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Opinion

Someone Needs Replacing at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools

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Once you put children safety at risk… I can’t be silent any longer.

From charitable tax receipts not being issued correctly… to having private information of your child’s educational performance being stored and “pushed” to you by foreign apps that you must agree to their terms saying that information is processed by foreign servers, to hearing wasteful spending radio ads, to leaving an entire bus route of elementary school children stranded for nearly an hour while their “bus status app” says “all buses on time”.

Yes, this is what the RDCRS has to offer you in just this past year alone.

I ran for trustee in 2013, so sure, some might try to spin this as sour grapes, but when you are tired of administrators that have stopped focusing on children and have become more focused on child recruitment, you have a problem. I ran for a trustee position to prevent this very type of thing going on, and here we sit.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the teachers, their assistants, and staff doing everything to help the children. But something needs to be done at the top.

Charitable Receipts

To be eligible for a charitable donation credit, all tax receipts must have the Registered Charity number on them. This is a 9-digit number followed by “RR” and then 4 more digits. Every single RDCRS receipt received by my accounting firm this past tax season was missing this number. This was raised by yours truly to their office on behalf of my clients. They did not reissue replacements until I pushed back repeatedly and individually per client. They said over the phone they would not be mailing out replacements for everyone. So, if you donated this past year, enjoy your reassessment.

Performance Reports

We all want to know how our child(ren) is(are) doing in school. This past year RDCRS decided to launch the use of PowerSchool LLC. They say all of your child’s information is held on Canadian servers. However, when you go to sign up for the app it says that the app uses foreign servers for you to access, view, and receive notifications on, your child’s performance. This is how a foreign app works.

While you may store information in Canada, it is being sent through other connections and servers in a foreign country like the United States. While I’m fine seeing pictures on social media or getting the quick note from a teacher about what “little Johnny” did today… when it comes to academic performance and review, privacy and security steps should be taken. When I raised this concern with the superintendent, his response is that commercial privacy laws do not apply to them.

In my request I stated:

“Further to my previous e-mail: although PIPEDA may not apply to RDCRS directly, by engaging a corporate entity, you are required under FOIP S.38 and 39(1) to have proper controls in place which would require our consent. The corporate entity PowerSchool LLC is to be bound by PIPEDA as well as the stricter Alberta version, PIPA, as it is not a government agency. The app from the Canadian version of the app store that you have instructed parents to use to access is warning us upon installation that the data is being routed via PowerSchool LLC’s US resident servers. This is not a violation of PIPEDA by PowerSchool LLC directly, as they are requesting our permission on installing the app. This warning does not exist unless you are in Canada. This is not a “default”, this is a requirement by PowerSchool for any notifications to Canadian resident users.

However, the letter sent to parents states that we are required to sign up, or we will not receive information. Requiring parents to use the app in order to access report cards and information on our children is not allowing for our consent, it is being forced. A government department forcing a parent to accept a foreign corporation’s “terms of service agreement” is in violation of FOIP.”

His response:
“In your message you reference Sec. 38 and 39(1) of the FOIP Act. Our school division is in compliance with these sections of this Act as we have proper controls in place because our student data is housed on our servers. We protect personal information by using reasonable security arrangements against risk of unauthorized access. As a result parent consent is not required.”

So parent consent is not required with the school division, but yet parent consent is required by the corporate entity, which then routes the data from Canada through their U.S. server. However, if you don’t consent, you don’t get updates other than a final report at the end of the “reporting term”. Sounds like forced consent to me. Why would I want to have my child’s personal and private information sent through a foreign country?

Radio Ads

Instead of focusing on children that they have, they would rather recruit more children instead. During the 2013 election, I was amazed how a former trustee chair stated, “if we convert just one child to Catholicism then it [advertising] is worth it.”

Apparently, conversion is more important than the education of the children already there.

I have asked how much was spent on advertising but the only response I received was “fill out a freedom of information request. There will be fees associated with it because it is not your personal information.”

