Monday, February 23, 2015

It was the Best of Times...It was the Worst of Times.

The last thing I want to do is create panic or fear, but I think we need to be thinking about current economic trends and the impact it may have on Bassano. I don't know how many of you have ever been unemployed for a short or extended period, but it's no fun. I used to pride myself that I was only on unemployment for four months when I was 22 years old. So for thirty years, I was fortunate enough to be employed even through college and university. My dad taught all of kids the value of work, he has been a great example for me over my life. At 76, he still makes his way back into the bush behind my parents house and cuts brush, limb trees, plows, hauls, and whatever he can find to keep himself busy. So I have learned a lot from him, and I have tried to model myself after him in terms of working hard. But sometimes life hits you, and hits you hard.

Many people from the area probably don't know that in May 2014, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) cut our funding for our school that we created in 2005. Credenda Virtual High School laid off all its employees on May 16th, 2014, and yet most staff volunteered their services until the end of June with no pay just so students could get their credits. The fact that AANDC did what they did is still a sore point for me, especially since we had an agreement until the end of August. But that's for another time. What I want to highlight is the tremendous stress being unemployed puts on families. Going from a decent salary to waiting for unemployment to kick in and then trying to live on less than 50 percent of what you were used to was extremely challenging. Then add into the equation, both of us lost our jobs because we both worked for the same organization. It was a difficult time, and we have spent months trying to get caught up. I don't share this for people to feel sorry for us, but for the purpose for people to know we didn't come to Bassano under the easiest of circumstances, and we understand tough times. We are very thankful that this opportunity opened up for us, and we have adapted well to our new surroundings. We have no complaints about the weather. We gladly left the cold north!

That brings me to what is happening in Alberta at large and specifically here in Bassano. A few weeks ago, I caught wind that CPR was closing our local maintenance shop. Quite shocking since CPR is reporting record profits of $1.76B for last year. When I spoke to Tom Rose, Mayor of Bassano, he had this to say, "There are a myriad of reasons as to why I'm concerned with the potential closure of our CPR maintenance shop. First and foremost, I'm concerned about public safety. Fewer workers servicing more track will most certainly lead to more derailments. There is a tremendous amount of dangerous goods passing through Bassano on an hourly basis, so I find it reprehensible that CPR is considering cut backs of this nature and putting not just our community, but others as well, at risk." 

Tom and I reached out to Jason Hale, MLA to see what he could do to help. Jason had a couple  of conversations with the VP of Gov Relations for the CPR regarding the closure. "I asked him to look into keeping the Bassano shop open, but it was a decision made above him. Although he explained it as a corporate restructuring with no effect on safety, I agree with Tom, the fewer people looking after the track, there are more chances of derailments and increased safety issues." CPR has already been quietly making cuts though. Unknowingly to the general public, we only have three CPR workers stationed in Bassano, instead of the designated six, because CPR didn't fill the other three positions when they became vacant. So we have three fewer workers sharing the workload of six people and covering more track. In addition, it makes more sense to maintain Bassano's shop that is heated and only one mile off of being half way between Calgary and Medicine Hat. Take these three employees from Bassano and the impact to the community could be even more significant economically. If we lose these three families, that's seven students from the school (which amounts to about half a teacher's salary), fewer local shoppers at the local grocery store, restaurants, and other businesses.

Now add to that reports of other layoffs from the oil and gas sector, which could affect more families. The drop in oil prices is going to hit Alberta hard. The government needs to find ways to make up for lost revenue if it's going to keep programming at the same level. Hiring freezes are in place at various government levels. In addition, the government is proposing health care premiums. And let's hope that the BSE cow in Spruce Grove doesn't add to matters and affect that industry as well.

Once again, I don't say this to scare folks, but because we need to rally around and support our affected families. In order for our small communities to survive difficult economic times we need to be resourceful and very creative around economic development. Alberta cannot build its entire economy around oil and gas. Saskatchewan learned this lesson through twenty plus years of economic drought. They invested heavily in multiple industries and diversified their resources so that when one resource dropped in the market, it didn't collapse the entire economy. That's why Saskatchewan is growing. So if Bassano wants to continue to grow, we need to attract businesses that do not depend strictly on oil and gas. 

This gets personal for people like Jason Hale, who added, "I was born and raised in this town and this is where we have raised our children who are the 4th generation of Hales to live in Bassano. The current financial situation in the province will have a negative impact on many businesses and families. But we must all work together to come up with solutions to keep our communities and businesses sustainable. I care deeply what happens here and will help however I can." So when we have our Bassano Vision meeting on March 3, 2015, maybe you need to come join us and give your input. This is a time for action and not just sitting back and talking about it.

We've already one family move away up north to secure employment this year with two students. It's hard on kids to relocate, make new friends, or become accustom to new surroundings, such as schools and teachers. Sometimes we have to move, out of necessity. However, lives are affected. So what do those who find themselves in these situations need from us. Most importantly, empathy, not sympathy. Empathy is that coming alongside someone in need, listening, and understanding what they are feeling. We don't empathize from a distance, being overly detached and unfeeling, or even self-centered caring about only our own needs.

