CTR CATHOLIC BOARD HIGHLIGHTS
from Board Meeting held on October 21, 2020
BOARD REQUESTS FOCUS ON REGISTERED APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM (RAP)
RAP is a provincial program that has been supported and promoted by many of our Trustees, but it has not been utilized to its fullest extent in CTR schools. Despite efforts by our schools to promote the program, there does not appear to be significant student interest in most of our schools. Staff surveys revealed that the promotion of RAP is hampered by the lack of willing suitable employers, students’ interest, and student scheduling.
Senior Administration identified the challenges and is attempting to increase RAP enrolment as per the Board’s direction. Trustee Van Donzel (High River) is one of the most vocal advocates of the program, because it is a solid career pathway for both students and industry. Trustee Keenan (Foothills County) asserted that student interest and motivation is the primary factor in terms of RAP enrollment, and it can be difficult to influence students’ post-secondary plans and career aspirations. Trustee de Jong (Brooks), another strong promoter of RAP, suggested that CTR learn from divisions that are successfully securing RAP placements. Trustee Domingo (Canmore) suggested CTR might also look at promoting RAP in the year following high school graduation, so that milestone is out of the way. Trustee Salm (Strathmore) liked the idea of promoting RAP to both parents and students in an effort to create greater awareness. Trustee Chung (Drumheller) suggested CTR promote RAP with local employers as a preliminary step.
Dr. Morrison stated that despite the many challenges, CTR will pursue RAP enthusiastically, as successful enrolment for even a small number of students will validate the effort. As a result of the Board’s interest and dedication to this topic, our school counselors are rejuvenating their own efforts to be informed about RAP, and Dr. Morrison will be presenting to them at a meeting on this topic in November.
THIS CATHOLIC EDUCATION SUNDAY, THE BOARD ENCOURAGES GIVING TO SUPPORTER'S LOCAL CATHOLIC CHURCH
Catholic Education Sunday is on November 8. In recent years, there has been a second collection during the Catholic Education Sunday masses, with the proceeds distributed to our schools. CTR’s schools then spent these funds on faith initiatives. However, the pandemic has hit parishes’ finances hard. Thus, the Trustees agreed with the Bishop that a second collection should not be taken for our schools, as they have recently received increased federal pandemic funding and also have provincial safety nets. Instead, trustees passed a motion encouraging Catholic education stakeholders to consider making a donation to their local Catholic church on Catholic Education Sunday. The Board passed this motion because healthy Catholic schools need support from healthy Catholic parishes. The parishes need funds to maintain their full range of services, and our schools rely on many of these services.
THREE YEAR EDUCATION PLAN
Dr. Scott Morrison (Superintendent) offered the Trustees a preview of the draft Annual Education Results Report (AERR), which is to be approved at the November 2020 Board Meeting. The AERR will be shared with stakeholders after it is approved. In the spring, a new Four-Year Education Plan will be developed and submitted to the Board for approval.
WARD COMMITTEE REPORTS
OKOTOKS WARD I:
This Ward includes St. Mary's School, St. John Paul II Collegiate, École Good Shepherd School, Holy Trinity Academy, Okotoks, and St. Francis of Assisi Academy, De Winton.
Faith: Father Vincent offered to celebrate LIturgies of the Word with classes of students and indicated both priests are committed to visiting our schools one day a week.
Learning: Live streaming and Google Classroom have been effective responses to learning disruptions due to COVID.
Safe and Caring: Principals were very appreciative of the re-entry guidance they received.
Stewardship: Schools were very appreciative of not having staff reductions when they had students move the The Centre for Learning@HOME.
This Ward includes Assumption Roman Catholic School in Oyen.
Faith: School Council presented crosses to families leaving the school after Grade 6.
Learning: The staff is experimenting with live streaming cameras (Elmo).
Safe and Caring: The school was able to secure an arts program for social-emotional needs.
Stewardship: The school has formed a fundraising society.
BOARD STANDING COMMITTEES
The Faith Committee met on September 24. Participants reviewed the new Three-Year Faith Plan. The Bishop and priests meeting was changed from an in-person meeting to a Zoom meeting, and took place on Thursday, October 22. Lindsay Fagan (Director of Catholic Education) told the group that the Faith Retreat is being postponed until the spring. She also shared that she is focusing on an anti-racism initiative for the division.
