Note: The following text is an abbreviated version of the speech delivered by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to the ATA’s Annual Representative Assembly on May 18, 2019.
I am deeply honoured and humbled to stand before you as the newly minted minister of education. I’m especially proud to be only the second ever female minister of education since 1905.
First, I would like to acknowledge the important work your association does in holding a high standard for teachers. I would also like to recognize the valuable work of you, the teachers who are committed to living up to those high standards.
As a former school trustee, mother and grandparent, I have seen first-hand your dedication to students. I know your commitment goes beyond the classroom as many students bring the complexities of their realities to school with them. A huge thank you for all that you do — recognizing that sometimes you, as the teacher, are the only stable, trusted person in that child’s life!
As a representative of this ARA assembly, you are clearly dedicated to improving your profession, as evidenced by your giving up a long weekend to do it! So thank you very much!
I am still just weeks into my new role as minister of education. To say it has been a whirlwind would be a huge understatement. I have made it a top priority to get out and meet with as many stakeholders and educational organizations as soon as possible. It’s very important to me that I get to know you, the people on the front lines.
I am no stranger to education and would consider myself a lifelong learner. By profession, I am trained as a rehabilitative practitioner working with the mentally and physically challenged. My interest grew from growing up with my younger brother, who was born with Down Syndrome. While raising my seven children, I volunteered extensively in my community and in my church, as well as owning and operating the family farm and a trucking business.
Let’s continue to put the children first and let’s do the right things for the right reasons.
The last 11 years I have served as a school trustee for the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division. I have also served three one-year terms as president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association and a year-and-a-half as national vice-president of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees Association. I bring that wealth of practical and proven leadership experience to my new role as minister.
I want to ensure that Alberta’s education system lives up to the high expectations of our students and their families. Both as a trustee and as a candidate who spoke to many Albertans at their doorsteps, I heard about these expectations a great deal. Albertans are very invested in our education system!
As you know, our government has outlined a plan for improving educational outcomes. While these are still early days in terms of having real details, our overarching goals are clear.
We want to deliver the best possible education for our children.
Together, we need to find greater efficiencies in the system to ensure we are using our education dollars effectively and prudently. This means finding ways to reduce administrative overhead as much as possible and pushing resources where they’re needed most — to the frontline teachers and to classrooms.
Our plan includes prioritizing funding for school infrastructure, and we will be building new schools.
We also want to conduct an audit on class size to determine what happened to previous funding dedicated to reducing class sizes.
As well, we have committed to proclaiming the Education Act and have it come into force by September 1 of this year, with minimal disruption to the overall system. We are currently working through the upcoming legislative agenda and will have more details in the coming weeks.
Another area of priority is getting the curriculum review right. That’s why our platform committed to pausing the rushed implementation of the new curriculum to hear from a wide range of perspectives, including parents, teachers and subject matter experts. So please stay tuned for more information very soon.
Listening to you is also extremely important to me. I want to hear from each and every one of you about other areas that can be improved upon in our education system. You’re on the front line. I believe that listening is one of my most important jobs, and I will keep the lines of communication open.
In conclusion, again, I thank you for your hard work, your commitment to your students and their families, and your contributions to your profession. Let’s continue to put the children first and let’s do the right things for the right reasons.
I look forward to working with you in the future. Thank you! ❚