Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Calgary school board chair: 'We may be very close to the breaking point'

Budget will cut 331 job positions, including teachers

By Matt McClure, Calgary Herald

CALGARY - Class sizes at Calgary’s public schools are set to grow come September after trustees approved a budget Tuesday that will cut hundreds of jobs — including the positions of 171 frontline teachers — even as enrolment rises.

Despite exhausting its rainy day reserves and dramatically hiking some fees it charges parents, chairwoman Pat Cochrane said the Calgary Board of Education couldn’t spare students and teachers from sharing the pain as it sought to balance its books despite a $61.7-million shortfall.

“There’s a lot of human beings who won’t be working with our kids next year,” Cochrane said.

“We may be very close to the breaking point.”

Read more here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

CBE funding of charitable trust draws fire amid staff cuts

An education watchdog is questioning the Calgary Board of Education’s $750,000-a-year grant to its charitable trust when the district is eliminating the jobs of hundreds of teachers and support staff.

Larry Leach, president of the Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools, said trustees need to take a hard look at their continued support of EducationMatters in light of the board’s budget constraints.

“They need to scrutinize every dollar they’re spending that doesn’t directly impact students in classrooms,” Leach said.

“If you want to maintain class sizes in these mean times, something has to give.”

The full story is available for reading here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No More Grades on Report Cards?

Imagine getting a report card where the only assessment is: Established, Emerging, or Developing.

No A's or B's, no 5's or 4's, no 72.5% just one of those three words and some teacher comments. That is exactly how a school Division in Parkland (west of Edmonton) has reportedly decided they will grade students from now on.

Alberta Prime Time recently had a short panel discussion about this issue. Watch the video here. Proponents on the panel include Eryn Kelly who is co-president of the Calgary Association of Parents and School Councils. She argues that this system is a good assessment technique. Alternatively, Michael Zwaagstra an Associate Researcher for the Frontier Center, feels the three positive assessors are too vague and may limit motivation for your student to do better.

What do you think: would you rather see a percentage mark/grade or 'emerging' on a report card? Are we being too careful with our student's esteem?

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Horrors do it again!

Attempting to repeat last year's success, the Haultain Horrors (Craig Mason, Trevor Barkley, Patrick Murphy, Shane Campsall, Kevin Rochon, Mike Skinner and Nick Newton) took to the streets this past weekend at the Deerfoot Mall in northeast Calgary, where the 2011 version of CBC and Hockey Night in Canada's "Play On" 4 on 4 street hockey tournament took place.

The intrepid Horrors endured horrific cold and wet weather conditions on Saturday, as well as aggressive, physical opponents - and scraped enough wins together to make it to the final on Sunday.

Having battled through to the finals, the Horrors stickhandled their way through adversity, scoring a triumphant win over the Calgary Chiefs to win this year's tournament "Legends" division title.

Congratulations, Horrors!

“The nice thing about teamwork is that you always have others on your side”
- Margaret Carty

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How Red Deer public school board keeps administration costs low

To understand how Red Deer’s public school board keeps its administration costs so low, it may be useful to know that its chief superintendent drives a 17-year-old Ford Explorer with an odometer that’s long since rolled past 300,000 kilometres.

“Staff laugh at me and mock me when I drive up at a school,” Piet Langstraat says. “I guess it reflects my view that whether it’s taxpayer’s money or your own, you shouldn’t be wasting it on luxuries, especially during hard times.”

From its total budget of $101 million this year, the Red Deer Public School district will spend just 2.7 per cent on administration, while devoting 81.6 per cent of its budget to instruction.

Read the full story here.

Calgary schools carry higher administration cost burden than most in Alberta: Analysis

By Matt McClure, Calgary Herald

Calgary’s public and separate school boards spend a bigger proportion of their scarce finances on top officials and trustees than most other large school districts in Alberta, according to a Herald analysis of board budgets.

The Calgary Board of Education would save $10.5 million and the Calgary Catholic School District could trim $4.8 million if they spent as little on administration as the most frugal of their provincial counterparts.

Read more here.

Parents debate Wi-Fi in Calgary schools

(From the CBC website)

The benefits of wireless internet outweigh any potential health risks to students, say some Calgary parents.

