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, Métis 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,

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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Great Principals Do Differently

Intentionality in our Personal & Professional Growth Plans (PPGP)

Our school division asks each year for teachers and administrators to submit a Professional Growth Plans. I think we need them, but personally I share John Maxwell's ideology that stresses we don't have the same level of success if we don't combine our Professional Growth Plans with our Personal Growth Plans. In fact, I don't think you can really separate the two, so I call it the Personal and Professional Growth Plan (PPGP). This isn't allows an easy task to complete, but yet an important exercise if not for the administrator who collects them, but particularly for the staff member. When we get the busiest, if we don't have a plan for our growth, it's easy to get off track. I realize the School Division wants PGP - Professional Growth Plans, but I like the PPGP - Personal & Professional Growth Plans because it about setting goals for the whole person. None of us live our lives in complete isolation and focusing only on the professional goals. Life is always happening around, and it's important to think about personal goals that will help reach our professional goals. It's all connected.

Following the First Nations model, I like the staff to consider the four dimensions - Intellectual, Spiritual, Emotional, and Physical when they set their goals.For example, to grow intellectually they may read journals or books, engage in PLC or PD by going to conferences or workshops, take extra classes at university, or learn a new skill. For spiritual growth it can range from reading a good book, participating in church ministry opportunities or cultural activities, having regular quiet time, or practice speaking the language of the virtues. Emotional goals may be working on relationships with a spouse, children, family or friends, taking personal time to recharge and energize, reading, or schedule regular for you and a loved one to talk and visit. Finally physical goals are losing weight, eating healthy, stop smoking, running a marathon, getting active, and get more sleep. All of these goals directly effect our ability to be the kind of professional we want to be or need to be.

Maybe it's the years of virtues training, but I want my life to practice purposefulness with a level of intentionality. Here's my PPGP for this year.

Personal & Professional Growth Plan Framework

Name:        Vincent Hill                                         School Year: 2014 - 2015
“The Vision”Personal Professional Goal(s)—What will I achieve?

Intellectual: I will have a greater understanding of Alberta Education, and the inner workings of the Alberta school system at large. I will stay abreast of current education trends and strategies and after carefully analyzing our Bassano School practices and shortfalls make appropriate adjustments to ensure we meeting the needs of the students.

Emotional: I will take the appropriate time to foster my emotional health that makes me a positive influence in the school with students and staff.

Physical: Continue to maintain my fitness level and stay with my fitness plan that demonstrates to students and staff the importance of staying healthy and fit.

Spiritual: Continue to strive to live my life according to the virtues that sees the good in others and lives it as well. I want my life to count for how I can positively affect change in our students

“The Plan” Strategies and Activities —How will I achieve my goal(s)?
Intellectual: I will:
  1.            Attend conferences that relate to learning strategies,
  2.            Apply myself to asking questions, or participate in events that will help me fully understand how and Alberta Education is doing,
  3.            Read the books on my list that I have started or yet to start: Out of our Minds – Ken Robinson, Sparks, How Parents Can Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers – Peter Benson, To Sell is Human – Dan Pink, The Progress Principle - Teresa Amabile & Steven Kramer, and other recommended,
  4.            Lead and participate Jr. & Sr. PLC at school discussing Cross-Curricular Competencies,
  5.            Participate in #SatChat and #SunChat PLC Twitter discussions regularly,
  6.            Start Twitter PLC group with #, like I did in SK with #SKMathChat,
  7.            Maintain weekly blog as a Reflective exercise,
  8.            Read Zite and Flipboard articles daily to apply to my teaching practice and Tweet to those who follow me on Twitter,
  9.            Watch TedTalk videos weekly to stay informed on current topics,
  10.            Work together with staff on Project Based Learning strategies,
  11.            Write a proposal to speak at a conference with Sean Beaton. 
Emotional: I will:
  1.            Meet with my mentor regularly to bounce ideas and challenges affecting me at the school,
  2.            Maintain a healthy balance between work and home,
  3.            Read books purely for my enjoyment and help me unwind,
  4.            Go out on date nights with my wife and talk about life,
  5.            Get together with friends and family regularly.
Physical: I will:
  1.            Continue to work-out in the gym over the winter, and run outdoors when the weather warms up again,
  2.            Get the proper sleep that I need to operate effectively,
  3.            Eat healthy and keep the weight off that I lost before I came to Bassano,
  4.            Drink more water
Spiritual: I will:
  1.            Attend church regularly,
  2.            Participate in the Church Bible Study
  3.            Maintain my personal daily devotional time
  4.            Love myself and be true to myself