The Audit Committee met on October 7 to review the process for the audit plan for CTR. Every year the division is obligated to have a third party independent auditor examine its financial records. Catalyst is a Calgary company that currently holds the contract to manage this significant task, and they will share their findings with the Board in late November. Trustee Chung (Drumheller) was nominated to continue as Chair of the Audit Committee.
ALBERTA CATHOLIC SCHOOL TRUSTEES' ASSOCIATION (ACSTA) DIRECTOR'S REPORT
Trustee de Jong (Brooks) shared a report from the most recent meeting. There was a resolution passed to reduce ACSTA fees, which will represent a decrease in expenditures of approximately $2,000. The ASCTA determined they are in an acceptable financial position and can continue to provide effective supports with slightly less monetary support from the 17 Catholic school divisions in Alberta.
ALBERTA SCHOOL BOARD ASSOCIATION (ASBA) ZONE 5 REPORT
Dr. Scott Morrison (Superintendent) told the Trustees that he and his three associates have initiated Superchats for the new school year. Superchats are conversations between teachers and the Superintendent’s team. This year, the topic of conversation is CTR’s priorities for its next Education Plan, and whether CTR should stop, continue, or start different priorities.
In the midst of COVID-19, the division is tracking absences with extra diligence. There have been two cases of COVID-19 in two of our schools which caused absences of both students and staff, but it appears that so far there has not been a significant disruption to education, because CTR’s teachers have maintained continuity of instruction using live streaming.
Our division maintains a strong relationship with St. Mary’s University in Calgary. The Faculty of Education is considering having two meetings a year with the superintendents of the five local Catholic school boards, and this will increase collaboration between the Catholic school divisions and the university.
Some interesting perspectives were shared in a conversation regarding COVID-19 processes. Most specifically, it was considered that in the future practices such as a staggered entry at the beginning of the year, differentiated entry doors, and continued online meetings and PD could be practices that continue even post-COVID-19.
In early September, Dr. Morrison and his senior team had anticipated and modelled different scenarios for positive COVID-19 cases. Planning had suggested that if an elementary class became affected, it would result in absences for the class and one to three teachers. In a high school class, students are typically enrolled with four different cohorts a day. True enough, in Okotoks, our positive case resulted in one class of 21 students and two teachers self-isolating. In contrast, in Brooks, one positive case prompted 115 students and 7 adults to educate from home. On a very positive note, modelling and planning well in advance meant that the transition to live streaming was rapid, and there was very little disruption to education. The scenario created extra work for teachers and students, but it was gratifying to see it work so well. In the Brooks case, several substitute teachers from Okotoks agreed to move to Brooks for over a week to respond to the shortage of substitute teachers in that community.
Dr. Morrison offered praise for both Kelly Ehalt and Cindy Freimark. Mr. Ehalt has been the Principal of Christ The King Academy in Brooks since its inception. He has accepted a position as Assistant Superintendent in East Central Catholic School Division in Wainwright. Mrs. Freimark, a veteran teacher and current Vice-Principal, will now assume the principalship.
Vincent Behm (Associate Superintendent) acknowledged the service of Mrs. Lauren Peats, who has been a valued member of the Human Resources (HR) team for years. Upon her retirement in November, the team will miss her very much, but they are looking forward to the inclusion of Mr. Clarence Pereira as her replacement.
Mr. Behm expanded on the tracking of absences that Dr. Morrison had mentioned, but spoke specifically to the staff impact. Absences among support staff are up considerably, but to date, the teacher absence rate is up only slightly. Thankfully the division has not been substantially affected thus far this year.
Mr. Behm and his HR team have prepared extensive information for staff who are contemplating retirement. Many supports are shared for planning. The division has many free resources available. Planning well in advance not only benefits the individual, but also the division, as we have greater success with internal transfers and hiring new teachers from within when we all have an opportunity to prepare.
On a less positive note, Mr. Behm confirmed that CTR is seeing a shortage of substitute teachers in our communities. Approximately 5% of teachers’ calls for subs result in a failure to fill situation, which indicates that no substitute teacher is available for a teacher absence. The HR team has trained non-certificated classroom supervisors around the division. They are trained to supervise a class, and are called upon when substitute teachers are not available.
