FEARLESS

From Elected to Member

Lisa Davis
Ready to create a clear path for students.  Lisa Davis at the Calgary Board of Education 1221 8 St. S.W. on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. Davis is being sworn in as Calgary Public School Trustee of Wards 6 and 7 by Associate Chief Justice Honourable J.D. Rooke.  (Photo by Janaia Hutzal)

The swearing in of Calgary’s newly elected school board trustees was held at the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) Centre on Oct. 27, with one of the new members being Lisa Davis.

Davis was elected trustee of Wards 6 and 7 on Oct. 16, and one month later she is ready to begin “creating a clear path for students to move forward.”

“I am ready to address some of the issues and concerns we have heard very clearly from parents,” says Davis. “For me, that’s going to be the focus moving forward.”

Associate Chief Justice, the Honourable J.D. Rooke, who did not receive his masters of law in dispute resolution until age 62, performed the oath signing with his own fourth-grade teacher in the front row.

Rooke stated that a trustee’s role is a “vital aspect of our democracy,” and described the education of the young as one of the “highest and most demanding callings,” as he acknowledged the members for their “willingness to serve and desire to make a difference.”

“You are entrusted with the mandate to govern the entire Calgary public education system for the next four years,” said Rooke. “This job demands a lot.”

Davis, who holds a business degree from the University of Alberta, says that she is looking forward to addressing issues, while appreciating that the work of school boards is “foundational to society.”

The Calgary public education system includes 122,000 students, 245 schools, 14,000 staff and a budget in excess of $1.4 billion.

Besides Davis’s interest in education, she also has a keenness for innovation. She describes herself as an introvert, but admits to fearlessness in taking on a publicly elected role. Her husband, Doug, says his wife is a continuous learner and a firm believer in education, even to the extent that she sometimes wishes she had more education herself, such as engineering.

An individual trustee’s voice not only represents their constituents, but must also act as “one” with the board. Rooke reminded the trustees that it is a position where decisions must be made with an “independent and ethical judgment.”

Davis says that many of the issues raised in individual wards, such as process or results, can often be applied across the city; then there are the separate issues within schools – such as bussing, which will be dealt with on a more individual basis.

Davis says some of the issues are applicable to both. Mathematics happens to be one of those broad-based issues.

Alberta Education’s 2017 Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) showed that Calgary students are scoring lower than the provincial average in mathematics. With the “acceptable standard” set at only 50 per cent, the results showed that more than 25 per cent of grade six students failed, nearly 35 per cent of grade nine students failed, and about 23 per cent of combined math 30-1 and math 30-2 students failed.

Kids Come First, which was founded by Davis as a “not-for-profit organization that advocates for quality K-12 education across Alberta,” initially raised the math concern to the school board and the premier about a year ago.

“When we released our report from Kids Come First in February, we were really clear that we felt this was a social justice issue.”

Davis explains that not only is the disparity in the achievement results from school to school an issue, but also that many parents are now seeking tutoring for their children to make up for poor marks.

“When you have that situation, you really do become a two-tiered system.”

Davis says that the last thing to be sacrificed in the finances of education is “definitely funding reaching the classroom,” and that students’ math achievements is something that needs to be addressed, especially when about 80 per cent of all post-secondary programs have a mathematic prerequisite.

“The reality is, students don’t realize that until grade 11 or grade 12 where they’re starting to think ahead to what they want to do after high school. So that’s a huge concern.”

Davis maintains that “everything else is up for discussion” as long as the questions, “should we be doing it, for whom, and at what cost?” are taken into consideration.

As the CBE looks forward to and prepares for the upcoming budget, Davis says they know there will be an increase in costs, even with no wage increases. In the absence of an increase in rates of funding from the government, the challenge is to figure out where they will find the money to “fill that gap.”

“I firmly believe that 95 per cent of a child’s education happens in the classroom, so we need to empower our teachers and our principals.”

Davis says that campaigning and running for a public position is a huge undertaking. She says one comes away with a different perspective when campaigning, which she describes as somewhat of a revelation, because it creates a deeper respect for the position and the work behind it.

“If you want to elect good people, you have to help good people get elected.”

Davis says that although accountability is ultimately in the back of her mind, it is not in a “scary” way, but more as a reminder to herself of her responsibility to do what she can to move education forward in a positive way.

She says that to be elected is “judgment based,” and that good judgment is where accountability is “not less important, but less magnified.”

“I am here because I think I can make a positive difference.”

