Airdrie school trustee candidates answer tough questions at forum
The Airdrie Chamber of Commerce all candidates forum at Bert Church Theatre on Oct. 15 presented Rocky View Schools (RVS) candidates with questions from the audience about transparency in RVS, unemployed youth, teacher retention and RVS board of trustees representation based on population.
The forum gave trustees the opportunity to present a two-minute introduction and then moved on to questions from the audience. Four candidates were chosen to answer each question.
When asked if transparency was an issue for RVS, all candidates said transparency is important, however, not all agreed on how well RVS is doing with informing stakeholders of their decisions.
Phyllis McCallum-Hunter and Diane Hunter both said the board was doing a good job sharing information with the public but said they would like to know more about what is done in in-camera trustee meetings.
Grant Gilbertson said he thinks the only things that should not be disclosed to the public are confidential issues such as student records and teacher disciplinary actions.
Anthony Powell said he believes the board could do a better job with transparency and believes RVS should engage more with the public and move the meetings to a more accessible time for parents and community members.
When asked if two Airdrie trustees was enough for a city quickly approaching a population of 50,000, all candidates agreed another voice should be on the board.
Incumbent Sylvia Eggerer said she put forth a motion to the board last year to increase representation from seven trustees to nine because Airdrie and Chestermere are both under represented. She said the board has to balance representing smaller communities but work towards representing by population. She said she would continue to push for this if elected.
Todd Brand said representation for Airdrie is currently not fair.
He said he would make it more of a public issue and ask the public to put more pressure on the board to increase representation.
McCallum-Hunter said the public needs to better understand the importance of education decisions made by the board and said it is a major concern for her to get a third Airdrie trustee.
The crowd in attendance clapped when they heard the question on how to retain good teachers and weed out the problem ones.
Yazdi Bulsara said the key is to understand what went wrong with problem teachers and to keep emotions out of the solution. He said he believes there needs to be more professional development and parents should take an equal part in their child’s successes or failures, reminding them they “can’t shoot the messenger.”
Gilbertson said it is vital to keep the best and brightest teachers but he believes the issue is one of funding and increasing class sizes. He said for struggling teachers, the schools and board need to work with them on their teacher evaluation and give them the opportunity to improve.
Hunter said a good environment with a good class size will keep stress down and teachers happy. She said problem teachers aren’t necessarily bad but may not be as good as they used to be because they are being left behind by technology. She said teachers need to be kept up-to-date and knowledgeable of technology. She echoed Gilbertson and said these teachers should be given the chance to improve.
Sherry Lester was unable to attend the forum do to a family medical emergency.
According the to Airdrie Chamber of Commerce, 286 people attended the forum.