The team is also working with the re-entry team from curriculum to ensure safe plans are in place for parent–teacher interviews in November. There will continue to be safety measures in place for face-to-face interviews, and online interviews will be accommodated upon request.
Michael Kilcommons (Associate Superintendent) had three items to share about future considerations and plans.
In the last two years, CTR was one of 43 school divisions that saw tremendous increases in insurance rates, and market conditions suggest the possibility of more in the future. In the case of CTR, it relates to the fact that we replaced two schools after the High River floods in 2013, and are considered a high risk client. The division is pursuing new rates through a consortium called Alberta Risk Managed Insurance Consortium, in an attempt to manage division funds most effectively.
Next year, on October 18, 2021, municipal elections will once again take place, consistent with our opportunities to elect new Catholic school trustees. The province has announced that nominations will be accepted earlier than ever before. As Returning Officer for the division, Mr. Kilcommons will be accepting nominations as early as January 1, 2021, for potential future elections.
The division budget was set in May, according to the provinces funding manual and processes. Many variables have come into play since then, including a federal grant to offset some COVID-19 costs, large enrolment increases, especially in our online school, and many expenditures such as increased staffing needs at the same online school, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and anticipated expenses for substitute teachers. Mr. Kilcommons said that the Finance Department is engaged in its annual year end accounting, and working with auditors to prepare financial statements for the past year, as well as finalize planning for the current year. Reports will be shared with the Trustees in late November, and then with the public shortly thereafter.
Mariette Moss (Associate Superintendent) is responsible for CTR’s reentry plan. She commented that the division is increasing the number of remote meetings. The direction stems from enhanced guidance from Alberta Health Services which addressed the number of spreader events, and the need for schools to ensure they avoid situations where staff meet in cohorts. This includes many important events such as the annual Bishop’s lunch, school council meetings, and most of the division's professional development events, such as those for faith and literacy. The division is continuing with intensified effort to have meetings for specialist groups such as band teachers and counselors.
Mrs. Moss, Cheryl Kuemper (Director of Learning), and Cindy Nickerson (Coordinator of Communications) worked closely with Mr. Behm to respond to the two COVID-19 cases. Mrs. Moss indicated that the École Good Shepherd School situation went very well. The case at St. Joseph’s Collegiate in Brooks also went well, but was more complex because students are generally involved in four cohorts. She offered special praise to the two principals and their staffs who managed the situation incredibly well and maintained educational continuity through the use of live streaming.
Mrs. Moss shared that 150 teachers volunteered to pilot live streaming. Live streaming is the division’s response to when student and staff need to self-isolate due to COVID. The experience of these 150 teachers and their students increased CTR’s confidence in the use of live streaming to respond to disruptions.
Mrs. Moss shared the division’s plans to promote Catholic Education Sunday. Online posts, posters, and a video will promote action on behalf of all stakeholders, including a special collection to support local parishes. Director of Catholic Education, Lindsay Fagan, will be introducing a Novena prayer for the nine days preceding Catholic Education Sunday. CTR will also be distributing the Bishop’s annual letter, given that some people may not have access to it through their parish.
Mrs. Moss also emphasized the works of the anti-racism discrimination working group. The representative group of volunteers will be developing best practice and professional development for our entire staff around how to talk about racism and discrimination with students. To this end, CTR is working with St. Mary’s University that has developed a workshop for our teachers about talking to students about racism and discrimination.
BOARD IS REVIEWING CTR'S TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT
Every year our division conducts a review of one program to determine effectiveness and efficacy. This year the transportation system is up for review. The Board will hire a third-party consultant through the Alberta School Board’s Association to conduct the review.
MAJOR CAPITAL PROJECT REVIEW AND IMR UPDATE
Mr. David Lunn (Director of Facilities), shared four Infrastructure and Maintenance Renewal (IMR) plans. IMR are funds allocated by the province to maintain buildings as they age. Our annual allotment is approximately $2 million most years. Mr. Lunn had four categories to report on, because in addition to the 2019-20 allocation which has recently closed, and the plans for the current 2020-21 season, there were also two special initiatives announced by the government in the last six months. A building stimulus fund in May 2020 gave us an extra $2.6 million in resources to address building maintenance, and the division is also in the planning stages for another source that we anticipate in the spring of 2021.