What can we do from the school side? First of all, we can't assume we know what is happening in people's lives at home. So please contact us if you need to talk. Maybe there are things we can do by way of recommending retraining programs. We are currently in talks with Medicine Hat College about bringing the University Transfer Program to Bassano School. Maybe it's time to start working on the university degree before transferring to the University of Calgary, or Lethbridge. But why not do it here in Bassano without having to move. These would be evening and weekend classes. We only need 15 people to register with Medicine Hat College, and sign up for the Fall to make it run. We are also looking at the Healthcare Aide program as well, since we have the simulator that was donated by Cenovus, Dick Haskayne, and others

There are a few things we can do help those in need in the community, but we need to all pull together with one concerted effort. Reach out to those in need, or call us if there is any way we can help with pointing you in the direction of training, upgrading, or just listening. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5 Reasons for Every Teacher to Have a Digital Presence: A Principal's Perspective

More and more we need to control the message that goes out from the school. We don't have to look far to find reports of schools doing poorly, or a news story about another violent act in a school, or some bad news that affects schools, or whatever. In the midst of all this, we need to control the message and ensure that we are getting our message out to the general public, or parents about the good things that are happening in our schools. When I look around, I see so much good happening in our school, and we have been very purposeful in engaging in Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook for our students and parents. The result? I think many students and parents are very happy about what they are seeing online.

I realize there is a skepticism among some about using social media in education, but the truth is that there are more pros than cons for engaging in social media from an educational perspective. I will not let the misuse of these mediums limit my use of them for the good of our school and community. I've heard the stories of cyber bullying on Facebook; I've heard of students hacking into Instagram accounts and putting up rude and hurtful comments about another person; I have seen some of the disgusting tweets put out there for people to read. But in the end, I want to use these mediums for good, because they really are powerful tools that can spread a message of hope and bring about positive outcomes. We just need to know how to use them. That being said, I have 5 reasons why every teacher should have a digital presence.

1) Control the message about your classroom success

 

One of the most important tasks a teacher needs to do is let parents know what is happening in the classroom. It really is about relationship building. It's not any different than the relationship building that needs to happen in the classroom, as well. With the access we have to technology, whether it is email, texting, using Remind 101, connecting with home shouldn't be the challenge it was 20 years ago anymore. So with a tool like Facebook, I encourage teachers to create a Facebook page and invite all the parents to LIKE it so only they have access to see the student work that is being posted, the pictures of students working on activities, or just to send out announcements or homework.


I think one of the best examples I have seen of a teacher controlling the message is Kathy Cassidy, Gr One Teacher from Moose Jaw, SK. Here's a couple of her links for her blog, Primary Preoccupation that she posts weekly with video, pictures of students and her Twitter account, where she promotes her blog, and her classroom activities. She's an excellent example of getting the message out there for parents to connect to the school. I would want my children in her classroom by what I have seen her doing with students. Check it out.

2) Network with peers for ideas and support

Matt Davis wrote a blog, Social Media for Teachers, a few years ago that is worthwhile linking here that highlights how teachers can use Social Media effectively. Over the years, I have tried a number of different tools. I've had an About.me page, which I eventually deleted because I didn't see the value of it for networking purposes. I've used Linkedin to expand my network, but I'm not sure I felt more support or gained more ideas because I used it. I've created my boards on Pinterest, and pinned lots educational ideas that I shared with others, and I've gained a lot of good ideas too, but I don't feel connected to the people that follow my boards or vice versa. So before I open up a bunch of accounts and getting caught up in the novelty of a new fad app or tool, I've started asking myself the question, why am I opening another account, and what do I hope to achieve with it.

The more I work with social media, the more I find the need to network with peers about ideas. For that, I use Twitter. I'm getting more selective about who I accept to follow back, as well, because I want it to have value for my learning. I can pose questions for discussion and get the feedback from other teachers and administrators. I receive immense value from tweeting. Those that I follow and who follow me back provide valuable insights to issues and ideas that either give me validation or correction.


3) Manage your professional development

In addition to the networking, one of the greatest values I receive is the professional development. I engage regularly in #satchat, #sunchat, #sblchat, #TN2T, #skedchat, and more. They have become my greatest source of professional development. I am in contact with people all over the world who share their enthusiasm for learning as I do. The ideas I learn are invaluable. It forces me to keep up my reading, which I access through Flipboard, Zite, or Feedly. I have subscribed to feeds, blogs, and news articles that register with my interests. By linking them to Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, and Scoopit, I can share the articles I read with others and give my feedback as well. As a principal, I feel it my duty to take the lead for my learning and set the example for my teachers. As more teachers from my school connect to Twitter, I make sure that I include @BassanoSchool to Tweets for my teachers to be able to see, where I retweet for our parents and students, who follow our school Twitter as well. It's all part of the bigger plan to spread the word so we are all learning together.

4) Promote yourself and your accomplishments

One of the things that many of us educators struggle with is promoting what we do. Maybe part of this challenge is that we are trained to be too modest. Whatever the case, teachers need to promote their achievements and accomplishments where they are experiencing success with students. Why should others have to experience more challenges in their classroom, because we don't want to share what's working and what's not. Blogging has become that tool for me. I find myself, with more practice, sharing what I've learned, what I am learning, and some of my greatest successes. I encourage teachers to blog. It's surprising the reach my blog has had. It's been read around the world with over 33,000 pageviews by complete strangers. Many of the comments I have received are that my insights have been helpful.

