CTR CATHOLIC BOARD HIGHLIGHTS
from Board Meeting held on February 25, 2021
BOARD APPROVES THE 2021-2022 CALENDAR
After three months of consultations with each community’s Ward Committee, the Board approved the school calendar for 2021-2022. There are three calendars; one is for most traditional schools, one is for The Centre For Learning @HOME, and the other is for Assumption School in Oyen. The calendars can be found by clicking the button below.
LOCALY DEVELOPED COURSES RENEWED
The Board voted unanimously to renew several Locally Developed courses that are currently taught in the division. The courses that were approved were Calculus, Military Studies, ESL Expository English, Reading, and Advanced Biology.
APPOINTMENT OF RETURNING OFFICER
Although it is seven and a half months away, municipal elections will take place in October. The Board appointed Associate Superintendent Michael Kilcommons to be Returning Officer in the communities where elections are required.
WARD HIGHLIGHT OF THE MONTH
At each Board Meeting, the Trustees select one highlight arising out of the eight Ward Committee meetings we have around the Division every three months. A Ward meeting is attended by trustees, the Superintendent, principals, school council chairs, and parish priests. After hearing reports from all Ward meetings, the Board agreed to highlight items that form a "silver linings of the pandemic" theme.
The first silver lining came from the Strathmore Ward. Trustee Salm (Strathmore) reported that Holy Cross Collegiate had its chapel blessed by Bishop McGrattan. Principal Evans disclosed to the Ward that he was worried the Mass would have low attendance as many of his Grade 12 students were on spares during the time of the Mass. To his satisfaction, not only did the Grade 12’s show up, but many of them came dressed in their formal attire.
There were four additional silver linings identified as a recurring topic of reflection at each of the Wards this month. First, Trustees noted that there was strong satisfaction with parent-teacher interviews via Zoom, mostly because they were more efficient and convenient for parents. Second, Trustees indicated that School Council meetings have had increased attendance via Zoom. Third, Trustees heard principals report that school staff are noting that students appear to be showing more care and compassion for one another in these challenging times. And fourth, Trustees indicated they’ve heard the schools have never been so clean.
WARD COMMITTEE REPORTS
The communities of Canmore, Strathmore, Drumheller, and Oyen hosted a Ward meeting since the January 30 Board meeting. The minutes with more detail are attached to the Board Meeting agenda on our website. The meeting summaries follow.
This Ward includes Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy in Canmore.
Faith: The Confirmation numbers are double what was expected.
Learning: The Ward was excited to hear about the RAP program as it gives students multiple pathways after graduation.
Safe and Caring: The Ward loves the idea of focusing on universal mental health supports as a recovery strategy.
Stewardship: The Ward is pleased that the Board is using COVID funds to replace resources depleted due to COVID.
This Ward includes Sacred Heart Academy and Holy Cross Collegiate in Strathmore.
Faith: Father was very impressed to see four students praying the Rosary on their own in the newly blessed chapel. Bishop McGrattan had blessed the chapel just a few days earlier.
Learning: School Council is hosting three information sessions on the Attachment, Regulation, and Competency philosophy with a focus on “Why Kids React the Way They Do” for the first session.
Safe and Caring: Holy Cross Collegiate was overjoyed to see students who were on their spare show they cared for the school by dressing up and attending the chapel blessing.
Stewardship: The Ward was pleased to see the Division presenting the RAP program by sharing scholarship opportunities.
This Ward includes St. Anthony's School in Drumheller.
Faith: Father continues to support the school using online means such as a Mass from the school chapel over Zoom. During Adoration Father went to every classroom to facilitate Adoration.
Learning: Students appreciated the no-fault exams but the teachers are a little more concerned that they may reduce students’ motivation and preparation.
Safe and Caring: Parent-teacher interviews were highly appreciated by all due to the convenience of Zoom.
Stewardship: The breakfast and lunch program continues to operate without incurring a lot of expenses by using both parent council funds and donations. Support from the Parish and the community (Boston Pizza) has been amazing.
This Ward includes Assumption Roman Catholic School in Oyen.
Faith: The sacraments have been delayed by a year with mutual consent between the parish and the parents, as they would like the sacraments to be delivered in person.
Learning: There will be a focus on math and reading interventions provisions, especially Early Reading Intervention (ERI). Director of Learning, Cheryl Kuemper, recently visited the school and modeled ERI teaching to students for the teachers.
Safe and Caring: The Family School Liaison Worker partnership with The Centre For Learning@HOME is servicing the students with social and emotional needs very well.
