Tuesday, September 02, 2008

School District set for a school year with many changes

They’re down a few schools, as well as a few staff members and administrators, but ready or not the school year is set to get underway on September 2nd.

With the budget battles of April, May and June behind them for now, the School District is preparing to deal with the changes to the educational system that were announced as the last school year was winding down.

The Wednesday, August 27th edition of the Daily News featured a review of where the School District is at as they prepare to launch another year of learning for Prince Rupert’s eager students.

The paper also examined the funding situation across the province as well as the thoughts of Edcuation Minister shirley Bond on the ever controversial topic of the Founation Skills Assessment testing.

Local school year could be ‘exciting’
School district 52 prepares to begin a new era in Rupert
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Pages one and two

With a space for Prince Rupert‘s new alternate education school secured and new faces in every school, there is some good news for School District 52 in the upcoming 2008-09 school year.

Superintendent of Schools Eric Mercer said Tuesday that district staff has continued to work hard over the summer to enable smooth transition for students and staff of Kanata and Seal Cove into their new schools.

And based on the feedback the district got from the re-allocation of Pineridge staff and students towards the end of the last school year, mercer said he’s confident that there will be benefits to having schools at higher capacity this year.

“Even with a disaster from the fire in Pineridge and having to move those students to other schools, there were very good reports back,” said Mercer.

“As those schools moved to a higher capacity, the staff reported a lot of enthusiasm and vitality they felt in their change.

“I think it may have caused a lot of staff to seek transfers just for that renewal, so a positive thing actually came out of that tragic event. We’re expecting the same to occur for staff and students going into their new catchment areas.”

Mercer said that the severe shortage of administrative staff in the Lower Mainland has caused the district to lose a number of key administrators such as former Director of Instruction bill Ford and Pineridge Principal Darrell Wright, a problem that was recognized by many at a s Superintendent conference two weeks ago in Kelowna.

“We were able to move a few administrators around, and we just added Lax Keen teacher Barry Eso as the new vice principal at Roosevelt,” said Mercer.

“He’s excited and so are we because he’ll be a great addition to that school and our district admin staff.

“He’s been in the district about 18 years, and he’ll bring a lot of experience to the position.”

Also exciting, according to Mercer, is that the School District recently struck a deal with Robert Stromdahl to take over space in the building next to Seasport on First Avenue East in Cow Bay, where the district’s new alternate education program will be housed.

Mercer said Stromdahl has been great in helping with the necessary improvements to get the site ready for its opening in February.

“That’s going to be happening all through the year, and we’ll be petitioning and surveying the community as to what type of programs and delivery mechanisms they want to have,” said Mercer.

“It’s going to be a key distance learning school for us, and we’ll be rebranding it with a new name since it’s a new beginning for the district, It’s going to be a program we hope to draw students to, and get away from the negative aspect of students being sent there.”

Mercer said staff are already in place for the first semester who will be building programs and setting things up, while students in Grades 8 through 12 in the program will be housed at Prince Rupert Senior Secondary and Charles Hays Secondary School until the site is ready in February.

Mercer said he envisions having as many as 35 students enrolled in the new alternate program, but that he would be happy to have the problem of expansion if even more interest was shown.

Minister addresses education funding
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Pages two and five

Even while many school districts in British Columbia have been forced to cut millions in staff and services for the 2008-09 school year, the government is reporting record educational funding.

Yesterday Education Minister Shirley Bond outlined what Northern B. C. communities can expect in elementary and secondary schools this coming year. One of the most interesting points was that estimated per student funding for this year is $8,078, a $228 increase from last year and the highest amount ever spent on education in the province,

However, Bond did note that 56 of B. C.’s 60 school districts are projecting enrollment declines, with a provincial total of 8,073 less full-time public school students than in 2007-08.

“The trend as far as I can tell, looking at the research I’ve been given, looks like (enrollment decline) doesn’t even level off until 2015,” said Bond.

“We are basically in a decade of decline in terms of the numbers, and I want to point out that British Columbia is not alone in this.

“We have seen jurisdictions all around the world with declining enrollment similar to ours.”

The Minister also reiterated the province’s stance that Foundation Skills Assessment standardized testing are something the majority of British Columbians wan tin public schools, and that the government would continue to support the Grade 4, 7 and 10 testing.

“We think that (testing) is a critical component of putting information in teachers’ and parents’ hands to create those strategies,” said Bond. “We are not going to move away from the expectation that there be Foundation Skills Assessments in the province.

I think what we do need to recognize is this is not about ranking children.

“It’s about taking the data that’s provided through those assessments and others that take place within classrooms everyday to create strategies for success for students.

“I hope we can actually move beyond the debate about the necessity for them and spend more time on how we can effectively use the information.”

The government was proud to announce the investment of an estimated $52 million - $1,014 per student – for Aboriginal education in 2008-09, funding that will be used to support Aboriginal language and culture programs, and other localized Aboriginal education programs.

Bond also revealed that Grad 12 students in B. C. will have the option of taking a new program entitled Fires peoples English 12, an English equivalent course that students can use as a graduation and post-secondary entrance requirement.

“It will have a focus on Aboriginal literature, and our hope is that this will be an incentive for Aboriginal students to go on and take that course which is required for graduation,” said Bond. “I’m also pleased to note that we think many non-Aboriginal students will choose to take that course.

“One of my jobs was to ensure that course was used as equivalency in universities across the province, and the good news is that the majority of our post-secondary institutions have accepted this course. I think it’s a real step forward in how we meet the needs of Aboriginal students in British Columbia.”

Full-day Kindergarten was another topic of interest that Bond addressed, stating that the option would be a massive undertaking for British Columbia, but would likely prove to beneficial in the long-term.

“The return on investment in early learning is significant,” said Bond.

“Some studies say that for every dollar you invest in early learning saves $17 later on. The financial number will be large if we proceed with a program like this, but we think this is an important initiative.

“Parents today want more choice and this is one of things we can do to help that, but it’s also about better preparing children to the K to 12 system.

It’s a big job, it’s a very significant decision for this government to make, and the work is not yet finished.”

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