5) Be a Changemaker

Finally, if we are going to change the world of education, we need to engage in the mediums our students are using and use them for good. Recently, I took some pictures of some of our boys enrolled in a mentorship program at the school. They were mentoring younger students by taking them to the hockey arena and teaching them how to skate and play hockey. This experience was a game changer for the kids, but I put the pictures up on Instagram and shared them out to Twitter. Three different online newspapers retweeted the images, which was later retweeted by a national morning show TV host. The boys were thrilled, and they felt great about the volunteering they were doing. Parents and teachers were excited about the work these boys did, but more importantly, it produced change in a few boys lives that needed to hear something positive about themselves. Teachers have the power to be changemakers, not only for themselves, but for their students. Having digital presence makes that more than possible. It's time to get connected, and make a difference in people's lives.

What's the Virtue of Love look like? Feel like?


What is Love? 

Love is a special feeling that fills your heart. You show love in a smile, a pleasant way of speaking, a thoughtful act or a hug. Love is treating people and things with special care and kindness because they mean so much to you. Love is treating other people just as you would like them to treat you—with care and respect.

Why Practice It?

Without love, people feel alone. When they don’t feel they matter to anyone, they become unhappy. Sometimes they act angry and don’t let others get close. Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone likes to be loved. When you are being loving, you help others to feel important. They become gentler and kinder. Love is contagious. It keeps spreading.

You are Practicing LOVE when you… 
  • Treat others as you want them to treat you 
  • Say kind and loving things 
  • Share your things and yourself 
  • Love people just as they are 
  • Take good care of the things you love 
  • Do what you love and love what you do 
Affirmation 

I am a loving person. I show my love with thoughtful acts, kind words and affection. I treat others the way I want to be treated.

Some activities to use in your classroom with students:
  • Love, List & Listen Game - Using a timer have each child tell the group as many things as they can that they love in 15-20 seconds. After everyone has had a turn to share their loves go around and ask how many things the group can remember about what each one said. Don't tell the children ahead of time that you'll be going back to ask them what they remember from their friends lists. This is a great way for the kids to learn more about each other.
  • A world made of love posters - Cut out a large pile of various colored little hearts. Have the kids use all the little hearts to make collage pictures.
  • Growing Hearts - Have the kids paint or draw pictures of hearts growing like flowers in a garden.
  • Valentine's Cards - If you're doing this lesson around Valentine's Day have the children make make home-made Valentine cards and decorations.
  • The Golden Rule - Following the Golden Rule is one way your child shows love to others. Adapt the rule by having your child consider how a sibling, classmate or stranger wants to be treated. Also consider ways not to annoy others as an extension of the Golden Rule. Present scenarios, such as a homeless man on the street, a child without toys or friends in a room full of toys and a sibling who doesn’t feel well. Help your child brainstorm ways to respond or role-play what he might do.
  • Loving Stories - Read books with your child that emphasize love through friendship. For example, for kids ages 4 and older, the book "You: A Story of Love and Friendship," by Stephen Michael King, uses simple prose to inspire children to show love toward each other. If you want to instill the message of loving each other from a biblical point of view, check out, "Loving One Another: Beginner's Stories About Being a Good Friend," by Neta Jackson, also for ages 4 and older. 
  • Crafting with Love - Encourage your child to show love to a friend by making a craft for her. One idea is to make a beaded friendship bracelet. Have your child use beads that are in her friend's favorite colors. She can also make a matching bracelet for her friend. Another idea is to make a friendship blossom flower to representing a new, blossoming friendship. Help your child to cut out flower petal shapes out of colored card stock. Poke a hole in the center and stick a small lollipop into the center. Your child can write a note on the petals for her friend as well.
  • Love Games - Engage your child and her friend in interactive games that also reinforce the importance of friendship and love. For one game, have the kids sit in a circle and give each child a pencil and a piece of paper. They must write down 10 kind things about the person to their right as fast as they can. The person who finishes first gets to go first, but they all get to read their list and give their paper to that person. For another game, take the kids outside in a large space. Two kids are the "friendship stealers," and the others are on one side of a field and must run to the other side to safety without getting tagged by the friendship stealers. If any child gets tagged, they must remain frozen until a teammate tags them. The kids cannot get on safety without everyone, reminding them to never leave a friend or someone you love behind.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Breakfast of Champions: Bassano School Parent Council

I've been struggling to sit down and write something, because in truth, I have so many things I wanted to write about that I couldn't decide on one thing, so in the end, I didn't write about anything. So today, I forced myself to sit down and write.

Growing up as a young boy in the 60's, times were different. We lived a simple life, and not always an easy life. We didn't come from affluence. We had the basic necessities of life. My mother made lots of our clothes; she was resourceful. My father hunted as much as possible. We had the only farm on the Reserve. We always had milk cows, goats (because my sister had allergies to cow milk), horses, and chickens. So we had milk for our daily porridge, and eggs for baking needs or for selling. But we had some lean times, even though I was usually oblivious to the stresses my parents were going through financially. I do remember one time we ate porridge for three weeks breakfast, dinner, and supper. My mother was very creative with the meals, and we didn't complain. But from the outside, most people wouldn't have guessed we had any needs, because my parents did there best to provide us with those three basic meals and dressed us properly.

Although times are different from the 60's, I don't think this part has changed. Most parents do their best to provide for their children and make the necessary sacrifices often before their own needs. Unfortunately, we do still have people in need in our communities, but most don't talk about it and want anyone to know. And I can respect their need for privacy. The last thing we want to do is make people feel bad about their situations.