"The Support"Resources—What do I have do or need to achieve my goal(s)?

Intellectual:  I need to practice the virtues of Excellence, Determination, and Self-Discipline to grow myself professionally so that I can continue to raise academic achievement levels for students,

Emotional: I need to practice the virtues of peacefulness, joyfulness, and love to grow my emotional wellbeing so that I can be the support I want to be for the students and staff,

Physical: I need to practice the virtues of commitment, purposefulness, and respect to maintain physical health to do the demanding job I do that requires lots of hours to make it the school I want it to be,

Spiritual: I need to practice honour, idealism, and unity to create a positive school climate for students and staff alike where everyone feels the care we want to bring to everyone.

“The Proof”Indicators—How will I know I have achieved my goal(s)?

Intellectual: The school will continue to improve academically with the vision and leadership I bring each day. If I want the staff to grow, I must grow and be willing to try new ideas that bring results.

Emotional: The students feel safe and know that we care about them and their needs enough to find the resources and help for whatever challenges they are facing in life.

Physical: The school commits themselves to be healthy in every area of life meaning making good choices about anything that we eat or drink or put in our bodies.

Spiritual: The school unites with al our diversity and treats one another as we would wish to be treated with honour and respect.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Understanding Teacher Workload

I've been sitting on this blog for weeks. I think part of the problem is that I have too many ideas going on. So I'm going to break it down and do three separate blogs on three different topics.But as I'm typing this, my eyes are burning, they're tired. I'm tired. Since I've come to the school, I've really tried to make it a priority to be in the halls and mingle with the students and staff as much as possible. But does the administration work ever suffer! I'm not complaining, but I don't think the general population realizes how draining a day can be at school.

People make comments like; "It must be nice to only work 10 months and have the summers off?"  Actually it's very nice, and if I didn't have the summer off, I think I would burn out. The average day is busy with dealing with student matters, teacher challenges, administrative paperwork or reporting requirements, maintenance issues, safety concerns, or upset parent. The list goes on. And that's just the demands that I have on my day. The teachers have it tough too.

I feel empathy for teachers who are busy with daily lesson planning, tweaking up long range plans, doing assessments, Individual Programming Plans (IPP - which are incredibly time consuming), and then add extra-curricular on top of that to the daily routine. Then if you are teaching the Grade 3, 6, or 9, there's Performance Achievement Tests (PAT) or now the new Student Learning Assessments (SLA) to have the students prepare for. Or any of the elementary teachers who are required to do FnP reading diagnostics on every student, which take a minimum of 30 minutes per student multiply that by 25. Or the Grade 12 teacher having students write practice Diploma exams in preparation of the Provincial Exams at the end of the semester. Then there is the School Division required Professional Learning Community (PLC's) hours that need to be completed for Lieu days. It's a lot of  work being a teacher, and somewhere along the way they need to teach. In the midst of all the busy work or "administrivia" it's easy to lose sight of the real reason we are here in the first place and that's the students.

Did you know that the average teacher works more than 50 hours a week, which is causing alarm about happiness and wellbeing in the profession. As I'm writing this I overhear a teacher outside my office talking about how exhausted they are. They are so tired they are feeling dizzy, and when they go home at 8PM, they are going straight to bed. It's 7:03PM, and we're still at the school.

n=60 hours per week (the extra is due to extra-curricular
like coaching sports teams)
n=52 hours per week

Unfortunately teachers don't get a lot of recognition for the time they put into the day as they teach and the evening or the weekend they spending planning and preparing. I love the analogy from Alex Quigley, who recently wrote in his blog, Teacher Workload in the Shadow of OFSTED, comparing the working life of a teacher to an iceberg.