Stewardship: Being dependent on Prairie Rose School Division’s calendar development process makes planning challenging, and the Ward requested that administration advocate for Assumption School’s voice to be heard on transportation matters.
ACSTA Director, Trustee de Jong (Brooks) was very pleased to report to the Board the overwhelming response and support GrACE has received throughout the province from the recent ACSTA conducted survey.
CTR Catholic's Board firmly believes the engagement of parents, teachers, administrators, parishes, and other community members is fundamental in maintaining a strong and vibrant publicly-funded Catholic education system in Alberta. CTR Catholic will continue to actively support and endorse GrACE initiatives.
BOARD HOLDS OUT HOPE FOR GRADUATIONS
The Trustees were unanimous in their support of administration’s plans to pursue normal graduations to the fullest extent permitted by Alberta Health Services and the Province of Alberta. The Trustees agreed we should not make promises we cannot keep, which is why principals will present the graduates with a continuum of possibilities, ranging from nearly normal to more remote.
Pandemic regulations will dictate our final decisions, but schools are planning for a host of possibilities along a realistic continuum. As a specific example, we can illustrate the continuum of options we are contemplating for the Commencement part of graduation. Trustees agreed our most appealing option would be to have a full in-person Commencement, including both graduates and guests. In the likely event that restrictions still prohibit such gatherings, school back-up plans might be for a more intimate Commencement for staff and students that is live streamed to guests. The final alternative would be the most restrictive, such as a drive-by or Zoom Commencement similar to what we experienced last year.
Similar alternatives are being generated for all aspects of graduation, and the Board prays things improve enough to return to something more closely resembling normality.
FAITH DAYS A SUCCESS
Despite a very non-traditional, community-based format for Faith Days, preliminary feedback suggests that they were well-received. The Board of Trustees learned that although the survey remains open until March 12th, overall satisfaction is currently sitting at 99%.
It is also noteworthy that 97% are currently satisfied with the opportunities to focus on all three pillars of our faith theme taken from scripture at Faith Days: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Teachers and administrators appreciated the local autonomy and their personal encounters with faith.
Trustees were pleased with the results, and those Trustees who attended in person were among the most impressed. While there are many advantages to the community-based events, there are also advantages to gathering as one in a united faith community. The Board and administration will carefully reflect on the format and location of future Faith Days.
BOARD COMMENDS HUMAN RESOURCES FOCUS ON STAFF WELLNESS
Trustee Salm (Strathmore) commended CTR Catholic’s Human Resources Department on how well they are attending to staff needs. The Trustees agreed with Trustee Salm’s two observations. The first is that the high utilization rates of our Alberta School Employees Benefit Plan (ASEBP) demonstrate that the Human Resources Department is promoting these programs well. In fact, a statistical analysis by the ASEBP suggests that the uptake of various programs for CTR Catholic’s staff and families is well above the provincial average. Our provider indicates high utilization rates are a sign of solid promotional and communication efforts on the part of CTR Catholic. Many of the supports offered through ASEBP are offered online and over the phone, ensuring that members of all of our communities can pursue supports such as counseling, mental health, financial assistance, and medical issues.
Trustee Salm’s second reflection pertained to the effectiveness of CTR Catholic’s transfer policy. The January invitation for teachers to indicate their desire to move to another school in our division was accessed by many, with dozens of staff exploring the possibility of a fresh start at another school. CTR Catholic commits significant resources to the development and support of our teachers, and an opportunity to keep them within the division is in the best interest of all. It was also noted that early transfers provides a chance not only for administrators to react proactively to staffing changes, but also for our Human Resources Department to find the very best candidates to replace those who are able to pursue their interests.
FRONT LINE WORKERS RECEIVE COMPENSATION
The Board embraced the recent provincial announcement to financially compensate a host of critical workers in our schools. The Trustees were gratified to hear that about 50% of CTR Catholic’s support staff should be eligible for the grant. The Trustees were even more pleased that divisional administration advocated for a host of employee groups to join in the class recognized as critical workers. Administration was successful in making a case for some, but not all, of the employee groups to be included in this program.
FOUR YEAR EDUCATION PLAN
Vice Chair Keenan (Foothills County) declared her support for the division’s Four Year Education Plan. Based broadly on Dr. Morrison’s SEA to SEE commentary, the plan identifies that early in the pandemic schools around the entire province were obligated to Simplify, Exempt, and Accommodate (SEA). These steps were warranted. Ideally, as we come out of the pandemic and return to normal, we need to move back to a focus on Standards, Expectations, and Excellence (SEE).
