Nation, find below the responses to an email interview with Ward 11 & 12 Calgary Catholic School Board candidate Kim VanKosh.
E.S.: What are, in your own words, the primary roles of a Catholic School Trustee?
KVK: A Catholic School Trustee is responsible to ensuring both government legislation and Church Law are both upheld within the school district. They must advocate for appropriate funding and ensure that the funding that is received is spent in a responsible manner and that maximum dollars end up at the classroom level. Finally, a school trustee must set goals, priorities and policies for the administration and to ensure that the administration is meeting those goals, priorities and policies.
E.S.: What challenges do the schools in your Wards face that are unique within the system?
KVK: The schools in the growing southeast could not accommodate the number of students. While the opening of Christ the King has significantly eased the burden, there were many parents and students that underwent uncertain and stressful times prior to the school opening. The uncertainty is continuing as some parents I have talked to in recent weeks are unclear on where the boundaries will be after the new school in Copperfield opens in 2012.
The school board needs to ensure that our high schools can accommodate the number of students that will be coming up the pipe. It would be prudent to have appropriate high school planning so that the same accommodation problems experienced at the elementary level are not repeated at the high school level.
E.S.: Athletic and Arts programs, particularly at the High School level, are some of the most expensive programs in the system. Funding for these programs is often achieved through school fees and special fundraising campaigns, however the primary source of income has traditionally been gaming revenue, which has since been phased out at the Bishop’s urging. How would you propose schools address the absence of gaming funds when trying to fund Arts or Athletic programs?
KVK: The School Board has set up a Foundation to assist in replacing the funds that were previously received from gaming revenue. However, this foundation has a long way to go and funds are needed in the meantime. I have suggested that the Board hold a parent/trustee forum on fundraising ideas for school councils. The Board has not held a session yet however I would hope that one on this topic would be held in the future. This would allow school councils to share ideas on what worked and what didn’t work for fundraising.
Another potential avenue for revenues is for schools to set up a society. As a charitable organization, a society can apply for grants such as the community spirit grant.
E.S.: How do you feel your own experiences with the Catholic school system make you the most qualified candidate to sit as Trustee in your Wards?
KVK: I have been an active volunteer at the school that my sons attend both in the classroom and on school council. I have sat vice chair for one year and chair for two years at Cardinal Newman School. I have also been involved in the Inspiring Education Initiative. This involvement has allowed be to keep up to date with the happenings with the school district. Also, since my children are in elementary school, I hear the concerns of parents everyday. I can relate to these concerns and these concerns and feedback is something that I can bring to the Board.
E.S.: As the city continues to expand, new schools need to be built & staffed in the suburbs, while schools in older areas see diminished student numbers. How do we, as a system, deal with the utilization rate at some of our older schools?
KVK: The Board of Trustees has done an admirable job looking at the options for operationally small schools. In two instances, meetings were held with stakeholders and community members. Input and ideas from people in the community were put forward. The Board listened to these ideas and there are currently two operationally small schools that have implemented new programs to keep the schools open. This has worked well for the Calgary Catholic School Board and I would suggest that they continue finding solutions in this manner.
E.S.: Are you in favour of selling closed school buildings and lands, or keeping the assets in CSSD hands and leasing the space to other groups to use?
KVK: Answering this question would require a cost analysis. I do not have access to the information that is required to answer this question.
E.S.: One of the more contentious issues of the last term was the decision of the CSSD to not offer immunizations against human papillomavirus (HPV) in schools to Grade 5 girls, on the grounds that it might appear the CSSD was condoning pre-marital sex. What is your opinion about this issue?
KVK: I agree with the decision made by the school district. The Calgary Catholic School District provides a Catholic education and I agree that administering the HPV vaccination could appear that the district was condoning pre-martial sex.
E.S.: School facilities such as auditoriums and gymnasiums are currently booked by community groups for after-hours use through the City of Calgary’s Recreation department – often at costs significantly higher than to book at a private facility. Would you like to see this policy reviewed?
KVK: I do not have enough information to answer this question. However, I would consider that the district should generate revenues from school facilities if it is able to do so.
E.S.: How do you expect Bill 44 will affect the teaching of the Family Life unit in Catholic schools?
KVK: Bill 44 is about informing parents when sexuality and religion are discussed in class and giving parents the option of excluding their child from the class. The school district is currently looking at how to adhere to Bill 44.
E.S.: A significant minority of students in the CSSD come from Catholic or other Christian backgrounds, but choose themselves not to practice the faith. Should accommodations be made for these students, in terms of Religious Studies curriculum or school masses?
KVK: No, I do not consider that special masses or curriculum should be put in place for non-Catholics that attend a Calgary Catholic school. However, I also consider it okay for students that are not baptized Catholic or do not partake in the Catholic sacraments to attend a Catholic school. While some students may not participate fully, I consider it to be important that these students are experiencing and learning some Catholic teachings.
E.S.: Tell us why the voters of your wards should replace their current Trustee and put you in their place?
KVK: I am passionate about Catholic education and I have the skills and experience to be an effective school trustee. None of the current trustees have children in elementary school. My children are in grade 1 and 3 and I also have one that hasn’t entered school yet. The board is missing a representative from this large segment of students. The benefit of having younger children is that I hear what this segment of parents is saying everyday and I can bring this perspective to the Board of Trustees.
I am currently in my eighth year teaching strategic planning at the University of Calgary. The benefit of this is that it gives me the skills required to work with the board in designing a vision and setting goals and objectives for Calgary Catholic and more importantly how to put that vision, goals and objectives into action.
I have a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Calgary and have over 17 years of experience, 11 years in private business and 6 years in the government sector. I have been responsible for multi-million dollar budgets. I have also been responsible for reviewing the prudency and reasonableness of forecasts and budgets for large utility companies in order to set utility rates. The benefit of this is that I know the importance of being fiscally responsible and I am able to ensure that your tax paying dollars are being spent appropriately.
My information about my priorities and background can be found on my website; http://www.kimvankosh.ca/.