Four candidates run as ‘Students Count’ team for public school board election th


Four candidates are announcing their intention to run as a slate in this fall’s public school election, naming themselves the “Students Count” team.

While Kelley Charlebois, a former executive with the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, is organizing the event scheduled for Thursday morning, he refused to comment on details.

But Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, said candidates running as part of a team need to be careful about ensuring they are perceived as individuals without a political agenda, or attached to a political party.

“Slates often tend to look too much like parties, and voters like a more direct connection to issues, especially in local elections where voters want individual candidates to be connected to local issues.”

At the same time, Williams added, school boards are city-wide jurisdictions that set broad-ranging policies affecting all schools. And a slate of candidates may also suggest an overarching dissatisfaction with the system.

“We have seen advocacy groups dealing with a number of issues that parents and students have been concerned about for quite some time,” Williams said.

In Calgary, the three most active student advocacy groups include Kids Come First, whose founder is Lisa Davis, Calgary Association of Parent and School Councils, whose co-president is Althea Adams and Support Our Students, whose spokeswoman is Barb Silva.

Kids Come First and the Calgary Association of Parents and School Councils have voiced concerns around declining test scores in standardized testing, the need to improve math and STEM education as well as unfair treatment of families who choose alternative programs.

Meanwhile, Support Our Students has advocated for improved public education, community schools and working towards equal access to quality schooling and the elimination of fees.

The Calgary Board of Education has come under fire from all three groups on a number of issues recently, including last week’s announcement that transportation fees will be eliminated only for students who live further than 2.4 km from their schools and are attending regular programs at their designated school.

Meanwhile, others would have to pay anywhere between $150 to $700 depending on their grade, their program and their proximity to school.

Davis has argued students in alternative programs are bearing the burden of bus fees disproportionately, while Silva stated the system needs to stop funding transportation and make community schools more viable instead.

While Davis and Adams did not return the Herald’s calls Wednesday, Silva did confirm she was not one of the candidates.

Charlebois, now president of a communications consulting company, has served for the Progressive Conservatives as special assistant to former premier Ralph Klein, chief of staff to Gary Mar in four ministries, and executive director for the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.

eferguson@postmedia.com  

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