4 women team up to run for seats on Calgary's public school board

Four Calgary women announced Thursday that they’re teaming up to run for seats on the Calgary public school board in an effort to give parents a stronger voice in their kids' education.

Students Count group running on 5-point platform

From left to right: Bianca Smetacek, Althea Adams, Sabrina Bartlett and Lisa Davis are running together for the Calgary Board of Education. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

UPDATE: As of July 27, 2017, Bianca Smetacek is running independently and is no longer a member of the Students Count team.

Four Calgary women announced Thursday that they're teaming up to run for seats on the Calgary public school board in an effort to give parents a stronger voice in their kids' education.

Dubbing themselves the Students Count team, the women say their campaigns will each focus on five key issues:

  • Getting dollars in the classroom.
  • Improving math skills.
  • Returning report cards to percentage measures.
  • Not taking campaign donations from corporations and unions.
  • Ensuring student wellness with the establishment of an independent ombudsman.

The team is comprised of Althea Adams (running for wards 3 and 4), Bianca Smetacek (running for wards 5 and 10), Lisa Davis (running for wards 6 and 7), and Sabrina Bartlett (running for wards 8 and 9).

 "What we continually hear from parents is that they go to their trustees with these concerns, and then they're told it's an operational issue and there's nothing they can do about it," said Davis, who founded a not-for-profit group called Kids Come First.

"And that's not what parents believe they've elected their trustees to do."

Four Calgary women are running for seats as CBE trustees under the banner Students Count. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Adams, who is co-president of the Calgary Association of Parents and School Councils, says the board has failed to stand up to board administrators on key issues.

"It kind of feels like, CBE says, 'This is what we're going to do', and they're like, 'OK,'" she said.

Davis says one of her goals is to bring greater efficiency to the Calgary Board of Education, so that more money winds up in the classroom

The board's overhead is about $100 million more than that of Calgary's Catholic board, she said.

"We want to take a look at every dollar that's being spent and make sure that we're putting as much as possible in the hands of principals and school administrators."

Lisa Davis, who is running to be a trustee for the Calgary Board of Education, says she feels many parents are frustrated with the way it has been operating. (CBC)

The team was asked at its media conference Thursday if the members are aligned with any political party.

"No. We are a team of people who share a common vision," said Davis, who previously has been on the board of the Progressive Conservatives and was a campaign manager for MLA Mike Ellis.

Bartlett says she has no ties to any political party. Smetacek bought a PC party membership in the fall because she "believe[s] in unity" and Adams bought one a few years ago to vote for a party leader, but never renewed it.

Still Davis says the members political backgrounds don't really matter.

"And we feel it's very important to take politics out of education. It's one of the reasons why we're not taking corporate or union donations. We want to be very clear that the people we are responsible to are the individual voters in Calgary."

A spokesman for the CBE said the board is not in a position to comment on any candidates for the position of trustee.

The municipal election for school trustees and for city council is on Oct. 16.