Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 12, 2007
School board chair wants to hear the community voices
Cindy Olsen believes listening to people's concerns matters
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"We may be really short-sighted if we are closing schools now simply because the numbers are down."
- Cindy Olsen
Olsen decided to run in the Oct. 15 municipal election because she wanted to share her gifts and talents as a former Catholic student, parent and professional to make the system stronger.
A former social worker and instructor at Ben Calf Robe School, Olsen has been involved with the not-for-profit sector for several years, serving with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Alzheimer's Society, the YWCA and the Alberta Sciences Literary Association.
She also has specialized training in governance from Alberta Community Development and has volunteered as facilitator on governance throughout the province.
"The kids are our present and our future and I just don't like to stand by and see some of the influences that I see in society and not try and do something about it," Olsen said as she explained her reasons for wanting to be a trustee.
"I watched a program on CBC awhile back on a group of people who had some kind of support group because they were atheists and they interviewed their children and you have little children looking at the camera and saying, 'I don't believe in God. It's like Santa Claus.' That really frightens me."
Olsen said the board faced serious challenges during the last three years but handled them well and has moved on to actually use those challenges to make the board stronger.
"So I'm not here because I think the board isn't doing well; I am here to work to make it even better in conjunction with the other trustees."
One of her goals is to lobby for proper funding for school programs such as kindergarten. Currently, Edmonton Catholic offers half-a-day kindergarten, but there is a move towards offering full-day kindergarten.
"I think the concept of full-day kindergarten is wonderful, but we have to make sure that we have the funds that come with that.
"Funds come through a funding formula through the government, so advocacy around funding is always a huge responsibility of the board. We (currently) have a funding shortfall and we have schools that are aging, so we have to look at continuous maintenance of those schools; what are we going to do to keep them fit and healthy?"
School closures are also on Olsen's mind. "My stand on school closures is we have to be very, very careful because Edmonton is changing and growing so much, we may be really shortsighted if we are closing schools now simply because the numbers are down.
"We have to look five years down the road when the numbers may go up because people are moving back and young families are moving back in; all neighbourhoods have that sort of turnaround, so that's certainly one of the things I feel very strongly about."
Olsen also believes in the need to engage the community in issues of education, including school closures.
"For example, if the demographics are down and the school isn't fitting at the capacity it should be fitting then we need to go to the community and say, 'What can we do to keep this school open because it's the heart of the community? What other things do you see sort of fitting in there?'
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