Saturday, October 9, 2010

Text: Interview with Wards 3, 5, & Airdrie CSSD Candidate Linda Wellman

Nation, as the Lead Correspondent for the Catholic School Board Trustee races for the Canadian Blog Award-nominated, I've tried to reach out to as many candidates as I could find contact information for (if you're a candidate, and you haven't received an email from me, email me at the address in my bio!).

The first candidate to get back to me with her responses was the incumbent Trustee for Wards 3, 5, & Airdrie, Linda Wellman.

Her responses appear below.


E.S.: What are, in your own words, the primary roles of a Catholic School Trustee?

L.W.: The primary role of a Trustee is to;
• Govern with excellence and act on behalf of ratepayers to ensure that the School District fulfills its mandate in a manner that is reflective of our faith values
• set policy that guides Administration in achieving goals
• ensure the annual budget provides the resources to support the desired outcomes while ensuring fiscal responsibility and accountability
• to hold the Chief Superintendent accountable through regular monitoring that provides evidence of compliance to the Boards’ stated Ends Policies
• Engage members of the community to ensure the Board has input to make informed decisions
• Advocate on behalf of students, parents, staff and ratepayers
• Be accountable to the Minister of Education on all educational matters
• Be accountable to the Bishop on all religious and moral issues
• Be accountable to the electorate
• Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the Administration and of the Board of Trustees
• Be a positive role model both in our schools and in the broader community

E.S.: What challenges do the schools in your Wards face that are unique within the system?

L.W.: Each and every school is unique, no two schools are alike - needs vary from school to school. In some areas within the Ward, the English as Second Language population exceeds the district average. Currently ESL students make up 20% of the overall student enrollment. Notre Dame High School in Panorama Hills and St. Martin de Porres High School in Airdrie have been top priorities on our capital for modernization and additional student spaces, despite our ability to provide the evidence of the critical need in these areas, the government has not been responsive. It is unconscionable that the government has not put in place the budget to address critical needs in our fastest growing communities.

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?

L.W.: The District has established the Calgary Catholic School Foundation that operates independent from the District and has its own Board of Directors and allocations committee. Schools can make application to receive funds based on the merits of the activity. Schools have available a wide range of fund raising activities they can engage in that is not contrary to teachings of the church. Prior to the Board implementing its new policy on fundraising, less than 40% of District Schools used gaming as a means of fundraising. Schools can access grants from CEFP for playground structures.

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?

L.W.: I have 21 years service as a Trustee for Calgary Catholic and have been involved in many aspects of education both locally and provincially. In addition, I have more than 20 years experience in the Human Resources field; this experience includes payroll, budget forecasts, administration of benefit plans, claims management, and policy implementation. Trustees, as Governors, are responsible for the development of policies that give clear direction, both in guiding the school district and in setting annual budgets that will enable us to achieve our goals.

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?

L.W.: Overall, Calgary Catholic has good utilization rates, this is a result of sound planning and utilizing portables that has allowed us to expand and decrease schools to reflect the changing needs of the community. In the inner city we do have schools with smaller student enrollments, in each of these situations the district works with the parents of the school community to find alternatives to increase students numbers. Sacred Heart School implemented gender based instruction to bolster its numbers and St. Angela has been marketed as a workplace school due to its proximity to the downtown core.

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?

L.W.: Decisions are based on the size of the site, the location, market value etc. Selling off property would bring in one time funds and in accordance to the School Act, the proceeds must be spent on capital, whereas leases generate ongoing income that can be used to subsidize operational expenses and enhance programs. The district has in the past leased space and then reclaimed the space back as the district’s needs changed, this would not have been possible if the sites had been sold.

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?

L.W.: (candidate did not respond)

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?

L.W.: School rentals are managed by the JUCC which is an agreement between the City of Calgary, Calgary Catholic and Calgary Public School Boards. My understanding is that rentals are done on a cost recovery basis only. Rental rates are based on overtime rates that are tied to employee contracts, resulting in our inability to compete with the private sector that does not have unionized employees.

E.S.: How do you expect Bill 44 will affect the teaching of the Family Life unit in Catholic schools?

L.W.: It is not expected to make any change at all to program delivery, the Alberta Catholic Schools Trustees’ Association of which every Catholic Jurisdiction is a member and the Minister of Education have come to agreement on a clause that forms part of our student registration form, this clause recognizes the religious instruction in our Catholic Schools.

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?

L.W.: When parents enroll their children in Calgary Catholic Schools they are required to sign a statement acknowledging their understanding that the entire school day is permeated by our faith and their children will participate in all school celebrations. Under the School Act, a parent may exempt their child from participating in certain instruction whether catholic or non-catholic.

E.S.: Tell us what you’ve achieved for your wards over the past 3 years that you think merits your retention as a Trustee.

L.W.: It must be stated that as an individual trustee, one has no power or authority; it is through the power of debate that one influences the Board Corporate in decision making. As an individual trustee, I bring to the table in depth knowledge and experience which has been gained over the years through serving on various committees at both the local and provincial levels. During the past three years I have played a significant role in the following accomplishments;

 The opening of Light of Christ Elementary/Junior High School in Saddle Ridge
 The opening of St. Jerome Elementary School in Panorama Hills
 The opening of Good Shepherd School in Airdrie
 Notre Dame & St. Martin de Porres High Schools have remained top priorities on our capital plan for additional program & student spaces
 Strongly supported maintaining program access to ensure students have a wide range of educational choices
 Have actively engaged parents and ratepayers in consultations to ensure decisions reflect their interests, such as the discussion around homework, school attendance boundaries, grade configurations, school naming and the development of our new Mission and Vision Statements
 Despite funding challenges have balanced our annual operational budgets while minimizing cuts to programs and services
 Have strongly vocalized the non-negotiable values of Catholic Education in the Minister’s ongoing conversation on Education that will lead to the transformation of education and an amended Alberta School Act
 Our students have continuously met or exceeded provincial averages in the Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma Examinations
 Calgary Catholic has been named one of the top 50 employers in Alberta
 Calgary Catholic is a finalist in the top 100 employers for Canada
 Our grade twelve completion rates are among the highest in the province
 Strongly support the operation of our English as Second Language Reception centre that assesses and places students in the appropriate grade level along with the resources needed to help them succeed. Support is also provided for the family as they transition to their new life in Canada
 During the past three years I have continued to be visible and accessible to my constituents and have attended and participated in over 150 schools events.

(this has been cross-posted to

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