Friday, December 10, 2010
By Margaret Chegwin
Every meeting of the Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools’ Board begins with a presentation of one of the really good, positive things happening within the system. At the November meeting, Mrs. Sandra Wilson, Vice Principal of C.B.McMurdo School, informed the Board about the $20,000.00 grant which the school has received from the Alberta Community Initiatives Program, and the One-to-One Laptop initiative which the grant funds for the school. The program has a double focus. Within the school, it will expand the use of laptops into the elementary grades. Children today are accustomed to using electronic technology for fun and communication, and tend to be more engaged and therefore learn better when using technology as a learning tool. The other aspect of the program will focus on parent and community technology skills and use by providing opportunities for parent and community learning through sessions on topics such as basic computer and internet skills, texting, and online safety. Improved communication between school and home will also result. The school researched and applied for the grant on its own, and is commended for taking this initiative.
At the Board Organizational Meeting, all trustees took the official “Oath of Office” and signed it before commencing their work on the Board. New trustees are Stan Harsch for the School District Division 1 (includes County Division 1, County Division 2, and the portion of County Division 3 east of Queen Elizabeth II Highway), and Ms Shauna Bruno representing students from the Maskwacis Cree Nation, the Four Bands. Deanna Specht was elected Board Chair, and Ed Zacharko was elected Vice Chair. The calendar for Board meetings was set for the remainder of this school year, and appointments were made to the 19 Ad Hoc Committees, four of which are committees within the school system, and the rest Board representation to other boards or organizations.
Information from the FRENCH IMMERSION AD HOC COMMITTEE was discussed, and it was decided that two parallel committees need to address the question of the feasibility, viability and sustainability of the French Immersion program, one to consider the existing K – 9 program and one to consider expansion into a K – 12 program.
The AUDITORS’ REPORT was presented by JDP Wasserman & Associates. It was thorough and satisfactory.
The BUDGET REPORT for the Year Ending August 31, 2011, was presented and accepted. It was on July 7, 2010 that the Honorable Dave Hancock, Minister of Education, announced that school boards would receive a 2.92% increase in funding to cover the provincially negotiated 2.92% increase in teacher salaries. Therefore, it was necessary for the new board to rework the budget, taking into account actual September student enrolments. As Superintendent Terry Pearson noted, there are strains at every level and balancing the budget (as required by law) is like moving checkers on a checker board.
There are unique strains for rural school districts such as Wetaskiwin where the student population is dropping in outlying areas. The district has more than 1000 fewer students today than it had in 1995. With funding provided per student with inadequate recognition of distances and travel times, the strain keeps increasing.
The THREE YEAR STRATEGIC EDUCATION PLAN & ANNUAL RESULTS REPORT was presented and approved. These documents are available to the public on the website www.wrps.ab.ca as well as through individual schools or the Division Office on request. Although the division struggles with low funding levels and above average enrolment of special needs students, student performance on Provincial Achievement Testing and on Provincial Diploma Exams indicate that the delivery of high quality education at all levels.
The November WRPS Board meeting was unusually long because the Board took the time to adequately examine and discuss each of these major documents. The discussion reveals a true commitment by every Board member to remain focused upon providing the best educational experience possible for every child in the jurisdiction.