Susan Vukadinovic has had her hands in the school community for the past 10 years.
Running for public school trustee in Wards 8 & 9 was the next step, she said.
Vukadinovic said she’s helped lead fundraising for a new preschool space in her community and establishing a before and after school care program. She’s also helped raise money for a new school playground. Sitting as chair of the school council helps, too.
“I’m at a point where I’ve learned so much about the CBE and public education that I feel like I could hit the ground running,” she told LiveWire Calgary.
Several factors came together for Vukadinovic in the decision to make the jump to running for school board. She said part of it was knowing as much as others in the room when watching school board meetings.
“When the trustees need basics explained to them, I’m definitely at the point where I could just dive right in and be an advocate for kids,” she said.
Top education issue: Funding
Vukadinovic said that it’s been 10 years and three different governments and still the Calgary Board of Education is strained to make ends meet.
She said even though the most recent education budget came with less cash for schools, it wasn’t called a budget cut. She said those are the toughest ones to deal with.
It’s reflected in the classroom, Vukadinovic said. Particularly in the number of students per class.
“Class sizes are just unacceptably large,” she said.
“We just know that if there are too many kids in a classroom, it is harder for kids to learn.”
She said if elected she would help build a business case to help the government understand why it’s important to invest in public education.
Vukadinovic said she’s heard the same concern from parents when she’s out knocking on doors this campaign. She’s also hearing it at school council meetings.
Curriculum: Panned by parents
The province’s pilot K-6 curriculum was set for rollout in some classrooms in the 2021/2022 school year. It’s expected to be implemented for the 2022/2023 school year.
Yet roughly 95 per cent of school boards aren’t willing to pilot the content.
But, it’s not just school boards that are balking at the new curriculum, Vukadinovic said. She said that parents aren’t in favour of where education is headed in Alberta.
“Long story short, it’s not getting buy-in from parents, and that’s a huge concern for me because parents need to be seen as partners in education,” she said.
She said educators knew it needed to be updated, experts knew it and so did parents. There was widespread agreement on the areas that needed to be fixed, too, Vukadinovic said.
“There were so many things that people agreed on, and yet somehow, the Government of Alberta released a draft curriculum in March of 2021 that’s not getting buy-in from the public and that is highly controversial,” she said.
“This should not be a political controversy; it should just be a straightforward task to update a curriculum.”
An area Vukadinovic said needs more focus is the mental health of students. It’s especially important in a post-COVID world where students have faced considerable change.
“There is a growing crisis, the levels of anxiety, depression, are increasing amongst the students and their families,” she said.
Rein in fees, but – budget crunch
Vukadinovic knows there’s a challenge with student fees, particularly for lunchroom supervision and transportation.
She said it goes back to the budgets. It’s become a question of raising fees or putting 40 kids in a class, according to Vukadinovic.
“As a parent I find it unacceptable that we’re even having this conversation,” she said.
The province collects taxes to fund public education so there’s an even playing field for all students, she said. That’s not happening.
“I wonder why we are finding a war room instead of funding busing for kids,” Vukadinovic said.
That’s where the business case comes in. That’s a priority for Vukadinovic if elected.
School closures also enter the conversation when it comes to funding and keeping students in area schools.
Vukadinovic said she’d do everything in her power to keep community school open. She’s in favour of the reboot of the joint use committee that brings the city and school boards together to identify strategies to keep these schools open.
It comes down to making sure people can stay in communities, she said.
“The whole (school) atmosphere is livelier when we have a school where the enrollment is healthy,” Vukadinovic said.
Vukadinovic said her experience navigating the public school system thus far makes her the ideal candidate to represent Wards 8 & 9.
It’s all about keeping the kids’ success in focus.
“I am going to do my best to advocate for class sizes that are reasonable, for a curriculum that can help the kids to thrive, and for accountability so we have smart spending,” she said.
School board trustee elections are the same as municipal government (city council) on Oct. 18.