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Mar 09

Chris Smeaton

From the Desk of the Superintendent- March 09, 2014

The wind is howling in southern Alberta this morning. That means we are either having a bitter cold snap or a chinook. Already in March, we’ve faced both!  Let’s hope that the spring weather  we are experiencing currently (maybe without the wind) stays around as I for one am tired of winter!

February’s board meeting highlighted some major capital announcements for Holy Spirit schools. We were excited to hear the announcement of the modernization of St. Michael’s School in Pincher Creek, estimated to be over 11 million dollars. The project will involve an upgrade and right-sizing to better meet our students in the area. Addressing our enrolment growth, the government awarded four modular classrooms and a 450 seat elementary school in north Lethbridge.  These major capital announcements are welcome news and will keep us pretty busy over the next number of years. The ability of a small division like ours to ascertain a major modernization, modular classrooms and a new school is a tribute to our current and former board’s strong relationship with our provincial government including our local MLAs and Minister of Education. Congratulations should be extended for the advocacy work of our trustees!   

The month of February is short but always contains many opportunities for professional learning in our system. Staff are engaged in mentorship programs, conferences and conventions. All of these events are organized to better support the students in our system. Late in February, I had the pleasure of listening to a keynote presentation from Craig Kielburger, co-founder of  Free the Children charity and of Me to We social enterprise. Craig’s message is one that believes in the power and ability of students in schools to build a better world. He challenges educators to create opportunities for students to become social justice advocates locally, nationally and internationally. Reading the monthly newsletters of our schools, I’m reminded that we excel in this area through the adoption of numerous social justice projects. Building a better world involves a concentrated effort to address difficult issues like poverty, political strife and discrimination head on. I am proud that through the work occurring in our schools, we are assisting in the development of ethical citizens.

This work is a central focus in our Lenten Season which began with Ash Wednesday on March 5th. During the next 40 days we are called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer is central to our lives as a faith filled people. We can never be too busy for prayer and as adults in schools and in home our role modeling of prayer has a lasting effect on the students in our lives.  Although fasting usually equates to giving something up like sweets, the richer actions are best expressed by Greg Kostiuk, principal of Our Lady of the Assumption School in his monthly message.

  • Fast from criticism, and feast on praise;
  • Fast from anger, feast on joy;
  • Fast from jealousy; and feast on love;
  • Fast from selfishness, and feast on service;
  • Fast from fear, and feast on faith;

This month, we highlight the fine arts in two of our schools in the City of Lethbridge. St. Francis, our only exclusive junior high will perform the musical Aladdin. This is always a highlight as the talent of the staff and students in this production is sensational. Unfortunately due to my travel schedule, I will be unable to watch this production but it should not be missed if you are available. The second musical production in our division, The Sound of Music, hit the stage of the Eggplant Theatre at CCH on March 7th. Musicals have a long history at CCH and there is no doubt that this production of “The Sound of Music” (which incidentally is my favorite of all time), will be another great success! Having attended the musical last night, I can attest that it is a great show with some of the best vocals I’ve ever heard at the high school level and should not be missed! Many hours go into these types of productions and I’m extremely grateful for the commitment of our staff and students in delivering such high quality entertainment.

As mentioned earlier, my travel schedule will not allow me to attend the musical Aladdin at St. Francis this week. I have been invited by EF Educational Tours, along with four other district leaders from across Canada to attend the Science and Innovation Summit in Berlin, Germany. The summit has organized four exciting workshop challenges for students participating at the German Technical Museum in Berlin. Each workshop will inspire collaborative and creative problem solving and ultimately allow for students to showcase their learnings and build on their leadership skills. Each challenge will be dedicated to one of four themes: energy, food, transportation, and architecture. Expert facilitators will engage students and provide a context for the challenge scenario for each topic.

  • The energy challenge will ask students to develop a solution to reduce their school’s energy use by 50%,
  • The food challenge will prompt students to re-design their cafeteria experience to include sustainable food choices and practices while increasing usage of the space.
  • The transportation category will task students to redesign their commute to school and reduce their overall environmental impact.
  • The architecture challenge will ask students to recreate their school space and grounds to reflect sustainable design.

Next year’s summit will be hosted in Barcelona and I’m hopeful that we can have our students participate in this exciting program.

Have a wonderful March and a prayerful Lenten Season!

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