CTR CATHOLIC BOARD HIGHLIGHTS
from Board Meeting held on September 26, 2020
ST. LUKE'S / CATHOLIC EDUCATION CENTRE
Associate Superintendent Kilcommons shared an update on the progress of the construction of the Okotoks Arts and Learning Campus. Christ The Redeemer (CTR) Catholic Schools entered into a partnership with the Town of Okotoks to build a three-story building, which will include space for St. Luke’s Outreach Centre and The Catholic Education Centre, with the major tenant being Okotoks’ new library. The Trustees were happy to hear that the project remains on schedule and on budget. CTR’s portion of the investment was fully funded through CTR’s accumulated capital reserves and will eliminate lease payments at the current St. Luke’s and Catholic Education Centre facilities.
BOARD UPDATED ON HIGH RIVER SCHOOL SITE
Trustee Van Donzel (High River) instigated a meeting with the Town of High River regarding a new school site. Associate Superintendent Kilcommons assisted her in this endeavour and the two reported to the Board. The Board was reminded that CTR needs a site before the Ministry will award a school, and both the existing schools are approaching capacity. The discussions between CTR and the Town of High River were productive, but the site identified was smaller than CTR would like, so options to expand it are under consideration. Trustees were reminded that an agreement on land utilization is still just a step in the process, as making a case for a new school can also be a very lengthy process.
CTR'S BOARD SUPPORTS RECOGNIZING THE COUNCIL OF ALBERTA SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS IN LEGISLATION
THREE-YEAR EDUCATION PLAN
WARD COMMITTEE REPORTS
OKOTOKS WARD II:
This Ward includes The Centre for Learning@HOME and St. Luke's Outreach, Okotoks.
Faith: Both priests from Okotoks have already been to St. Luke’s Outreach Centre.
Learning: The Centre for Learning@HOME’s move to Canvas is in its 3rd year and it is much more user friendly. It is fortunate that we have this simpler interface with all of our new students.
Safe and Caring: The Centre for Learning@HOME held specialized information assemblies for CTR families moving to The Centre for Learning@HOME. There were over 210 families and more students who attended.
Stewardship: The Centre for Learning@HOME’s enrolment is unprecedented and so is St. Luke’s Outreach Centre.
HIGH RIVER WARD:
This Ward includes Holy Spirit Academy, Notre Dame Collegiate, and St. Luke's Outreach, High River.
Faith: In cooperation with Fr. Mariusz, the schools are preparing students for the Sacraments. On another note, Notre Dame Collegiate has combined Language Arts and Religion to infuse more religious literature and content into the Language Arts program.
Learning: All three High River schools are fully piloting live streaming.
Safe and Caring: Holy Spirit Academy held an open house for cohorts of 50 parents, and it established a welcoming tone and calmed nerves. The Notre Dame Collegiate staff mantra for re-entry is all about wellness and relationships: “Relationship before rigor, Grace before grades, Patience before programs, and Love before lessons.
Stewardship: High River schools experienced the greatest enrollment decline in CTR. It was largely impacted by families who experienced the Cargill outbreak and are fearful of returning.
This Ward includes Holy Family Academy, Christ The King Academy, St. Joseph's Collegiate, and St. Luke's Outreach, Brooks.
Faith: The Ward suggests we forgo the second collection on Catholic Education Sunday as education has received additional funding, while the parishes are down by 20% in giving. We might further encourage parishioners connected to Catholic education to increase their level of giving to the parish on Catholic Education Sunday.
Learning: St. Joseph's Collegiate is infusing anti-racism content across all areas of the curriculum as applicable.
Safe and Caring: The Brooks schools appreciated the calmness of the staggered start and many would like to continue this start-up in future years.
Stewardship: The Brooks schools had the strongest return to school rates in the province.
BOARD STANDING COMMITTEES
EMERGENT ISSUES FEEDBACK COMMITTEE
The Emergent Issues Feedback Committee meets on short notice when pressing issues arise that need a Board response before the next scheduled Board Meeting. There were three such meetings during the summer months::
- July 27: Topic: Transportation Survey. The committee met to develop responses to a transportation survey from ASBA. Trustee Keenan (Foothills County) reported that CTR’s response was submitted on time.
- July 31: Topic: CTR’s Re-entry Plan. Senior administration gave trustees a presentation on CTR’s draft re-entry plan. Board Chair Schreiber (Okotoks) reported that the plans for CTR appeared to be comprehensive and safe, and trustees were pleased to have been engaged in the discussion.
