Holiday Message - Board Chair
Posted on December 19
Tansi, Edlanat’e, Greetings everyone,
It is hard to believe that the first half of the 2019-2020 school year is coming to a close. Before students and staff take a well-deserved holiday break, I want to take a moment to acknowledge division-wide accomplishments. According to the NSD Accountability Pillar Survey results, the overall high school completion rate increased by 16.5% and efforts made to improve student attendance are also paying off. In 2018-2019, our division-wide attendance increased by 2.2%. These results are only possible with support from staff, parents and community members working together as a team.
As School Board Trustees, we advocate on behalf of the Northland School Division (NSD) on important issues that affect education; and to ensure education is a top priority. Since 2017, the trustees have been participating in active conversations with staff, parents, community members, and education partners to identify issues affecting education in NSD. With support from the Board Advocacy Committee, the trustees approved the following advocacy priorities:
- Northern living allowances are given to all NSD staff similar to Alberta Health Services staff.
- Funding from the provincial government or other sources is secured to improve housing for staff.
- Funding is secured for all capital projects identified in the audit of schools completed by Edmonton Public Schools.
The issues identified in the advocacy priorities impact the ability for NSD to recruit and retain educators and provide 21st-century learning to the fullest extent to students. To address these challenges, we have been lobbying to the provincial government.
In August, Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange visited NSD communities (Conklin Community School, Athabasca Delta Community School and Fort McKay School) to view our schools and housing conditions for staff. While visiting the schools, staff had an opportunity to share concerns.
On November 21st, we met with the Minister of Education once again to address the priorities.
- The Board asked that consideration be given to providing ongoing funding for housing so it doesn’t impact dollars for instruction and school maintenance.
- Shared that NSD is preparing to renovate the interior of three houses in Fort Chipewyan with funds we have acquired from mobile home sales.
- Shared that the NSD Housing Construction Foreman is working with Alberta Infrastructure to develop a new housing plan that addresses the current state of housing and incorporates long-term solutions.
- The Board expressed thanks to Minister LaGrange for approving an upgrade for Athabasca Delta Community School.
- The Board asked that consideration be given to funding all projects as soon as possible. Without the funding, NSD schools listed on the Capital Plan will have to wait even longer for a modernized space to support 21-century learning. On March 22, 2019, the Board approved the 2019-2020 Capital Plan. When the Board made the motion, the trustees strongly support all projects as number one.
Recruitment and Retention
- During the November 21st meeting, the Board explained to Minister LaGrange that far too often, NSD schools start the year without a full staffing complement.
- The Board asked that consideration be given to strategies to help with recruitment and retention. The strategies include:
- An adjustment to the current Northern Living Allowance program to include more staff than just those in the Ft. McMurray area.
- A centrally funded program where educators that stay in a northern/remote community school for a minimum of two years have a percent of student loans forgiven. If educators stay longer, more is forgiven. Another idea is offering a bonus type program. For example, stay two years $x bonus; stay three years $x bonus, etc.
The Public Schools Boards Association of Alberta (PSBAA) recently supported NSD’s advocacy efforts. When PSBAA met with Minister LaGrange on November 28th, they lobbied for changes to the Northern Living Allowance for educators. As a Board, we take our responsibilities very seriously. We hope our lobbying efforts will result in necessary changes to support NSD staff and students.
It has been an exciting school year so far and we can’t wait to celebrate more accomplishments in 2020.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we wish you a Miyo Nipayamiha, Tedhyati Haretiya Watei, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The Northland School Division