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Calgary municipal election: What does your school board even do?

School boards face an uphill battle in gaining attention during any municipal election campaign.

When you have a mayoral race with 27 candidates and 10 open ward races, the challenge seems insurmountable.

Yes, you will be voting on them at the same time as you will mayor, councillors, (fluoride, senate, equalization and daylight saving time…)

We asked school board trustees, former trustee candidates and current candidates the biggest barrier to raising the awareness of school board elections.

The primary answer we heard: Citizens don’t quite know what their school board does.

Let’s change that with a short first step.

In Alberta’s Education Act, Section 33 a school board’s responsibilities are laid out quite clearly.

The Coles Notes version is that school boards deliver “appropriate education programming to meet the needs of all students” in the schools they operate.   They must be accountable for student achievement, provide engagement for staff, the community, parents and municipalities.

They must provide a safe, respectful learning environment and provide supports to students to ensure inclusive education. Collaboration with post-secondary schools to ensure a smooth transition is also a role.

They must ensure effective stewardship of the board’s resources.

Essentially, the school board trustee is elected to execute the above duties. And to hold regular meetings.

That’s the definition under the Act.

What do others see as the role of the school board?

In a series of videos put out by the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) they talk about the role of school boards and trustees.

“School boards are advocates for Alberta’s children. They assess educational policies to support what is best for the development of the whole child,” said Lorrie Jess, president of the ASBA board of directors.

Trustees are champions for education, Trina Boymook said in the ASBA videos.

“They maintain a positive image of schools in the community to ensure that education is given a high priority and to acknowledge school authorities’ accomplishments,” she said.

They’re also there to represent the voice of parents and public community members Debbie Engel said in the video.

We also asked former Calgary Board of Education school board trustee, Joy Bowen-Eyre. Bowen-Eyre served two terms, including four years as board chair.

She said the board’s role is to ensure students are not just meeting, but exceeding outcomes that have been set out by the province.

“The board’s job is to ensure that there’s improved success, year over year; that students do have the core foundations in place, such as the reading, writing and arithmetic,” she said.

“But it’s also that you’re setting kids up for success, now and into the future.”

Watch for our upcoming story on Why Calgary School Board Elections Get No Love.