One of the most common questions I am asked is what does a Trustee do? The question has come from former journalism colleagues, from parents who I meet at school events and from grade six teachers and students who often invite me into their classrooms when they’re discussing civic government.
- Communicating, informing and involving parents, staff, and the community-at-large in school board decisions and activities.
- Adopting an annual budget that achieves jurisdiction priorities.
- Setting goals and priorities for the jurisdiction that achieve provincial education standards, meet the needs of students and reflect the community’s wishes.
“A key responsibility for trustees is to stay in touch with community stakeholders so that they understand, and reflect in their decision-making, what all citizens value and want from their local public schools. It’s important to note that trustees do not represent any one school, neighbourhood or community. Rather, they make decisions based on the needs of the entire jurisdiction.”
When I’m asked to speak about the job of a school board Trustee to students I translate the above statements and talk about the concept of “grass roots politics” or the idea that school board politics is as close to the ground or the people that we represent. Sure, we set the vision for Edmonton Public schools and oversee a budget of $1.2 billion. We have one employee, the superintendent of schools who then oversees the running of 213 schools which educate about 102,000 students.
And then I pose a question: what’s the number one thing your parents, your grandparents, the people who take care of you everyday care about? Usually there’s a pause and then a chorus of kids voices that say “me,” “it’s us.” This makes me smile knowing these kids are loved. And they’re right – parents are their children’s best advocates. I see the role of a Trustee being one where we allow parents and students voices to be heard, to cut through what can sometimes seem like an overwhelming bureaucracy and to speak up for public education.
It truly is an honour to serve as a school board Trustee, to represent families and our communities on an issue I care deeply about; the right for every child in Edmonton to have access to a great public education.
For further information on the role of a Trustee in Alberta please visit the Alberta School Boards Association website.