Cathy Peacocke (contributed photo).

Public schools trustees must work to meet student needs, said Cathy Peacocke

Support is needed in and out of the classroom

Three terms as a public school board trustee have taught Cathy Peacocke that it isn’t just in-class problems that impact a student’s ability to learn.

So many young people are experiencing mental health issues, financial shortfalls at home, and other concerns that a multi-pronged approach is needed to make them successful in school — and ultimately in life, said Peacocke, who’s running for her fourth term.

Schools need to provide additional support for students, she said — whether it’s a referral to a counsellor for help with their anxiety or depression, or free breakfast or lunch programs.

Peacocke believes the Red Deer Public District is going further than ever to help young people achieve their full potential. Even youths with drug and alcohol problems aren’t kicked out of school anymore.

“Instead of expelling them, we work with them …

“We’re always having the internal dialogue of how do we keep kids in school, and deal with their issues in school?”

Peacocke feels great empathy for people experiencing hard times because she’s gone through her own.

She spent many years as a single parent raising her son and daughter, who attended Red Deer Public schools.

Eight years ago, her son died of health issues at age 21.

In her work for the Central Alberta Brain Injury Society, Peacocke also learned about the daily difficulties people with brain injuries experience. “It touches all aspects of their lives.”

Peacocke is now a sitting on the Alberta School Boards Association Board of Directors. By working with Alberta Education, she has realized “we share a lot of the same challenges” — such as stretching available dollars as far as possible.

Although the public district has alleviated classroom crowding through the construction of Barrie Wilson and Don Campbell Elementary Schools, Peacocke knows the challenge of operating on provincial funding that’s “barely changed in years,” as costs go up.

She feels her job as a trustee is to keep advocating for students — and their families.

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