor Wayne Thompson. I remember signing in with the older gentlemen who sized me up as I stood out compared to the typical volunteer.

My role? Driving people to the polls that could not get there themselves. So that's what I did.  I got to help democracy be exercised. Mayor Thompson was re-elected. I received a 'Team Thompson' tee shirt.

I wore that shirt until it fell apart. It was a semi-hit in high school. I was reminded about my shirt just this evening. In fairness, nobody else I knew had a Team Thompson tee shirt because nobody else I knew showed up.

So I encourage you to show up. Show up for the first day. Show up every day. Show up to volunteer for something. I hope to gather a few volunteers to show up for my campaign. I will or I won't. But if I do, they will have a tee shirt. They might end up with a story and a first step toward something bigger. 

Adam McArthur

 

 

Survey Time! Bus Fees! Tell me your thoughts!

Bus Fees impact many households. Recent changes from Bill 1 will have several impacts that should concern us. I believe that the main issue is a loss of control over local authorities setting costs. Another is Bus Fees.

Starting this fall, Rural Students living 2.4 km from their designated schools will not incur a charge for riding the bus. 

At the same time, Bus Fees for students in Spruce Grove living less than 2.4 km away from their designated school will see their bus fee increase by 20%!

Rank the options in the comment section below: 1 = best option, 2= 2nd best, 3=3rd best 4=least favourite

A. Reduce spending on other programs to offset rising bus fees.

B. Increase the maximum rate charged per family for bus fees. (Currently capped at $775 per family)

C. Increase the fee to attend a school other than the designated school. 

D. Increase bus fees for rural riders that live less than 2.4 km from their designated school to match the fee charged to Spruce Grove riders that live less than 2.4 km from their designated school.

Thanks for taking the time to engage.

Adam McArthur-Candidate to Represent Spruce Grove as School Trustee PSD No. 70

 

Student Responsibilities: A priority?

The Alberta Education Act contains the following:

STUDENT RESPONSIBILITIES

A student, as a partner in education, has a responsibility to:

(a) attend school regularly and punctually

(b) be ready to learn and actively engage in, and diligently pursue the student's education

(c) ensure that a student's conduct contributes to a welcoming, caring and respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging

(d) respects the rights of others in the school

(e) refrain from, report and not tolerate, bullying or bullying behaviour directed towards others in the school, whether or not it occurs in the school building, during the school day or by electronic means

(f) comply with the rules of the school or the policies of the board,

(g) co-operate with everyone authorized by the board to provide education programs and other services,

(h) be accountable to the student's teachers and other staff for the student's conduct, and

(i) positively contribute to the student's school and community

.....

There is a lot to unpack in that section of the Education Act. My questions are as follows:

1. Are the above priorities identified as such by students and 'lived and breathed' on a day by day basis?

2. Can you recall a set of priorities set by one group for a different and distinct group, that has been successfully held up without a steady, day in and day out, clear demonstration of the value of those priorities and why the group (ie. the students) should p be concerned about meeting such expectations?

That second question is a mouthful, however it has been my experience that the commitment to such principles takes a concerted effort to both instill the features and display the benefits of these standards.

Would your student have been aware of these stated commitments? Would you? 

I think we can go in one of two directions: seek to changes these or seek to live these. The Education Act is up for review in the coming year and it's contents can be shaped to a certain degree during a consultation phase.

Or we can endorse these statements as being something we value and want to have students that understand them, value them and seek to meet or exceed these priorities. 

What we should not do: sit on the fence about the topic. That, to be frank, would implicitly state that we not value the contents of the document and that we do not expect it to carry any weight with our students. I do think that there are some people who endorse these values regularly and are actively setting an example about that can be followed. And there are certainly students that reflect these standards, and I believe would be such leaders regardless of document put together by the Government of Alberta.

As a whole, I think we need to aim for more exceptional outcomes from more exceptional students. As a community, we have to live it. It has to be a day in and day out pursuit at home, school and the community. 

I think that in the future, we will have difficulty trying to reconcile a lukewarm endorsement of these ideals with not making a comprehensive commitment achieve these ideals. The results will be in front of us. Students become adults before you know it. Will they be the adults that we would want as our neighbour? As our employer? As our leaders? 

Adam McArthur