LtoR: Leslie DeMott, Nickole Buck,
Darcy DeMott, & Sandra Mitchell
So that is why I am thrilled to share with you that on January 12, 2015, Bassano School started a Breakfast Program. Thanks to the donation of a local charity, money was provided to start a breakfast program for our students, in cooperation from our Parent Council volunteers. 19 parent volunteers have offered their time to come to the school and prepare a simple healthy breakfast snack of cereal, yogurt, and fruit to our elementary and junior high students that may have a need for breakfast.

We are thrilled to see the community come forward to assist in this. It will not interfere with student learning times, as teachers and teacher assistants are not required to help out. The parent volunteers show up at 8 AM to prep the food and get the cart ready, and are delivering the food to the classrooms by 8:30AM.  

A student breakfast program is an excellent way to help ensure children and youth in our community attend school well-nourished and ready to learn. National statistics state that 1 in 7 children have not eaten breakfast each morning. Our school is no different, especially with students getting on buses as early as 7:15AM. By the time they get to school, it’s been 2 hours since some of them ate before coming to school or some not at all.

Research shows that breakfast nutrition programs help to:

  • Provide students with healthy meals and snacks that provide the energy they need to stay alert and engaged throughout the school day;
  • foster a happy and healthy school environment;
  • decrease student absenteeism, in-class disruptions and conflict between students;
  • increase students self-esteem, problem-solving skills and creative abilities;
  • develop life-long healthy eating habits; and
  • provide children and youth with the best chance at success possible!

The Breakfast Program is available to all students in elementary and junior high, however, they are not required to participate. We follow all health and safety guidelines for this program, as well as comply to the nutritional food guide. If you have any questions, please call the office and ask to speak to me. I would love to field your questions.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bassano School Education Plan and Annual Education Results Report (AERR)

I've mentioned before about the Accountability Pillars Results of Annual Education Results Report (AERR) that get published every year letting school and communities know how students are doing overall. Over the past three to five years the scores are improving at Bassano School. Most people will never read them, but they do state some good things that are worthy of sharing. Let me show you with the diagram.


What we want to see is a lot of blue in the final column. Blue is excellent, Green is high, Yellow is average, and Orange is low. Based on the how the students and staff feel about Bassano School being a safe and caring school we are doing excellent. With regard to program offerings, education quality, low drop out rate, and high school completion rates we are doing excellent. Preparation for lifelong learning, world of work and citizenship, parental involvement, and continuous school improvement, we doing excellent. All this being said, despite how well we doing on this front, I think there is always room for growth and improvement, and we certainly will not slack off. If anything we will push a little harder.

The areas that we struggle mostly with is PAT and Diploma results, and I'm convinced these results are not so much a reflection of our students but rather on Alberta Education, who continues to use testing mechanisms that do not accurately or fairly measure what our students know. 

Our goal at Bassano School is to produce the best result possible for our students. So here is an overview of the strategies and goals we are implementing for this current year.

Goal One:  An excellent start to learning


Outcome:         Children are reaching emotional, social, intellectual and physical development milestones and are ready for school.
  • There is a preschool in Bassano
  • There are a number of School/Community connections opportunities that support early learning, such as the  summer library programs and the Parent and Tot Group
  • There are a number of parenting courses/workshops offered by the FCSS and the Innovations team in Brooks and Bassano
  • Grasslands’ Behavioural Consultant writes home newsletters that go to homes of Division I students each month. These are also emailed to homes through the newsletter link on the website. The behavioural consultant also has open times each month for parents to meet with her to discuss behavioural concerns
  • Partnering with external agencies for Early Screening to monitor milestones pertaining to motor development, speech and language development, social skill development, personal hygiene/health, etc
  • Grasslands and Bassano School have committed to an engaging focus on literacy development. Family literacy evenings are a part of the focus for this work.
  • Bassano School has committed to a ‘Math for Success’ methodology for numeracy development.
  • Classrooms in Division I are focused on hands-on/play-based learning – especially in the ECS and Grade 1 classrooms
  • Teachers use differentiated learning strategies and formative assessments to target specific areas in need of attention for each student
  • Character education is taught in weekly assemblies in division one. Students are trained in the use of Kelso’s choices and Virtue of the Week. Virtues Project International and Michelle Borba’s work on Character Education Traits are used within the assemblies through role plays, discussions and practice.
  • Cross-grade activities within the elementary, and also within the entire school (k-12) allow for good modelling and good community building
  • Access to specialist services is improving for Bassano School. A full-time counsellor has been hired for the school, one-fifth of her time being supported through a grant from Bassano’s FCSS. The counsellor will be the liaison between the FCSS and the school – which will allow for more preventative family programming
  • Through student agendas, monthly newsletters, school and classroom web pages, we continue to work on positive home/school communication and support
  • Alberta Health Services, Grasslands Behavioural Specialist, and Alberta Mental Health provide monthly resources for families and parents that are distributed through school newsletters and classroom handouts
  • Contracted support services for Bassano School’s PUF, ECS through grade 12 include: speech pathologist, OT, Ed Psych, Behavioural, mental health therapy
  • The “Who Do You Tell’ program is a part of the Division I programming

