Let’s Talk About Our Work With Our FNMI Communities (First Nation, Metis, Inuit)
Although the high school success rates of our FNMI students often exceed the provincial average, Parkland School Division does recognize that we have some work to do, working hand in hand with our First Nations communities, to increase our success rates even more. I have supported and encouraged a number of initiatives to help our FNMI students in a variety of areas. We do fully recognize the importance of working closely with our First Nation communities, especially with Paul First Nation, from which we educate a number of students.
- Joint (PSD and Paul First Nation) Advisory Committee: Has undertaken an authentic collaborative process regarding Indigenous education in our region. The Advisory Committee has recognized an urgent need to revitalize the Stoney language through a pilot course held last year. As a result, a grant application to Aboriginal Language Initiatives with Heritage Canada has been submitted.
- A community program called “More Than Tea and Bannock” was offered to Parkland School Division and Paul First Nation educators through the Stony Plain Library.
- An Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program was created in conjunction with Paul First Nation, Ever Active Schools, University of Manitoba and the University of Alberta.
- A partnership with Greystone and Paul First Nation grade 5 classes was set up with a framework developed using elders and community knowledge keepers.
- A highly successful workshop was held in Kananaskis last winter attended by two PSD Trustees. Students from Paul First Nation and Memorial Composite High School students also attended sessions aimed at developing communication and coping skills.
- Status of Women Grant application was submitted to support work with First Nations high school aged girls.
- Aboriginal Parent Link was encouraged to bring their services into more schools on a consistent basis to connect parents and students with the various support agencies offered by the provincial government.
- Blanket Exercise was presented in many school settings. Some were led by middle school aged students. All Trustees have taken part. The exercise gives a true and emotional historic journey of First Nation experiences since the first arrival of Europeans.
These are a few of the ongoing meetings and engagement projects that have been undertaken by the project manager, Chief and Elders and community cultural supports, school administrators and educators. Our work is fluid and ongoing and we are seeing positive results.
Let’s Talk About Student Wellness
We all know that healthy well-adjusted children will have more success in their learning. As one of Parkland School Division’s four goals, PSD is committed to student success and well-being. I have supported and fostered physical literacy(being aware of the multitude of ways to stay active), lifelong health, and well-being, at all school levels.
Following are only a few examples of wellness initiatives in Parkland School Division:
- PSD has a full time Wellness Coordinator to provide programming supports and services aimed at fostering wellness within all PSD schools.
- PSD is highly involved in the Health Summit as part of a group of community organizers, social workers, public health professionals, educators and concerned citizens in the Parkland Tri-Area who are working on what supports are needed and where they can be provided.
- Health Champions: a staff member in each school works, with assistance, to develop an annual action plan to promote healthier lifestyles for our students.
- Play Parkland: works with Canadian Sport 4 Life and Ever Active Schools to build capacity to explore various forms of and opportunities for physical activity in selected schools.
- Grab ‘N’ Go Breakfast Program: works with our business community to support school breakfast programs in schools of highest need.
- Tower Gardens: with help from Toronto Dominion Friends of the Environment Foundation, 27 aeroponic indoor gardening towers enhance learning and support nutritious food cultivation.
- Try-Me-Try-Athlon: held each year in June designed to offer youth the opportunity to experience the sport of triathlon in a positive environment where all are winners.
- Rainbow Connection: created to increase the amount of vegetables and fruit children eat each day (is a resource for parents and students).
- Partnerships with our Business Community: We have received grants from Toronto Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada (children’s mental health grant), donations of food from a variety of supermarkets and much more.
So, it is very evident that Parkland School Division is providing essential supports in the area of Student Wellness and we are expanding our programs to meet student and community needs.
Let’s Talk Transportation Fees
- Parkland School Division (PSD) operates one of the largest regional transportation systems in Alberta. Not only does it provide services to our own children, it also provides bussing to Evergreen Catholic Separate School System, limited bussing to 6 other school divisions, 3 private schools, and other special needs programs. The system contracts 176 busses and travels 16 000 kilometres daily. It also employs 11 transfer site supervisors. PSD provides an excellent bussing transportation service and the Minister of Education has indicated that our system should be a model for the province.
