Trustees must put children first

On Oct. 8, I attended the Red Deer Public School trustee candidates election forum. I have seriously debated sending this in as I know, without question, I will be offending some people. But here it goes.

So, we are rapidly approaching election day.

On Oct. 8, I attended the Red Deer Public School trustee candidates election forum. I have seriously debated sending this in as I know, without question, I will be offending some people. But here it goes.

Honestly, I left the forum that night both underwhelmed and angered. There are 14 candidates vying for seven positions, and at this point, in good conscience I can not even cast seven votes. I hate to be negative about this, because I am very supportive and involved in my kids’ education — I think this is why I am so angered.

I spend a great deal of time volunteering, not just for the sake of my children, but for every child at the school. To me, making decisions and advocating for children’s education is a pretty darn important position to be in, and guess what, I expect you to actually make me believe you give a damn.

I realize this is only a part-time position, but I expect full-time passion. And I even have the nerve to expect you, as a trustee, to spend a decent amount of time in our schools — interacting with administration, teachers, students and parents. And yes, I even expect you to attend our parent council meetings occasionally, and show up for the five citywide council meetings that are held each year.

I expect you to know what’s going on in the schools that you are a liaison for. You should be aware of their struggles as well as their victories. You should be a recognizable face, and not just stand up to wave and smile when you are acknowledged, for showing up to one special event a year.

I found it troubling to hear a trustee say at the forum: “We are here to govern, that is our primary purpose, it needs to be remembered we are to here to govern, we don’t need to be in the school’s all the time.”

Yes, you are here to govern. But, reasonably, how can you be making huge decisions that have a great impact on our children and our future, if you are not on the front lines to see the issues facing the schools, teachers, students and parents.

In my opinion, you need to be immersed in the environment you are governing, to make truly informed and well-rounded choices, that you can firmly stand behind. I’m sorry — paid, elected official — I do expect you to come down from your high position to walk among the common folk (our children) on a pretty regular basis. If you are not truly passionate about doing what’s best for our children, and putting in the time that would ensure you are making the best judgment on issues, you have no business asking for anyone’s votes.

I may also be a bit angry at myself, as I had strongly considered running for trustee, but questioned if I could truly be considered qualified — I have no fancy letters behind my name or big business experience. As a parent, though, I don’t really give a royal rip about your designations, or accreditations, but you’d better convince me that you care deeply, will be involved and would be honoured to fill the position.

If you do have your Masters in Integrity, Accountability, and Dedication to Our Students, though, you have my vote!

At the forum, I watched for candidates whose eyes would light up when they spoke, ones who were eager and didn’t just seem to be reading off a script. I valued ones who actually seemed to have their own ideas and visions, and didn’t just tell me about the studies or articles they just read.

I encourage everyone, whether you have children in the school system or not, to make an informed choice when you vote. The state and quality of our education system affects us all. Even if they are not your children, these students will all grow up, leave school and become the future leaders in our community. We better all hope that we as a society did all we could to give them the best that our public education system could offer.

So please, don’t just look at signs lining the roadways or assume just because someone is looking for re-election that they must be a good choice, because they’ve already been elected before.

I will not settle when it comes to who I entrust to make big decisions for our kids’ education.

So I end this with no doubt in my mind that I have offended some and ruffled a few feathers. But in the end, the only ones who truly matter are my kids, your kids and their future. And the last thing I will do, is to give up fighting for my kids.

Jaelene Tweedle

Red Deer