The new chair of the Foothills public school system has a good idea of what it’s like to be in other people’s seats — the seats of a principal, teacher and others.
Okotoks trustee Larry Albrecht was chosen as the Foothills School Division’s chair at its organizational meeting on Oct. 25 in High River. Though he is a rookie trustee, Albrecht has worked as a principal in the division as well he was with Alberta Education for more than a half decade.
“The advantage is I have already a built-in understanding of the education system,” said Albrecht, a former principal at High River’s Highwood High School and Brooks Composite High School. “The disadvantage is to make sure to keep the discussion at a global perspective rather than the day-to-day things at schools.
“I don’t think it is our job to talk about what is going on at individual schools, our job is look at the jurisdiction and say ‘Where is it going and how is that going to impact various schools.’
“Then, have the superintendent implement that and come back and report to the board.”
He is the first Okotoks trustee to be selected chair of FSD since Carolyn Kaiser.
Albrecht has already proven his commitment to his word — he ran a virtually invisible campaign for one of the two Okotoks trustee seats for the Oct. 16 municipal election.
“It was over a year that my wife and I had planned this trip (to Croatia) and the priority is family,” Albrecht said. “I had many, many emails that I was able to respond to [regarding his campaign]. I was able to correspond my thoughts to the questions from the ATA, the forums and the media.”
Albrecht also spent six years with Alberta Education. He knows the board has no control of the purse-strings — the Province dishes out the money.
“I think my years with Alberta Education gave me a much better understanding of the funding model for public education,” Albrecht said.
“That will help me to understand when it comes to looking at financial reports and talk about planning for the jurisdiction — what are our limitations in regards to funding.”
One of his roles with Alberta Education was to work with school superintendents to implement strategies.
Albrecht rebutted the notion the roles of trustees is insignificant since school boards being allowed to set taxes was taken away more than 20 years ago.
“Public input into education is critical,” he said. “Like any social program — education, health care — we need to have that voice to make decisions at the local level.”
Albrecht said the team of six trustees will provide that voice for Foothills.
“They are very focused on education and everybody is moving forward to support each other and contribute,” Albrecht said.
“It was interesting when we were going through the standing committees at the organization the willingness of the trustees to volunteer. I found it very encouraging.”
There was one surprise for Albrecht at the organizational meeting – being chosen chair.
“I am honoured and a little bit scared,” he said with a smile.
Albrecht’s experience as a school administrator means he will understand when division principals disagree with the board’s decision.
He’s been there, done that.
“Who doesn’t get frustrated at times with their employer,” Albrecht said, who as Highwood principal had its current principal Bryan Brandford and new Ward 2 trustee Bill Young on his staff.
“But when I was principal I always thought ‘Gee, if they (the board) only understood this piece.’ There is a board and central office that understands the whole picture. As a school administrator I might not have seen the whole picture, I just saw my picture.”
The Foothills trustees who were sworn in on Oct. 25 were: Ward 1, Jeannine Tucker; Ward 2, Young; Ward 3, Theresa Letendre; Ward 4; Albrecht and Sharon Nichols; Ward 5, Jennifer Kristiansen.