Goal Two:  Success for Every Student

Outcome:            Students achieve student learning outcomes. 
  • Guided transition planning meetings between teachers at the beginning and end of each school year take place and teachers work through cum files and Pych.Ed documents. By starting our school terms knowing how our students learn best, teachers have a distinct advantage in developing effective lessons and long range plans that will benefit the students they teach.
  • Jr/Sr teachers meet monthly to discuss specific academic and attendance concerns for students
  • A priority for this year will be to develop an Academic Pyramid of Interventions and to increase the classroom interventions to support struggling students
  • Bassano School continues to employ a High School Completion Facilitator. Her role is to work closely with those students from grade 10-12 and 7-9 who need additional supports to complete assignments. Teachers are providing consistent positive feedback about this strategy. This strategy has been highly effective in reducing the number of late or missing assignments, and is proving influential in keeping our most at-risk students organized and successful with their course work.
  • Jr/Sr Teachers are investing considerable time and energy through PLCs in learning about research-proven teaching strategies that will help them become more effective with more of their students more of the time. For example, the Jr/Sr staff has been working with the cross-curricular competencies and will be integrating these into their unit plans and long range plans. As a continuation from Dylan William’s recommendations for effective Assessment For Learning practices, our staff continues to work on integrating teaching strategies that are more globally effective for student learning.
  • Continue to work collaboratively with parents to ensure that their children are aspiring to achieve success based on individual variables. For some, this may mean entering the workforce following high school with a set of functional life skills. For others, this may mean the development of independent study skills that will promote their success at the post-secondary level.
Outcome:            Students demonstrate proficiency in literacy and numeracy.
  • Division wide emphasis on literacy and continued assistance from the Grasslands Literacy Consultant has helped to focus the strategies and resources for increasing student literacy rates
  • All elementary classrooms are using Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems, the Daily 5, and the CAFE (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Expanding vocabulary) methodologies for English Language Arts and are using Math for Success methodologies for numeracy programming
  • This year, the elementary has implemented the Leveled Literacy Intervention programming for grades 1-6, and we are excited about early data.
  • Accelerated Reading levelled literacy programs are used for grades 1-9
  • Within math and science classes, teachers are incorporating learning activities that emphasize hands-on learning opportunities
  • In math programs, personal response and metacognition play a key role (students are asked to show their thinking processes, explain their learning, and explore the development of personal problem-solving methods)
  • Teachers implement daily/weekly numeracy and or literacy challenges
  • A focus on early levelled literacy intervention in the ECS, Grade 1 and 2 areas will help bring struggling readers up to grade level by the end of the school year
  • Two Family Literacy Nights have been planned for the 2014-2015 school year

Outcome:            Students demonstrate citizenship and entrepreneurship.
  • K-3 students are engaged in weekly role playing exercises at our Virtues and Character Education assemblies.
  • Kelso’s choices are utilized every day in k-3 classrooms and playground to develop social skills, advocacy skills, and to differentiate between small problems, medium problems, and big problems
  • Teachers utilize similar/consistent/familiar language with K-12 students regarding Character Development and frequently refer to our school motto “Respectful, Responsible, Involved”
  • Many elementary and junior/senior student council activities focus on social activism. Activities include Operation Christmas Child, Unicef fundraising, Me to We activities, Food Bank drives, and Community Christmas programs, Singing at the Hospital, etc
  • Bassano School now has a student-led Healthy Choices group, comprised of students from grade 4 to grade 12. These students attended the Alberta Healthy Choices Symposium in Medicine Hat to start their club work. This group meets bi-weekly and does presentations at assemblies, and is working on healthy living goals for our school
  • At lunch time and after school, all students can participate in a Homework Hot Spot program to catch up on late or missing assignments with teacher support 
  • Jr/Sr Teachers use a Pyramid of Interventions to encourage punctuality and good attendance
  • Bassano School enjoys community partnerships to offer Registered Apprenticeship Programs, Petroleum Field Operator programs, work experience, and health internships
  • High school students, along with the school’s Career Counselor, participate annually in field trips to post-secondary institutions as well as in-school presentations from post-secondary institutions.
Outcome:         The achievement gap between First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit (FNMI) students and all other students is eliminated.
  • Data for our FNMI students varies from year to year based on the enrollment of students from the Siksika Nation. It is difficult to forecast specific targets without the continuity of enrollment from year to year. That being said, Bassano School strives to achieve the highest level of success for all our FNMI students. 
  • We renegotiated the 3-year Educational Services Agreement with Siksika Nation in August, 2014. This agreement allows us to have continuity for our programming for the students and is supportive of the importance of communication between parents, teachers, students and the community. As a part of the Agreement, Bassano School has a Siksika Liaison Counselor who is hired by the Grasslands School Board. In the fall of 2014, a new liaison began work in Bassano School. Healing circles and Elder Visits have already been organized for all of our Grade 1-12 Siksika students. Roles and responsibilities toward this position are being refined throughout the school year.
  • Graduation success for FNMI students in Bassano is due to the programming available to the students and to strong relationships with staff. There are excellent art, music, media, photography, and video opportunities as course choices. Welding and construction programs are also available to all students. Many of these options are hands-on and practical, and we know these experiential opportunities provide successful learning experiences for our FNMI students. For the second year in a row, a team of two high school FNMI students won the silver medal at the Regional Skills competition in the TV/Video Production field in March, 2014. They attended the Skills Provincials in Edmonton in April, 2014. 
  • Although we are still on the path towards greater student engagement, our continued focus on building relationships with students and parents has been beneficial and we are seeing gains as a result of this. Each student is being counselled about his or her education plans, and the school counsellor assists the students in the selection of courses to ensure success. Staff members continue to take an interest in students, not only in the classrooms, but also through coaching, in the community, and with activities the students and their families are involved in. Teachers and administrators of Bassano School enjoy participating in special events such as PowWows and award ceremonies that are held on the Siksika Reserve. The graduation rate of FNMI students in Bassano School is increasing and more Bassano School students are winning awards at the Academic, Cultural and Sports Awards Ceremonies in September.
  • A Bassano school teacher also continues to work with the FNMI Literacy in Social Studies cohort in Southern Alberta. In late fall of 2013, two teachers and our Siksika liaison worker attended the Treaty 7 Conference in Calgary. 
  • Bassano School’s career counselor is networking with post-secondary institutions such as the University of Lethbridge, Medicine Hat College, SAIT, the University of Calgary and Chief Old Sun College for entrance opportunities for First Nations students. FNMI students are encouraged to participate in field trip opportunities to post-secondary institutions. Alumni students and other Siksika adults who are attending or have completed post-secondary courses have presented information and discussed post-secondary opportunities with grades 7-12 students. 
  • Additional programming supports in the areas of reading and math for some grade one to ten FNMI students have been provided. These include Leveled Literacy Interventions, Precision Reading, Accelerated Reading, Joanne Moore Reading and Writing, Math for Success, Kurzweil software, and internet-based text-to-speech software. Teachers use differentiated instruction based on formative assessments in order to meet student needs. 
  • As a part of the ‘Increasing Literacy’ initiative in Bassano School, FNMI boys have been the recipients of a focussed change in resources. Turtle Island books and many more Aboriginal fiction and non-fiction books have been added to classroom libraries and also to the main library. As well, the Daily Five program and Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System is being used to assist teachers in developing targeted intervention strategies for struggling readers. 
  • Efforts continue to be made to increase our knowledge and understanding of local FNMI culture. Our Siksika Liaison will be offering two Red Cross cultural sensitivity courses for the Bassano School staff and community. The Alberta Education resource – Our Words, Our Ways, and the newest differentiation resource, Making a Difference, is being used by teachers in the classrooms. IPPs are developed for some of the FNMI students.
  • Parent Teacher Interviews will be held on the Siksika Nation in the spring of 2015. A video for the community efforts for the  flood relief and the effects of the relief will be completed by Bassano School students in 2014-2015.
  • Local school initiatives for attendance, effort and success will be continued. As well, local sponsorship for scholarships that specifically identify and celebrate achievements of our Siksika students will be accessed and FNMI students will be encouraged and supported in applying for scholarships. 

