It was a riveting read that stirred Barb Salmon into action.
Denise Norton recalled reading the document in bed one night and keeping her husband from slumber as she excitedly recounted for him each gem she found in its passages.
The Westwind School Division trustees, along with the rest of the board and senior administration, urged local MLA Gary Bikman to familiarize himself with that report – ‘Inspiring Education’ – so he doesn’t have to rely on the uninformed opinions of some of its harshest critics.
Salmon was introduced to the document, which outlines the future of education in Alberta, at a conference she attended as a School Council chair just months ago.
“I got so fired up about it, that’s why I decided to run for school board,” said the elected representative for Mountain View, Hill Spring, Glenwood and area. “Now I’m to the point where I’m terrified that this doesn’t happen. I’m terrified that Inspiring Education gets pushed to the side and nothing does change.”
Wildrose education critic Bruce McAllister raised eyebrows among educators with his scathing appraisal in the media of Inspiring Education and curriculum redesign in particular.
Bikman was invited to have a conversation with Westwind trustees so both would have a better idea where the other stands on the issue, said Board chair Ron Fromm.
Deputy Superintendent John Waterhouse told Bikman no one was holding him accountable for McAllister’s comments, but the Division needs to know if he shares those same views. It’s also important for the MLA to know the consequences of changing course in public education at this time, he said.
“We are going in the right direction – probably too slow and we probably should have done it a long time ago – but to stop it now is to hurt society in a way that is so disruptive we will pay that price for an awful long time,” said Waterhouse.
Bikman was told educators realize there are deficiencies in the current system and that’s why moves are being made to change the curriculum. Calls from naysayers to abandon this effort and go back to the way things were, don’t make sense.
The Wildrose MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner told the Board he wasn’t there to campaign, but to listen and learn so he could better represent the wishes of his constituents. He admitted he had not read Inspiring Education but promised to do so.
One of the reasons Bikman wanted to meet with the Westwind Board of Trustees was to get the “whole story,” something he didn’t feel he had a grasp on previously.
“I’ve had discussion with Bruce McAllister and to this point I haven’t been able to persuade him that he isn’t getting the whole story,” he said. “Perhaps after I’ve done my homework and read the document and dig a little deeper I will be more informed and I think you and the constituents need me to be more informed.”
Superintendent Ken Sommerfeldt said Westwind felt it important to voice its support of Inspiring Education, especially during these times of political uncertainty in the province.
“For me personally, my greatest concern is that the future of our children and the future of our education system not be used as a pawn in the political process or political power,” he said.
Trustee Tracy Selk admitted she knew little about Alberta Education’s game plan for education before she decided to run as Stirling’s representative on the board this past election. She’s quickly become a believer, however, and told Bikman the Board realizes it needs to do a better job of informing the public about Inspiring Education and has plans to do so.
For more information on happenings within the Westwind School Division, go to our website at http://www.westwind.ab.ca or check us out on our social media network through Facebook at Westwind School Division No. 74 or on Twitter at Westwind Division 74.