Yesterday I attended an information session at Evansdale School on the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation, which launched on February 10. I admit I hadn’t even heard of the foundation until Jeremy mentioned the information sessions to me! I’m glad he did, because it was really interesting to learn about.
Our host for the session was Sandra Woitas, the director of the foundation. She has had a long history with Edmonton Public Schools as a teacher, consultant, and principal. After everyone had introduced themselves, we heard a little about Evansdale School and some of the unique programs it hosts. Next, Sandra welcomed two high school students who spent a few minutes talking about the experiences they have had during their time in the Edmonton Public School system. After that, we got into the information. Sandra gave an excellent overview of the foundation and how it came to be. Here are my notes:
- The idea for the foundation came in 1996 from then Superintendent Dr. Emery Dosdall. He wanted to include a broad selection of stakeholders to help raise the profile of Edmonton Public Schools.
- For the next decade or so, the idea floated between administration and the trustees. It wasn’t until trustee Bev Esslinger revived the idea that the ball got rolling again.
- The foundation is meant to serve the 70% of Edmontonians who pay school taxes but don’t have a connection to the schools (either no kids, or their kids have graduated, etc).
- In addition to raising the profile of Edmonton Public Schools, the foundation will advocate for improving public education here in Edmonton.
- One of the areas of focus for the foundation is early childhood education. As Sandra said a few times, “either you pay now or you pay later.” To that end, they hope to raise money for early learning.
- Full-day kindergarten programs would be one beneficiary. The first was setup at Norwood school thanks to a donation of $78,000 from Denny Andrews. Based on the success of that program, 24 other full-day kindergarten programs were setup throughout the city. There are apparently 15 more on a waiting list.
To finish off the session we were treated to a quick tour of Evansdale School. The school is multicultural, with students from over 40 countries! It also features a number of unique community outreach programs. We visited the full-day kindergarten classroom, and a music class as well. The SMART board in the kindergarten classroom surprised me – I learned that every classroom in the school has one! It was really great to see.
Everyone who attended the session left with gifts! You can see the Evansdale mug, and the beautiful placemat created by a grade six student at the school. The bag of seeds came with a little explanation from Sandra: “what we’re doing with the foundation right now is planting seeds.”