Monday, 12 November 2012

Amendment 64 - Colorado

So one of the interesting pieces of last week's US election - although many people were tired of the back and forth of a bitter campaign - was Amendment 64 in Colorado.

Amendment 64 was passed narrowly 54% to 46% which was the request to legalize pot/marijuana or whatever you choose to call it.

It is an interesting dilemma as there is a lot of pressure to keep taxes down and spending up - how do governments do this as they need new sources of revenue?

Many cheers were heard when the amendment passed even though the state politicians and many mayors were against this as there are many concerns including how does a State work with putting in the rights to use when there are still Federal laws that say it is illegal?

An interesting dilemma for sure!

As a side note Washington State approved to vote on this issue in their next election.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

US Election from a Canadian Perspective

It was a pleasure to be in Denver CO on Election Day. The pundits said it would be TOO close to call - well the popular vote was close BUT the results were in early that Barack Obama remained as President.

Colorado was considered a swing state so it was exciting to be here. Everywhere you went last night people were glued to television sets and it wasn't because the Nuggets were playing - wow what a shock when politics beats sports in any town!

Staff in restaurants paused to catch the results - how was Colorado going to go and would the 2 hour time difference make a difference. Luckily here it was a warm sunny day so turn out was expected to be high.

The final results were close
Obama 1,091,234
Romney 1,021,983

Who was making the difference? Women who were Independent voters - no surprise - Romney just didn't connect with women in general - most women I talked to had a hesitation about Romney but couldn't explain why - they loved the way he was with his wife and his sons but there was a niggling reason as to why hey would vote for him.

Hispanics now make up 20% of the voting population in CO and so they will become a stronger and stronger vote here.

The next President of the United States will have to face this challenge - how to attract the female and Hispanic vote.

As an outsider what was fascinating was the engagement of everyone I met that day - the air was buzzing with excitement - people were engaged and talking about it and there were cheers in the town square when the results were announced. The advantage of a warm evening was the ability to congregate and listen collectively. It was such an interesting day as I can't remember an election that was so close and engaged a nation in a conversation.

I look forward to seeing how Obama can build on the engagement of young people, women and Hispanics in the next 4 years to encourage them to continue to be involved and engaged in politics for the betterment of all.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Focus on Youth Toronto

One of the programs that the Liberals addressed after the "Year of the Gun" was a program called Focus on Youth.
The program focuses on two factors -
1) Employing young people that may not have the opportunity to work for the summer and give them valuable work experience.
2) Working with Youth - young students who may not have opportunities to attend camps or have experiences that will keep them busy for the sumer but also develop them will skills that will help them in the future.

The program has worked!

Anyone that has a young person in the house, knows how difficult it is for them to find a summer job with the downtown in the economy there seem to be few summer jobs. The grants that are given allow many Toronto students the opportunity to work with young people and become role models. As well the work experience varies from art projects to sports camps ensuring that every student can feel empowered to work in a field they are interested.
Many students comment that they have enjoyed working with younger students and are now considering jobs that work with children..

For those young students they have the opportunity to participate in active organized activities often in local schools, providing structure and comfort. Parents receive a side benefit of free programs that keep their children happy and active.

I hope that the government sees this summer program as an investment and not a cost!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Sal Khan speaking at NSBA

I had the pleasure of hearing Sal Khan speak at the NSBA conference this past weekend. As you know already - I'm a BIG fan of the man that created Khan Academy!

What surprised me most about hearing Sal is that he has a great sense of humour and the time flew by when he spoke.

I was also reminded that many great ideas happen by accident - he was assisting his cousin long distance on learning math and created the shell for Khan Academy - and that people are willing to take risks to make good things happen - he quit his job to pursue this dream.

Sal made some poignant points which demonstrate why Khan Academy works
1) In Mathematics - if you miss a point, you are more and more lost in the subject as our curriculum builds year after year - so Khan Academy helps as you can go back to the basics and pick up the skills you might have missed or need stregthened.
2) Not all kids learn at the same pace or level so having tools that allow kids to work at their pace allows them to catch up in time with the expected norms.
3) Some kids lose their way by having 9 weeks off every summer - having the Khan Academy available allows them to maintain their skills
4) Some kids learn differently - having different resources helps different kids in different ways.

The good part is that Khan Academy now has some results that show that they are making a difference with all kids - which means this is a tool that every teacher and parent should know about.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Technology in the Classroom - what's next?

Students have fully embraced technology - I don't know a student in high school that doesn't bring their smart phone and other devices to school!

So how are we moving forward with assisting them to use technology in the classroom?

It's frustrating as we aren't tapping into the resources in the classroom.

We still are using OLD and OUTDATED models which needs to be blown up and re-thought. Why are we still buying devices and trying to roll them out in an equitable way?

Why are we not looking at NEW and INNOVATIVE models. Why don't we see what students are bringing to school anyway and see how we can incorporate it.

How do we make the transition to College and Universities where students are expected to bring their own laptops?

Do we have the classroom teacher prepared to work in a technological way? Are we letting students lead? Collaborate? Try new ways of working/participating?

What skills have we given them to be prepared for the workforce or more education?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

So Are the Proposed Cuts a Bloodbath?

Whenever budget arises there are some truths that I now accept as "norms".

First, cuts of any kind are not fun - someone is affected either directly - through job loss or indirectly through learning to do more with less resources.

Second, unions need to represent their members so they won't like job cuts or changes or re-alignments.

Third, parents don't get involved until they see how it affects them and in most cases this is post-implementation and so TOO late.

Fourth, somehow it's never been enough and the next year there is more cuts!

Fifth, how do we measure impact on students to know what the right decisions are?

Sixth, it was hard when we controlled our own budget and tax increases and IMPOSSIBLE when we control neither!

Seven, how can one work within a pre-set formula when our students are NOT widgets. How do we advocate for more flexibility?

Eight, why is this the most stressful thing I do? and yet I barely get more than a few parents to attend sessions about budget or potential cuts. How do I get good feedback?

Nine, why is the sky always falling? Somehow we are doing better with less! I think this is a testament that we hire better and better and the people in the schools are making significant contributions without any more recognition.

So we over spend on a LOT of budget lines - my view points on the proposed cuts will be in future comments.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Expulsions and Lessons Learned - Part 2

So FINALLY we are looking at the expulsion process at the TDSB. I'm glad to see that we are evaluating it as I see it as TOO expensive for a board that is in dire financial straights and it doesn't benefit our students in the current format.
(NB you will hear a lot more of what I'm prepared to cut based on how I think students benefit).

Most families do not attend these sessions with a lawyer so I really question why the Trustees have a lawyer (I've done enough of these along with several of my colleagues that we don't need that support - and the 1 time I wasn't sure - a quick phone call would have resolved the issue anyway).

Secondly the Principal has a lawyer - and really it's just a re-bundling of their information. So again another unnecessary expense.

I look forward to the review and get the perspective of staff to see what they think they need.

No other board brings all the lawyers to the table like we do and so it's time to make change.