The hours in the classroom, visible to all, are merely the tip of the to-do list. The workload iceberg sinks deep into evenings; it can crash into weekends and it looms large in each supposed ‘holiday‘. Marking, lesson planning and a mass of paperwork are ubiquitous for the vast majority of teachers. Each teacher careers headlong toward exhaustion until rescued by the end of each half-term. Those give us pause to breath and recuperate; plan some more; finish off marking; prepare resources and mend our health before jumping back onto the swim to do it all again.

And yet teachers are not looking for sympathy, they just want people to understand what they do everyday. That's our virtue this week at the school, "Understanding." Understanding is using your mind to think clearly, paying attention to see the meaning of things. An understanding mind gives you insights and wonderful ideas. An understanding heart gives you empathy and compassion for others. Understanding is the power to think and learn and also to care.

As I spoke to the staff this morning, I encouraged them to practice understanding with the students and each other. I hope that the general public can also practice understanding and appreciate the work our teachers put in to our schools to ensure that students have the best education possible and a bright and promising future. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Animoto - Love it!

Well I'm back at it again with Animoto. What a great tool. Easy to use. And creates great quality videos.

While my Video Production class is working on a HD quality Terry Fox video with script, storyboard, interviews, voice overs, and whole works which we will share later, I pulled a bunch of random photos and one video clip and had this video done on Animoto in less than five minutes. You got to love that.

The side benefit of this app is that I also have the education account which gives me the opportunity to create longer videos and share out my promo code to up to 50 students and colleagues. I'm going to love playing with this tool again after taking a short break from it.

It's a great way to promote the school and students particularly after running an event in the school, or completing a project the students have been working on in a class. Students have so much fun with this tool. You can find it at

Here is my quick sample video:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reading Needs to be a Priority: Online Children Books & Resources

With the advent of technology, there has been a fear that children will do less reading. Some will site that gaming keeps kids from reading, or the increased use of mobile devices. And maybe it does have some bearing on how much students read, but I think reading has been on the decline for a while and hasn't only been an issue recently. In a recent infographic, which I have attached below, it notes that 33% of high school graduates never pick up a book and read after high school. I find that not only hard to believe, but tragic.

If we won't read for ourselves, at least pick up a book and read to our children. If there isn't a book handy, we always have access to the Internet and online resources. Here's a list of  few sites where we can find online books for children that are very engaging.

Online Children Book Sites:

There are lots more sites, but check these out for a start.

Happy reading!

Monday, October 6, 2014

One month into the Principalship...!!!

Very few people are as fortunate as I to walk into a school and take over a principalship of a good school. And it's not only me saying this. We are hearing this from all over. With volleyball session in full swing and parents and students coming from other schools in the region,  it's amazing how many people rave about the canteen we have in the school, or how clean the school is, or what a great gym we have. This speaks highly of the caretakers we have, who work so hard to maintain the school, and the students, who are very respectful when it comes to treating the school and equipment properly. Our students are great ambassadors for Bassano when they go to other schools as well. We are very proud of them. Not only are they playing well, but their character is showing through as well.

So not only do I have a great school to work at because of the facility, but the students are fantastic. Those that know me know that I like to be visible in the school. I sit with students at lunch and visit. It's all about relationships that we form with students. I've always said, and I don't have any research to back me up, but experience tells me that 80% of learning is about relationship. If teachers don't have relationships with students and just come into a class and push content out to students, it will fail. But when you take time to get to know students and show them you care, you've created an environment for students to feel safe and want to learn. I don't want to be Mr. Hill to the students for the rest of my life, I want to that principal that they can say cared for them, and I hope they can call me Vince one day too.