She says that it was interesting and exciting for her own children to see the process involved to be elected, and it inspired them to create their own dreams of one day being elected as prime minister or premier.

“I feel strongly everyone should work on a campaign at least once in their life.”

This understanding of dedication may be one of the reasons that Davis views the announcement of early resignation by Chief Superintendent David Stevenson, who has worked for the CBE for more than 42 years, as a positive. Davis commended Stevenson for his years of contribution, maintaining that change is a part of life.

From here, after her four years as trustee, Davis does not know what her future holds, but after moving to Calgary with her husband shortly after they were married 22 years ago, and the many undertakings thus far, she knows she is drawn to what interests her—so only time will tell.

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SURVIVOR: Part Two

Reid Skogen’s Journey of Heart and Soul Continues 

After the ventricular assist device (VAD) was inserted into Reid Skogen’s heart, and then he suffered a stroke, his gruelling rehabilitation began at the Edmonton Stollery Children’s Hospital.

The breathing tube came out ever so slowly, because they did not know if he could breathe on his own. As everyone in the room held their own breath, Reid Skogen took his first one.

“He was basically starting over. It was like watching an infant,” says his mother, Cindy Skogen.

Every time there was a positive break-through, it seemed there was a sadness to go along with it.

Cindy Skogen was able to go behind her son and held him for the first time in over a week. When she had to let go, Reid Skogen cried. They knew there was emotion.

When they were finally able to leave the unit for the first time, Reid Skogen smiled. According to Cindy Skogen it was joyful, but also “eye opening” because he realized how damaged he was.

His parents lived every moment in fear knowing if the heart device failed, they only had 30 seconds to change it before he died. Continue reading “SURVIVOR: Part Two”

SURVIVOR: Part One

BW-Cindy,-Chad,-Reid-and-Skyler-JH-0007-copyReid Skogen’s Journey of Heart and Soul

The last time I saw this little gentleman, I told him I couldn’t believe that THIS story was only HALF of his story.  Reid Skogen said to me, “This, this is just the beginning…”

You, amazingly, are just like every other 10-year-old boy I know, and yet so very special.  I am so proud to know you Mr. Reid Skogen.  Thank you for coming into my life and allowing be to part of the celebration of yours.  -Your friend, Janaia 

At ten years old, Calgary resident Reid Skogen, has been through more than many endure in an entire lifetime – so much so that his mother, Cindy Skogen, says it is hard to ever let her guard down.

“I never get too comfortable with comfortable,” relates Cindy Skogen.

Skye Skogen, Reid Skogen’s older sister, says her mother even has a heightened sense of smell. Cindy Skogen says she believes it’s her survival instinct, and that after all they have been through she can even smell a fever.

“It smells like ink,” says Cindy Skogen.

Reid Skogen’s health demise began with a fever at age seven, at the end of grade one.

“But he had no other symptoms.”

Reid’s parents, Cindy and Chad Skogen, took Reid Skogen into the Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH) where some tests were done, and were sent home.

“He stopped eating. He was throwing up for no reason and he could not get warm.

By August we had had enough.”

So they went back to the emergency room, and endured what Cindy Skogen described as “a very unfortunate incident.” Continue reading “SURVIVOR: Part One”

ACTIVE

20171013 Dante Bencivenga bw JH 0056
“I think I over-estimated. It probably isn’t as bad as it is in my head.”

Astrophysics and computer science student at the University of Calgary (U of C), Dante Bencivenga, chooses to do the research he does because, unlike other areas of life, science has an answer.

“Solving math and science problems are more clear. I’m looking for easy problems to solve,” says Bencivenga.

For Bencivenga, “easy” involves scientific and mathematical equations that the majority of people would not have the first clue about.

His curly hair is from his math-teacher-dad; his personality is similar to his doctor-mom’s; he has two sisters who are older than he by six and 10 years – all of who are more private than he.

Bencivenga says that math and science are similar to the journey of life in that it is not only about the destination or solution rather the merit lies in the research and in “how you got there.”

“If everything in life goes as expected, life is kind of boring.” Continue reading “ACTIVE”

INSPIRATION

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I am not a victim.  I am not a survivor.  I am me. -Courtney Lovgren

When Courtney Lovgren and I began her interview, she started with saying, “I’m glad you are sitting down.”

I had already heard the shocking story about a incident that shook her family and nearly took the life of one of her siblings almost a year ago. So, I thought, no problem I can handle this.

Later that afternoon, when the interview was complete, Courtney and I both went to our homes and napped.

I hope you too are sitting down… Continue reading “INSPIRATION”