Mr. Lunn presented four spreadsheets identifying the two that have been managed in the last year, and he presented plans for the other two spreadsheets for this year and the future. School principals are consulted each year to share their requests, and senior administration and trustees are always kept abreast of requests, so that the division can ensure that all of their buildings are maintained appropriately.
Mr. Lunn ran through an extensive list of repairs and enhancements in every community, ranging from installing or repairing LED lights, flooring, furnaces, security features, roofs, plumbing fixtures, parking lots, and flow meters. All of the projects specific to each school and community will be shared with schools through administrators.
Crisis Survival Tools
Trustee Michelle Rude-Volk (Oyen), wrote encouraging words to our teachers and CTR community in the September Board Highlights. She inspired me to do more research and find ways in which we can cope in a crisis situation. The writings from Margie Warrell impressed me and I quote: "Boats don’t sink from the water around them. They sink from the water that gets in them." (Warrel, 2020)
Margie Warrell offers 7 points to help your boat stay dry.
- Change up your scenery. When you shift your physical space, it can shift your emotional space. Take yourself somewhere for a change of scenery. Ideally among mother nature. There’s nothing like a dose of nature to refuel a weary spirit and put life back into perspective.
- Strategically disengage with ‘sacred rituals’. Resilience isn’t what you have, it’s what you do. The more pressure you’re under to deliver, the more deliberate you must be to strategically disengage so that you can re-engage more effectively. As Catholics we engage in adoration, meditation, and prayer. These activities calm your mind, recharge your spirit, ‘control the controllables, and re-prioritize your schedule'.
- Stand guard against energy drainers. Emotions are contagious. Given the levels of anxiety and negativity many feel right now, you must be extra diligent in setting firm boundaries on whatever can pull you down, such as the news, social media, and people who complain.There is something liberating and life-giving about sparing oneself from the constant comparisons and complaints.
- Make plans for your future, but write them in pencil. “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.” 2020 has been ripe with opportunities to practice flexibility as we’ve been forced to pivot plans on a dime. Research shows that people are happier when they have something, anything, to look forward to. Likewise, being decisive amid the uncertainty is empowering as it moves you forward and asserts that you’re at the helm in your life. So, don’t let all the uncertainty keep you from making plans - just don’t get too attached to how things should unfold.
- Give yourself permission to not feel fabulous. Personally we need negative emotions to flourish. Yet in our culture of toxic positivity, there’s a lot of pressure to feel like we’re supposed to be positive all the time. Not so. It's okay to not be okay. Give yourself space to feel and acknowledge how you’re feeling without over identifying with your emotions. After all, who you are is not your emotions.
- Speak powerfully by being intentional with your language. If you’re constantly talking about how stressful your life is, you’ll just make yourself more stressed. Your words create your reality. If you describe a situation as a ‘nightmare’ or yourself as a ‘disaster’ and that will be your experience. If you describe the same situation as challenging or interesting and yourself as stretched but learning, you’ll have a very different experience.
- Keep reminding yourself that ‘you’ve got this! There is no such thing as stress; just people having stressful thoughts. The more uncertainty ahead, the more stress-filled thoughts people tend to have and the less rational they act. It’s not the water around the boat that sinks it! It’s not the outer conditions of your life that determine your state of mind or your future ahead. It’s the internal conditions.
If you feel like you’ve been stretched too thin, for too long, these were a few suggestions for rising above the waves of this stormy time and weather the pressures better so you can emerge better off and keep your boat dry.
Your faith will provide a lifeline for you!
Warrel M. (2020). COVID burnout: Seven ways to reset when you've hit the wall. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2020/09/30/covid-burnout-seven-ways-to-reset-when-youve-hit-the-wall/?sh=158ea19b377f.
Remember that Trustee biographies are available on CTR’s website at: http://www.redeemer.ab.ca/Trustees.php.
NEXT BOARD MEETING DATE
The next Board meeting will take place on Saturday, November 28, 2020, 10:00 a.m., at 1 McRae Street, Okotoks, AB.
Board of Trustees