I'm convinced that a major reason parents don't always trust schools and struggle with supporting any school is because of their own experiences as a student. And some schools have earned that reputation fairly. But here at Bassano School, I have made it my vision and mission to ensure that student feels safe, appreciated and empowered to exceed their potential. Pipe dream? I think not. So that means, as a School, we need to builds relationships at home with parents. I hope that we can start with a clean slate with parents, who have felt isolated and distrustful of what schools may have done in the past. We need to work together and make this right.

On that note, I have a huge request. I am convinced that we need to be extremely proactive addressing literacy or reading with students. As a former English teacher, I believe we can never read enough to our children, with our children, and for our children. You notice that I added "for our children." Reading isn't just a student activity. We need to model for our children the importance of reading. I read all the time; my wife reads all the time. Reading is important. I came across this image and quote on it the other day that said, Follow the path a great book leads you on. It always leads to a more open mind! Parents, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, please read with our children. For their sake and their future, everyone needs to read with our students. This isn't just the schools job as I've heard some people say. I want to get the Home Reading Program going again. So in the near future, we will send out information about this program. I also want to hold Parent Information nights that will teach strategies to parents giving them the tools to help their child become the best readers possible.

Finally, the staff we have are great. I've worked in and supervised a lot of schools. We have a staff that works hard. They put in a lot of extra hours over and above the regulars hours. I am very honoured to be counted as one of the staff with these folks. Think of all the time they put in driving students to games and tournaments on the weekend. Or the volunteering for school dance night. Or planning fundraisers like Terry Fox Run, or SRC Magazine Fundraiser. This is all extra time they give to our students. They still have to prepare for their classes and teach. They show up at 7:30 AM for a professional development session because they are not done learning themselves. They are always looking for ways to be more effective teachers and education assistants. I'm impressed.

So what can you do to help. I'm glad you asked. Come to Parent Council meetings to learn in more detail the happenings at the school. We are always looking for volunteers, drivers for school sports events, and more. We encourage community members to come in and visit and see what's happening for themselves. We are also in early talks with Medicine Hat College about bringing post-secondary programming to Bassano and offering them in the evenings and weekends. Also, Newell Further Education is offering more programs in the school as well. Check out our website ( regularly for updates, sign up for the monthly newsletter, follow us on Twitter, @bassanoschool.

That's it for this month. Thanks for listening!

Siksika Signs 3-Yr Agreement with #GPSD6

Darren Pietrobono, Lenora Rabbit Carrier, Linda Andres, David Steele, Rhian Schroeder, Vince Hill (Standing left to right)
Hector Winnipeg, Vic Budz (Sitting left to right)

September 29, 2014

Anytime partnerships can be established, individuals and communities benefit. Bassano School is no exception to this principle. For 46 years now, Siksika First Nation students have been attending Bassano School with First Nation graduation rates increasing each year. Siksika students, who attend Bassano School demonstrate tremendous commitment to their education. Many of them spend up to two hours on the school bus each day. According to Tristan Weasel Head, Grade 12 student, “Coming to Bassano School has been a great experience and given me more opportunities and choices for my career path.”

Experiences like Tristan’s have been made possible because of the new three year partnership agreement that Grasslands Public Schools and Siksika First Nation negotiated this year. This agreement involves 73 students attending from Siksika from Grade 1 – 12. A  First Nations person is employed as a Community Liaison worker to enhance communication with parents and students.  In the new agreement this position will be a Grasslands position. 

Siksika spokesperson, Lenora Rabbit Carrier, Assistant Superintendent said “The partnership with Grasslands has been very positive, which is due to the collaborative efforts from both parties.  We are proud of the commendable achievements of our students and the increasing graduation rates.  The diverse programs offered, academic support and cultural infusion have given our students the tools to seek their academic goals and dreams”, and Grasslands Superintendent David Steele added “We are very proud of the programs in Bassano and the achievements of our Siksika students.

Vince Hill, Principal, who has been working with First Nation students for the past 25 years and just moved to Bassano, is thrilled to be working in a school which celebrates diversity and embraces all cultures. “I count it a privilege to be given this opportunity to support our First Nation students in a partnership such as this,” says Mr. Hill. “We have great students coming from Siksika, who want to be here, and want to learn.”