Sheila Taylor*

Candidate for: CBE Trustee Wards 11 & 13

Survey Results

Why are you running for public office?

I hope to be re-elected to the school board on October 21st.  As a Calgarian, a taxpayer and a mom, I feel a strong desire to serve our community.  We have great schools in Calgary and need to ensure our education system remains at a high quality into the future.

What previous experience has prepared you for this role?

I feel my background serves me well as a trustee for the Calgary Board of Education.

I was first elected to the public school board in October 2010 and am now seeking re-election to a second term, representing southwest city wards eleven and thirteen.

Since the municipal election of 2010, I have focused on accountability, transparency and community involvement.  I consistently asked tough questions about CBE spending priorities, especially the $1.2 billion operating budget and building projects.

I have a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta and spent time in professional roles such as accounting and business analysis.  I am also active in my community and currently serve as Vice President of Community Affairs for the Lake Bonavista Community Association.

What three ideas do you have to improve the quality of education?

My platform for a top quality education system:
1. Great Schools
- Emphasis on academics and core literacy
- Focus on improving graduation rates
- Ensure teachers have the freedom to spend time on students, not paperwork
- Keep schools safe and sound with a better approach to facility maintenance and upgrades

2. Healthy Kids
- Implement clear strategies for physical health, mental well-being and nutrition
- Improve the availability of before and after school activities
- Make the healthy choice the easy choice for staff and students

3. Smart Spending
- Keep your tax dollars in classrooms, not administration
- Take a hard look at all project spending to focus priorities and trim expenses
- Improve budget practices by involving the public in priority setting and providing more details on spending

What are the top issues problems facing school boards?

If re-elected, I will focus on improving high school graduation rates.  In Calgary, approximately one in every four students drops out of high school.  In order to improve graduation rates, the Calgary Board of Education should focus on early intervention, provide proper resources for students and staff, and offer programs to bring back students who drop out.

What are the most important changes that need to be made regarding the role of school boards in Alberta?

The role of school boards is to represent the public and oversee the school system in order to ensure we have top quality education.  In order to fulfill this mandate, boards (and individual trustees) need to remain independent.  Boards must also be transparent in their financial practices and involve the community in ongoing decision making to maintain public confidence and ensure education remains at a high quality into the future.

How can school boards most effectively influence the financial and policy decisions of the provincial government?

A key role of school boards is to represent the public interest in advocating to the province for adequate resources and appropriate legislation.  In order to achieve this goal of influence, boards should have clear priorities and advocacy strategies, both short term and long term.  In addition, boards should work with stakeholder groups (parents, staff groups, community leaders, etc.) in a coordinated manner.

In light of the current funding situation, what strategies should the school board use to meet the infrastructure needs of Calgarians?

The biggest challenge for the school system is addressing competing spending priorities in a time of financial restraint. Budgets are shrinking at the same time as needs are growing. Practically, this means making tough decisions about where your tax dollars should be spent. I would like to see long term strategic financial planning, a more transparent budget approach and a keen focus on keeping money in classrooms, where it’s of the most value.  Proper infrastructure planning should be a top priority and the Capital Plan should contain a balance between new school construction and maintenance of aging school buildings.

What limitations, if any, should the school board place on the involvement of private organizations in school?

Limitations should be placed on the role of private organizations in schools because of the potential influence of advertising on children.  In the fall of 2012, I advocated for public consultation on the role of corporate sponsorship with the goal of setting transparent parameters around the acceptable role of corporations in schools.  It is critical that the public have a say in how businesses are involved with public education.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

If re-elected, I will continue to work hard for your community, ask the tough questions, and be your voice at the board table.  As a parent with young kids in school, I know classrooms are the priority.  As a community leader and business professional, I recognize it will take a mixture of common sense and vision to make the best decisions for your children and your community.

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