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.