Edmonton's public school board is taking a second look at the safety of Wi-Fi after a report by the World Health Organization that reclassified electromagnetic fields from wireless internet and cell phones as possible causes of cancer.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CBE Superintendent: Comments Regarding Preliminary Budget

Interesting read from the CBE's RSS feed:

"We have recruited the best and the brightest. Sadly, this year, we have had to say goodbye to exceptional people whose positions we could not afford... When schools open in the fall, we will have about 8,780 FTEs, all of whom will be committed in one way or another to educating each student, every day—no exceptions." - Naomi Johnson

Read entire comment here.

Order Yearbooks Today!!!

The form went home in agendas but sometimes they fall into a black hole somewhere between school and home... print this out and send it in to get a yearbook.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Public school board plans 331 job cuts next year

Another 171 Calgary teachers on chopping block

By Matt McClure, Calgary Herald

Calgary’s public school board plans to eliminate the jobs of 331 staff next year — including the positions of 171 classroom teachers — as it struggles to balance its budget despite reductions in provincial grants and increases in costs, including a mounting bill for its new headquarters.

And while the Calgary Board of Education will raise the amount it gives schools by three per cent, it will spend nine per cent more on trustees and administration, according to a preliminary budget released Monday.

Read more here.

Canadian researchers dispute U.S. push to screen every preschooler for autism

By Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News

Canadian researchers are warning that not nearly enough evidence exists to support a move to screen every preschooler for autism.

Baby doctors in the U.S. are being urged by their professional body — the American Academy of Pediatrics — to routinely check toddlers for signs of autism at 18 to 24 months of age during regular visits for checkups or vaccinations, regardless of whether the parents have any concerns about their babies.

But researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., say that not only are current screening tools not good enough, "there is no evidence yet that such a program would do more good than harm."

The full story, available on, can be read by clicking here.

Teachers' union predicts enrolment increase

(From the CBC website)

New students, fewer teachers mean growing class sizes: ATA president

The president of the Alberta Teachers' Association says not only will there be fewer teachers this fall — there are also projected to be thousands of new students.

ATA president Carol Henderson stands by the union's estimate that 1,200 teaching positions won't be filled this year, although Education Minister Dave Hancock believes the number will be closer to 800.

Click here to read more.

War on obesity: Hospital now offers drastic option for obese 12-year-olds

By Sharon Kirkey, National Post

They can’t bend over to tie their own shoes. They wake at night gasping for breath because of the fatty folds pressing on their airways. Some have bowed legs, enlarged hearts or the fat-engorged livers of alcoholics.

Canada’s obesity epidemic is damaging some children so badly that surgeons are turning to an aggressive remedy once reserved for adults: weight-loss surgery.
The list of illnesses they confront — afflictions that were once only seen in adults — keeps growing: “adult-onset” Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, cyst-filled ovaries in girls and, for both sexes, psychological torment and bullying. As more children develop “severe complex obesity,” doctors say the only option left for many is to expand access to stomach-shrinking operations for children and adolescents as young as 12.

Click here for the full story.

Teacher evaluations remain contentious idea

Jason Holowka's Grade 7 students are studying for end-of-year exams on a cadre of cellphones: LG, Samsung, Blackberry and the iPhone.

They mill about in what otherwise looks like any junior high science lab of old. The walls are covered in posters of endangered animals. Dangling from the ceiling are red-and-white straws glued into shapes to demonstrate the structural integrity of the triangle.

These are the contrasts of modern education; traditional values facing a generation reared on social media and the Internet. It's a world some teachers struggle to understand, much less teach.

Holowka, a 20-year teaching veteran at St. Helena School is an exception.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Parents stunned as Calgary school board jacks up bus fees, removes family cap

Parent reaction to a massive hike in fees to send children to public school by bus was swift and heated Wednesday.

Trustees with the Calgary Board of Education decided Tuesday to raise fees by 38 per cent for most charter bus users and remove the family maximum cap.

In some cases, this means doubling and even tripling the amount parents will have to pay in September.

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Canadian Mother Raising 'Genderless' Baby, Storm, Defends Her Family's Decision

(From the ABC website)

The mother of Storm Stocker, the Canadian baby being raised with only a few people knowing his or her sex, defended her family's choice to raise their child without regard to gender.

"The strong, lightning-fast, vitriolic response was a shock," said Kathy Witterick in a letter. "The idea that the whole world must know our baby's sex strikes me as unhealthy and voyeuristic."

Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, have only allowed their midwives and two older sons to peek beneath the diaper of 4-month-old Storm.