Goal Three:  Quality teaching and school leadership

Outcome:         Teacher preparation and professional growth focus on the competencies needed to help students learn. Effective learning and teaching is achieved through collaborative leadership. 
  • Bassano School places considerable emphasis on Goal 3, as it is central to our performance in every measurable area of school functioning.
  • Bassano School teachers and administrators appreciate that effective teaching is the most important variable in determining the success of its students. The staff maximizes its potential to create a student-centered culture by aligning administrator-led Professional Learning Communities, Teacher Professional Growth Plans, Data-Informed Decision-Making, and extensive Professional Development opportunities that all focus on improving teacher effectiveness.
  • Our elementary teachers will use PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) to deepen their knowledge and implementation of Levelled Literacy programming, with a particular emphasis on balanced literacy, oral language development,  Daily 5 strategies for reading and writing, guided reading, the CAFE methodology for reading (comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanding vocabulary), and Fountas & Pinnell  benchmark assessments. All division one teachers, support service teacher and vice-principal attended the Literacy Summit in Calgary during October, 2014. Elementary teachers are establishing a theme-based levelled library. Two Family Literacy Nights will be scheduled once again this year. All teachers will meet with their district-wide PLC teams in November and February to further explore literacy topics. 
  • Bassano School’s Jr/Sr teachers will utilize 28 hours of PLC time this year to go through each of the ten cross-curricular competencies as outlined by the ministerial order from 2014. 
  • Bassano School administrators have established a robust school-based budget for the professional development of teachers and administrators.
  • For the 2014-2015 school year, Bassano School will offer more teacher-led CTS courses than ever. Audio Engineering, Promotion and Print Advertising, Sports and Society, and Connections (Leadership and Stewardship).Photo 10/20/30, TV/Video 10/20/30, HRH 10/20 (2 sections), Art 10/20/30, Choral 10/20/30, Leadership 10/20/30 and Physical Education 10/20/30 and Animation are offered in  Terms One and Two. Bassano School will also host the district CTS trailer for Term One. Students will be able to take a variety of courses relating to machining and welding this fall. Our Food Studies 10/20/30 program is offered in Terms One and Two. 
  • Our new patient simulator facility offers considerable opportunities for expansion of programming, both school-based and community-based.
  • Our new Health, Recreation, and Human Services pathway program offers a wide variety of health-related high school courses to choose from,helping ensure that Bassano School’s programming can shift when needed to best match any trends occurring at the post-secondary and employment levels. Our new simulated ICU facility has the flexibility to accommodate even more branches of high school courses that we do not currently offer. Over the next two years, Bassano School will consider adding Sports and Recreation Leadership as a teacher-led high school option. Bassano School is currently engaged in discussions with Medicine Hat College and Newell Further Education for the delivery of health-care aide certificate program and diploma for dual credits. 
  • A pilot Teen Mentoring project, approved by Alberta Education, will be introduced in second semester. This project will include five new CTS Modules within the Human Health and Human Services area. 
  • Bassano School is currently developing collaborative educational partnerships between the school and the community. By developing a partnershipwith the Bassano Health Centre, Medicine Hat College,  and Newell Further Education Council, we intend to host 1st Aid/CPR training opportunities to adult learners throughout the County of Newell. We are also partnering with a local welding company to provide authentic work experience opportunities for our high school students. Our Food Studies program is connecting with local event organizers to provide food at special events held at the Community Hall. By promoting Bassano School as a hub of learning throughout the County, and by developing collaborative partnerships throughout our community, we feel that we can further improve our ability to increase the percentage of stakeholders who are satisfied with the opportunity to receive a broad spectrum of educational opportunities as Bassano School.

Goal Four:  Engaged and effective governance

Outcome:            The education system demonstrates collaboration and engagement.
  • Staff PLC’s have discussed the topic of parental involvement in considerable detail, as it continues to be a concern for the entire staff. The staff recognizes the importance of working collaboratively with parents, and values the importance of communicating effectively with parents throughout the school year. Last year, the staff developed Pyramids of Intervention to help clarify the communication protocols for contacting parents throughout the year. Teachers report, and direct observations support, that, in addition to our continued efforts to include pictures and articles for the local newspapers, teachers have increased their efforts to contact parents via personal telephone calls, autophone messages, email, in-school meetings, autotext technologies such as Remind101, and letters sent home with students.
  • Teachers and administrators will continue to encourage parents to work collaboratively with the school to provide the best education possible for all students. Bassano School values parental input toward the direction of their child’s education, their educational experiences, and the development of individual goals and strategies.
  • Bassano School is currently considering the implementation of Student Led Conferences, where students facilitate a review of what they have been learning, how they have been learning it, what is working well for them, and what they will be working on to further develop their learning. By providing students with a more active voice, we hope to attract more parents to the school to actively engage in the education of their child.
  • School administrators have included key planning topics as part of the parent council meetings. Parents are asked for input and feedback toward the budgeting process. The AERR is shared with Parent Council through a presentation and discussion format. As well, parents are included in discussions of strategies to use for meeting the goals of the three-year plan.
  • Bassano School is also considering off-campus interviews as a means of improving the access of our Siksika Parent Community to our teaching staff. We hope to initiate an on-reserve parent/teacher interview night during Term Two of this school year.
  • This year, teachers and administrators have dedicated their professional development and PLC efforts to implementing research-proven teaching strategies that improve student learning. Our elementary teachers have emphasized Literacy Development (Jan Moore, Blended
  • Structure and Style, Daily 5, Cafe, etc) and our Jr/Sr teachers are emphasizing effective assessment practices (Feedback, Criteria, Questioning, Social Learning, Metacognition, etc) and student engagement practices (Authenticity, Novelty/Variety, Sense of Audience, etc) as central to the core of improving student learning in their respective classrooms.
Outcome:            Students and communities have access to safe and healthy learning environments.
  • School administrators are promoting a shift in the culture of Bassano School from a traditional, program-centered approach, to one that is more student-centered. There are a number of strategies, activities, and initiatives being applied across the school that are contributing to our success in this area:
  • We are becoming increasingly effective at providing for the basic needs of our students. Our canteen program provides a 
    variety of home cooked menu items for breakfast, snacks, and lunch. Our k-3 teachers place considerable emphasis on the
     importance of healthy snacks with students and parents. A washer and dryer has been installed to further accommodate
     personal hygiene needs.  We provide a clean facility complete with hand sanitizer stations at key areas throughout the school 
    and we explicitly educate our students regarding personal hygiene and cleanliness. One of the defining features of Bassano 
    School is the quality of relationships between staff and students. Students feel welcome at Bassano School and they know
     that the staff is a team of people dedicated to helping them become successful in reaching their academic goals.
  • We continue to restructure and refine our Student Support Services to improving effectiveness and student accessibility. 
    This year is the first time that Bassano School has employed a full-time in-school counselor. We are benefitting from the 
    work of our new Siksika Liaison Counselor. We have secured provincial funding for a full-time in-school Mental
     Health Therapist. Based on the successes of last year’s trial with a part-time high school completion facilitator, 
    we have increased that position to full-time this year.
  • First Nations Education programming will focus on traditional storytelling, elder visits, art work, and the integration of 
    historical perspectives into classroom learning activities. By further developing this aspect of our educational program, 
    Bassano School is confident that we can improve the quality of education for all of our students.
  • Bassano School continues to implement anti-bullying programs and seeks to educate students on the ethical usage of 
    21st Century technologies. Teachers from K to 12 are providing explicit instructions and suggestions to students to promote 
    safe and ethical usage of the internet and interactive applications. We work closely with external agencies such as Bassano 
    Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) to provide as much current and relevant information to students and 
    parents as possible. This will remain as an area of focus for our staff in the coming years.
  • Character Development programming further contributes to progress in this area. By explicitly teaching virtues such as 
    honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, and involvement, and utilizing resources such as social stories with our 
    students, Bassano School is actively engaged in helping students develop skills toward advocacy, awareness, resilience,
    and problem solving.
  • Bassano School has effectively maintained the high number of staff members on active supervision during
    • non-instructional time throughout the school day. Our K-3 playground and 4-6 playground areas have five dedicated 
      adult supervisors during recesses and lunch hours. Our flex space, hallways, and gymnasium are supervised by staff members during these times as well. This initiative has made a considerable impact on the climate of our school. Guests frequently provide positive feedback regarding the politeness of our students and the orderliness of our building during non-instructional hours.
  • Bassano School is considering the development and implementation of morning-based educational programs that focus on 
    healthy food choices, community engagement, and improving the students’ overall sense of safety and security. By promoting 
    parental involvement in these daily programs, our goal is to enhance partnerships with our parent community and model for 
    students the importance of working together to solve problems. Our high school students will also play an important 
    role in the development and implementation of these programs - existing mixed age student mentorships are already contributing
    • to our successes in this area and we intend to create more student mentorship opportunities.
  • We have a high level of staff involvement in many areas of extra-curricular activities and sports. Bassano School hosted the
     2014 Senior Boys Provincial Volleyball tournament and all of our staff members were involved in this amazing event. 
  • Our flex area now has all of the flags from our students’ home countries displayed. This has given a real sense of belonging and inclusion
    for all of our student members. 




Monday, November 17, 2014

Celebrating the Generosity of the Small Town

Few people get to experience what I saw last night. Let me back up first. We've only lived in Bassano for two and half months, and we are fitting into the community quickly. My wife has been invited to two different book clubs that are exclusively for women. Sorry men, I guess we don't read. But that's beside the point. Our girls are waitresses at the Roadside Grill, so they meet lots of people passing through on the TransCanada, or the locals for the daily coffee. It feels like we are out at least two nights a week doing something in the community, whether it's a meeting, making pies at the Presbyterian Church, or helping out with the Fall Turkey Supper. That's a far cry from our experience in Prince Albert, where we spent most nights at home, and rarely participated in community events. Not sure why, other than there's over 40 thousand people living in the city and no way to meet or know everyone like we're starting to do in a small town like Bassano.

So when Daryl and Carrie Lassiter invited Janice and I to a fundraising event at the community hall Saturday evening, we were expecting the regular Bassano evening of lots of food and visiting. When Carrie asked, we were like "Sure, sounds like fun." We had no idea what we were in for because it was the Bassano Arena Fundraiser. And if you have never been to one of these events in Bassano, you really are missing out.

Around the perimeter of the community hall were items that were going to be a part of the live auction, other items were displayed for the silent auction, and another group of items for bucket draws. The quality of the items were impressive and not cheap either. Janice and I spied out an outdoor fire pit donated by Graham Douglass, and she really wanted it. I was told to break out the cheque book, because we were going home with it. We'd been to silent auctions in PA before, so if it was anything like what we've been to before it was going to be a fun evening. We never expected the night to turn into a wild, fun filled extravaganza it became. Wow. The evening of prizes and auctioning began with Jason Goudie winning the $600 dollar 50/50 prize and donating it back to the arena fundraiser.

The auctioneer opened the bidding on a load of gravel valued at $250, and it went for $550. And things heated from there. A homemade quilt went for $16,500. The fire pit, we were eyeing up, went for $3500, well out of our price range. So no fire pit for us. A snowmobile jacket went through three or four rounds of auctions, because the people that bought it for $1500, donated it back and had people bid on it again. When it was all done, I'm sure it went for over $5000. With the evening over, this event that would have been happy to raise at least $75,000, raised $129,000 for the arena.

People can say whatever they want about small towns. Yes, I've lived in small town Saskatchewan before and it could be cliquey. You either were from the community by rite of passage because your grandparents were pioneers or you were an import from away. The only time people got together was when there was a funeral, and everyone showed up, especially for the food. I'm not saying Bassano is like this, because I haven't been here long enough to see it, but what I saw last night was a community that uniquely cares for more than the arena, they care about the youth of Bassano. They didn't just raise $129,000 for a building, this was for the kids.

I'm told this what Bassano folks do. Last year the community held a benefit concert last year for the Siksika Flood victims and raised $30,000 for families displaced from their homes. The community also raised money for the swimming pool  and the Zamboni, as well. What this says to me is that Bassano is a community of generosity. It has a rich history of giving when it counts. This speaks loudly to the quality of a community when they can come together for an evening and give so generously. My wife and I feel particularly blessed to have the opportunity to come to Bassano and hopefully become a part of this rich heritage for a long time to come. Coming from a city where crime, drugs, violence is on the rise, we have never felt safer than we do in Bassano. And people look out for one another. Last weekend, we had to run back up to Prince Albert and two different neighbours removed the snow from our driveway while we were away.

So with that experience on Saturday evening, we want to extend that opportunity to practice the virtue of generosity in the school with our students. This year we will be collecting winter coats, mitts, toques, and boots that we will be donating the Innovations Project in Brooks. If you have spare used items that are taking up space in your closet and you would like to help out folks in need, please go through those closets and send the items to the school. We would appreciate you helping us with this. There's no need for kids to be cold because they don't have the proper attire. Besides this seems like the right community to ask such a thing.

We are also adopting some families that we can help out for Christmas. This is another Innovation project. In the past, we have helped out 4 families each year, and if we have enough interest, we could help more families have the kind of Christmas that many of us are fortunate to experience. You can adopt a family and either buy gifts for them or donate money. All this is done anonymously. If you want to participate, please call the school and get more information about how you can participate or call Kathy Irwin, Innovations Project directly at (403) 363-1790, or email, kathy.irwin@grasslands.ab.ca.

If you missed out participating in the arena fundraiser, these are just some ways you can help out at the school and extend our virtue of generosity throughout the community and beyond. Let's make generosity a part of our growth strategy.