- August 21: Topic: CTR’s Re-entry Plan. Senior administration gave trustees a presentation on CTR’s final re-entry Plan. Board Chair Schreiber (Okotoks) reported that the plan was thoughtful and appeared to meet all expectations.
GRATEFUL ADVOICATES FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION (GrACE) CTR COMMITTEE
The local chapter of GrACE met on September 14. Trustee Keenan (Foothills County) reported that there had been a significant slow-down of activities due to COVID, but the group was actively pursuing efforts for this fall. There is a GrACE workshop in development to engage teachers in advocacy for Catholic education. There is also a potential panel discussion in development that will include several of our local priests. The group is looking forward to plans coming forth from the provincial GrACE group.
BOARD VOTES TO CANCEL INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL IN 2020/2021
There were two international field trips previously planned and scheduled for Easter break 2021. Given the current travel advisories and daily changes in public health information being released, the Board made the decision to cancel all trips for 2020/2021. The decision was informed and influenced by our insurance provider, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, and Canada’s Chief Medical Officer.
BOARD APPROVES CALENDAR CHANGE TO MODIFY ASSUMPTION SCHOOL'S (OYEN) CALENDAR
ALBERTA CATHOLIC SCHOOL TRUSTEES' ASSOCIATION (ACSTA) DIRECTOR'S REPORT
Trustee De Jong (Brooks) reported that Dr. Eugenia Pagnotta-Kowalczyk has been appointed as the new Executive Director of ACSTA. The ACSTA Annual General Meeting in November will be virtual, and two spring conferences, S.P.I.C.E. and Blueprints, will be also be virtual. Father Richard Leonard from Australia will be speaking and leading the two conferences online. The Executive of the ACSTA also approved a third year of funding to support GrACE Provincial.
Superintendent Morrison reported that CTR had experienced enrolment growth of 11.6%, primarily due to enrollment increases at CTR’s online school, The Centre for Learning@HOME (CFL). The CFL was up 58% with half coming from CTR’s schools and the other half coming from other school divisions. Enrollment at the traditional schools was flat. He was pleased to report that 95% of our students returned to their traditional schools, which Dr. Morrison viewed as a vote of confidence in CTR’s re-entry plans. In addition, enrollment at CTR’s Outreach schools is up by 31%.
Dr. Morrison reported that 150 teachers are live streaming their classes. Live streaming is an option to maintain continuity, particularly when a teacher at home isolating is well enough to teach, or when students are well, but not allowed back in school. Average class sizes in all of our traditional schools are in the 20-student range, and it is highly rare to have individual classes of 30 or more. As an example, only 5 of Holy Trinity’s (Okotoks) 300 classes offered have over 30 students in them. CTR reduced class sizes as students moved to CFL, yet we did not move staff from the schools. We opted to hire new staff, despite the probability administration would have had to ask the Board to approve a large deficit budget, drawing on our reserves to balance. The calculated risk proved to be wise, as the federal grant will cover the cost of the new teachers and the traditional schools did not have to experience staff reduction or class size increases.
Dr. Morrison was congratulatory of Associate Superintendent Moss and Director of Learning Kuemper, for their extensive consultations with CTR’s specialists regarding re-entry. He was also very proud to display the re-entry video put together by Coordinator of Communications Nickerson. A link to the re-entry video is here.
Associate Superintendent Moss addressed the inauguration of CTR’s new Three-Year Faith Plan. The theme is: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The divisional launch of the theme was delivered to teachers during the Catholic Learning Community time on Friday, October 2. Three local priests will present their thoughts on the theme. Each of the priests will address one component of the theme: Father Wilbert – The Way; Father Nathan – The Truth, and Father Troy - The Life.
CTR will ensure we remind all stakeholders that Catholic Education Sunday is on November 8. Usually there is a second collection for Catholic Education at the Catholic Education Sunday Mass, but the Board discussed encouraging stakeholders to increase giving to the church instead. This is because revenues are down by 20% across the Diocese and we need healthy churches to have healthy schools.
Associate Superintendent Moss leads CTR’s COVID re-entry plan. She mentioned that Alberta Health Services continues to be a great resource, and also addressed the many supports that have been put in place for live streaming including dedicated cameras, boundary microphones, teacher tablets, and student Chromebooks. She also indicated there has been technology support for families via a dedicated toll-free number. Approximately 150 teachers from across the division have volunteered to pilot live streaming classes, offering in-class instruction to students in class, while live streaming to students isolating or ill at home. Live streaming is proving to greatly enhance the continuity of instruction when students and staff are self-isolating.