How many textbooks could we have purchased for the amount they spend on advertising in a year? I’m sure many parents would like to know.

This brings me to today.

Transport

An entire bus route of elementary school children did not get picked up today. Instead, they were sitting outside for 45 minutes when my children contacted me in panic tears and said the bus didn’t come. Like any parent, at first, I was questioning my kids… then worried for other children… then mad.

Why did I get mad?

Well, you see the RDCRS has a wonderful “app” that is supposed to notify parents if a bus is canceled or running late. But the status for the route said “On time”.

So I asked my kids if they missed the bus, they said no, because the other kids at their stop were there too.

When I picked up my children (and one of the neighbour’s kids after getting permission from her parent) we continued along the route and saw many more children waiting along the route. We pulled over to tell them to contact their parents as it appears there is no bus.

When I arrived with my children at the school I informed them of the issues. Now, to the school’s staff credit, the school responded quickly and the vice principal drove the route to check the safety of the kids.

However, when I called the transport office, which is owned and run by RDCRS, they stated that they “had a no-show and only found out now.” They still did not update the bus status on the app and this was one hour after the route was to begin.

Every employer has some sort of attendance system. Couriers use radios and GPS to track vehicles and routes. But somehow the RDCRS transport office doesn’t have a way to track if a driver showed up to work or not? Or if a bus is on a route or not?

Then what is the point of an app to notify parents if you don’t use it?

I’ve been relatively quiet publicly on these things, but today, when you put children safety at risk, it was the last straw.

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City of Red Deer

Hazlett Lake may be the greatest opportunity lost for the city of Red Deer

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Hazlett Lake

This opinion piece was submitted by Garfield Marks.

In cities around the world, man made lakes have been an economic diversification, city saviour, a tourist destination, and/or heat issue solution. Let us look at examples I found on google.

In 2000, when Jasmin Imamović became mayor of Tuzla, it was a dilapidated, swampy mining settlement short on prospects. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s third-largest city had suffered badly in the Bosnian war, and from recessions, low wages and exodus of people since. Solution was a man made lake.
Tuzla’s economy has also changed massively. The tourism and service industries are now its biggest sectors – a sharp change of direction for a city previously known for its coal plants and smoke-filled skies.
Other cities are also trying to boost their profile by artificially creating “natural” tourist attractions. The UAE’s Palm Jumeirah and The World, some of the world’s largest artificial islands, are an extreme example; a rather more considered effort is Barcelona’s beach at Barceloneta, created as part of the city’s facelift for the 1992 Olympic Games.
The beach, the Catalan capital’s largest, is credited with catapulting Barcelona into the top ranks of European travel destinations: the yearly number of visitors staying in hotels in the city rose from 1.7 million in 1990 to 8.9 million in 2017.
Amsterdam has also tried the fake beach approach, incorporating housing.
The Serpentine (also known as the Serpentine River) is a 40-acre (16 ha) recreational lake in Hyde Park, London, England was a venue for the men’s and women’s triathlon and marathon swimming events in the London 2012 Olympics
In Alberta; Echo Dale, the largest of Medicine Hat’s parks, is located a short distance west of .Medicine Hat… The park has two man-made lakes:
Henderson Lake Park is one of Lethbridge’s premier parks featuring a 24 hectare man made lake, mature trees and groves, gardens, picnic shelters, and recreational properties.

Red Deer has Hazlett Lake in a prime spot by Hwy 2, great for tourism, 100 acres for recreational activities, 2 miles of shoreline for beaches, locate the Aquatic Centre there and you would have a premier tourist destination and residents could have a staycation..
We would not have to spend millions building a man made lake, we have the real thing.

