How to fix the Calgary Board of Education

I’ve been wrestling with the Calgary Board of Education for a couple of years, now. And it’s not for anything complicated. To be honest, all I have is a simple hope: to have my children go to a school where they don’t have to worry about if they’re staying in the school, or if there will be a school at all. Note that this is a “hope”, not anything more concrete…

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize a few nasty things about how the public education system works in this city. The internals of the CBE are highly secretive (finding out who is actually in charge of certain things is about as easy as learning the inner workings of CSIS), and so intensely political that decisions appear to be made utterly at random, against student interests. None of this seems to go through check-and-balance because … well, there’s no accountability to anyone, nor does anyone take responsibility.

As a result the CBE, as a whole, is failing. And that needs to change.

Continue reading How to fix the Calgary Board of Education

What Canadian politicians have forgotten

[It should go without saying that this is an opinion piece: my opinion. It may not be yours. Politically, I’ve been centre most of my life. Today? I genuinely don’t know.]

Alberta has entered another provincial election, our fifth since the beginning of the millennium (that’s every three years, on average). And in Alberta, a province of wealth and entitlement, that means the old guard fending off competitors who dare lay siege to the castle, replete with feces-slinging (we’re well past mere mud), ethically-laden promises, and scare tactics, from all sides.

Canada is also heading down the road to a federal election, which by schedule we will see this fall. We will likely see the same slinging and fearmongering, not only because the same mentalities are at play, but because we’ve been witnessing the preamble for several months, now.

And all of it has shown one thing: that our politicians have forgotten about Canadians.

Continue reading What Canadian politicians have forgotten

20 Years a Web Developer

Twenty years ago this month — and very possibly this week, though I’m not 100% certain of that — I entered into the very nascent industry of digital marketing. At the time, the project had been little more than a simple idea, something to possibly prove my own abilities, a problem that sort of needed solving. And yet, little did I know at the time, it would send me down a long and sometimes disturbingly windy path.

It’s also a milestone where one does need to consider … well, everything. Honestly, a bit of reflection and introspection is needed from time to time, but the decade markers seem to have a certain extra amount of importance. Though to be honest, that’s just a perceived thing; there’s no legal or social reason that I’m aware of. It’s more about having a well-defined chunk of time to really take that step back and say:

“Ye gods I’m getting old…”

Continue reading 20 Years a Web Developer

25 years of The Observer

Though I didn’t know it at the time — how could I, I was but a lad of 16 — my blogging alter ego, The Observer, was born 25 years ago today.

Twenty-five years ago, my family took me to the airport, dropped me into the hands of chaperones who would keep me out of the gulag (or at least out of serious trouble), and I set off on my first real adventure.

Well, that’s actually kind of unfair. The problem with “adventure” is trying to understand it through perspective.

Continue reading 25 years of The Observer

So, I wrote a book…

I like writing. [Insert world’s largest ‘Well, DUH!’ here.] And while I’ve been content to write a blog — great practice for any writer, if you ask me — it’s just not the same as when you write for someone else.

Which I have. I’ve been fortunate enough to write a few things (articles, not long ones) for which I’ve been paid, and presumably read. That’s a bit more rewarding than merely standing on a soapbox and yelling into The Void. But even that isn’t quite enough.

I think that’s what I wanted to write a book. But not the one I just published.

Continue reading So, I wrote a book…

Selling the awful to the angry

Yesterday evening, my family trucked down to 96th Ave SW, invited by the Calgary Board of Education (along with the other families in the Westgate School Bilingual Spanish program) to view the “new” school, Eugene Coste Elementary. It was supposed to be a chance to see the new location, and ask questions of the CBE Area IV director, as well as the Planning & Transportation folks.

I emphasize the word “supposed” — that was the CBE’s perspective. They thought they would get a lot of interest, and a lot of people who were genuinely happy that a solution had been found for the accommodation woes at Westgate School, which is at over 90% of its rated capacity.

But, funny thing, there weren’t many happy people.

Continue reading Selling the awful to the angry

Trying to save Westgate Spanish

Way back in 2012, the Calgary Board of Education asked the parents of Westgate School what they thought of the CBE’s plan to try and alleviate the overpopulation problem. We were engaged, we went to many meetings, and then we waited. A lot. And, heaven help us, we told them to make up their minds.

A week ago today, they told us. And we didn’t like the answer. Not remotely. It wasn’t worst-case — it was worse than that: it was an option never previously hinted at, and while it did address some of the things that the parents had been asked for, it was wrapped up in a big ribbon of stink. In short, the Westgate Spanish program was going to be taken away.

I suppose this is a lesson in “be careful what you wish for”.

Continue reading Trying to save Westgate Spanish

A miscellany of know-it-all-isms by Geoff Sowrey