By Al Beeber on September 16, 2021.
When Jan Foster leaves the board room for the final time on Sept. 28, she’ll be walking away from seven terms and a total of 23 years serving as a trustee for the Lethbridge School Division.
Foster is calling it quits after more than two decades of serving city students in her role as a trustee.
She has seen a lot of changes during those years and is looking forward to some time away from public service.
Foster was first elected elected to the board in 1983 and stayed on until 1992. She ran for office again in 2007 and has been reelected in every election since.
“It’s time to move on,” said the well known former real estate agent in an interview recently. After leaving real estate, she worked nearly 10 years at St. Michaels’ Health Centre as fundraising co-ordinator. After retiring there in 2007, she decided to run for school board again now that she had some free time.
“I’m going to take a little time off; I’ve got lots of things to do around my home that I’m going to try to work on. And then eventually, I’ve already, believe it or not, been approached by a couple of organizations asking me if I’d be wanting to do some volunteer work for them. So I’m going to just take my time and see what I’d like to do. I want to be able to kind of take time for myself and for my family, spend more time with the grandchildren maybe,” said Foster.
She’s got mixed feelings about that her final board meeting at the Education Centre.
“It’s going to be bittersweet but I can’t stay forever.”
During her term, she’s seen many changes in technology, budgeting and communication.
“One of the really positive changes is much more emphasis being placed on the trades now. And not only in the high schools but even in the middle schools, they’re starting to work with kids who are interested in the trades even to the point where we have a partnership with the college so that high school kids can be working in trades and then they’re given some credit when they graduate and move on into the college. I think that’s been a really really positive change.
“When I was first elected as trustee, I don’t think anybody really even had computers. We all just kind of did everything by phones and there was none of this emails back and forth. But I think we’ve done a really good job getting kids educated in different aspects of technology. It doesn’t matter what you’re going to do when you graduate, that affects your life and so I think that’s a good thing.”
An ongoing concern for the board is the construction of new schools, said Foster.
“We’ve been very very fortunate in my time on the board. There’s been six new schools built in our division and quite a few of them in just these last few years. We’ve always been very lucky but we had to make some changes in boundaries this year because with the new school Dr. Plaxton opening up, it made it kind of difficult for managing our busing and that kind of thing. So we had to change some of the boundaries which unfortunately some people are not very happy with, which I don’t blame them.”
While students can still go to their old schools if they are moved, there is now no busing available, said Foster.
“If they still want to continue they won’t get a bus. They have to make their own arrangements. That’s a decision a parent has to make.”
A big change over the years is in the process of budgeting, she said.
“I can remember when I was first elected, we spent weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks going over the budget item by item. And we don’t do that anymore. Once it’s all put together, then we have an opportunity to review it and debate and make changes if necessary. We’ve experts now who can put the budget together for us a lot easier.
Foster said there is now more communication between the board and both parents and staff who are recognized as stakeholders in the education process.
“We didn’t really involve our partners in education in doing the budget. Parents weren’t really involved or asked to be involved very much. And neither did members of the staff. But that’s all changed which is really a good thing,” Foster said.
“They’ve got the district school parent councils and then each one of the schools have got their own parent council. This year its been kind of difficult because trying to get them to meet on a regular basis but most of them have been able to do it even just virtual. We share not only the budget with them but we share a lot of different things that concern parents.”
And while the board could always improve, “I think we do a fairly good job of communicating with our education partners and we consider parents our partners,” said Foster.
Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter