On Friday, like so many of our schools, we honored Orange Shirt Day at St. Basil Catholic Education Centre. As part of the day, we engaged all of our central office staff in the Blanket Exercise. It was powerful learning for all! This is my second time through the exercise and I was struck by my new learning. I’ve long spoken about my own perspective on the impacts of Residential Schools and while that was not new for me, this time it hit home even deeper. I cannot imagine as a father and grandfather being forced to give up the opportunity to raise my own children/grandchildren and knowing that all of my family traditions, language and culture would be seen and taught as evil! But my new learning came around the subject that I would call “white arrogance.” We assume like our European ancestors, that our ways of living and/or governing are the correct way and all other forms are less suitable or worse unacceptable. Our indigenous peoples had strong societal norms when Europeans came to their country. They governed well, shared better than any previous culture and lived a whole life. But because it was different from the monarchy driven society the first immigrants came from, it was seen as “savage.” What a mess we’ve created by arrogantly believing that what we do or how we act is the only right way! This is our time, especially as a Catholic School Division to right the wrongs, to act with compassion and to commit to social justice not half way around the world but in our own backyard.
We started the year on a great note, beginning with our opening mass and carrying on with various professional learning opportunities. Unfortunately, our enrollment projections didn’t quite get to where we had hoped, although we still had a slight increase overall from last year. We had over 100 families move out of the area to different parts of Alberta or Canada, which likely signifies that we have places within our boundaries that the economy is not particularly strong. This migration out certainly impacts our smaller rural schools but it has a negative net effect as well. This is not to say that we didn’t have some strong growth areas, like west Lethbridge, but without the announcement of a new school soon, we won’t be able to accommodate any further growth.
The announcement of the continuation of the Classroom Improvement Fund (CIF) from last year with the sole target of staffing will assist in supporting schools. Our proposal to the government calls for an increase of 2-3 FTE teaching staff and between 7-10 FTE support staff to assist students with the most complex needs. Last year’s CIF report has been sent into the government as well. The $636,000 of funding was allocated as follows:
- Teachers- $247,143
- Support Staff- $77,077
- PD (Registrations, Travel, etc)- $58,499
- Substitute costs $112,127
- Resources/Technology- $141,430
Last year, were able to leverage these funds very well, especially in supporting our literacy and numeracy priority. Our elementary schools have a great baseline with Fountas & Pinnell materials and our literacy/numeracy interventions are becoming stronger and more effective with this support. With the first continuous improvement plan reviews just around the corner, I’m excited to hear about the great work occurring in our schools in this final year of our 3-Year Education Plan.
We are living in a very different world and unfortunately are experiencing more litigious paranoia. That doesn’t mean however, that new legislation is necessarily bad or risky practices should not be eliminated. And so on September 20th, all staff received an email with your first personal list of Health and Safety Courses required to be completed by December 31st. I have 14 on my to do list and recognize that this is now, just part of a “new professional responsibility.” I believe that health and safety has always been in the forefront for our school division but with the legislation now in effect, it takes on a more compliant priority. October 17th is going to be a big day as well because on that day, cannabis becomes legal. And legal, is how we are going to have to maneuver through it. On Tuesday this week, I’ll be sharing the legal opinion and newest administrative procedure being developed. Not why I became an educator but is now part of our world!
But let’s get back to celebrating the “good” stuff. I was headhunted earlier this September for a superintendent job out of the province. And while there were significant advantages, namely monetary, the bottom line is that I love my job, the people I work with and I know that I’m blessed to be part of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division. Each of you contribute, in your own way, to making the lives of our students and their families better. That’s a blessing and why I am always to proud to call Holy Spirit, home!
Have a great year everyone and God Bless!