At a recent Board Meeting, Associate Superintendent, Dr. Dianne McConnell, had a chance to deliver at report to the Board of Trustees updating the Division’s Education Plan and how it’s brought to life in our schools. Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter correspondent Marcia Love summarized her report eloquently.
Submitted by Marcia Love:
The Education Plan outlines outcomes, strategies and proposed measures for the school division’s four goals of inclusion, wellness, quality learning and education. The report was presented by Assoc. Supt. Dianne McConnell.
Under culture of wellness, the school division is working to promote mental health through an increase in programs and services.
The navigator position was recently created by a grant from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Foundation and a partnership between Parkland School Division (PSD), RCMP, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), Alberta Parenting for the Future Association (APFA) and the youth centres for Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.
Trustee Elsie Kinsey inquired if recognizing problems in the early stages will be part of this work.
McConnell said it is, and Andrew Baxter — who works with Alberta Health Services Mental Health and speaks at schools across the province about wellness — will be hosting a workshop with PSD to discuss recognizing signs of mental distress.
“We have had him twice, and he’s very happy to work with us… even though there’s a lot of demand for his time,” McConnell said.
Under inclusive education, the implementation of the optional nature-based program for kindergarten students allows students the chance to connect to cross-cultural experiences. Early childhood programming has also been expanded from a district site, with a couple outreach options to programming at a community school.
Under quality learning, McConnell highlighted the division’s outcomes for eliminating the First Nation, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) achievement gap. This included the development of cultural awareness. PSD is working in partnership with Paul First Nation and has received the Building Collaboration and Capacity in Education grant from Alberta Education to hire an Indigenous co-ordinator, Amy Quintal.
There have also been several activities and teachings undertaken to promote cultural awareness, including the blanket exercise that students have been engaged in.
Trustee Dorcas Kilduff asked what the school division has been doing to ensure teachers have the tools to educate students on Truth and Reconciliation.
McConnell said there are many layers to this area. PSD has been working with Paul First Nation and put together an advisory committee, which is now discussing the work they would like to see happening in schools.
There are also several cultural activities that have been incorporated into school calendars.
“There was an opportunity to become involved in a sweat, an opportunity to become involved in medicinal plants and cultural teachings,” McConnell explained. “We have had staff that have become involved in those things to date.”
She reported PSD is exercising strategies such as the Change Summit, which demonstrated schools’ health complexities are tied to the health of the community.
Under universal leadership, she noted teachers have shown a commitment to lifelong learning by visiting other teachers’ classrooms. They can then discover ideas to integrate into their own classrooms.