When Storm came into the world in a birthing pool on New Year's Day, they sent out this email: "We decided not to share Storm's sex for now -- a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a standup to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime."

Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life brand children's acetaminophen recalled

Tanta Pharmaceuticals is voluntarily recalling some children's acetaminophen tablets because of reports the child-resistant packaging might not work.

Health Canada announced the recall Tuesday of all lots of Junior Strength Acetaminophen Tablets 160 mg and Children's Strength Acetaminophen Tablets 80 mg.

Read the full story here.

June Newsletter

Want to know the schedule of PAT exams taking place this month? Want to read a room 10 rant? Is it okay for 'education' to be spelled, "edjukashun"?

Please click here to find out - in June's edition of the Haultain Memorial School newsletter.

Three options proposed for CBE busing fees

(From the Calgary Herald website)

Administrators for the Calgary Board of Education are recommending “partial cost recovery,” which could equal nine more teaching positions slashed to help cover an $8.8-million transportation shortfall.

Administration released on Monday three possible scenarios which follow a rejected proposal on May 17 that would have raised school busing fees 60 per cent.

That proposal would have meant an increase to $670 maximum per family to send kids to school on the yellow busses.

Read the full story here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

School boards won’t get extra funding for teachers: Hancock

The budget is the budget, education minister says

Alberta Education Minister Dave Hancock told trustees from the province’s cash strapped school boards not to expect an extra funding boost over the summer similar to last year.

“The budget is the budget,” Hancock told trustees at the Alberta School Board Association’s spring general meeting in Red Deer Monday.

In July 2010, the province announced an extra 2.92 per cent increase worth about $66 million to cover a promised wage increase for teachers after the government announced rosier financial picture with a lower provincial deficit.

Read more here.

Charter schools expect interest from worried parents

More parents will turn to charter schools as public schools deal with a budget crisis this fall, predicts a Calgary principal.

School boards across the province are facing a funding shortfall, and the Alberta Teachers' Association has estimated there will be 1,000 fewer teaching positions during the next school year.

"I don't think everyone is acutely aware of what's going to happen, but there's a lot of speculation that class sizes in many schools is going to be incredibly high in the fall," said Josh Van Beers, the principal of the Calgary Arts Academy, a charter school.

"It's my belief that when people see, they are really going to start to looking for alternatives because we know that class sizes make a difference."

Read the full article on the CBC website here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Budget Cuts = Larger Classes

This article clearly outlines what the teachers' unions expect to see for class sizes in September:

‘Kids aren't going to have the one on one time that they probably need to at one point or another to be successful learners," said Jenny Regal, Alberta Teachers' Local 38.

‘This is going to impact teaching and learning conditions for students and for teachers. Teachers are going to see more students, students are going to see less teachers," said David Cracknell, from the Seperate School Teachers Union.

Baby Food Recall

Not sure how many of our readers this will affect but better safe than sorry... Click here for more.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Parents start campaign for more school funding

(From the CBC website)

Parents living in Calgary's inner city are spearheading a letter writing campaign, a last ditch attempt to get more provincial money for their children's schools.

The Calgary Public School Board is cutting 172 teaching and support positions to eliminate a $61.7 million budget shortfall.

Many of the parents participating in the campaign say they live in the inner city, where they pay higher property taxes, but are stuck with deteriorating buildings and soon fewer teachers.

"I feel that we can't just sit and not doing anything. And it's easier to deal with what's going on by realizing you're at least doing what you can. You're able to sleep at night knowing that you're doing something," said Elaine Dube, who is helping to organize the letter writing campaign.

Read the full story here.

Hancock has different take on teacher talks

Alberta teachers did not walk away from talks to freeze salaries as Premier Ed Stelmach stated Monday, according to Education Minister Dave Hancock.

"I have to say the [Alberta Teachers' Association] was there at the table with us trying to work on a solution," Hancock said.

School boards across the province have announced layoffs to deal with budget shortfalls that come from having to fund a previously-negotiated 4.5 per cent bump to teacher salaries.

Read the full story here.

Importance of Spelling

"Can't we just use spell checkers?"

The importance of spelling has been questioned in recent years, as word processing programs are equipped with spell checkers, and some educational reformists have suggested that focusing on spelling holds back the creative processes of writing and that students will naturally develop spelling skills through reading.

This is an interesting read - check it out here.