 

SO:

Why did the city after discussing with a few members of the Red Deer Naturalists think that leaving such an opportunity  dormant, was a good economical idea?  Why not make some beaches? Why not develop this tourist attraction possibility? Incorporate the new Aquatic Centre.Why just build housing?
While other cities are investing millions in building artificial lakes, we are building homes to hide our very own natural lake.
A lot of words have been written about our state of affairs in Red Deer. The fall-out from a depressed economy, being in a bust portion of a boom-bust cycle. Talk of diversifying our economy away from our continued reliance on the energy sector.  Words are not actions, and it is worrisome. Is it fear or lack of vision that impedes us from following up on the words?
No matter how we dress it up, Red Deer is stagnant with growth at about 1% over 3 years, after population loss. Blame the economy, the stars or any number of reasons but it could have been different. Lethbridge is now more populated than Red Deer and Lethbridge is growing in this economy. Lethbridge invested and is still investing in areas appealing to young families including recreational facilities. Lethbridge has a history of investing in facilities to encourage growth, education and tourism. They turned a man made slough into Henderson Lake Park and has never looked back.
Red Deer has a greater opportunity in having a real natural lake. Will Red Deer build a park? NO, they will  plan on houses, and apartment buildings that may never get built, unless we go into a boom portion of the boom-bust cycle. This is the simplistic, easiest and safest plan with a low return on investment. It ignores the high-profile location and possibilities of the lake, but it has less risk. A wall of residences will be built to hide the lake from Hwy 2.
Remember, Hazlett Lake is a natural lake that covers a surface area of 0.45 km2 (0.17 mi2), has an average depth of 3 meters (10 feet). Hazlett Lake has a total shore line of 4 kilometers (2 miles).  It is 108.8 acres in size. Located in the north-west sector of Red Deer.

Red Deer has seen mass exodus of population over the years before seeing a very modest growth of about 1% over 3 years. The handling of Hazlett Lake or lack of vision for Hazlett Lake may be an example. How many Red Deer residents drive to Sylvan Lake and pay $10 parking to sit and swim in a lake? We have a lake but we wouldn’t think of building a beach anywhere along the 2 mile coastline. Let Red Deer residents drive to Sylvan Lake and spend their money there.
Lethbridge took a man-made slough and created Henderson Lake Park, a highly regarded tourist attraction. We will put a trail around our lake. Red Deer residents can go to Sylvan Lake to go to a beach.
We have several planned neighbourhoods that are sitting undeveloped or unfilled so this residential development they are proposing for Hazlett Lake, may never get built. What is the draw? We are creating new neighbourhoods, faster than we are growing, why?
Why not look at how we can invite growth to fill the empty lots we have now? Every town and city has lots for sale but how many have a lake, a natural lake with 4 kms. of shoreline?
We have an opportunity here with Hazlett Lake to create something, a destination, an attraction, will we let it slip through our fingers? Apparently it may be too late. Thanks city hall.

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City of Red Deer

Goulet-Jones says City’s new Environmental Master Plan means higher taxes and an assault on energy sector

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This opinion piece was submitted by Calvin Goblet-Jones

City Council Unanimously Rejects reason by approving a severely flawed Environmental Master Plan.

I honestly can not believe every councillor voted in favour of this document, I am severely disappointed in our Council Today.
Make no mistake, this document deserves to be put through the shredder.  There are a few good elements of the $150,000 document such as strengthening our inner city forests however the document is nothing more than a glimpse into a future of higher taxes, bans and a continued assault on our energy sector by a council who says they support energy.
Of course the document is full of buzzwords and flowery language but this document rejects the benefits of our local energy sector.  Instead of looking towards cheap natural gas as an energy source they look to failed renewable energy projects that you and I will pay heavily for.  The Document wants to limit Red Deers energy consumption, wants to limit your personal fuel consumption, and wants to ban ban ban.  The document wants to ban wood fires, wants to heavily regulate vehicles, and wants to shift all the vehicles the city owns to be electric which will cost taxpayers heavily.
Quickly, take a look at Action 20, they don’t mention a ban outright but they mention open air burning, wood burning and vehicles as part of their “action plan” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to interpret what they mean.

Look at Focus Area 1.2.2.3 where they want to limit consumer energy consumption and how they reject our local cheap, economy supporting fossil fuels.

Shame on Council for Unanimously approving this document.
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july, 2019

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