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Sustainable public education: David Barrett runs for Wards 8/9 public school trustee

David Barrett has a toddler that going to head to public school in a couple of years.

That’s why he wants to make the Calgary Board of Education a place where kids can get a top-tier education. To do that, he’s running in Wards 8/9 as a candidate for public school trustee.

“The next generation is going to be saddled with a lot of hard problems and difficult decisions,” Barrett told LiveWire Calgary.

“And the first step to making sure that they have the tools to make those decisions and address those issues, is a strong public education system.”

Barrett, a scientist by trade and president of the Renfrew Community Association, said it’s important to ensure there’s strong leadership around the CBE trustee table.

Three things pushed him ahead in this journey to be a school trustee. First, his child. Also ensuring proper funding for education and creating a welcoming and inclusive education system with few barriers for students and families.

“Neighbourhood and socio-economic status shouldn’t kind of drive or influence the quality of education you’re able to receive or the programs that you have access to,” Barrett said.

5 key things for education

Barrett said one of his top goals is ensuring a long-term funding plan for the public education system.

“To do that we really need to be using data to drive the decisions around our advocacy,” he said.

He also does not agree with the current proposed K-6 curriculum. Barrett said they need to engage experts in the development of this curriculum and not political ideology.

“One thing that’s been very evident is that experts in the fields have been left out at all levels of the discussion of this decision-making process,” he said.

Barrett said a less sexy item is the coordination between the school board and the city. They must coordinate where development is happening in Calgary. That includes development in established areas of the city.

“I think it’s really important that it be noted that your board of education be involved in those discussions very deeply and from early on,” he said.

Barrett said it’s disappointing there’s been a disconnect over the years between the city and the CBE.

Fostering an anti-racist and reconciliatory approach in school is also important. He said he didn’t want to pick at low hanging fruit, the foot dragging on the part of the CBE in the change of Langevin School to Riverside is an example of a process that needs to change.

Finally, he said trustees need to be open and available. He believes the job is under-appreciated, but that’s partly due to a lack of communication with citizens.

“We need a strong school board that is out there advocating doing that hard work for our students,” he said.

Fees a barrier to access

Barrett said rising school fees are a problem. Families can pay hundreds, if not thousands, for transportation and lunchroom supervision fees.

“We need to do everything in our power to remove them. And particularly for those most in need,” he said.

The board needs to make sure they’re as low as possible and that the CBE administration is as efficient as possible. He said the one big issue with this is the lack of a sustainable funding model from the province.

“It’s no longer true public school, not everybody can afford to do have access to the same programs,” Barrett said.

“It’s critical that we’re not saying, ‘Well, you can’t afford to buy sheet music so sorry you can’t do that. That’s not equitable and that is extremely disheartening.”

Revisiting development

Barrett’s been an advocate in his community for proper planning and growth in established areas.

He said bringing that expertise to the table will help with better future planning to keep schools in inner-city neighbourhoods.

“It’s one of those things that if you’re planning for a shift in demographics in the community, one of the key services that would be affected, would be education,” he said.

“The fact that you can suggest that you’re going to have huge growth in certain areas of the city without considering the effect or the timeline or what effect that would have on schools, it’s disappointing.”

He said the board needs someone familiar with dealing with these aspects of community development moving forward.

Passionate supporter

Barrett said he has a track record of successful advocacy – particularly at the community level in Ward 9.

He said that leadership is needed at the school board level to secure a strong future for public education.

“For a while now, we’ve seen a Calgary Board of Education that is rather reactionary and slow moving to critical issues,” Barrett said.

He said he’s a passionate supporter of the public school system.

“I would use my voice to really advocate for students. And as I’ve stressed numerous times, I will rely on data and experts to drive my decision-making process,” Barrett said.

Calgary will elect city councillors and public and separate school trustees