- Funding: By Ministerial Order, all school divisions, including PSD, are required to provide free bussing to any student living in excess of 2.4 kilometres of their designated school.The Alberta government funds this portion. Bussing under 2.4 km, but more than 900 metres, to a student’s designated school has been offered on a full cost recovery basis (via fees) for a number of years now. This portion of the transportation system must be self-sustained. The current School Act describes the process by which a Board may determine fees. Funding from the government for instruction for students cannot be used to subsidize transportation.
- Fees: Bus fees are intended to balance the cost of operating an efficient, effective, service-oriented transportation system. Bus fees for less than 2.4 km are established yearly by the Board and in the 2017-2018 bus fee schedule, there were a couple of changes made: (1) the $50 Transportation Rider Fee was dropped, but $50 was then added across other fee categories within the transportation fee schedule, resulting in a net-zero change in total fees charged, (2) every student (Early Childhood Service – Grade 12) who intends to occupy more than one seat where an additional route was required shall pay an additional ‘seat fee.’ In other words, students who need to be dropped off at a different address in the afternoon are actually tying-up two bus seats, thus the extra charge. If you compare the 2016-2017 fee guide to the 2017-2018 fee schedule, you will see that only those parents requiring the extra ‘seat fee’ saw a significant change in their transportation fees. And if you compare to other school systems offering the same type of service, you will immediately see that we have a very reasonable fee structure.
- The current School Board, senior administration and the Director of Transportation have spent a great deal of time trying to provide an effective and safe system at the lowest cost possible for our parents. Trustees and senior administration continually lobby our provincial government to recognize the escalating costs of running such a large system.
- In addition to the actual student bussing, other transportation services are also offered:
- Student tracking via scanned identification cards for all K – 4 students (hopefully to expand to K – 12 in 2017-2018)
- GPS tracking of buses through the use of REID cards, which are provided to all bus operators
- Website services (psd70.ab.ca) to check bus route status, weather policies, fees, and other general information
- School bus safety programs for K – 7 students in 15 different schools via in-class presentations and school bus evacuation drills
- Implementation of the ‘First Ride’ program prior to the commencement of the school year to teach new students and parents about the school bus system (includes an actual bus ride)
- Safety support services for bus drivers, including route monitoring, safe stop assessments, school bus ‘Roadeo’ (a bus driving skills competition), bus operator safety seminars, and first-aid training
Let’s Talk About Communication
I have supported and encouraged efforts, in Parkland School Division (PSD), to open-up and maintain the lines of communication with our public in all aspects of our organization. I do realize people in our society today have very busy lives and would like to see immediate responses to all inquiries, questions, and concerns. In a system of our size, serving close to 11 000 students, sometimes responses do take time and unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world. However, my goal is to see all requests for information responded to in a reasonable time frame, with immediate responses to emergent items. Significant efforts have been made to increase accessibility of School Board Trustees to the public and include:
- making School Board Trustee contact information available via the PSD website, psd70.ab.ca, including email addresses and phone numbers. Trustees regularly answer parent inquiries and concerns and/or help connect the parent with those that are in a position to offer assistance.
- attending every School Council meeting (usually held monthly) to report on what has happened in PSD in the previous month. This includes sharing information about the operational work in the Division (eg: how transportation fees are arrived at, how new policies affect schools, how new schools are funded, etc).
- attending Chamber of Commerce meetings and Rotary Club meetings.
- attending as many invited school events as possible and various announced funding ceremonies and awards programs (eg: Friends of the Environment with TD Bank).
- attending invited community events (eg: library summer reading awards program, open houses, service club events).
- encouraging the continued development and maintenance of the PSD website.
- Trustees and Senior administration meet twice yearly with our public to seek input that will help us in our educational planning.
Parkland School Division Website: www.psd70.ab.ca
Often, many of the questions from the public can be answered via the up-to-date and interactive PSD website. A wealth of information is offered at a person’s fingertip:
- Attendance areas, employment opportunities, Board Chair and Superintendent messages
- Transportation bus routes, bus pass registration procedures
- Upcoming events, full year calendar, current PSD YouTube endeavors
- Board policies, administrative procedures, union agreements, trustee expense information
- ’Power School’ explanation and portal
- School Division address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address
- Blog entries, including our highly successful 184 Days of Learning, which celebrates learning through submissions (often video clips) from PSD students, teachers, parents and even Trustees centered around the question “What did I learn today?”
I do hope it is clear that communication with me is merely a phone call, e-mail, gmail, website or Twitter away: