The message below was sent to all CBE staff members from Chief Superintendent Christopher Usih on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.
I am excited to announce that the next phase of CBE CARES (Collaboration for Anti-Racism and Equity Supports) is now underway.
As a system, we are working together every day to build positive and inclusive learning and work environments for everyone.
Please see the CBE CARES page for a graphic that identifies the roadmap for advancing this important work.
Since my last update, I and members of my leadership team have reviewed the input gathered by Dr. Marie Delorme to better understand the feedback she received through the staff, student and community listening sessions held in the last school year. The CBE CARES Advisory Council will also meet later this Fall to review key themes and discuss actionable next steps.
We will incorporate feedback from the advisory council into a work plan that reflects short-, medium- and long-term actions. We want to ensure that eliminating racism and supporting equity and inclusion is part of the fabric of the CBE, not just a time-limited “initiative.”
While our work with the advisory council is ongoing, there are some key areas of focus that we expect will be part of our plan based on the feedback received to date:
- Professional development
- Organizational policies and practices
- Naming and reporting racism
Professional development: starting this Fall
We will offer professional development to CBE employees. Professional development is one of the top themes that emerged from our listening sessions. Participants told us that education and training is vital to creating common understanding in our learning and work communities. Embracing diversity can only make our organization stronger and make a positive impact on student success.
For CBE educators, school support staff and service unit staff, the professional development will help to ensure they have the knowledge and confidence to engage in challenging conversations about racism and discrimination.
You can expect to hear more about opportunities throughout the 2021-22 school year. For example, we have identified Oct. 18 as our first system-wide Indigenous Education Professional Learning Day in support of the CBE Indigenous Education Holistic Lifelong Learning Framework. All CBE staff from schools and service units are invited to participate in a full day of building their foundational knowledge of First Nations, Métis and Inuit as we work to acknowledge and support the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Calls to Action. It is a non-instructional day, and it follows the non-operational day on Sept. 30 to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation across the CBE.
Additional professional development and learning opportunities will be embedded in the implementation of the newly published Literacy and Mathematics Frameworks, each of which require the use of culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy and resources.
CBE’s policies and practices: visibility, adherence and review
The CBE has many solid policies and procedures that provide written guidance for our day-to-day operations and that help shape our organizational culture. What we have heard is that parents and some staff members have limited visibility into or knowledge of these CBE policies.
My expectation is that staff are (or become) familiar with the CBE policies and practices that support welcoming, caring, safe, and respectful learning and work environments. And I have shared the same message with CBE leaders.
Everyone deserves to learn and work in an environment that is free from discrimination, consistent with the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Within our own organization, the CBE has specific policies and related practices to address anti-racism, discrimination, equity and inclusion. Those include, but are not limited to:
We will continue to raise the profile of the policies and guidance documents we have in place.
Our goal is to help staff understand and connect with our policies, so we can better work together using common language and understanding. We will also continue to highlight these important policies to students and families.
During this school year, we will be reviewing these policies to reflect best practices. We are open to the possibility of engaging an outside resource to help us with this work.
We will analyze best practices to address anti-racism, equity and inclusion within a school board context to support actionable strategies and recommendations. In addition, we will leverage the competencies outlined in the Teaching Quality Standard and Leadership Quality Standard to further support this work.
This analysis will consider CBE’s accountabilities to deliver education services as defined in the Education Act and Alberta Education Guide to Education. We must be mindful of what is within the CBE’s responsibility and control and what is within the responsibility of the provincial government, such as the curriculum.
Naming and acknowledging racism and discrimination
We must support one another in calling out racism and reporting it through the appropriate channels. In our listening sessions, we heard staff and the community’s desire for us to “name it” and acknowledge that racism and discrimination are real barriers to an inclusive and equitable environment.
We will not tolerate racism, bullying, harassment and discrimination of persons based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or cultural background. Intent does not negate impact; language and actions matter.
Everyone has a role to play in supporting an inclusive environment in all our schools and workplaces. We expect employees to act and not to ignore incidences of racism, harassment and/or discrimination.
The CBE currently has mechanisms in place for addressing allegations of discrimination. If you feel you have experienced harassment or discrimination, and the circumstances allow for it, please consult your immediate supervisor first. It is my expectation that leaders will support employees in reporting incidents in our schools and workplaces. We take these matters seriously and we have and will take appropriate action.
In May 2021, the CBE launched an internal reporting process in Public School Works (PSW) to provide a clear method for staff to report all misconducts. The Misconduct Toward Staff reporting tool can be used to document incidents of bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence, including non-intentional events.
Some employees may be more familiar with the Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Complaint Form on Insite. Submissions can still be made using the form. Please send the completed form to the Superintendent, Human Resources by email or internal mail.
For information about the investigative process, please see the form and consult AR 4038, referenced above.
Gratitude for the efforts underway
Above all else, please know that I recognize the investment so many are making in advancing equity and anti-racism within our system.
There are many examples of positive work that come to mind, including the excellent work of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity team, Indigenous Education Team, and Diversity and Learning Support Advisors. We are also fortunate to have excellent community partners working alongside us.
I am grateful for the support and guidance of the Elder Advisory Council, the Chief Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, and the CBE CARES Advisory Council to help advance this important work.
I remain incredibly grateful to staff, students, and parents and guardians for embarking on this journey to ensure success for all the students we serve.
Chief Superintendent of Schools