The reality is that everything is on the SEA to SEE continuum and will be influenced at any given time by our need to focus on recovery versus our ability to move forward. The metaphor Dr. Morrison provided is, “How full are our gas tanks?” If they are empty, we need to focus on recovery. Once they get fuller, we can focus on improvement.
The Four Year Education Plan incorporates three general themes. First is that of recovery. There must be recognition that both staff and students will require time to recover losses in not only learning, but also the social and emotional effects of the pandemic. In response, the division will continue to focus on #Relationships and our anti-racism initiatives, while adding a focus on developing universal mental health supports for students. The concept of universal supports is one that the Board especially embraced, as it was Trustee Domingo (Canmore) who advocated months ago for a plan to address the needs of all.
The second theme is that of improvement. As we are able, we must move to gain some traction towards normality in life. Part of the solution for both staff and students might lie in the chance for staff to explore best practices for improvement in learning. In many respects, students in CTR Catholic's schools have not suffered tremendous loss in learning because of a robust plan for live streaming and academic support. However, it would be naïve to suggest there are no challenges. CTR Catholic’s improvement goals will largely focus on giving teams of teachers the time and resources they need to put solid educational theories into practice.
The third theme is that of maintenance for a host of valuable initiatives that will remain important, yet receive less of a focus in terms of CTR Catholic’s time, attention, and professional development while in the recovery stage. Examples of maintenance initiatives are literacy, ELL, and French language programming.
Vice Chair Keenan (Foothills County) expressed that she was impressed by the plan, which in itself should create a sense of calm.
ALBERTA CATHOLIC SCHOOL TRUSTEES' ASSOCIATION (ACSTA) DIRECTOR'S REPORT
Trustee de Jong (Brooks) reported that at the most recent meeting, the ACSTA advocated for vaccinations of teachers as front-line workers, and shared work to date on the creation of the Five Marks of an Excellent Trustee. Trustee de Jong (Brooks) shared that there was positive feedback on provincial GrACE and the work of Executive Director Bonnie Annicchiarico. He also shared that their spiritual Advisor, Bishop McGrattan expressed his pleasure with the work of the group.
ALBERTA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION (ASBA) ZONE 5 REPORT
Vice Chair Keenan (Foothills County) attended the meeting on February 5th, and had several highlights to share. After the budget is announced later this month, the Minister of Education has expressed an interest in attending a future ASBA meeting. Also, ASBA acknowledged the work of Trustee Van Donzel (High River), who has been an active and relentless advocate for second languages at the provincial level.
ALBERTA SCHOOL COUNCIL ASSOCIATION (ASCA)
The Trustees for CTR Catholic reviewed a survey of resolutions that will be proposed by ASCA.
The Board believes in the voice of parents and strongly supports the School Councils within our schools. The Trustees reviewed 11 resolutions that will be presented at ASCA’s spring general meeting. The Board developed recommendations about whether to support each resolution and will pass these recommendations onto the School Councils for their consideration.
As we enter Lent and the relaxing of the COVID-19 restrictions, we are given an opportunity to experience Lent with a new perspective. We have all spent the past year dealing with the pandemic and world issues that have caused stress to our daily lives. We have a new appreciation for everything we have. Now we need to take time and appreciate that our faith has helped us through.
During the holy season of Lent, we are called to focus on the three pillars to grow in faith: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Prayer is our time to talk directly to God. As we journey through Lent, make time to pray as this increases your connection with God and will help you strengthen your faith. There is a great article from the Catholic Exchange called “15 Steps to Discovering the Power of Prayer” written by Fr. Ed Broom. He offers great insight on how to focus your prayers to make them more meaningful.
Fasting typically is the removal of food. But we can go look beyond that to other comforts or entertainment. I read an article from the Catholic News Agency called “What’s the Point of Fasting, Anyway?” by Matt Hadro where fasting is described as “deprivation of the good, in order to make a decision for the greater good”.
Almsgiving is typically viewed as giving money, food, or goods. The ability to help others allows us to recognize that we can positively affect someone’s life. This compassion we show to others demonstrates our understanding of how much God has given us.
As we progress through Lent, I hope that focusing on these three pillars will be beneficial.
Trustee biographies can be viewed by clicking the button below.
NEXT BOARD MEETING DATE
The next Board meeting will take place on Saturday, March 27, 2021, 10:00 a.m., at 1 McRae Street, Okotoks, AB.
Board of Trustees