Wards 6 and 7 school trustees face off

final-3 thumbThe race for public school trustee for Wards 6 and 7 has intensified following the forum at the Triwood Community Hall on Oct. 10. Incumbent George S. Lane faced off against his opposition, Trina Hurdman and Misty Hamel.

Lane, who is completing his third term as trustee, reinforced his experience to the crowd.

"I've taught in an elementary school, a technical school, at three different universities," Lane said. "And I was an administrator in each."

Lane has also been a consultant to various local businesses and Canadian universities.

Hurdman also has an impressive background. She completed a master's degree in educational technology, a bachelor of science in biochemistry, and has received a teaching certificate. Additionally, she's a mother of three, and has also taught abroad in Taiwan, as well as in Quebec and Ontario.

Hamel, who has a three-year-old son, holds backgrounds in writing and lifestyle blogging. Hamel says she represents parents of the incoming generation of children into the public education system.

The forum was split into three different formats: user generated questions from online, a lightning round of questions about individual policies, and audience selected questions.

The forum also featured two other wards that were also actively discussing public education issues in their wards. Each candidate was given two poker chips that they could use for rebuttal.final-1 resizeWards 6 and 7 school trustee opposition, (Left and centre) Misty Hamel and Trina Hurdman face off against incumbent George Lane (far right).Photo by Andrew Szekeres

Rosedale resident Carol O'Reilly, addressed an issue with the candidates regarding class sizes.

"My oldest grandson's class size is above 30 in elementary," O'Reilly said. "I want to hear which trustee shares my concern," the grandmother of three added.

O'Reilly said that she voted for Lane in last election, but hasn't seen much change since 2010.

When asked what to do with communities with no schools or schools with not enough students, Lane and Hurdman had different thoughts on how to handle the problem.

Lane told the crowd that they can look for an alternative program that may be added to that school or to adjust the grade levels with an adjacent school. Lane did caution that it might have to come down to students being transferred to another school.

"If we believe in choice — and people in this community certainly do," Lane said. "Then that sometimes makes it a little difficult to have that many schools."

Lane did mention that Wards 6 and 7 are planning six new schools over the next three years and modernizing older schools.

With a smile, Hurdman tossed one of her poker chips for rebuttal.

"Well the Calgary Board of Education already said that they will not be closing schools in the next 10 years because we have a school shortage," Hurdman said. "What we do have to worry (about) is building new schools."

Hurdman claimed that over the next five years, Calgary could expect to see around 110, 000 new students.

When asked if they would support first priority given to siblings of current students, Hamel agreed.

final-2 ResizeThe clock ticks down for the candidates at the Triwood Community Hall for school trustee for Wards 6 and 7.

Photo by Andrew Szekeres
"It's important to keep families together," Hamel said. "It's less transportation costs and it makes logistics easier for the parents to get their kids to the same school."

All three candidates responded to an audience generated question of what the candidate's thoughts were on the new report cards.

"I have not seen the new report cards," Lane said amongst some grumblings in the audience. "Apparently we have many forms of report cards and we need to have some form of commonality to them."

Hurdman responded by saying that after door knocking, report cards appeared to be one of the biggest concerns.

"A lot of people are concerned that there is a lack of accountability on report cards that do not have any comments and that do not have any grades on them," Hurdman said. "We need to be involving parents and students into knowing what will be on the report cards."

Hamel also responded by saying there are 26 different report cards used at the junior high level and agreed with Lane that there needs to be more commonality.

She also agreed with the Calgary Board of Education that each school does need to develop its own communication system.

"We have different demographics, parents and students with different needs," Hamel said. "I think this is going to be a great thing after some significant and meaningful conversations with parents, students and educators."

With the bullet of the forum fired, it was now time to put away the smoking gun of Calgary politics — at least for the time being — and end the forum.

Lane opened up the final statements by reiterating his extensive experience in education and finance.

Hamel spoke of her top three priorities that included ensuring student's success, more access for students to information concerning education and being more open to new solutions for current issues.

Hurdman also gave her top three priorities that included more transparency to the public with budgets, more public debates that includes parents, and to discover and improve on shortcomings for the school system.

Hurdman then quoted Martin Luther King Jr. by saying, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Hurdman received the only applause from the audience after her final statement.

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