Associate Superintendent Moss and Director of Learning Kuemper met with specialist teachers in the spring, summer, and fall. The purpose was to collaboratively develop guidelines to continue offering specialty programs such as Kindergarten, Band, Music, Physical Education, Construction, Drama, Art, and Foods. One of several unexpected benefits was the collaboration and community building resulting from the meetings.
CTR’s Student Services Department organized a Kindergarten Screening Meeting for CTR’s Lead Teachers on September 22. Kindergarten screening usually occurs in May and June but has been delayed until now due to COVID. After new organizational plans were announced by the province in the spring, supports are coming into place between Alberta Health Services and neighboring school divisions.
Director of Catholic Education Fagan is planning CTR’s annual division wide adoration. She is also leading a divisional anti-racism committee. To this end, CTR is collaborating with St. Mary’s University, and St. Mary’s will be delivering a course for teachers about how to talk with students about sensitive issues such as racism, discrimination, and other forms of oppression.
Associate Superintendent Behm shared that the recent New Teacher Orientation was an unqualified success. Ninety two percent of survey responses indicated the information shared was extremely helpful. He also indicated that CTR maintained support staff numbers throughout the traditional schools, while reducing one more position from our central office. Four support staff members were added at The Centre for Learning@HOME, and custodians were hired for several schools. CTR awarded 69 contracts. 35 employees were already with CTR and rehired, and 34 employees were new to the system. The vast majority were teaching staff.
Associate Superintendent Behm has been absorbed in creating absence management guidelines to respond to COVID. He reported that there is a shortage of substitute teachers, partly because we have hired some of our pool, and also because some substitute teachers have withdrawn from service due to COVID. In many schools we now have non-certificated classroom supervisors, and his team is working to complement those lists, including mass training by Zoom for existing educational assistants. In the first month we have already had nine schools with experiences of ‘unable to fill’ substitute positions.
Associate Superintendent Kilcommons reminded the group that the annual budget for 2020-2021 was set in May, based on enrolment projections and the provinces new funding model. Conceivably it was not supposed to change during the current year, but there will be modifications to related directly to COVID. The province may do a recount of online education students because of the many students opting to learn from home, and this would positively impact CTR’s budget, as extra staff were hired in our online school to manage the substantial enrolment increase. Along with every school division in Alberta, CTR was the grateful recipient of a portion of the quarter billion dollar federal grant to offset COVID challenges. CTR committed our entire $3.18 million to increased staffing costs, increased substitute teacher costs, enhanced cleaning and supplies, and technology to support live streaming.
Associate Superintendent Kilcommons also reported that transportation is facing driver shortages due to the pandemic. There is a shortage of qualified drivers, and we have already been faced with a lack of coverage when a driver is unavailable to drive.
In the middle of July the Minister of Education signed off on an official Ministerial Order (No. 025) recognizing the successful application to form historical school sites in the Oyen region, to be added to CTR, and recognized as being formal boundaries of Catholic education. This formation process was the culmination of a lengthy petitioning and voting process led by local Catholic electors.
Well, we made it to the end of September. Great job everyone! I know it is been challenging but you did it. Congratulations and many thanks for all your hard work.
Thinking back to the beginning of September, our emotions were everywhere. There were so many uncertainties of what back to school would look like. The first days came and went. We are now looking forward to October and all the wonders it will bring. We know as we continue to move forward, there will still be uncertainties, questions, and some fear. Please do not be discouraged. Jesus knows our storms and has our storms in mind. He sees us all, comes to us all. “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
Be mindful of the gifts and abilities you have been blessed with and use them. Keep moving, take time to reflect and be kind to yourself and others. We have found that we are adaptable and can accept the changes and uncertainties that each day brings. This will make us wiser, stronger, and more resilient.
Now I know it is very unrealistic to think that every day is going to be awesome--but those are the days when we need to dig deep and ask for help, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, as some may think, but rather a sign of strength. Instead of letting fear take over, it says you are strong enough to admit you do not have all the answers. We can do so much more together than alone. Focus on the things that you can control and seek joy wherever and whenever you can. There is not enough room in your heart for both worry and faith. Let the worry come, and then choose faith. Take things one day at a time and remember whatever you got to offer today, is more than enough.
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 Wednesday, October 21, 2020, 10:00 a.m., at 1 McRae Street, Okotoks, AB.
Board of Trustees